Tag Archives: church planting

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.’


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!


Positive trend of EFK and New Life Stockholm…but

According to the Christian Daily Dagen and my friend Stefan there has been a positive trend in the development of the EFK denomination. There has been some numeral growth from 31 283 membes to 31 616 and baptisms from 514 to 586 in comparison to the previous year. New Life Stockholm, the church where I am one of the pastors was mentioned too; 800 visitors during our worship services on Sundays…

Here I need to give a rectification: we do have approx. 800 visitors to our worship services but these are held at different times and days; our Ethiopian service is held on Saturdays at 16.00, our main Swe/Eng worship meetings Sundays at 10 & 12.30, the Mongolian meeting at 12.15, the Russian meeting at 15.30 and the French/Swe meeting at 15.30. Just to avoid any misunderstandings if people wonder; I was there, but where were the other 799?

Welcome anyway!


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!

A new way of creating Coffee Latte (just because I like it!)

caffe latte

Origin of Coffee Latte

In Italian, latte (Italian pronunciation: [ˈlat̪t̪e], English: /ˈlɑːteɪ/) is simply the word for milk. What in English-speaking countries is now called a latte is shorthand for “caffelatte” or “caffellatte” (“caffè e latte“). The long Italian form literally means “coffee and milk”, similar to the French café au lait, the Spanish café con leche and the Portuguese café com leite. Caffe latte is today part of the defined international coffee menu, which also includes cappuccino and espresso.

Ordering a “latte” (popular North American use) in Italy will get a large glass of (most likely) hot milk, as latte simply means milk in Italian.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the term caffè latte was first used in English in 1847 (as caffe latto), and in 1867 as caffè latte by William Dean Howells in his essay “Italian Journeys”. However, in Kenneth Davids’ Coffee: A Guide to Buying, Brewing and Enjoying it is said that “At least until recently, ordering a “latte” in Italy got you a puzzled look and a hot glass of milk. The American-style caffe latte did not exist in Italian caffes, except perhaps in a few places dominated by American tourists… Obviously breakfast drinks of this kind have existed in Europe for generations, but the caffe version of this drink is an American invention…”

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!)


The Swedish attitude towards the “entrepreneurial spirit” hinders us from the planting of new churches!

I read an article in last Sunday’s SVD under the business and economy section, Linda Skugge quoted Signhild Arnegård Hansen who stated that the attitude of Swedes hinders many from becoming entrepreneurs.

I will not confuse the planting of new churches with business endeavors, but this article confirmed something that I have been fighting against for many years; the fear many Swedes have, both Christian and non-Christian alike for insecurity and instability especially in the financial area of their lives.

I have literally met hundreds of people throughout my years in Sweden who expressed to me the calling and desire to be pioneers and church planters. However, few of them have actually become involved in ministry in these areas.

There are a number of reasons for that… one of the main reasons that I see after having talked with many of them is the unwillingness to make sacrifices. Many of them would be interested to be involved in a church plant or pioneering ministry IF THEY WERE EMPLOYED!

I suspect that the overwhelming majority of our potential pioneers and entrepreneurs are brought to slumber and cuddled to death within our anti-entrepreneurial church environment and society.

Another reason for the quenching of the entrepreneurial spirit is found in the educational modes within our Bible schools and theological institutions which prepare and equip teachers and (maybe) hopefully pastors, but surely not prophets, evangelists and apostles. In these organizations and institutions little attention is given to the development of leadership and the release of entrepreneurs… If you ask me (who is?) we have a whole lot of equipping and releasing to do in the Church to catch up to the challenges of the 21st century. We have a whole lot to learn and to sacrifice if we ever want to regain the kind of pioneering spirit which exploded in tremendous missionary and church planting endeavors within our nation and beyond as found in our rich and courageous history within the Swedish churches!

That’s the Way I see it!

John van Dinther

True comfort and perspective to a misunderstood church planter and entrepreneur…

Have you felt misunderstood? Have you been questioned lately? Have you been in a position of unbelievable opportunities and open doors and when you try to communicate the excitement of it all people look you squarely in the face and wonder what the fuzz is all about? “Hello, this is the answer on our prayers! These are the works which God has prepared for you and me to move into!” Hello! Is anybody home?!” you wonder.

No matter what you do, no matter what you say, no matter how you live; if you are a pioneer, a church planter or an entrepreneur YOU WILL BE MISUNDERSTOOD! Most people in our churches have something against people with gifts and callings like the once I mentioned. The uneasy awareness of having people like that in your close surrounding is a threat to the very things that most people appreciate and seem to worship, namely: security and stability.

The sheer presence of a person like me tends to shake the fragile equilibrium which has been subconsciously and carefully designed within the group. (By the way; can you do that kind of thing in such way?!) Anyway… I cannot start to even tell you about the number of occasions when I have been accused, questioned, or downright neglected because I was too fast, had too many visions, or was too dissatisfied with the speed or direction we were going. (At times we were going nowhere fast!) People have complained about the lack of structure in the ministries I have been involved in, or the lack of unity, the lack of uniformity, or the lack of conscious majority support of members and regular visitors.

HELLO!? Doesn’t the fact that one is called to be a pioneer, church planter, and or entrepreneur imply that there is no majority vote empowering and enabling the ministry? The essence of such callings imply having to do things other people don’t (yet) do, seeing things others don’t (yet) see, or giving oneself to causes, situations, projects and faith demanding enterprises which seem far too daring, far too insecure and far too challenging to the overwhelming majority of people around you. Structures and organization will always be a few steps behind because of the nature of pioneering.

I believe that we as a church have a unique calling to remain a pioneering and church planting church which means that the fragile equilibrium will be shaken time after time again. It is part of the nature of our calling. Too often I have tried to appease people, too often I have tried to be someone I am not, too often I have felt guilty for being the one I believe I was meant to be. I also have felt guilty for not giving what people wanted.

“True comfort and perspective for a misunderstood church planter and entrepreneur…” was the title of this blog… The other day I was comforted when a man who has perspective, experience and knowhow told me, as I described my inner journey and struggle in regards to this matter; “OF COURSE you cannot provide a secure structure and organization when the development of the church and ministry is going as it does. As long as you are willing and determined to search for people and ministries behind the doors which seem to open to you, structures will have to change and adjust!”

When he pointed out to that I was reminded of the Early Church and God’s unexplainable and incomprehensible move through His Holy Spirit in and through the lives of the believers and beyond them… There was no status quo, there was little security, there were, let’s be honest, numerous potential hazardous situations which could have broken down the fragile balance in this young Body of believers… But they didn’t! The theology, structures and organization of the Early Church were always a few steps behind, but God in His mercy choose this bunch of rather ethnocentric Jewish believers empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring about an all encompassing, multi cultural, cross generational and world sweeping movement which shook and shakes the fragile equilibrium of the world’s value systems and priorities by bringing the up-side-down kingdom.

That awareness made me smile…and it brought comfort to my soul. I realized that for a reason like that I don’t care to be misunderstood! I would love to be part of a new overwhelming minority which will do the same in our world!

That’s the Way I see it!


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!


The church as we know it today will not survive the next decade and… the Synergy network continues to develop…

The Christian Daily called Dagen addressed the development of the Synergy concept and network in their paper. Yesterday night the time had come to start a series of seminars organized by the Synergy workgroup. Approximately 60 people came to listen to Andrew Redman who addressed Powers of Invention.

Unfortunately I was not able to stick around to get an idea how the seminar was received by the participants since I had to leave to catch up with some sleep to be able to get up at 4.00 am to catch my flight at the Arlanda airport to Kopenhagen where pastors Ulf and Jörgen picked me up by car to bring me back to Sweden to preach in their church in Kristiansstad and to meet with their leadership team and board. (What a way to get to church: with our car to the airport, to Danmark, to Sweden to…. And back) During the 1,5 hour trip we talked about the development of the Church in Sweden and soe of the challenges they faced.

I was warmly welcomed by many members of the church and found the very interesting phenomenon of an older, changing local church in a town with 70,000 people. The changes which are taking place in their church are the kind that are close to my heart; from a rather homogeneous more typical Swedish Free Church, they find themselves challenged and enriched by the growing presence of many immigrants and “New Swedes”. The congregation is slowly moving into becoming a multi-cultural church.

Praise God! My deep inner conviction is that most of our churches today should be multi-cultural churches to reflect the reality of the society in which we live. If we only reflect the “like children play best scenario” how can we ever be regarded a trust worthy and relevant church in our nation? I was so happy to find out about this church and it was a privilege to be with them and to encourage them to continue the way they were going. Hopefully wil they become a source of life to other new church plants in the near future?

My prayer and hope is that more churches will be able to allow themselves to face this kind of challenges and dare to wrestle wit the consequences of being Church today in 2008. Because let’s be honest: the church as we know of today (like-minded, middle class Svensson church) will not survive the next decade unless it quickly adjusts to the reality of society and the Mission of Jesus in our days!

That’s the Way I see it!


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!