Category Archives: lifestyle

Greatest Muslim nation on earth wonders what happens; Christianity grows like never before!

Indonesia, a nation with over 215 million Muslim believers that total 13% of the total Muslim world population is in for a surprise! Unprecedented growth among Christians with an Evangelical and Pentecostal identity puzzles the nation. In Indonesia it is a disgrace and a dangerous act to convert to Christianity from a Muslim background. People who are converts are experiencing different kinds of persecution within the extended family, but also within society.  Exact figures are hard to gather but a recent report estimates that 10% of Indonesians are Christians. A figure many Christian leaders believe is too low.

Some interesting facts?

  • In the early 1960s there were no Evangelical churches in Temanggung, where the soccer-field revival took place; now there are more than 40.
  • In the capital Jakarta, newly built mega churches send steeples into the sky
  • Other Christians worship at unofficial churches based in hotels and malls, where Sunday services rival shopping as a popular weekend activity
  • Asia’s tallest statue of Jesus Christ, built in 2007, presides over Manado city in eastern Indonesia, while Indonesian cable TV beams 24-hour Christian channels.

Time magazine reports: “What is it about Evangelical Christianity that has so resonated in Indonesia? As in many other crowded, developing-world countries where a person can feel lost in a teeming slum, the concept of individual salvation is a powerful one. At the same time, the attempted hijacking of Muslim theology by a small band of homegrown terrorists who have killed hundreds of Indonesians in recent years has led some to question their nation’s majority faith. So, too, has the general trend toward a more conservative Islam that has given rise to hundreds of religiously inspired bylaws, from caning for beer-drinking to enforced dress codes for women. Not everyone, though, is celebrating Christianity’s boom. Some Muslims view the faith as an unwanted foreign influence, even though Islam, too, is an imported religion”.

I am excited about this recent development and it gives hope to us who have not been part of such sweeping moves of God in our nations. If God can do it in strongholds of Islam, He can AND will move here as well!

John

Report: Christianity Growing in Indonesia – World – CBN News – Christian News 24-7 – CBN.com.

“Take this city, a city should be shining on a hill” U2- Stockholm

One of my favorite songs is the beautiful song of U2 from the album “How to dismantle an atomic bomb”. At the end of the song Bono’s lyrics say: Take this city, a city should be shining on a hill
. Take this city
, if it be your will.” These words relate to the Gospel of Matthew 5:14“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden”.

As I am thinking about these words and what it takes to be shining in the world… Bono answers that question too as he sings: Yahweh, Yahweh
. Always pain before a child is born. Yahweh, tell me now
. Why the dark before the dawn?

There is always pain in birth. There is always darkness before light. I have this picture in my heart that becomes stronger and stronger as I think and pray about my dear city Stockholm that in so many ways seems to be overcome by darkness.

The picture I have is that of planet earth as it was still unformed, Gen 1:2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters…

If you and I had been there would we have noticed the presence of the Spirit of God? Would we have noticed that He was hovering over the waters? What was He doing there? How long did this go on? From our history and from the Bible we know that the Holy Spirit prepares the ways of God… In the same way as the Spirit was preparing the still unformed and dark earth, God is preparing our city, Stockholm which seems to be empty of His presence (at times)… yet I know that when the time has come God will speak as He did in the beginning: Gen 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light!

Also in our days God is preparing Stockholm by His Spirit, at times we hardly notice it… there is so much work done in hiding, yet when the time has come He will speak with such authority, such hope, such grace that people will turn to Him, acknowledging Him and knowing Him. I see that day in my heart. While there is still pain, while there is still darkness… I am waiting for that day!

There are people in our city overcome by pain and darkness… let’s pray and tell them that soon there will be birth, soon there will be light… as God speaks again words too wonderful to imagine… as young and old turn to Jesus and be transformed!

That’s the Way I see it (in faith!)

John

For the lyrics of “Yahweh” by U2 click here!

Yet another woman caught between West and Islam!

This morning I was watching the film “Women on the border to West(ern societies – free translation of me) a film from Dilsa Demirbag-Sten on the PLAY Axess TV channel, via the web. Among the ones whose situation was addressed was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a woman whose viewpoints I recently wrote about (here). The reason for showing this movie on Axess was the newly released book by Dilsa called “The Fatherland – Fosterland”.

Dilsa Demirbag Sten born 10 October 1969, is from Kurdish background and was born in southeastern Turkey. In 1976 she came to Sweden and was raised here. She is an author and freelance journalist. At early age she was “given” to be engaged against her will but broke the engagement and escaped a forced marriage. She moved to Stockholm, where she worked for the National Theatre, Amnesty International and became advisor to Minister for Integration, Leif Blomberg. She has committed to the fight against the oppression of women and honor related violence. Demirbag-Stone is a liberal and Islam critic. She is involved in the atheistic Humanist Association and claims to work for a secular, democratic and equal society.

I appreciate her fight against Islam fundamentalism and the way women and girls are abused within that system. The film is an eye-opener which should be “compulsory viewing” for every politician and people working within areas of social welfare and integration.

While I was still reviewing some of the pictures and stories in my mind, I met an older woman in Tensta this morning. She also was born in Turkey, like Dilsa. However, she was born in an Orthodox Christian tradition. “Pray for us” she told me, “because it is so hard for us here in Tensta as Muslims take over more and more. You Western people have no idea how they think and how they do… we have some experience from that back home; that’s why we are here. Now the same thing is going to happen here!” (For the reader; an Arabic prince Adbul Aziz Ben Fadh, son to Saudi Arabians former king Fadhwants wants to build a mosque in this part of the city by donating 400 million Swedish kronor, (60 million dollars). The prince already helped to built mosques in Los Angeles and Edinburgh.

When will we learn and when will we listen? This older Turkish woman’s cry for help (and prayer) was resembling the cry of thousands of unheard voices of women (and men) who are entangled in the web of exclusion of Muslim faith and control, removing more and more people into isolation and segregation.

That’s the Way I experienced it…

John

No crucifix – but burka is Okay! Religious discrimination in politically (un)-correct England.

BBC news tells us that a Christian nurse Shirley Chaplin from Exeter lost a discrimination claim against her employers and is moved to a desk job after refusing to remove her crucifix at work, which she had been carrying for over 30 years!

While at the same time other employed people can wear a burka within the health care, Shirley has to remove her religious symbol because of health issues. That’s how far the corrosion of foundational values and praxis can go in our so-called Christian nations. The overwhelming pressure in the West to try to appease and please every person’s right in regard to freedom of press, speech and religion creates over-sensitivity towards people from other cultures and religions while rejecting our own roots (almost like a false guilt trip).  If a decision like this would have been made in the context of a Muslim believer or for that sake any other (non-Christian) person, it would have caused a landslide of reactions and demonstrations causing a reversal of the decision. But, since this is only one of those “weirdo’s” uh, Christians, it is acceptable and only right to do so… or?

What do you think about this?

John

Private religious or disciples?

I have a high respect for the ministry of Agape Sweden and especially the work that Tord Larsson is doing. I am inclined to agree that there is much more openness in Sweden to the Gospel when one considers the last 30 years. At the same time we have to be careful with the kind of observations that we make as we identify people’s interest in Christ and their desire to getting to know Him. From experience I can tell that it is “quite easy” to lead someone in a prayer to accept Jesus Christ… But what does that stand for? The overwhelming majority of people who “accept Jesus” through an evangelistic encounter on the streets never ever become part of a church and might not show the “fruit” of following Jesus in changed lifestyles and habits.

As an evangelist, pastor and church planter I rejoice with every single person who shows a desire to getting to know Jesus, however, I am careful to rejoice too abundantly unless I recognize the fruit of repentance and their new life in Jesus.

Having prayed with many hundreds of people “to salvation” I can honestly tell that many of those I prayed for don’t live the life of a disciple. At the same time as my awareness of the discipleship process grew I have seen many more people become disciples as I introduced them not only to this “step of salvation” but what it had for consequences in lifestyle and belonging (church).

We know from Jesus’ approach that as the crowds grew he tightened and clarified what it meant to follow Him with the result that many actually left Him. They were touched by Him, they were healed, they saw miracles and yet never became disciples!

Let us pray and work in such way that we multiply disciples, rejoicing with every ray of light and hope in our dark times as mentioned in the article BUT also realize that this is only a glimpse of what it really means to follow Jesus. It would be interesting to know how many of those who acknowledge to becoming Christians are integrated in the Body of Christ doing His will together with others.

What do you think?

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