Tag Archives: Church

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

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

Jonas Gardell: human-affirming sliced gospel pieces

My friend, colleague and co-founder of the Stockholm2020 network Stefan Swärd has “found” the time to write an interesting article on the Jonas Gardell phenomenon. I must say that also Stefan at times is a little too focused on Jonas as does the rest of our Christian minority. Also Marcus Birro has a lot to say about his experiences with Jonas’ program and his view on what Gardell is trying to do. I agree we should stop whining about Gardell and start living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the Gospel of the Cross (with a capital C). The tremendous overflow of opinions on mister Gardell, his praxis, his beliefs or should I say heresies (?), including this one, yet another opinion… all of this is a symbol of something else…

I believe it is the consequence of a lack of a solid view on what the Church is all about and what the Church is called to do.  Swedish Christianity and this includes the Free Churches are prone to shifting their views and praxis with every new book people read and every new conference that leaders participate in. With the lack of awareness of our mission (Missio Dei) and the continuation of the Jesus’ mission in our world through us, His body, we give room for others to enter the arena with messages that tickle the ears of people and please people’s appetites. Jonas knows what to present and knows what people want to hear and gets every point across as an wide-open media highway is prepared for him to present his politically correct views in a very smart and enhancing way.

If we would only “do God’s will”, by living out the tremendous presence of God and the fruit of Kingdom in our lives, the surge for “Gardell-like-theology” would be quenched as people would look for real and life transforming encounters with God instead of human-affirming sliced gospel pieces wrought in brokenness and rebellion.

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Liberalism, – Legalism versus Obedience

Leonard Ravenhill once said: “When there’s something in the Bible that churches don’t like, they call it ‘legalism.'” I have been stunned, as I have realized the degree of liberalism, which has entered our churches in the recent years. Actually one should never get stunned over anything because the depth of the falleness of humankind and our willingness to compromise are closely connected to our deep yearning for comfort and affirmation.

When we find our beliefs and praxis too far removed from what is acceptable and passable in the world around us (or should I say politically correct?), we are tempted to remove our convictions to the fringes of daily life, where they soon are intertwined with non-essentials, leaving only an empty shell of what once was core fruit of existence!

Ravenhill’s observation is like a prophetic voice going against the stream of a Christianity, which has removed the cross from its very center. Jesus once said: “I will call you friends if you do what I command (tell you)”. You want to be liberated? Obey Him and do what He tells you to without asking “why?”!

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

Jesusmanifestation: Announce May 2nd as Sweden’s national day of Christian celebration!

The 2009 Jesusmanifestation (here, here, here, here and here) is now bigger than the 1maj demonstration of the Socialistic Party! “Jesus is alive in the media again!” exclaimed Göran Skytte the former atheistic and communistic journalist who has come to a living faith in Jesus Christ. It’s true, but as Skytte emphasized its not necessarily positive coverage about Jesus.

As has been shown throughout history; you can’t keep a good man down! They couldn’t keep Him in the grave and they can’t silence Him even 2000 years after his death!

Personally I am inclined to start talking about a new national holiday of Christian celebration on May 2nd. Why? Because we need at least one day a year where we, free from the normal “religious” traditions, can focus, unite and celebrate the fact that Jesus still cares for our nation and our people.

I am already dreaming about what might take place next year! Jesus was walking the streets of Stockholm and it was a joy to just watch people’s faces as young and old walked through the streets towards Kungsträdgården… – The Garden of the King (of kings).

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Sergels Torg filled with Son Worshippers!

I enjoyed just walking there being part of the crowd… just a few minutes earlier we had finished off a three hour intensive meeting at Sergels Torg where Vineyard, Petruskyrkan, Korskyrkan, Tomaskyrkan, V.E.M. and New Life Church united in presenting Jesus Christ to everyone who was wiling to listen. Personally I have been the MC of the meeting, trying to keep a red thread in this three hour time of worship, testimonies, music, preaching and prayer. It was a joy to be on Plattan… the very place where our church was born years ago.

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Sergels Torg praying together for peope in our nation

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On our way to Kungsträdgården

I just want to wish you God’s blessings… and hope you will join us next year! See you then!

John van Dinther

By the way: Saturday’s congress of the Sverige Demokraterna with 150 participants in Frösundavik outside of Stockholm was in depth evaluated in the national news today while the Jesusmanifestation had it’s 8 seconds of national coverage… quite a development of attention in comparison to none coverage in last year’s reporting by national media!