Tag Archives: leadership

The ends of the world as we know them – suicidal tendencies of our civilizations.

So many articles (here, here, here, here, here, and here) try to address the main questions in our world today. The many attempts to explain what is going on in our day and time is really like treading water in an empty pool… in 2005 the editors of the New York Times choose to promote a book written by Jared Diamond called “The ends of the world as we know them.” Later on Diamond won the Pulitzer prize for his non-fiction book, “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” In 2005 this same Diamond published “Collapse; How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” (Check his lecture at the University of CA) which became like a historical bible for many students helping to describe history in a new perspective.

I came across some of this information as I recently started to read (again) about the decline of civilizations. Because let’s be honest; we are in the middle of the decline of our (Western) civilizations… and, to quote a real expert on that: “There is nothing new under the sun!” Ecclesiastes 1: 9-10 “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time”.

civilization

The fact is that history repeats itself… Therefore we need to learn from history. We are on the verge of a total new time of transition and will have to learn to deal and live with new facts and new life about, and in our world. Why? Because the worlds as we now know them will not be there in the near future…

During my MA in Intercultural Studies I was interested in researching the upcoming and fall of cities and societies. The main expert on this I found to be Arnold Joseph Toynbee (April 14, 1889 – October 22, 1975) Toynbee was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, “A Study of History”, 1934-1961, was a combination of world history, a meta-history based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline, which examined history from a global perspective.

Toynbee argues that “self-determining” civilizations are born (out of more primitive societies), not due to racial or environmental factors, but as a response to challenges, such as hard country, new ground, blows and pressures from other civilizations, and penalizations. He argues that for civilizations to be born, the challenge must be a golden mean; that excessive challenge will crush the civilization, and too little challenge will cause it to stagnate.

He argues that civilizations continue to grow only when they meet one challenge only to be met by another. He argues that growth is driven by “Creative Minorities,” those who find solutions to the challenges which others then follow.

While Diamond in his book from 2005 emphasizes the need to fight the environmental factors (which I don’t want to minimize) he agrees with Toynbee that “civilizations die from suicide, not by murder” when they fail to meet the challenges of their times.

I find these thoughts very challenging and provoking… It is like waling the tightrope; too little challenge will lead to stagnation, too much will crush us! However, the point of interest for me is to be part of the “Creative Minority” which finds the solutions to our challenges today!

Looking back throughout history (His Story = God’s Story) makes me dare to believe that the people of God, the Christians can be those minorities… as they have been throughout the history of our world. In so many ways and in so many cases history writers (most often male and part of the ruling majority) have silenced and hidden the accomplishments of the remnant of God’s people in their societies who were part of laying foundation and proposing structures and values which carried whole civilizations through the transitions of challenge and change.

I appeal to sensible women and men of God who are willing to pay the price to be part of this “overwhelming minority” which somehow, some way will be used to bring hope to a fallen and suicidal world as they in humbleness and soberness live out the fullness of life through Jesus Christ in this dying world!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

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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

It is not the immigrants who should integrate… the church should integrate in society!

A lot can be said about McDonalds… In Sweden we have this love-hate relationship with this hamburger giant. There are voices about their products, their environmental involvement, their low-wages, their franchising, you name it and we will have something to say about it. At the same time there are a few things to be learned from this company. In an article in SVD Raymond Mankowitz, the director of communication of McDonalds said: It is not the immigrants who should integrate but the companies have to integrate into society. Quite a powerful statement! He addressed the inability of Swedish companies to integrate into the reality of the Swedish society which happens to be a multi-cultural society!

If companies have an issue in this regard… so much more has the Church in Sweden! Our middle class “Svensson churches” have a real problem to adjust to the reality of the 21st century and the society we live in… not only in regards to the questions it tries to answer and the issues it tries to address, but especially also in regards to be relevant to a multi-cultural society and context. Our churches as a whole, need to be integrated to the reality of our society… With this I DO NOT MEAN to compromise and to bring a watered down Gospel as a political correct ingredient of multiculturalism (which is very different from being multi-cultural!).

My prayer is that the 11.00 am Sunday morning segregation will be replaced by a multi-cultural in-depth integrated community of believers who celebrate the fact that Jesus broke down all the barriers between us and His heavenly Father and each other in a true spirit of togetherness!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

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

A manifesto from the “Christian left” – have they “left” the Christian perspective?

Representatives from a so-called Christian wing in the Social Democratic Party called Broderskapsrörelse (the brotherhood movement) have come out of their closet presenting a manifesto which really offers nothing new under the sun, they endorse the viewpoints of their party comrades rather than any self-respecting Christian. The title of their manifesto states that greed should not rule a society… a rather important issue nowadays which I addressed in my blog many times. However their focus in not on this issue, they join in with the large majority of the Swedish population which endorses a politically correct view on condemning all these horrible right wing Christians who still believe in the exclusive claims of the Bible and God of the Bible.

The debaters in Brännpunkt address the importance of freedom, equality and solidarity; which are the main slogans of a socialistic perspective. However, these are also the principles deeply rooted in the word of God; the Bible and the Christian Church. The other day I was talking to one of the former leading social democrats in our city. For a while we have built up a relationship which grows more in depth and where we share about our lives. A statement he made keeps ringing in my ears…”We, in the Democratic Party, have been very good in writing down principles and making laws… but you in the Free Church do the things we write and decide about!”

I think that statement is overdone quite a bit; there is so much we have to learn and we in the Christian Church have to repent from an egoistic life-style where greed rules in many of our decisions and ambitions. However, I do believe he touched on a glimpse of truth… freedom, equality and solidarity costs… because LOVE costs… “All love is good love” the debaters wrote… The Bible would be the first to refute that statement because the love which the Bible speaks about is the agape kind of love which Jesus addresses when they asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said, “‘Love (agapao) the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love (agapao) your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-41)

The word agape refers to the self-sacrificing love of God for humanity, which they were committed to reciprocating and practicing towards God and among one another. This love has implications where truth and non-truth diverse their ways and where not anything is accepted and endorsed. Actually true love might affirm, comfort, direct, guide, disagree, but also confront and refute! The real essence of love is not to be able to accept everything, anything at any time… it is the ability to discern and act based upon a reality outside oneself based on an objective truth that is found in the Bible.

I do not agree with much that is identified as Christian right wing politics as exemplified in American politics… (more of that another time)… But the fact that I am identified with what the debaters call the Christian right wing in Sweden together with the Clapham institute is an honorable identification. And if we are the only ones in this society believing in certain of our convictions and viewpoints in regards to values, norms and praxis… so be it… I remember a man who in most of His views was against the norms and praxis of His society. Thinking of that fact I feel in great company!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

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!

John

Todd Bentley – the fact that we are spiritually malnourished doesn’t mean we have to eat anything offered to us!

Dagen reported about Todd Bentley‘s seperation…I found this out a couple of days ago and latest today I received a mail from a friend addressing the same matter. I feel compelled to write something too, one of those who have their opinions on matters. Here I go: This is only my second blog on Todd Bentley. In an earlier blog I wrote;

There is another reason too for the quick spread of this phenomenon; the sheer absence of the super-natural, the power and the ever present need for EXPERIENCE (a main factor to be reckoned with in our Post-modern, Post-Christian Western world) in our churches has created a tremendous void. So when something supernatural happens we are overly focused on it because we are destitute for it.

Since April I have followed almost every single development in Lakeland, my earliest letter with a journalist in the Lakeland area is already from that time. I have spoken on the telephone with leaders living in the Lakeland area… and have tested and read the teachings and experiences of angels, prophetic words, and visions while this information was still to be found as reference material on Fresh Fire’s homepage.

I have tested Patricia King’s and others involvement, their extreme prophecies and her flirt with “kundalini” dances and the blending with New Age Philosophies left me astonished about the lack of discernment of them and the body of believers that get their “spiritual” input from her and her likes.

Peter Wagner (one of my former favorite professors) and the apostolic team shocked me with their lack of discernment and Bill Johnson’s motivation why he was involved in such a controversial ceremony to affirm Todd Bentley’s ministry puzzled me.

The whole exploitation of God TV as they “launched” this revival and tried to keep it alive through false prophecies and even treats to those who might ask questions shows how deep we have sunk in our desperateness to “get some” power and our how commercially motivated our ministries are!

YET I have publicly been quiet about my observations. WHY? That’s a relevant question. On a personal level I have talked about and explained many of my observations to numerous people as I considered the time and situation right. Besides my many theological questions I have been hurting as I saw how people were treated as gadgets and props in a play which is foreign to me and (I believe) to my Lord.

I have been hurting as I recognized the lack of discernment and the eagerness to embrace anything which was but a weak and (at times) unrecognizable reflection of God and His Power.

Let me continue my line of thought about the why of my quietness. As I said I chose the occasions when to speak, I feel responsible as a pastor of a local church to maintain the focus on the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, His Word and the unity of this local church for which He makes me responsible. If I would have gone out publicly in Stockholm and Sweden I could have created disunity and gaps between believers. That’s why I felt the Lord told me to let it all pass… Time will tell, I wrote months ago, whether this move is from God or people. My conclusion: there was a lot of flesh in it!

And yet… God met with many people on a personal level. I have understood that the worship and adoration to God especially in the worship times through singing and praying might have been the most anointed times of the whole revival. I know God honors the honest search for Him, He recognizes the thirst and hunger in our hearts… But we have to realize that although we have been malnourished of spiritual power, that we cannot eat anything offered to us.

Among those who were touched by this revival there was the attitude to take it or leave. Or, “Don’t question God, “Don’t touch the anointed of the Lord” and “Don’t stand in the way of God!” Every question was unspiritual or showed an attitude of rebellion. We had to eat what was offered to us!

My friends, the fact is that we in the West are malnourished in regard to spiritual power BUT we have the responsibility, discernment and wisdom to not eat anything that is offered to us or shoved down our throats! It is very unhealthy of malnourished people to just eat anything because they lack discernment; they are just hungry and want to eat anything – (here my comparison stops).

After my first blog on Todd Bentley, I have addressed a number of times the issue and characteristics of leadership not necessarily mentioning Todd to avoid unnecessary splits . Here, here, here and here...I did feel from the very beginning as I studied him and his material that there were character flaws and I hoped that they would not blow up in his face and ministry… Unfortunately they did. The latest development where there seems to be a potential divorce on its way between him and his wife confirms this fact. Although some have written about the fact that four months of revival and absence could break down any marriage (on that I agree), we know that Todd’s wife and kids were brought over to Lakeland quite some time ago to avoid such scenario. The present separation had its roots long before the Lakeland period.

What can we learn from this? So much can be said about it… But let me consider a few pointers:

Test everything; this is the responsibility God gives to the New Testament Church. He did not say “Question everything” – but test!

Accountability is needed for every single believer; not only in matters of the heart and character, but also in ministry.

Don’t eat anything that’s thrown at you when you are hungry!

Learn from Church History, and recognize God’s actions and His ways… But look especially for Him!

Don’t allow differences of opinions and style to create division and exclusiveness.

Stay humble! This is say to me as well; I am only one decision away from stumbling! Lord keep me, Lord keep us, close enough to You to become or to remain receptive enough to listen and obey You!

And let’s pray for Todd, his family and all the others that have been influenced for good or bad throughout this process.

That’s the Way I see it!

John