Category Archives: mission

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.

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

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

The reality of a visionary life-style (Part2)

In Jeremiah 33:3 we find the following verse: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know”.A visionary life-style, which I presume relates to those who perceive themselves to be leaders, should be characterized by the willingness to hear from God AND the willingness to OBEY! When God reveals His heart and His thoughts it is not up to us to decide and evaluate whether we like what we hear… His Words become like a command (don’t get me wrong, I do know that we are God’s children first!) God will show us great and mighty things and He wants us to respond by moving in the direction He wants us to go, it is similar to the general in the army commanding soldiers; you don’t start ask questions, you do what you’re asked.

Too many of us feel we have the right to decide over our lives, while we have said and confessed when becoming a Christian, that we have given our all, and that our old person has died with Christ, that we don’t live but Christ in us…

Another issue we should consider is whether God has already spoken to us before about our intended future. Personally I carry with me words, prophecies and scriptures, which people have shared with me since 1981. A number of these have not come through others have and those I have tested (although not fulfilled yet) I treasure and pray for and I let my life be formed in accordance to them. For some I have waited almost 30 years… But what the heck, for God one day is like thousand years…! He is never late.

A visionary lifestyle for me is thus: a willingness to obey and a long-term perspective on things

That’s the Way I see it!

John

The reality of a visionary lifestyle. (Part I)

From early age on I have, to some degree, been drawn into the reality of a visionary lifestyle. I saw difficulties and entrepreneurial endeavors as challenges and possibilities although I must confess not all of them were kosher.

As a young kid I saw possibilities in the selling of full-color pictures that I had glued on wooden backgrounds, I also started working on (almost) a daily basis at the age of eight as I helped out after school in a apple transport firm. From the creation of a discothèque for youth that loved “underground music” in the sleepy, isolated village where I grew up, to the transformation and selling of horse shit as hash (dried over my cigarette lighter, and cut into pieces of a few grams). These early attempts to change my ordinary reality set the stage for a perspective on life, which formed me into who I am today.

After meeting Jesus Christ as my savior, my “not-so-holy” attempts to create a new reality were replaced by a Holy Spirit powered and guided lifestyle where barriers, problems, status quo and challenges became stepping stones to a new reality by means of a visionary lifestyle.

One thing that I have carried throughout my life in both sanctified and non-sanctified versions is the importance of living full out in what you believe. Visions that don’t set things into motion are no visions! Or as Peter Drucker expressed it so well: “Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work”.

Too many people talk a lot about their visions but they never seem to get out of their chairs to do something.

“Vision for me is hard work!”

That’s the Way I see it!

John

STOCKHOLM2020 – starting 50 new churches by 2020 in Stockholm!

Finally the press (Dagen) and bloggers are catching up (here, here) and give some attention to the new Stockholm2020 network that has as goal to start 50 new churches by 2020! In a time when so much attention is given to discussion about Christian faith here in Sweden we have forgotten to be doers of the Word.
We are great in talking, ruminating and discussing all aspects of Christian faith, Christian walk and Christian initiatives but are rather handicapped when it comes to flesh out the “Mission of God” (Missio Dei) into our world.
"Stockholm by night" - “The light that shines farthest, shines brightest at home.”
The recent research about the state of the Church in Sweden (here) and especially Stockholm has created within me a determination and a single mind approach in regards to the planting of new churches in Stockholm to be able to reach new people with the not only “Good News”, but “Great News” that we have!
My wife and I have been part of the planting of churches since 1986 which today are still functioning and have released many other church plants and initiatives. It is not only Peter Wagner who thinks that the “planting of churches is the most effective evangelistic method under the sun”. I am a true believer of that as well!

Church Planters needed!
I want to give a challenge to those of you who read this; ask God whether you might be one of those who will be part of any of the new church plants in the near future… I am challenging our own church; New Life Church in Stockholm, to plant 20 of the 50, which I mentioned earlier. We could use some help!

In two weeks I will start a church planting course in Stockholm during two (2) Saturdays, information can be obtained from this website.

I hope to see you involved in the planting of many new churches in Stockholm… and by the way you don’t need to be a Swede to be part of such initiatives!

That’s the Way I see it!
John

A move of God in Iran?!

There is a move of God in Iran according to CBN. While in TEHRAN pro-democracy protests continue, close to 20 protesters are killed. Numerous have been imprisoned yet thousands continue to challenge the regime as they flood the streets in their fight for democracy. The promised utopia Muslim state has failed to appear and has not been able to appease the population… Now, almost unnoticed a new force has moved in; the Islamic regime is finding it’s incapable of reversing the rapid spread of Christianity there.

CBN writes:  “Christian praise songs blast from the cassette player of an Iranian taxi cab. The driver is a Muslim convert to Christianity. Despite risk of arrest and possible death for apostasy, he’s unafraid to share his faith. A cross hangs from his rearview mirror. He keeps his bible on the front passenger seat beside a can of STP gas treatment.  He shares the gospel with his passengers and gives them a bible if they want one. That alone could lead to his arrest.”

Good news in the midst of a dark periode in the lives of people who have gone through so much!

May the Lord show His mercy over the land and its inhabitants!

John

Courageous steps of Obama and Rick Warren!

I find the invitation of Obama to Rick Warren to offer the Invocation at the Inaugural ceremony a daring and courageous step! I don’t know the inner motivation of Obama; whether this is a step to appease the “Christians on the right” (Does Warren really belong to them? He has been fighting numerous battles and issues that the religious right hardly has considered until now). Or whether this is a step to engage a trust worthy spiritual leader in his responsibility I don’t know.

Whatever the reason I find this a courageous step… across differences of thinking and across some of those unnecessary walls that so many people build between them and those who think differently. We don’t need to agree on everything if we are to work together with our governments whether local or national.

To my understanding Warren is practicing the Jeremiah 29:7 principles which God gave to his people who were brought in exile in Babylon. “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Well done Warren, may the Lord bless you and give you favor to carry His glory with you wherever you go…Well done Obama! May the Lord bless you in your presidency and form in you the character and mind of Christ Jesus!

That’s the Way I see it!

John van Dinther

Below you will find a short press release from warren about this invitation…

LAKE FOREST, Calif., Dec. 18 /Christian Newswire/ — “I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn’t agree on every issue, to offer the Invocation at his historic Inaugural ceremony.

“Hopefully individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America.

“The Bible admonishes us to pray for our leaders. I am honored by this opportunity to pray God’s blessing on the office of the President and its current and future inhabitant, asking the Lord to provide wisdom to America’s leaders during this critical time in our nation’s history.”

Rick Warren

It is not the immigrants who should integrate… the church should integrate in society!

A lot can be said about McDonalds… In Sweden we have this love-hate relationship with this hamburger giant. There are voices about their products, their environmental involvement, their low-wages, their franchising, you name it and we will have something to say about it. At the same time there are a few things to be learned from this company. In an article in SVD Raymond Mankowitz, the director of communication of McDonalds said: It is not the immigrants who should integrate but the companies have to integrate into society. Quite a powerful statement! He addressed the inability of Swedish companies to integrate into the reality of the Swedish society which happens to be a multi-cultural society!

If companies have an issue in this regard… so much more has the Church in Sweden! Our middle class “Svensson churches” have a real problem to adjust to the reality of the 21st century and the society we live in… not only in regards to the questions it tries to answer and the issues it tries to address, but especially also in regards to be relevant to a multi-cultural society and context. Our churches as a whole, need to be integrated to the reality of our society… With this I DO NOT MEAN to compromise and to bring a watered down Gospel as a political correct ingredient of multiculturalism (which is very different from being multi-cultural!).

My prayer is that the 11.00 am Sunday morning segregation will be replaced by a multi-cultural in-depth integrated community of believers who celebrate the fact that Jesus broke down all the barriers between us and His heavenly Father and each other in a true spirit of togetherness!

That’s the Way I see it!

John