Tag Archives: membership

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!


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!