Tag Archives: EFK

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

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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

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!
John

What does the call to unity stand for? Or, down to earth: where does the rubber meets the road?

Dagen reports about an article in the November issue of the Charisma magazine written by Tomas Dixon concerning Ulf Ekman’s involvement with the Catholic Church. Those who know me and the ministries that I have been involved in during the last 25 years know that I have always been an advocate of unity in the body of Christ. Since the beginning of the 80ties I have related and worked for unity across denominational and cultural borders. Even our own church (www.newlife.nu) is an example of that as people from over 40 nations from all kind of different backgrounds, cultures, ages, and languages experience “togetherness” in Christ Jesus in the centre of Stockholm.

A foundational value that has characterized our church and which I have taught from the early stages on is found in the history of the Moravian Movement (by the way, my view on what church is to be is grounded in numerous teachings and praxis from the beginning stages of the Salvation Army, the Moravian Movement, the Anabaptists and the Methodist church). The Moravian Movement declared:”In essential beliefs we have unity. In non-essential beliefs we have diversity. In all our beliefs we show charity.”

For me the teachings of Jesus as found in the New Testament become alive in this quote… It gives me hand and feet to flesh out the unity Christ called for. It helps me understand where the rubber meets the road; with other words how I can implement true unity.

I have always looked for common ground within essential beliefs among those of a Christian tradition and/or background and have made it my core value to speak and live in such way by affirming this common ground. However, if I have to live as I teach there are obvious boundaries or if you will, limitations to what I can stand for.

The Church political climate in Sweden is such that it is hard to step out of line… after many years of divisions, church-cultural and theological misunderstandings and disunity, the ones who consider themselves “Church” have gone into what I would call “survival mode”. Finally we have started to look at the “essentials” but at the same time have overemphasized the “united front outlook” which removes the differences and hot potatoes which still make us different.

I understand Ulf Ekman’s approach after having been isolated from the rest of the “Church” in Sweden in many different ways (isolation, not only because his/their former approach and teachings, but also because of the unwillingness of the rest of us to understand and embrace them).

What do I want to say? I became converted having a non-believing Roman Catholic background with my whole extended network of former friends and family still within that entity (most of them have remained without faith in Christ and the Bible). I worry when I read in the above mentioned article: In April and October evangelicals gathered in Örebro, Sweden’s evangelical center, to caution against the trend and to point out that unity to Catholics always meant, and still means, bowing to the pope. Bishop Arborelius seemed to affirm that view, saying: “We cannot bypass the personal wish of Jesus that all unity must relate to the apostle Peter,” that is to the papal office… Arborelius continued, “I think that [Ekman and others] now see the key role of the pope as a symbol of unity and the importance of the virgin Mary.”

When reading the quotes by Arborelius I react; here we do not speak about unity in regards to the “essentials” of Christian faith as I see it. These statements call me to a hold. Of course we don’t only deal with the Roman Catholic Church; in our nation we are involved with the different Orthodox churches as well which have their uncompromising views on some of these issues also!

I know it is Church Politically incorrect to even dare touch these issues. Honestly speaking, I can have fellowship with friends in the Roman Catholic Church but some of them have views on the essentials of Christian faith that I know would not be endorsed by the Pope. The fact is that if their views would become publically known by the Vatican that they might be asked to leave the church.

So where does your rubber meet the road? I told you some of my journey, what about yours?

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

John

Wiretapping of Christian leader top of the iceberg? FRA opens floodgates…

As I boarded the X2000 train from Stokholm to Gothenburg yesterday morning I decided to gather some information to write my perspective on the FRA LAW (is the common name for anti-terrorist legislative package in Sweden warrantless wiretapping law, check the back ground here). I was not able to finish my viewpoint and concerns about it because of time pressure. As I this afternoon finally had time to be on line again I found to both my joy and surprise that my good friend Stefan Swärd had written an article about the Swedish government’s initiative to tap the phones of one of Sweden’s far most Christian leaders Ulf Ekman. This was wiretapping was going on in a time when Livets Ord (The Word of Life Church) was having much missionary work in the former Soviet Union. It was only recently that this severe violation had come to the surface since it was disclosed through the exposure of secret stamped documents.

Stefan who also happens to be the chairman of the board of our denomination (www.efk.se) demands from FRA’s director Ingvar Åkesson answers to the following questions:

1. Why was secret wiretapping exercised in the case of Ekman? Which public authority ordered it?

2. Are there more examples of Christian or other religious leaders who secretly have been wiretapped? (Without having been suspected of having committed crimes or for security reasons). If so, why were they wiretapped, and who gave the orders to do so?

3. As we now through the FRA LAW expand our praxis of the law by not only considering “external military threats” but even “external threats” – how does the reigning government secure that wiretapping, and thus abusing the integrity of religious leaders will not be done, not now, nor in the future?

Personally I am not surprised that Ulf Ekman was under scrutiny, my subjective convictions are that other potential threatening people were scrutinized too. With potential threat I do not necessarily mean people who have the plan to commit crimes or who are a threat for our nation’s or people’s security.

In our quiet and almost peaceful, tolerant nation there are many slumbering volcanoes hidden under the surface waiting to erupt. When one does not fit the mould one can be considered a threat to the Status Quo or our so carefully well-planned, well kept balance and perspective on our reality. (Whether our perspective on this reality is false or true doesn’t matter –don’t rock the boat!)

With that in mind I foresee a multiplication of potential “external threats” (see question three), and I am also convinced that religious and especially Christian leaders will be considered to belong to those. Why? Because they follow another King. The kingdom that they belong to is not of this world and thus their allegiances are not foremost here in the kingdom of Sweden.

Late history in Sweden shows that Christians are harder to deal with that other “religious” people, that’s why there is less tolerance for them. (It is rather significant that in a so-called Christian nation where we preach tolerance we are able to show tolerance to almost all religions and peoples except Christians…)

To be honest, I don’t care too much about it on a personal level since I remember a man with a cross who wasn’t the favorite in His time either… But politically and publically I want to raise my voice about this matter since it reeks injustice and shows intolerance. I will keep you posted on more of my perspectives on FRA!

That’s the Way I see it and I am open to be wrong!

John

An invitation to Sven-Gunnar Hultman and Erik Bryskhe

Sven-Gunnar Hultman and Erik Bryskhe tell us in Dagen about their continued efforts to get as many as possible pastors in the Union. What puzzles me about their article is the constant affiliation to having “rights”. I have tried to address the issues involved in two earlier blogs here and here. I want to encourage either one of them to write some responses to my blogs (feel free to write them in Swedish). I am looking forward to hearing from you and until then I remain of the opinion that being a Christian is to learn to lay down ones rights, while at the same time not being used as a doormat.

Until soon, the discussion continues!

John van Dinther

We are living in a time of change…where the church becomes secularized, where the Kingdom will be unionized and the Christians de-sacramentized.

We are living in a time of change…

A time where the church becomes secularized, where the Kingdom will be unionized and the Christians de-sacramentized. With astonishment I heard about an article in Dagen, the Christian daily here in Sweden where a special group is targeting the Free Churches to get involved in a union to ensure collective agreements and security.

In my wildest dreams I can fantasize about these kinds of things, by the way; my wife is part of a union as a medical secretary and she has some experience with these matters. It helps her in her wage negotiations as others already have agreed upon the yearly raise and advantages.

Like I said in my wildest dream I can fantasize… let me try:

  • I dream of a union which gives us pastors off on Christmas, Easter, and all the other main holidays.
  • Of course I have my 40 hour weeks and do not need to answer the phone during inconvenient hours.
  • I dream of being paid my overtime, which by the time that I write this accounts to 4 – 5 years… (Man, I am in paradise!:))
  • Good work should be rewarded with stock options … Oh yes, I really like to get ownership of the church. My focus would be on trying to get my hands on the sound system (that’s about the best we have in church and I really need to get another one at home).
  • To create the optimal work environment I would like the complainers to be removed from the church, the people with too heavy counseling issues to be replaced and I would prefer cheer girls to perform their dances and movements after every well addressed thought and Biblical exposure when I preach.
  • Oh God, I dream of the day when people are not allowed to comment on the services and sermons anymore!

This other almost rebellious dream of me is that of going on strike… Oh, yes! Me and my colleagues gather outside our church with our huge signs stating that Time has come to take over”,We don’t take it anymore!” “No praise but Raise!”New mics or strikes!”

This will help the congregation to have compassion on us pastors, it would help them realize that just because we are pastors, doesn’t mean we have taken the vow of poverty.

As I look at the multi-cultural crowd of church members and church goers who are about to enter the building as we block their way …. I suddenly awake and realize it is all a nightmare!

Thank God it is not true… It was just a nightmare. A deep sense of relieve fills my being, peace returns and I can breath again. Until I see the heading of the newspaper screaming into my face “Free churches need a good collective agreement”.

  • If Christ was still in His grave (and by the way He isn’t) He would roll over!
  • If Paul would be among us he would dedicate at least another couple of letters addressing the heresy of position, possession and power in contrast to the attitude who was in Christ Jesus… Phil. 2: 5-7 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,…”

As you might understand I am a little bit sarcastic, maybe even on the edge of things. But, honestly speaking… Where is the sense of calling? (ett kall), that wonderful old-fashioned word which explains that there is something beyond the work, the hardships, the frustration and sometimes pain… there is the privilege of a calling which one experiences from God. And honestly speaking, I think we should refrain from trying to unionize the calling from God. Don’t touch it, it is not a job!

Call me naive, call me ignorant. I have decided a long time ago to not fight for my so called “rights” … I think that the essence of faith and ministry is to learn to give up ones rights, entrusting oneself in the hands of Him who is Righteous and Just!

That’s the Way I see it!

John van Dinther