Tag Archives: christianity in sweden

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

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Is this a storm of protest from viewers, or an underestimated programming/timeslot failure?

“A staggering blow” says Dagen in their headline about the prompt change of the broadcast time of “Guds Hus”, a reality show at TV8 about Christians in and “around” Centrumkyrkan in Sundbyberg.

The last weeks the different (Christian) media (here, here, here and here) has written a great deal about the program wondering about its purpose, its goal group and concept. Many articles were written about the importance of showing how Christian people live their lives and how we do- and experience “Church”.

guds-husI appreciate Centrumkyrkan. I decided to watch since a few of my friends were part of this ongoing series “Guds Hus”, I managed the first three programs. (By the way I strongly dislike the different traditional worship services from different churches and denominations which are presented on a weekly basis on Swedish Television).

This last week I was part of the overwhelming majority which did not tune into the program at the usual time since I was on my way to Norway to teach about church planting in Skien, a picturesque small town in the Southern part of the country.

As I told you; I was on a trip, therefore I was absent.

BUT, to be honest I don’t think I will return to the program again. Somehow it is really hard to make an interesting story within the given context. I feel I have given the program a chance but although I (was) a very motivated viewer I sense that there really is no challenge within the program; too many characters, too little story, too much music and song, too little “life”.

It must have been a real challenge and stress for the church and leadership team to facilitate this endeavor, and I know their motivation was to give people an honest insight in what Church and Christian life is all about. But, here again there is that “but” word, I felt that the edge was missing.

I am happy with every single person whose negative opinions about Church might have been challenged through this program and I am happy for every single one who might have find their way back to God and the church (which I know has happened!) But I feel that it was too clear-cut, too mono-cultural and too in-grown to make a difference among the Swedish viewers. I know the program was not meant to be for me, but in my mental state I was watching it through the eyes of the people that we meet in our church and it was not relevant to them.

Give us some in-depth life stories of people who have radical meetings with Jesus in their daily lives… some who might have been normal middle class “Svenssons” others from different backgrounds and cultures… It is not difficult to gather a crowd of such people who have stories to share about Jesus’ intervention that will blow the minds of people surfing on the highway of Television entertainment!

What is the reason of the landslide in viewer statistics?

If you ask me (who does?) the absence in front of TV8 Guds Hus is to be considered as a storm of protest. A silent protest that is, in Sweden we don’t say too much when we don’t like things or when we disagree; we just don’t show up!

That’s the Way I see it! (And not necessarily the right way!)

John

Manifesting Jesus in Stockholm on May 3 – for or against?

Jesus manifestation

Preparations have gone on for a long time; one of my best friends has taken the responsibility to take care of all the practical arrangements of this Jesus manifestation in our capitol city. Intercessors have been praying for the event (because that what it is), and have prayed on the 7 squares where meetings will be held simultaneously from 12.00 -14.00 on that Saturday. From three of these squares, marches will be organized and they will at 15.00 converge at “Kungsträdgården” the “garden of the king” in the center of the city. Here we will have a worship service with many of the participants.

Much can be said about this day, opinions about it differ, and some lock themselves in opposite camps trying to sell the idea or telling how things should be done differently.

I REJOICE!

  • I rejoice, not because I find this the most effective and appropriate way to let the people in Sweden know that we as Christian Church exist. But because we are uniting around Jesus Christ and Who He is! The testimony of the attributes of Jesus will be addressed on every square and different churches and groups will somehow be a reflection of the richness and diversity of God Himself and His mind-boggling creation!
  • I rejoice because of the many different ethnic and international groups of believers who will join hands and hearts to proclaim Jesus as Lord!
  • I rejoice because we are doing something! Many of those who are against this kind of manifestation have opinions on what to do, and how to do it. Let’s be honest; they are not particularly known of doing anything at all in regards of furthering the Gospel in our nation!

On Saturday I will be on Sergelstorg, the infamous square in the heart of the city where drug pushers, addicts and many marginalized people hang out mixing with the crowd about to add yet another token on their totem of consumerism as they populate the stores in the center.

On the surface this same square seems to reflect the very heart disease our city is suffering from; a city seemingly filled with people with hearts of stone, indifference and independency… yet, as one comes beyond the facades one finds true people with true issues and questions looking for true answers. (By the way it was on this square that New Life Church was born, the church of which I am one of the pastors.

I am looking forward to my time on that square that day. Together with four other churches we have been asked to present a 2-hour program. Our heart goes out to those who have not heard, nor felt the Good News. We will try to present the Gospel in a relevant way and invite people for prayer, we will serve them the world famous “FIKA” (coffee with buns) for free and be there for them. Please come along, or pray that people will meet Jesus that day! As long as others philosophize about what to do I will together with thousands of others do my little part in this way, this day, this time…

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Christians – in name only! A call to radical Christ following – death to Christendom!

Christians – in name only! A call to radical Christ following Christendom!

Jeremiah 23: 1-4 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. 2 Therefore this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the LORD. 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the LORD.”

We have heard alarming reports about the continued decline of the numbers of Christians in our churches in Sweden through tidningen Dagen. As I indicated before as passed on the statistics during the Pionjär 2008 conference which we hosted in our church on behalf of a number of different denominations, I am not overcome by these statistics.

I consider this process where (finally) the official figures start to portray a more realistic picture of reality as a blessing! Dead wood is removed from the forest.

I cannot refrain from thinking of the scripture in Jeremiah 23 where the word of the Lord speaks against the shepherds of Israel who have been destroying and scattering the sheep. The shepherds were accused of not caring for the sheep; thus the scattering and alienation of them. It reminds me of our present state of Christianity in Sweden; more and more leaders have opened “their” churches (as if they belonging to them and not Christ!) to anyone. It is important we hear that the church is to be accessible for all those who want to get in. It is important to be seeker-friendly. It is important to be having low thresholds. It is important there is room for everybody! This is like trying to go back to the idea of the “Folkskyrkan” – or Christendom!

Those of you who know me and know of New Life Church in Stockholm where I a one of the pastors can confirm how we from the very start of this church in 1993 have tried to be a low-threshold church. As our short history shows; we have truly become a place of refuge and a haven for many whom in many cases would not put their foot in a church. They feel accepted, they feel they can belong, they can be themselves and time is given for them to grow into a conscious Christian faith.

While having low thresholds for visitors and those curious enough to give us “a chance”, we have maintained a rather high threshold for membership. If our responsibility is to care for the sheep as is mentioned in Jeremiah 23, we need to apply a different kind of leadership and example then mentioned in that chapter. We have to care for the sheep. We have to create a save, secure and yet challenging environment where individuals and the church as a whole can grow into the purposes which God has for His Church, which is to be a light to the world! This implies clarity about what it means to belong to this body of believers which is called “Church”. It must mean that we are clear what people can expect within that Body and what the foundational values are. A friend of mine passed on the following quote which since then I have used many times in regards to the kind of “Body Life” in the local church that we endorse:

Stanley Hauwerwas says: “Christians, to be more specific, do not believe that we have a right to do with our bodies whatever we want. We do not believe that we have a right to our bodies because when we are baptized we become members of one another; then we can tell one another what it is that we should, and should not, do with our bodies.

I had a colleague at the University of Notre Dame. He was Jewish and always said that any religion that does not tell you what to do with your genitals and pots and pans cannot be interesting.

That is exactly true. In the Church we tell you what you can and cannot do with your genitals. They are not your own. They are not private. That means that you cannot commit adultery. If you do, you are no longer a member of”us”. Of course pots and pans are equally important.”

I realize that the kind of Christianity which results from a praxis of the above demands Christ-followership rather than Christendom! Therefore, for now I say death to Christendom, life again to the remnant of the people who have not yet been overcome by the agenda of our world! (Romans 12: 1-3)

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Glimpses of hope instead of depressing stats in Sweden?

Yesterday I presented the cold and revealing facts of the state of the Church in Sweden. Depressing facts and statistics for one can be fuel for others. The figures I shared with you yesterday did not leave much room for interpretation. However, personally I am fueled by such facts. My first thought when hearing these stats was: Hmm, I guess God allows the removal of “dead wood”. What do I mean with that?

The fact is that the decline in numbers lag behind the reality in our nation and churches; thousands of the ones registered as members in the different denominations and churches are “members in name only” and it’s about time that there is a purging of the membership rolls. Can you be a member “on leave”, can one considered to be a member when you are inactive or “on a time-out”? (Those words are often used to describe people’s intentions and motivation… “I just need a time-out”. What?!)

I do realize that because of sickness and special seasonal circumstances one can be forced to lie low. I am the last one to question that… but those can only be seasons not a permanent state.

In short: I welcome the removal of the numbers of so called members who have not shown any interest, accountability and commitment what so ever in the church to say they belong to. It’s like a Gideon situation; all those who were afraid or not committed were asked to leave before the battle started.

Back to the numbers and stats which I mentioned yesterday: they show glimpses of the real state of the church in Sweden and while studying them, my motivation is rising! It is rising, not because I can change anything about this situation but I believe in a God who can! For God nothing is impossible and as you and I get desperate enough to “beg” Him to touch us with His refining fire and to move again on our dry and void nation, HE WILL DO THAT!

God is rising up people who are seeing with His eyes, feeling with His heart and hearing with His ears. There are people who are prepared and sanctified, sometimes through a tough and demanding process. But they are out there! Actually I met some of them in these last couple of days as I shared the burden for our nation with 150 others during a Pionjär 2008 here in Stockholm, Sweden.

New churches will turn the tide; revived churches will turn the stats upside down. God will build His church! Our denomination EFK (www.efk.se) has been active in church planting these last 15 years. We cannot brag about too much success, but we have seen a slow growth in our movement because of the new churches we planted.

What has it meant for EFK between 1992 and 2006?

o Since 1992, 54 new churches were planted (until 2006 12-31)

o 11 of them were discontinued because of different reasons.

o 11 are still not independent churches but are geographical / small congregations within the mother church

o 3 have gone back to the mother church, one joined another denomination

o 28 of them continued to grow.

o These churches have a total of 2083 members.

o Within the movement we find that 22 % of all baptisms are found in these new churches.

o EFK has grown with 2025 members since 1992 which is almost the equivalent of the new churches.

Conclusion: without the new churches the denomination would have been in decline. On the other hand we have to realize that we have lost ground percentage wise if one compares this growth with the growth of the Swedish population!

This was just another observation… a glimpse of hope in a dark reality. But you know; it is possible to turn to tide. God is at work; His Spirit is hovering over the empty, the dark, the void and I believe time is coming soon when He is going to speak: Let there be light!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

An alarming and challenging reality check about the church in Sweden.

Just an hour ago we were presented the latest statistics about the Church in Sweden. Öivind Thomson presented statistics which he and others have gathered during this last year which represent the figures of the year 2005. Comparison was drawn to the latest statistics from the year 2000.

Let me share some of the conclusive figures:

The Swedish Church (Figures received from their own central bureau).

o In the Swedish Church (Lutheran) there has been a decrease in membership from 7,3 million to 6,9 million people a decrease of 5,4 %!

o Participants during the worship services in this church was down from 113.6000 (on certain Sunday in November) to 95.900 which means a decrease of 15,6 %! 1,3 % of the members of the Swedish church were found in a worship service during this particular Sunday in November 2005!

o The number of churches was reduced from 2518 in the year 2000 to 2212 in 2005 which means a decrease of 12,2 %.

The Free churches in Sweden

o The number of free churches went from 2882 in the year 2000 down to 2650 in 2005.

o During these years 22 churches were planted, 74 churches merged with others and 220 churches were discontinued.

o In regards to membership we saw figures decline from 237.666 in 2000 to 224167 in 2005. This was a reduction of 13.500 which might not seem too many, but the cold reality is that we have lost a number of members which is the equivalent of the Alliansmissionen and Metodist movement in Sweden together!

Conclusions?

We have to notify that membership does not mean active membership and besides that membership does not mean discipleship! On the other hand children are not included in these figures either! We all know that God’s Kingdom is so much greater than registered membership in churches; we have numerous initiatives where we find pockets of believers in many different villages, cities and places.

However, the trend is clear. Personally I do not believe that these figures would change much if we were able to measure the non-formal church structures. They might change our figures a bit but will not make a noticeable impact on them.

What do these figures mean to us? What does it do to my heart? I will get back to you about that within the next days… Until then I pray: “Lord speak again: Let there be light”!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

The Muslims have overtaken us…

Us, in this case was the Catholic Church, this news about a 2006 survey was released the other day by the Vatican.Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, who compiled the Vatican’s newly-released 2008 yearbook, said Muslims made up 19.2 percent of the world’s population and Catholics 17.4 percent. “For the first time in history we are no longer at the top: the Muslims have overtaken us,” Formenti told Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano in an interview, saying the data referred to 2006.

However, this is not all the news… If all Christian groups were considered, including Orthodox churches, Anglicans and Protestants, then Christians made up 33 percent of the world’s population — or about 2 billion people.

Quite some joggling with figures and stats! Approx 83 % of the Swedish population belongs to a church (78% to the Swedish church = former State Church)… But only 2% will go to a church on Sundays…

This is the true reality behind the figures. Will the real Christians please stand up? As long as we cover up reality with fake figures and comforting statistics we don’t need to acknowledge the failure of the church to be the salt and light to our world. Believe me; our reality is darker than anticipated. But believe also whne I say that God’s Spirit is hovering over the void and empty hearts of people of Sweden ready to speak: “Let there be light!”

Until our light breaks forth,

John