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

New released study shows that children happier for being spiritual!

New Canadian studies reveal much to the surprise of researchers: that children have an unexpectedly sophisticated grasp of spirituality, and they’re happier for it.

“There had never been that language; that link had never been made for him,” Ennis, director of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a children’s program in the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, says of her son’s epiphany. Newly published research from the University of British Columbia finds that spirituality — a personal belief in a higher power — is strongly linked to the happiness of children ages eight to 12. Read the whole article: here.

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

Keith Green’s Easter Song live

Bach’s passion

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