Tag Archives: the Word of Life

I am ecumenical in spirit, not in structure!


The latest article in the Christian Daily on Livets Ord addresses the ecumenical endeavors of the movement, in the same newspaper we read “How three can become one”… (this sounds very Biblical: Three in One!”) where a process is started to unite the Mission-, the Baptist and Methodist churches into one denomination.

There is so much to say about being ecumenical, about Christian unity and about the importance to recognize and respect one another. I come from a non-Bible-believing Catholic background where “Church” was part of the cultural life of people living in the Southern part of Holland. In our village and in most of the Southern part of Holland in those days (the 70ties) Catholicism had a cultural rather then a spiritual impact on the society and the people. Under my upbringing I did not know even ONE true believer among the thousands of people I knew. Later on as I had become a Christian through the Jesus People Movement I met a few true believers; they believed in Christ as their Savior and Lord and in the Bible as their authority. Actually some of them were nuns who would come by taxi to a bible study which I held shortly after my conversion, another believer was the responsible priest in the St. Jan cathedral in ‘s-Hertogenbosch who became a close friend to my wife and me. (He, together with an older evangelist performed our wedding ceremony in the chapel of the hospital where I was working as a nurse at the time).

As the articles show and as we all know there is a movement towards ecumenism in our nation, the Jesusmanifestation was a fruit of that.

Ecumenical, according to Merriam Webster Dictionary means: representing the whole of a body of churches b: promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation.

However, I need to say that I am not only undivided positive towards this. I identify myself as: “ecumenical in spirit, but not in structure”. With structure I mean the banding of different faiths with different doctrinal statements of truth in form of an organization. I do not believe in that at all, there is a valid reason for organizational separation. I see also an endangering of the absolutes of Scripture. We cannot accommodate everyone and everything. I am totally convinced that Christians who want to accommodate in such ways will soon abandon their beliefs for the sake of unity. Unity is never worth the sacrifice of the authenticity of Scripture! That, in short is my view about structural ecumenism.

In regards to being ecumenical in spirit, I believe that although we are separated denominationally, that there is in fact a “true church” which unites all true believers: Those who have been justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, regardless of denominational belonging are already one in Christ and are part of the true Church which is hidden to the human eye.

True Christian believers are always united spiritually as brothers and sisters in Christ despite their denominational belonging or identity. But I do not believe that this will ever express itself in structure here on earth. Because of humankind’s falleness I believe that the true kind of unification will take place as Christ will return to meet His bride (the Church).

I believe strongly in the slogan of the Moravian movement which says:”In essential beliefs we have unity. In non-essential beliefs we have diversity. In all our beliefs we show charity.” This slogan has been my motto since I read about this grant movement, it has permeated the way I think and live and has found its place even in the church where I am pastor. I believe we should work together when possible, but there will continue to be a structural separation because we cannot compromise Truth and accept different doctrines simply in order to have some kind of organizational sameness.

So, I will remain “ecumenical in spirit, but not in structure”.

That’s the Way I see it!

John

What can we learn from Livets Ord and Ulf Ekman? A look over the shoulder…

With interest I have been reading the series about Livets Ord in the Christian Daily “Dagen”. (Here, here, here, here and here). My interest is not geared towards getting to know more about this church and its ministries; my interest is focused on learning how God has used their ministry and calling for the well being of the nation and our world.

Although one can make some footnotes and have some reservations about some of the early weaknesses and “unbalanced” aspects of their ministry, my opinion is that this ministry overall has been (is) a tremendous blessing to the nation and Christianity at large. The main purpose I see in an evaluation document after 25 years of ministry is to learn from it. What can we learn as Body of Christ in Sweden?

From the top of my head I am compelled to make a couple of quick observations:

1. It is possible to plant and build churches and ministries in Sweden today. I decided to start with this statement because we are surely not spoiled with positive reports about what is doing. After 25 years we can say: Livets Ord is established and has not lost its zeal and purpose!

2. It takes vision, determination, faithfulness and leadership well anchored in God to be able to make a difference in a spiritual hostile climate in secularized Sweden. One of my observations since I first arrived here in Sweden is that too many leaders and ministries come and go, many leaders lack one or more of the aspects which I mentioned earlier. Ulf Ekman does not lack these qualities and therefore he is able to build something lasting.

3. Leadership is built on character and transformation in a person’s life. In this last document about money it becomes quite clear that Ulf Ekman is not into ministry to become rich! He earns a good salary, (and he should!) as he is taking responsibility for such a demanding ministry! Money and the love of money are a good measurement of the character of a person; the way Ulf Ekman has passed on the right on royalties on his books and products to the ministry speaks for him! I would trust him with my wallet!

4. Some voices in the article talk about the emphasis on financial giving. First of all I believe that we speak too little about our finances in Sweden. There is really little transparency about what we earn and what we do with our finances. This whole area is privatized, it is in hiding… The Body of Christ in Sweden would be well off to address the area of financial accountability and giving because it is a spiritual stronghold. (Read more about consumerism and accountability here and here). Secondly I want us to realize that Livets Ord has used much of their income on missions, they have not spent it on themselves! For more reading about accountability check here>

Ulf, if you would ever read this… we only met once and shook hands on the stage of the Jesusmanifestationen… I appreciate all you have done for us and our nation. Thanks for your faithfulness and your commitment to follow the exhortation of the writer of Hebrews:

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12: 1-3)

That’s the Way I see it (when there is more to say I will continue on this subject).

John