Moving to Stockholm – how it came to this
Let me introduce myself, my name is Phil Whittall and I’m part of the team church planting into Stockholm. Below is a lightly edited version of the statement I presented to our church members about the guidance we believe we have with regards to our decision to move to Sweden.
“It has always been the vision for our church that it would be a church that plants churches and makes disciples of all nations, that we would be involved in the mission of God in the world. The steps we have taken to form Hope Church are testimony of our commitment to do that.
However over the past nine months or so, Emma and I, have become convinced that God is calling us to once again step out in faith and be involved in the planting of a new church. Our new destination could not be any more different to our present situation but we go where the call is, and that call is to Stockholm, Sweden.
God has a habit of not letting experiences in our past go to waste and while I was a theology student at the University of Nottingham, I spent 6 months as an exchange student in Uppsala, Sweden. Now it’s time to go back.
Over the past couple of years I’ve had a number of approaches about leading other churches or planting into new towns and although none of those were right, the experience of talking through these opportunities helped us clarify in our hearts what we were looking for and what would need to happen in order for us to be able to move, if that was indeed what the Lord had for us.
At the beginning of this year (2010) I believed that the Lord wanted us as a church to make a few more international connections in addition to our support of churches in Ukraine and I made a few enquiries. One of those enquiries related to Sweden as I retained a soft spot for the country after having lived there.
Then in the spring I read in the Newfrontiers Connect magazine this prophetic word about ‘starbursts over Scandinavia‘ that for the first time to my knowledge mentioned the idea of a church plant in Stockholm. I knew that God was speaking to me but I still hadn’t said much to Emma. Partly because I have a lot of crazy ideas and I needed to know that this idea was hanging around because it was God speaking to me.
Last May at a leaders prayer and fasting gathering I spoke with a few people involved in this initiative and as we prayed for the nations increasingly felt that this was a burden God was placing on me. So it was time to talk to Emma. I gave her a call and got her to look by my bed where I had a ‘teach yourself Swedish’ book and basically said ‘I think God is calling us to Stockholm.’
Not too long after that another major change happened in our lives, which is significant to this story. Previously we had always described our involvement in Illuminate as an ‘anchor’ to Shrewsbury. However as it became clear that we could no longer run the shop we were moving into uncharted waters. On the day I told a friend that we either had to find new owners or close the business he shared a prophetic word with me. He saw us in the pouch of an old Roman catapult and the ropes that held the pouch down were the links to the shop, as God cut the ropes to the shop the catapult would be released and we would be flung into the far distance. I knew again that God was speaking.
Emma received some significant confirmations in Scripture as God began to reassure her He was in this. On two separate but not consecutive occasions as we discussed Sweden, the next verses in Emma’s devotional reading were two verses that had previously given her peace about significant moves in her life.
We spoke with our church oversight (a bit like a spiritual director) and told him what we were thinking and he was supportive of is pursuing this development. At the end of June I read something by Terry Virgo that made my heart race it ended with, “The restoration of the church has consumed you, but now a new day is dawning. Whereas the word ‘church’ has stirred you, let the word ‘nations’ burn in your heart – because it’s time to look at the harvest fields and it’s time to go.”
At Together on a Mission conference in Brighton in July I met with some people from the Swedish churches and a Swedish couple who have been living in the UK for the past ten years who have also independently sensed a call to church plant to Stockholm. We were beginning to form relationships and connections. It was in Brighton that I first told my fellow elder Nick what we believed God was speaking to us about and asked him if he was in faith to take on the lead role here.
This was an important moment for me, 10 years ago at the start of the adventure in north Shrewsbury, I said to God I’d give 7 years and if at that time the church had leadership to take it on, was growing and seeing people saved and added I’d ask him where next. A few years ago I did just that but as a church not all the pieces were in place, although I could see and had faith for them to fall into place in time. Right now we see leaders emerging, people being saved, baptised and added, we’re in the best shape we’ve ever been in and I think that God has used this time both to prepare me and the church to be ready. I believe that Nick will do an excellent job and is certainly in a better position for his first lead role than I was 10 years ago. I’m confident that at this time our leaving need not slow up the momentum God has given us and that wasn’t the case a few years ago. What I’m saying is this feels like the right time.
The very next meeting we were in God spoke prophetically about new arrangements as God moved people to the nations. Now prophetic words and sermons at Newfrontiers conferences are neither unexpected nor new, it happens almost every time. But this time instead of thinking, ‘that’s nice’ I was thinking, ‘this is me’. It was a massive difference.
I began to read fresh books on church planting and as I read one by David Stroud I read Gen 12:1 which leapt out to me: Now the LORD said to Abram, “The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”
Now I’m no Abram and I’m no genius, but even I couldn’t miss this one and it made even more sense given that I now work in what feels like to me ‘my father’s house’ (we converted an old church building into offices). We continued to work on relationships with those who also felt called to Stockholm and this culminated in out ‘holiday’ to Stockholm in September, a final piece in the puzzle for us. We spoke with both my parents and Emma’s mum and they were all incredibly supportive. Emma’s mother is so supportive that in fact she is planning on moving with us to be involved in this new adventure. Those involved apostolically in our region and in Scandinavia have all supported and encouraged this step for us.
We were clear; God had given us all this and more besides, we had enough. It was time to be obedient, we were going. So it is my intention to hand over leadership of Hope Church by the end of June 2011 and hopefully (if all the practical pieces fall into place) to move to Sweden in July 2011.
For the first nine months we probably won’t be in Stockholm but based elsewhere while we enrol as students and learn Swedish and become familiar with the country from the inside and make clear our plans to move into Stockholm early summer 2012. For at least that year we will need to raise financial support to allow us live there.
At this point in time there’s many questions we don’t know the answer to, but we’re confident that God will provide for us and that is the step that the Lord is asking us to take.”
This post was first posted here