Tag Archives: Multi-cultural church

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

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The church as we know it today will not survive the next decade and… the Synergy network continues to develop…

The Christian Daily called Dagen addressed the development of the Synergy concept and network in their paper. Yesterday night the time had come to start a series of seminars organized by the Synergy workgroup. Approximately 60 people came to listen to Andrew Redman who addressed Powers of Invention.

Unfortunately I was not able to stick around to get an idea how the seminar was received by the participants since I had to leave to catch up with some sleep to be able to get up at 4.00 am to catch my flight at the Arlanda airport to Kopenhagen where pastors Ulf and Jörgen picked me up by car to bring me back to Sweden to preach in their church in Kristiansstad and to meet with their leadership team and board. (What a way to get to church: with our car to the airport, to Danmark, to Sweden to…. And back) During the 1,5 hour trip we talked about the development of the Church in Sweden and soe of the challenges they faced.

I was warmly welcomed by many members of the church and found the very interesting phenomenon of an older, changing local church in a town with 70,000 people. The changes which are taking place in their church are the kind that are close to my heart; from a rather homogeneous more typical Swedish Free Church, they find themselves challenged and enriched by the growing presence of many immigrants and “New Swedes”. The congregation is slowly moving into becoming a multi-cultural church.

Praise God! My deep inner conviction is that most of our churches today should be multi-cultural churches to reflect the reality of the society in which we live. If we only reflect the “like children play best scenario” how can we ever be regarded a trust worthy and relevant church in our nation? I was so happy to find out about this church and it was a privilege to be with them and to encourage them to continue the way they were going. Hopefully wil they become a source of life to other new church plants in the near future?

My prayer and hope is that more churches will be able to allow themselves to face this kind of challenges and dare to wrestle wit the consequences of being Church today in 2008. Because let’s be honest: the church as we know of today (like-minded, middle class Svensson church) will not survive the next decade unless it quickly adjusts to the reality of society and the Mission of Jesus in our days!

That’s the Way I see it!

John