Tag Archives: New Life

Stress among Christians and in Christian ministry

“Spiritual demands can create stress”. Was the name of an article in the Christian Daily here in Sweden.

Tommy Dahlman discovered that the Church is not a sanctuary from stress… Tommy tells us that there are many reasons why we experience stress, it is not only related to the hours that we work… He addresses that one of the reasons is the sense that we have to be available and in touch with our world around us at al times.

What I find interesting is the element of stress also among leaders in the church; research done in North America describe the following facts of people in ministry: Most Protestant pastors make their greatest impact in a church between the 5th and 14th years of their pastorate in that location. Yet, the average length of a pastorate is less than five years. Other facts:

• 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.

• 50% – 60% of church planters close the plant and the effort dies.

• 90% say their Bible School/Seminary Training did not prepare them for what they face day-to-day in the church.

• Only 10% finish the race and reach age 65 as a pastor.

• Two-thirds say their congregation has been in conflict in the past 2 years.

• 80% of pastors’ spouses with their spouse would choose another profession.

• Nationally 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to burnout, moral failure, or conflict in the church. That’s 18,000 per year!

• 1 out of every 4 of those who left reported they were motivated by conflict with the denomination or a “belief that church headquarters was not supportive.”

• 50% of those who begin in the ministry leave after their first pastorate in less than 5 years never to return to ministry though they felt called.

I know stress since I live with it to some capacity on a daily basis. I don’t know if one can live without the trials of stress, stress is experienced in many different ways, in responsibilities, assignments, relationships, social circumstances, and finances, in connection to our perception of us and so many more situations and dimensions.

And what about the demands of Jesus as he calls us to leave everything behind and follow Him… Following Jesus implies a certain degree of stress as He challenges us to be changed in His image… the whole process of sanctification can be experienced as a stress related development. Every change I am exposed to is in its essence a possible stress factor in my life.

For Christians there is yet another dimension of stress: and that is the fight in the spiritual world… when becoming a Christian one leaves the “kingdom of darkness” behind and becomes part of the Kingdom of light (or God). The Bible tells us that there is a constant battle going on as our enemy Satan will try to do everything possible to kill, quench and destroy us. The spiritual warfare is real and claims its toll. The problem is that many Christians and leaders in the West are not aware of this warfare thus being unprepared and unprotected against it.

Another aspect that I want to call our attention to is the fact that we are people with many passions. Too many passions! Following Jesus is learning to becoming men and women with few passions in life. Passions demand loyalty, time, resources, attention and energy… The fact that so many are burned out and are “stressed to death” can also be found in the fact that we have too many passions. Be a person with few passions and your life will be less stressed.

Personally I don’t think stress is the problem, the problem is what we do with it! Tommy Dahlman suggests some great remedies to help relieve the stress; he mentions: Live in peace with God and each other, don’t compare yourself to others, have deep relations, be open and transparent…

The earlier mentioned research among leaders showed that support, empathy and teams are lifelines in ministry and to keep your sanity. However, I guess that we will always battle with stress and its consequences. Since the fall of humankind conflict is a part of life (see article on conflict and leadership), conflict within, among and over creation and us. The challenge is to learn to “give our conflict, struggles, trials, stress and challenges to God” which, at times, is easier said than done… I am still in the school of life trying to throw myself into the hands of my master!

That’s the Way I see it!

John

Advertisements

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

Jesusmanifestation: Announce May 2nd as Sweden’s national day of Christian celebration!

The 2009 Jesusmanifestation (here, here, here, here and here) is now bigger than the 1maj demonstration of the Socialistic Party! “Jesus is alive in the media again!” exclaimed Göran Skytte the former atheistic and communistic journalist who has come to a living faith in Jesus Christ. It’s true, but as Skytte emphasized its not necessarily positive coverage about Jesus.

As has been shown throughout history; you can’t keep a good man down! They couldn’t keep Him in the grave and they can’t silence Him even 2000 years after his death!

Personally I am inclined to start talking about a new national holiday of Christian celebration on May 2nd. Why? Because we need at least one day a year where we, free from the normal “religious” traditions, can focus, unite and celebrate the fact that Jesus still cares for our nation and our people.

I am already dreaming about what might take place next year! Jesus was walking the streets of Stockholm and it was a joy to just watch people’s faces as young and old walked through the streets towards Kungsträdgården… – The Garden of the King (of kings).

dsc_0930

Sergels Torg filled with Son Worshippers!

I enjoyed just walking there being part of the crowd… just a few minutes earlier we had finished off a three hour intensive meeting at Sergels Torg where Vineyard, Petruskyrkan, Korskyrkan, Tomaskyrkan, V.E.M. and New Life Church united in presenting Jesus Christ to everyone who was wiling to listen. Personally I have been the MC of the meeting, trying to keep a red thread in this three hour time of worship, testimonies, music, preaching and prayer. It was a joy to be on Plattan… the very place where our church was born years ago.

dsc_0955

Sergels Torg praying together for peope in our nation

dsc_0699

dsc_0042

On our way to Kungsträdgården

I just want to wish you God’s blessings… and hope you will join us next year! See you then!

John van Dinther

By the way: Saturday’s congress of the Sverige Demokraterna with 150 participants in Frösundavik outside of Stockholm was in depth evaluated in the national news today while the Jesusmanifestation had it’s 8 seconds of national coverage… quite a development of attention in comparison to none coverage in last year’s reporting by national media!

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

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

The only time I agree with Lennart Koskinen…

Lennart Koskinen stated in a seminar of Dagen on the development of the Church in Sweden: “Ten years from now Christianity will be stronger then today”. This statement I endorse 100%! It is actually the only time that I have agreed with Bishop Lennart Koskinen from the Swedish Church (former State Church).

I do agree with him that there will be a stronger Church in Sweden ten years from now! But it won’t be the Church which he represents. As he made clear earlier he would not like to have “my-kind –of-people” around; people with a strong Biblical conviction and lifestyle. People he considers to be “fundamentalist” because they believe in the Bible as authority for their lives. In an earlier blog I wrote: Christians – in name only! A call to radical Christ following – death to Christendom!” We will in the near future see the death of Christendom as we know it, yet we will see a rise of Bible believing Christians in the near future… How I know: I see the signs of the time as people turn again to God… and (you don’t need to be a prophet to recognize this) the state of the Church I Sweden cannot get much worse… so you don’t need to be a prophet to state that things will change! (See more statistics here).

So I do agree with Lennart on this and continue to not agree on most other things he addresses…(Honestly speaking I don’t think he minds me having these thoughts… He doesn’t even know about them and might not be interested in them anyway).

That’s the Way I see it!

John




200,000 children of addict parents go without support in Sweden!

Dagen, the Christian Daily and Ekuriren reported today that 200,000 children of addict parents lack support in our nation. Of the 200,000 children involved, only 2% will receive support in the municipality. These figures come from a report from the IOGT-NTO junior department which is a special organization working for the sobriety/temperance movement here in Sweden.

The report, yearly released for the last five years, addresses the difficulty of getting children of drug- or alcohol addicted parents involved in the support groups which are available in a number of different cities and towns in our nation.

The results of the year 2008 inquiry in the municipalities show that:

– 261 of 290 municipalities answered the questionnaire

– 74% (192 of 261) can offer support groups for this goal group.

– 35% will use more resources to develop ministry to these children (for a more detailed report check here for a download).

Thus far an extract of the report.

We are facing a real serious issue… about a month ago our church (www.newlife.nu ) was invited by the county council to receive a reward for our ministry against segregation. As I was there I was spending time with some of the governing politicians whose responsibility was to pursue initiatives towards children and youth. During our conversation I addressed especially the situation of the children to addicts (since we minister to addicts within the context of the church). He had recognized the same problem as I had seen similar to the one addressed in the report.

And I was thinking, here we have these thousands of children and youth who have been raised under pressure and are like “walking wounded” individuals who are still in the development stages of their lives and yet, we cannot help them to deal with their traumas, their fears and their hurts. We spend tremendous amounts on the rehabilitation of their parents and yet, they are hardly considered. This last statement I have to explain: they are considered and thought off, the sheer presence of such a report show that.

However, I do know that we have no means to get in direct contact with these children and youth. In contrast to their parents we have little follow-up on their whereabouts. They seem to disappear in the system, not even our social authorities seem to be able to connect with them as a group. Of course we have to realize that so many of these children have gone through such heavy traumas that they might be happy to be able to be in other, more healthy, environments and are therefore not receptive to engage in treatment, therapy or plain support allowing others to re-open wounds they try forget they have.

The big questions are:

· How do we identify them as individuals and as group?

· How do we structure support for them from the very first moment one of the authorities or other organizations is confronted with them and their family’s situation?

· How do we then synchronize our resources, know-how and personnel to create networks of professionals and volunteers who can be part of their daily life?

· How can we provide an accountability structure for all involved to ensure the possibility to develop a relationship with every single child motivating him/her for the kind of help they need?

· How can we remain in touch with these children even when they have gone on to live with their parents and/or other adults?

I don’t have answers, just questions at the moment. What do you know, think, suggest? How can we together be part of the answer these children need?

John