Tag Archives: multi-cultural

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

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The confirmation of a vision – breaking down racism and xenophobia!

New Life Church received on Tuesday June 11 a prize for their ministry against racism and xenophobia from Stockholms Landsting (county council). The Stockholm county is comprised of 1.9 million people and 26 municipalities.

As representative of the church, I went together with four other members to the meeting of the county council where close to 150 political representatives were gathered for their monthly meeting. Here we were honored together with two other individuals and one other organization for our ministry against racism and xenophobia.

The terms “xenophobia” and “racism” are often used interchangeably, though they can have wholly different meanings (xenophobia can be based on various aspects, racism being based solely on race and ancestry). To understand the more in depth meaning of the term “xenophobia” read the explanation below the article.

I wrote in the heading: “The confirmation of a vision – breaking down racism and xenophobia!” for me this prize is an acknowledgement of a deep commitment that we have had as church to break down barriers between individuals and groups in our society through the power which is found in Jesus Christ. Part of our mission statement as church reads: “We see… a church that in tangible ways fulfill the unity in Christ by breaking down barriers and building bridges between different ethnic groups, cultures, languages, gender, social background, generations and personalities”.

Today people from over 40 different nations consider New Life their home while the majority remains Swedish. There is a deep commitment to Sweden and the city of Stockholm. For a more in-depth study on this subject I encourage you to listen to some of the sermons which are freely available on line:

(Check: 2004-02-15 – John van Dinther – A mind blowing urban theology for relationships, 2006-10-15 – John van Dinther – Working for the shalom of the city, 2006-09-17 – John van Dinther – Back to our roots)

Anyway, I just wanted you to know about our thankfulness and excitement to have received this prize; it is an encouragement to the whole church and it spurs us on to continue to be focused on one of our foundational values of being a multi-cultural church deeply rooted in Swedish society!

I hope to hear from you, and feel free to visit us!

God bless you,

John

For xenophobia there are two main objects of the phobia. The first is a population group present within a society that is not considered part of that society. Often they are recent immigrants, but xenophobia may be directed against a group which has been present for centuries. This form of xenophobia can elicit or facilitate hostile and violent reactions, such as mass expulsion of immigrants, or in the worst case, genocide.

The second form of xenophobia is primarily cultural, and the objects of the phobia are cultural elements which are considered alien. All cultures are subject to external influences, but cultural xenophobia is often narrowly directed, for instance at foreign loan words in a national language. It rarely leads to aggression against individual persons, but can result in political campaigns for cultural or linguistic purification. Isolationism, a general aversion of foreign affairs, is not accurately described as xenophobia. (According to Wikipedia)

Ministering as a leader in a leader-hostile environment…

In the latest article on Livets Ord in the Christian Daily “Dagen”, we read about “Power” or more specific about leadership. I am one of the leaders in a multi-cultural church with a majority of Swedish members and others representing approximately 40 nations. Within this context we are learning a lot about leadership. As leaders in our different churches we are called to contextualize our way of being Church, being leaders and also how we present the message that God has entrusted to us through His word. Like I said, we are learning a lot about leadership (mainly through mistakes) as we are facing expectations, demands, theological viewpoints and experiences of cultural emphasized ways of leadership.

First of all it is important to conclude that there is more to leadership and even Biblical leadership that what we perceive to be true within our Swedish cultural context. There are many people in our churches who are used to the fact that leadership is exercised through consensus. Actually we are brought up in that kind of social environment which, if one dares to be honest, is far removed from the Biblical perspective on leadership. I dare say that we have a leadership hostile environment within the nation which has also permeated the Church in Sweden.

I have lived and ministered in five different nations (Holland, Sweden, USA, the Philippines and Japan) and besides that ministered in another 15-20 nations. In all of these nations there have been very different perspectives on what Christian leadership (or Biblical leadership) is all about. Even within our own church we have the two extremes with groups of people who have the deepest conviction that the pastor is to tell what is to happen while at the same time we have many who will always look for total consensus in vision, decisions and processes.

The fact of the matter is that many of our opinions about leadership in Sweden are culturally, rather than Biblically determined. It is not strange that a leadership style as practiced by Ulf Ekman is questioned, evaluated and scrutinized until the bone by many of us who are culturally inclined to go against any form of leadership which is not based on consensus. To my opinion; Sweden is a leadership hostile environment! Many of my Swedish (!) colleagues who are part of other church traditions than Livets Ord express so often their frustration how difficult it is to be a leader in a church in Sweden, and many actually leave the ministry because they cannot cope with the mechanisms of leadership within the rather rigid structures and praxis that we have formed within our churches.

Having said that, how do I look at leadership? Here are some pointers:

All the effective leaders I have encountered-both those I worked with and those I merely watched-knew four simple things:

1. The only definition of a leader is someone who has “followers”. Some people are thinkers. Some are prophets. Both roles are important and badly needed. But without followers, there can be no leaders.

2. An effective leader is not someone who is loved or admired. He or she is someone “whose followers” do the right things. Popularity is not leadership. Results are.

3. Leaders are highly visible. They therefore set examples.

4. Leadership is not rank, privileges, titles, or money. It is responsibility.

Another main question is what do these leaders do?
Regardless of their almost limitless diversity with respect to personality, style, abilities, and interests, the effective leaders I have met, worked with, and observed also behaved much the same way:

1. They did not start out with the question, “What do I want?” They started out asking, “What needs to be done?

2. Then they asked, “What can and should I do to make a difference?” This has to be something that both needs to be done and fits the leader’s strengths and the way she or he is most effective.

3. They constantly asked, “What are the organization’s mission and goals.

4. They were extremely tolerant of diversity in people and did not look for carbon copies of themselves. It rarely even occurred to them to ask, “Do I like or dislike this person?”

5. They were not afraid of strength in the people working with them. Whether they had heard of it or not, their motto was what Andrew Carnegie wanted to have put on his tombstone: “Here lies a man who attracted better people into his service than he was himself.”

6. One way or another, they submitted themselves to the “mirror test“-that is, they made sure that the person they saw in the mirror in the morning was the kind of person they wanted to be, respect, and believe in. This way they equipped themselves against the leader’s greatest temptations-to do things that are popular rather than right things.

7. Finally, these effective leaders were not preachers; they were doers. I read a story the other day about a student who had read different historical books, he said: “Every one of these books says that the Great War was a war of total military incompetence. Why was it?” The teacher did not hesitate a second but shot right back, “Because not enough generals were killed; they stayed way behind the lines and let others do the fighting and dying.”

Dear friends, if we want to look at this difficult and complex subject of Biblical leadership let us ask ourselves; “Am I willing to die for the sheep that God has entrusted us/me?” If you can say “Yes” you might be on your way becoming a leader God has set His heart on!

That’s the Way I see it for now… God bless you,

John

PS… Check my article about leadership and an invitation to become a member of an union for pastors here in Sweden. DS


World Values Survey – another way of looking at cultures!

For some years now I have closely observed the developments and studies in the World Values Survey. I find them interesting as I encounter the different values in the multi-cultural setting of New Life Church in Stockholm, Sweden. Let me start off by showing you some characteristics and I will take more time writing about them in my next blogs!

This study from 1981 – 2006 is called “A Human Development View on Value Change” Christian Welzel, Switzerland.

The Vertical graph:

1. The left Traditional/Secular values graph (down left) reflects the contrast between societies in which religion is very important and those in which it is not. Societies near the traditional pole emphasize the importance of

· parent-child ties and respect to authority,

· along with absolute standards and traditional family values,

· reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide.

2. Societies with secular-based-on-reason values (the top left) have the opposite position on all of these topics.

The horizontal graph

The second dimension of this graph deals with Survival and Self-expression values. The tremendous wealth that has built up in different societies during the past generation means that an increasing part of the population has grown up taking survival for granted.

1. The left side, survival values; economic and physical security. Trying to make ends meet; focus on making it for another day.

2. The right side; we see that priorities in life have shifted from an emphasis on economic and physical security toward an increasing emphasis on subjective well-being, self-expression and quality of life. Studies show that focuses have shifted from Traditional toward Secular-based on reason values, in almost all industrial societies.

Take a look at Sweden (where I am living at the moment) and most of the Western countries (including Japan)!

· The strong independence and individualism make us focus on our own immediate problems, often cutting us off from our own past as well as the history of our society.

· We do not think about the traditions that have formed us or about the larger problems of our society . . . It is oriented to our immediate wants, desires, and emotions.

Just an observation… I will later write about some of the implications!

See you again soon!

John