Category Archives: leadership

Teachers – experts in “head –knowledge” or good educators?

We have a problem in our educational systems. Today’s article in SVD and other daily papers: (here, here, and here) addresses the issue of formal education and the importance of having schooled teachers. Schooled which way? Schooled to do what? The formal university, theoretical knowledge based education, which produces experts in “head knowledge” possibly without the necessary skills to be able to relate and communicate to groups of people.

I do believe in the importance of having schooled personnel for the training and educating of new generations. BUT, we only seem to be focusing on a certain segment of society as we consider the needs… In my daily life I meet literally hundreds of people every month who because of many different reasons don’t fit our educational systems and they find themselves denied of that which we consider a human right in our time and day; namely education. There is a “övertro” – a hyped faith in our educational systems, which only recognize the formal aspects of education and cannot deal with the non-formal and informal aspects of education and forming.

Those who find themselves denied access to power in society develop for themselves a whole informal framework in which they operate with great skill and effectiveness. They value little the fruits of formal education because they understand instinctively that the whole system is designed to deny them access to real influence. It is this aspect of non-formal education, which has received little attention. The method you use to educate determines the goal group with which you work. The further you move into the realms of formal education the more ‘up market’ your goal group becomes. This is unavoidable. Therefore your choice of method in education actually reveals your value system. It reveals who you believe to be a priority group.

The down-playing of non-formal and informal education by lack of recognizing (and accreditation) within our systems closes the door to many people who might be much better teachers than those educated in our limited and stream-lined systems which give no room for people not accredited by our system but whose teaching abilities, experiences and personalities might make tremendous differences in the lives of the students.

This problem is an overall educational problem and we find this in many different spheres of education, both in secular as well as in the theological educational systems. We cannot train teachers, or for that sake pastors, leaders by (over) emphasizing the formal aspects of education. Throughout the world there is “hunger” for alternative education that gives room (and acknowledgement) for apprenticeship, out of the classroom experiences and non-formal and informal aspects of training. It is about time for us to make room for alternative ways to educate and acknowledge teachers; because formal educational forms streamline and secure maintenance rather than creativity.

That’s the Way I see it!

John

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Corrosion in subtle ways or just plain lust for power?

In today’s column Göran Skytte writes about Maria Wetterstrand, spokeswoman of the Greens and how she might be Sahlin’s (Social Democrats) worst friend. A few weeks ago Skytte wrote an earlier article in the same spirit just a few weeks ago. The stakes are high in this regard since both parties work together as partners against the other (right wing) coalition.

Different sources (here, here and in a long interview in Fokus) are mentioned as a foundation on which to state that Wetterstrand has the dream to break the power monopoly of the Social Democratic party.

Corrosion in subtle ways?

If the dream is to crush that monopoly, the question is asked why she is gone into as coalition with them? I don’t know the motives at heart of this issue, maybe the strategic drive of the Greens is so strong that a conscious approach this way will allow a long-term bit by bit infiltration through relationship where basic values and viewpoints are being corroded in subtle ways.

This might seem a long shot, but at the same time we see how different other structures and organizations have used and are using similar strategies to reach their long-term goals; think of how Muslim influence has grown questioning and corroding many of the main values we believe in; among them democracy!

Lust for power?

Maybe the lust for power (which the Greens expect through coalition with SD) makes one blind for the things one truly believes in? Let’s face it many people and organizations have paid heavy dues to be able to join in the corridors of the powerful and mighty, the Greens might show to have that same inclination?!

There is nothing new under the sun! Power corrupts and the willingness to compromise to obtain ones futile ambitions is unlimited. We need people who stand for what they value and believe and who are true to their promises. Unfortunately I don’t expect to find that among power driven politicians – the survival of the fittest seems to continue to be their slogan!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Äntligen klarspråk – Finally some clarity!

The article in Christian Daily Dagen was a refreshing perspective on the “to be or not to be” question on membership in the local church. Of course there are many viewpoints on this issue. Membership as it has been applied within the Swedish context for many years now is a farce! People who have been away from the church for many years want to “stå kvar” (remain) on the membership list. It is a little cynical to use that expression “stå kvar i matrikel” literally means: “remain standing in the membership roll” remain standing without any movement… status quo in other words!

Many of them don’t want to disconnect themselves from the church although there is no intention to get closer (deeper) involved. It is like cutting the umbilical cord… a painful reality that is needed for children to start growing outside the womb and which is needed for many of our “members-in-name-only” as well!

In that sense I really agree that there is no reason for us to start applying a membership practice in our churches UNLESS we give a new meaning to the word and the context AND implement it differently. Erwin McManus from Mosaic Church in Los Angeles uses terms as voluntary staff to describe that which we in New Life Stockholm and Gothenburg consider members (as in Michael kyrkan in Uppsala).

The fact is that the praxis of churches in the way they view membership and its implementations has been lame; we have kept people on our membership lists just because they desired so, instead of telling people; “because you are not with us, you are not with us anymore!” – we have compromised and adjusted to people’s sentimental desires to “belong” because this was the church they once were baptized/married, got saved…

An interesting observation of true fellowship in the Bible (derived from the Greek word “Koinonia”, mentioned 19 times in the NT) is the fact that true fellowship is identifying together as a group or church, with Jesus and His desire to doing the will of the Father. With other words all fellowship where the focus is not on doing the will of the Father is no true “Koinonia”/fellowship! With that as basis, many haven’t belonged for a long, long time!

I believe in a low threshold for visitors and anyone who wants to come to the church; all are welcome in most of the meeting places in the church; including cell groups, training, worship services, Bible study occasions… BUT we should have a higher threshold/expectation for those who want to be members where we have to agree on theological stands, vision, values and praxis. For a number of years we have worked with this in mind in New Life and it adds to the clarity of what the community of believers is called to be and do. Many non-Christians come to our churches and different congregations and they don’t have a problem with this clarity… but many who have their roots in the Free Church traditions have their issues with it… My response? “Please grow up and get over it!”

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Stress among Christians and in Christian ministry

“Spiritual demands can create stress”. Was the name of an article in the Christian Daily here in Sweden.

Tommy Dahlman discovered that the Church is not a sanctuary from stress… Tommy tells us that there are many reasons why we experience stress, it is not only related to the hours that we work… He addresses that one of the reasons is the sense that we have to be available and in touch with our world around us at al times.

What I find interesting is the element of stress also among leaders in the church; research done in North America describe the following facts of people in ministry: Most Protestant pastors make their greatest impact in a church between the 5th and 14th years of their pastorate in that location. Yet, the average length of a pastorate is less than five years. Other facts:

• 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.

• 50% – 60% of church planters close the plant and the effort dies.

• 90% say their Bible School/Seminary Training did not prepare them for what they face day-to-day in the church.

• Only 10% finish the race and reach age 65 as a pastor.

• Two-thirds say their congregation has been in conflict in the past 2 years.

• 80% of pastors’ spouses with their spouse would choose another profession.

• Nationally 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to burnout, moral failure, or conflict in the church. That’s 18,000 per year!

• 1 out of every 4 of those who left reported they were motivated by conflict with the denomination or a “belief that church headquarters was not supportive.”

• 50% of those who begin in the ministry leave after their first pastorate in less than 5 years never to return to ministry though they felt called.

I know stress since I live with it to some capacity on a daily basis. I don’t know if one can live without the trials of stress, stress is experienced in many different ways, in responsibilities, assignments, relationships, social circumstances, and finances, in connection to our perception of us and so many more situations and dimensions.

And what about the demands of Jesus as he calls us to leave everything behind and follow Him… Following Jesus implies a certain degree of stress as He challenges us to be changed in His image… the whole process of sanctification can be experienced as a stress related development. Every change I am exposed to is in its essence a possible stress factor in my life.

For Christians there is yet another dimension of stress: and that is the fight in the spiritual world… when becoming a Christian one leaves the “kingdom of darkness” behind and becomes part of the Kingdom of light (or God). The Bible tells us that there is a constant battle going on as our enemy Satan will try to do everything possible to kill, quench and destroy us. The spiritual warfare is real and claims its toll. The problem is that many Christians and leaders in the West are not aware of this warfare thus being unprepared and unprotected against it.

Another aspect that I want to call our attention to is the fact that we are people with many passions. Too many passions! Following Jesus is learning to becoming men and women with few passions in life. Passions demand loyalty, time, resources, attention and energy… The fact that so many are burned out and are “stressed to death” can also be found in the fact that we have too many passions. Be a person with few passions and your life will be less stressed.

Personally I don’t think stress is the problem, the problem is what we do with it! Tommy Dahlman suggests some great remedies to help relieve the stress; he mentions: Live in peace with God and each other, don’t compare yourself to others, have deep relations, be open and transparent…

The earlier mentioned research among leaders showed that support, empathy and teams are lifelines in ministry and to keep your sanity. However, I guess that we will always battle with stress and its consequences. Since the fall of humankind conflict is a part of life (see article on conflict and leadership), conflict within, among and over creation and us. The challenge is to learn to “give our conflict, struggles, trials, stress and challenges to God” which, at times, is easier said than done… I am still in the school of life trying to throw myself into the hands of my master!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is doing it again! And Richard Dawkins is on her side! – Battling fundamentalistic Islam

A friend of mine sent me his weekly letter where he addressed “the remarkable twist of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, darling of the liberal crowd, a modern day hero in Richard Dawkins’ book, is now appealing to Christian churches to wage a propaganda battle against Islam by starting new Christian schools, sending Christian volunteers into city neighborhoods and spreading the Christian message!”

Today we have again an article in SVD on the Muslim extremists, we speak about the need of dialogue and understanding each other.  Some years ago, our own Dick Erixon wrote in “Nyliberalen” that he considered Ayaan Ayaan Hirsi Ali as the worldest foremost debater especially in regards to the question of the survival of Western “Civilization” (notice the quotation marks!) – and how to deal with fundamentalist Islam in a free society. In August 29, 2005 Ayaan Hirsi Ali was awarded the annual Democracy Prize of the Swedish Liberal People’s Party “for her courageous work for democracy, human rights and women’s rights.” She received the prize at a ceremony at the Swedish Riksdag from the party leader Lars Leijonborg.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born Ayaan Hirsi Magan 13 November 1969 in Mogadishu, Somalia is a Dutch intellectual, feminist activist, writer, and politician. She is the estranged daughter of the late Somali scholar, politician, and revolutionary opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse. She is a prominent critic of Islam, and her screenplay for Theo Van Gogh’s movie “Submission” led to death threats. Through the worldwide spread of this instance she became know to a wide international audience. Since van Gogh’s assassination by a Muslim extremist in 2004, she has lived in seclusion under the protection of Dutch authorities.

When she was eight, her family left Somalia for Saudi Arabia, then Ethiopia, and eventually settled in Kenya. She sought and obtained political asylum in the Netherlands in 1992, under circumstances that later became the center of a political controversy. In 2003 she was elected a member of the House of Representatives (the lower house of the Dutch parliament), representing the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).

In 2005, she was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Now she is doing it again!

Let me quote from my friend’s letter: In her new book, Nomad, she continues her campaign against radical Islam. She is presently in Holland promoting her book, which quotes arch-atheist Dawkins on the cover saying: ‘This woman is a major hero of our times.’

Solution

Europe is sleepwalking towards its downfall, she warns, a cultural, ideological and political downfall; because churches neglected the immigrant ghettos. But there is a solution, she suggests. Mobilize the churches again! If Saudi-Arabia can invest millions in Koran schools and religious propaganda, why not the Catholic Church, with all its wealth and millions of faithful followers? She says that churches could be active in Muslim communities and offer there the same services that radical Muslims now do, by building schools, hospitals and civic centers, and doing the same civilizing work they did in Africa during the colonization period. 

Now, is there any white person who could get away with saying that?! Westerners have looked on for too long while Muslim scholars won souls, she continues. Churches of all persuasions must enter the competition of systematic religious propaganda with Islam, to curb its growth. Churches should revive such Christian institutions as schools, Christian volunteers in urban neighborhoods, and the spreading of the Christian message!

The West is losing the propaganda war, she says, and the Church can help Muslims assimilate. Motivating immigrants to adopt Western values has been neglected for too long. European leaders–including church leaders–have for decades neglected to take the newcomers into their flock.

“It’s maybe paradoxical to call in the church, while advocates of the enlightenment always fought the Vatican,” writes Hirsi Ali, “but Christianity has changed and the Church has become a much more tolerant institution.” (Dawkins may be reading her books, but she doesn’t seem to be reading his!)

Choice Muslims don’t need to give up their faith to assimilate, she allows. They can pray, keep Ramadan and other Islamic practices.  But they need to give up the social-political side like Jihad, Sharia, the oppression of women, intolerance against homosexuality or those born Muslims but who want something else. “That is a choice. Immigration is a choice. Nobody forced them to come here. Everybody came here willingly.” “In my opinion,” she was reported as saying, “many Muslims are searching for a God that answers to the description of the Christian God. Instead they are being given Allah.” Those Muslims who want to believe in a Creator and eternal life should choose for Jesus as their spiritual leader, she suggests.

The new approach of Ayaan Hirsi Ali to stop the “Radical Muslimization process” will without a doubt call forth many responses and reactions from both Muslims and secular people. She offers an alternative, the only alternative, to a challenge that has been left unchallenged for years because of its political un-correctness. The fact that Ayaan Hirsi Ali sees no other way out in spite of her anti-religious foundational stand makes one wonder whether she is starting to see light in the tunnel. (Of course could one wonder about her discernment in regards to earlier Christian missions and the present liberal stand of many churches, but what the heck, she is at least daring to speak out as usual!) She does need protection, so pray for her because many snakes will be rattled out from the fundamentalistic nest trying to bite her!

John

Missionary work in Sweden, 1883

I have come across an interesting newspaper article from the New York Times from December 10, 1883 addressing the need for missionaries to Sweden. Here is a copy of the article which I found very interesting!

Nothing seems to have changed!

John

Don’t leave anyone behind! – On Oikos evangelism

Much has been said and written about evangelism, Dagen and many others have their opinion about evangelism in Sweden in 2010 (here, here, here, here). One of the aspects of church is not only the involvement in the new community of believers through a new life in Jesus Christ. There is an aspect that so many people forget… and that is the involvement and care for the old network of family and friends. In our church (New Life Stockholm) we have seen whole groups of people turn to Jesus because we try to consider the fact that people belong to networks and are more than just individuals “whose souls have to become saved”.

Leaving behind

Don’t leave anyone behind is not a theological statement; I want to create an awareness that faith in Christ Jesus without a doubt has a dimension where we have to leave something behind; when Jesus says “follow me” there is literally a step which requires us to leave something else.

Bringing along

At the same time, as we will shortly see in the scriptures that we will read, there is a dimension of engagement and involvement with those who are non-Christians, whether family, friends, colleges, classmates.

The NT describes many situations where we find the implementation of this dimension of Christian faith.

  • Faith is not only a personal matter, although it has to start with a personal decision.
  • Faith is also a community matter.
  • The problem today is that we have privatized faith and separated faith from daily life, basic daily decisions and behavior.
  • Faith is not private; faith is community and has a direct consequence for we way we make decisions, create values and it directs the way we behave and the direction we go.

It is an unquestionable fact in the Bible that those people who find faith in Jesus in Christ influence other people around them as a direct consequence of their newly found faith. Let’s read some Scriptures…

Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi

Acts 16: 11From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. 12From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. 27The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

In verses 15 & 31, 32 we get some important information, in both cases with Lydia and with the jailor we read about the fact that their households had come to believe and were baptized along with them.

The Oikos

The word which we have translated into “households” comes from the Greek word Oikos. In other scriptures, for example in Acts 10 verses 24 & 27 we read that this Oikos is more than just a family, or traditional household as we know it.

The Oikos represented the basic social unit by which the early church grew, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.

Michael Green, “Evangelism in the Early Church”, confirms that “the (oikos) family understood in this broad way, as consisting of blood relations, slaves, clients and friends, was one of the strongholds of Graeco-Roman society.

We can see what an Oikos meant to the early church.

  • An oikos was the fundamental and natural unit of society, and consisted of one’s sphere of influence-his/her family, friends, and extended to acquaintances, neighbors, slaves and employees.
  • And equally important, the early church spread through oikoses-circles of influence and relationships. The first church didn’t have mass campaigns for evangelism.

Bringing along our Oikoses in relationship to God is the God-given and God-created means for naturally sharing our SUPERNATURAL message.

  • The early church spread as people within the Oikoses saw how people were transformed, how people turned from their sins, how broken people were restored, how broken relationships were mended and how hopelessness turned to hope!
  • In the early church, it was the restoration of balance, the restitution of wrongs, and the fragrance of an attractive new life that drew so many to the new Oikos that God was forming. (God’s church is also called Oikos – a new Oikos where people find a new home).

Don’t leave anyone behind! In the Scriptures, which we just read we identify how, God is not only dealing with individuals, but with whole groups, Oikoses. Summary: The apostle Paul and his small group of people were together involved in these encounters.

What can we learn:

  • Don’t go alone; you belong to a group of people who share the same faith; open your old Oikos to brothers and sisters who can help you to touch their lives with the Good News!
  • Be active, not passive. It is a deliberate choice.
  • “Begin to speak” — people must hear the Word of God.
  • When one person accepts Jesus as Savior, ask him if he/she would like to have you help them share the Good News with their Oikos!
  • The new Christian’s credibility with them opens the door for God’s love!