Tag Archives: Dagen

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!

John

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Don’t leave anyone behind! – On Oikos evangelism

Much has been said and written about evangelism, Dagen and many others have their opinion about evangelism in Sweden in 2010 (here, here, here, here). One of the aspects of church is not only the involvement in the new community of believers through a new life in Jesus Christ. There is an aspect that so many people forget… and that is the involvement and care for the old network of family and friends. In our church (New Life Stockholm) we have seen whole groups of people turn to Jesus because we try to consider the fact that people belong to networks and are more than just individuals “whose souls have to become saved”.

Leaving behind

Don’t leave anyone behind is not a theological statement; I want to create an awareness that faith in Christ Jesus without a doubt has a dimension where we have to leave something behind; when Jesus says “follow me” there is literally a step which requires us to leave something else.

Bringing along

At the same time, as we will shortly see in the scriptures that we will read, there is a dimension of engagement and involvement with those who are non-Christians, whether family, friends, colleges, classmates.

The NT describes many situations where we find the implementation of this dimension of Christian faith.

  • Faith is not only a personal matter, although it has to start with a personal decision.
  • Faith is also a community matter.
  • The problem today is that we have privatized faith and separated faith from daily life, basic daily decisions and behavior.
  • Faith is not private; faith is community and has a direct consequence for we way we make decisions, create values and it directs the way we behave and the direction we go.

It is an unquestionable fact in the Bible that those people who find faith in Jesus in Christ influence other people around them as a direct consequence of their newly found faith. Let’s read some Scriptures…

Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi

Acts 16: 11From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. 12From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. 27The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

In verses 15 & 31, 32 we get some important information, in both cases with Lydia and with the jailor we read about the fact that their households had come to believe and were baptized along with them.

The Oikos

The word which we have translated into “households” comes from the Greek word Oikos. In other scriptures, for example in Acts 10 verses 24 & 27 we read that this Oikos is more than just a family, or traditional household as we know it.

The Oikos represented the basic social unit by which the early church grew, spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ, the risen Lord.

Michael Green, “Evangelism in the Early Church”, confirms that “the (oikos) family understood in this broad way, as consisting of blood relations, slaves, clients and friends, was one of the strongholds of Graeco-Roman society.

We can see what an Oikos meant to the early church.

  • An oikos was the fundamental and natural unit of society, and consisted of one’s sphere of influence-his/her family, friends, and extended to acquaintances, neighbors, slaves and employees.
  • And equally important, the early church spread through oikoses-circles of influence and relationships. The first church didn’t have mass campaigns for evangelism.

Bringing along our Oikoses in relationship to God is the God-given and God-created means for naturally sharing our SUPERNATURAL message.

  • The early church spread as people within the Oikoses saw how people were transformed, how people turned from their sins, how broken people were restored, how broken relationships were mended and how hopelessness turned to hope!
  • In the early church, it was the restoration of balance, the restitution of wrongs, and the fragrance of an attractive new life that drew so many to the new Oikos that God was forming. (God’s church is also called Oikos – a new Oikos where people find a new home).

Don’t leave anyone behind! In the Scriptures, which we just read we identify how, God is not only dealing with individuals, but with whole groups, Oikoses. Summary: The apostle Paul and his small group of people were together involved in these encounters.

What can we learn:

  • Don’t go alone; you belong to a group of people who share the same faith; open your old Oikos to brothers and sisters who can help you to touch their lives with the Good News!
  • Be active, not passive. It is a deliberate choice.
  • “Begin to speak” — people must hear the Word of God.
  • When one person accepts Jesus as Savior, ask him if he/she would like to have you help them share the Good News with their Oikos!
  • The new Christian’s credibility with them opens the door for God’s love!

Är inte Immanuel 153 en församling?

Idag läste jag en artikel i Dagen som reste några frågor… Jonas Eveborn från Immanuel 153 ”lämnar sin tjänst för att bli församlingspastor”. Han lämnar sin tjänst som pastor för att bli församlingspastor…???

Kanske har mina frågor att göra med min oförmåga att kommunicera på svenska men är inte Immanuel 153 en församling? Citat: ”153 som en gemenskap som vill vara både inåtriktad och utåtriktad, liturgisk och karismatisk på en och samma gång, och som bygger en gemenskap som inte enbart räcker ett par timmar på söndag eftermiddag. – Vi vill vara en gemenskap som är bärande och där vi bygger relationer samtidigt som vi gör något gott”. Är detta inte en församling?

En annan fråga som kommer upp genom artikeln är hur 153 kan fortsätta… Även om jag själv inte har besökt 153 har jag fått veta genom olika vänner hur viktigt 153 är och hur många har hittat ett andligt hem i denna gemenskap. Immanuel 153 omfattar 250 personer… Varför kommer då frågan upp om man kan bära ett ekonomiskt ansvar för 153s pastor(er) eftersom Immanuel kyrkans ekonomi är ansträngt? Ursäkta mig, men om man betjänar 250 personer ska inte dessa ta ansvar för sina pastorer? Enkel matematik… om 40 av dessa ger sina tionden kan man utan problem avlöna en pastor på heltid… även om alla skulle vara studenter som ger sitt tionde skulle 50 personer räcka till en heltidslön.

Eller är givande i församlingarna ett problem? Jonas Melin på sin blog anser det tror jag… Jag tycker att Immanuel ska bekräfta det som händer i 153 genom att frigöra ännu mer resurser. I en tid som denna där få av våra visioner blir verklighet ska vi lyfta fram det som Gud gör bland oss och stödja det med alla våra möjligheter och resurser!

Så ser jag på det!

John

What have same sex relationships and kleptomania to do with each other?

There are so many different opinions and interpretations about the present theological “hot potatoes’ that one easily looses one’s way in its jungle. (Here, here, here, here and here… People question the way I relate to Scriptures where the Apostle Paul writes about homosexuality. Their statement is: “What did the apostle Paul really know about same-sex relations? There are so many new things that we have learned since New Testament times about the complexities of sexuality!”

They make a good point. By the Way: after having allowed myself a “slumbering blog state” for a number of months (it was hard to find time to write and express my deepest feelings), I am encouraged by different people to NOT GIVE UP writing blogs. I feel that the discussion on same sex relationships needs yet another perspective and I am motivated to use this occasion as a re-entry to the blog sphere.

“They make a good point”, I stated earlier. It is true that since the writings of the New Testament many more things have become clear to us; the (dark) wrestles of life and our soul have been brought to the surface and have been examined, analyzed, evaluated, and explained like never before.

I know that not everything we need to know about sex is right there on the pages of the Bible. Many authors who have written about sex and who researched sex had an awful lot of good things to say. Yet, I dare say that the Bible is my only and supreme authority on the subject of sex.

With that I don’t mean that it is our only source on the subject. There is a whole lot to learn from tradition, experience, and reason (including scientific investigation). But these latter mentioned sources are not authoritative. While they can provide important information and insights, it is clear to me that what the Bible is actually teaching us on a given subject supersedes all other sources. Again, we know more about sex in general, and about same-sex relations in particular, than the Apostle Paul did. It would be unwise to ignore what we can learn, there is a whole lot to learn from what people tell us about the experience of same-sex attractions, and what scientific investigation tells us about the complex issues of attraction and sexuality. All different aspects of humankind as expressed through our genes, cultures, social circumstances and theological insights need to be brought together to help us understand the question at hand. But yet… how do I dare to say that the Bible supersedes all of our insights by speaking with authority to a subject like sexuality?

Well, here we finally come in on the subject of kleptomania…It is at this point that a parallel can be drawn to sexuality. The majority of the people living in the world today have probably a greater insight and knowledge about stealing than Moses ever had. In the Ten Commandments a simple and straightforward commandment is given: “You shall not steal!”

There is really no nuance nor is any explanation given about the way this should (could) be considered. There are no links to praxis, history, experiences or principles. You shall not steal. That’s it. Don’t steal; IT IS WRONG!

During my years as pastor in New Life Church Stockholm (www.newlife.nu) I have had to deal with some people who were compulsive thieves. When meeting with them, one thing they told me was the fact that they could not help doing it… they stole things that were of no interest or value to them, and yet, time after time they stole even if it meant that their relationships and trust with other people and friends got broken. The surge to steal was like a beast within them they could not handle.

In regards to this matter, there are major drives and issues which drive people into such destructive behavior. There are psychological, social and other issues involved… YET, time after time again I had to come back in my conversations with them to that same statement, or commandment: You shall not steal!

That statement did not give me room for interpretation, or nuances. It did not give room to wiggle. It was one of those “one liners”, almost too clear, too obvious… It was unnegotionable. A cold fact… You shall not steal. No explanation, no excuses. Although much reasoning and information could be brought into the matter, only one thing remained the same: “You shall not steal!”

The point I want to make is the following: when it comes to the basics, what is right and what is wrong; the Bible supersedes all other sources. It is our authoritative guide on ethical issues. Of course we will have to consider where the rubber hits the road; that’s in the praxis in our pastoral dimension. I know there are people who steal because they have nothing to eat, others because they have a responsibility for their families. Others because they have been abused and victimized by greedy economic systems (I will in the near future write more about greed and such systems). But no matter what we can give as explanation for our actions, stealing was, is and remains wrong!

In some occasions we choose to forgive and forget, in other occasions we counsel, yet in others we send people to jail. But no matter what the cause and circumstances might be the basics are: It is wrong to steal! In the discussion on the so-called “sin catalogues” which were used by Christians and churches 30-60 years ago we have heard time after time again how insensitive the Church has been. OK! Many leaders have crawled to the cross a number of time and affirmed their guilt in these matters… But we have to realize that the large majority of the people using “the sin catalogue arguments” have not received the kind of insensitive treatment they are relating to. It’s “hear-say” in most occasions. The Church, because of its historical guilt complex has gone the opposite direction and has allowed everything without nuances as an appeasement to the guilt memory.

In days past, conservative Christians have often done a terrible job in dealing with the complexities and nuances of human sexuality. But no matter what these complexities and nuances might be… the fact remains the same: the word of God remains true and it supersedes all other sources, whether they are endorsed or not by our society or ideologies. I might be politically incorrect but I will continue to follow His Word and Truth as a basic authority yet, with a heart open to be touched to be able understand the complexities people experience.

That’s the Way I see it!

John van Dinther

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

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

Today Pride festival for children, tomorrow children’s sex-change?

Dagen reported that the Stockholm Pride festival which also hosts Euro Pride will have this year a focus on children. Fairy tales, music and a worship service for the children are on the program.

Although this might seem “innocent enough”, what is really actually happening is the indoctrination and conditioning of children to a perspective on sexuality that embraces the modern teaching that sexual identity rather than biologically determined, is a preference or a choice with the long lasting consequence that people should be allowed (encouraged) to choose whatever sex they want to be.

You think I am off the wall with my interpretation? What do you think about the following viewpoints of Chuck Colson: ?

“Norman Spack is a pediatric endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. Not long ago, he opened a clinic for what he terms “transgendered” children. Incredibly, he is giving kids as young as seven drugs that delay the onset of puberty—the first step in sex-change surgery when they are older.

Spack injects children with hormone-blocking drugs to prevent them from developing secondary sexual characteristics, like breasts or facial hair. The idea is to give them a few more years to make up their minds if they want to be male—or female.

When these kids hit their teen years, they are given the option of taking cross-hormones for a few years—which will allow them to develop the characteristics of the opposite sex. Tragically, the treatment will condemn these teenagers to lifelong infertility.

Spack appears to think that that is a reasonable trade-off for teens who feel they are trapped in the body of the opposite sex: After all, the cross-hormone treatments will make it easier for them to “pass” as the opposite sex. For instance, men will not grow as tall as they normally would, nor will they develop beards or Adam’s apples.”

I agree with Chuck Colson who says:

“Science and the Bible teach otherwise: God created us male and female in His image. Shots and surgeries and politically correct teachings cannot alter this fundamental truth.

Tragically, some parents are now buying into this false teaching—and allowing their children to undergo destructive treatments.

You and I need to be spreading the word that legitimate treatment is available for people suffering from gender confusion—and it is a treatment that does not sacrifice the well-being of children to the political agendas of adults”.


That’s the Way I see it too!

John