In a just two weeks time we’ll be hosting a prayer weekend for our church plant. We have two aims: to pray for our city and to pray for our church plant. As part of that weekend we’ll be doing a series of prayer walks and we’ll be posting some of those walks here on the blog. Here is one recent account of prayer walking around the city from one of our team – it was a a month or two ago as there’s no ice now!
“For the first prayer walk I wanted to start with the royal palace and the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament building. As I took the Tunnel-bana to Kungsträdgården in central Stockholm I asked God for a scripture for the walk. Immediately John 3:16 came to mind so I read 3:1 – 16. What struck me was how Jesus described the work of the Holy Spirit as a wind with no one knowing where the Spirit came from or where he went, but the result was new birth. One of my early impressions of life in Sweden is how little spiritual awareness there is – very few notice the wind of the Spirit. But God has said that He loves Sweden so much he gave his only Son that whoever believes in Him will be saved. It felt a very definite promise for Stockholm/Sweden at the start of the prayer walks.
Standing on the bridge across to the royal palace I was again delighted by the beauty of Stockholm on a bright, sunny, fresh morning as I watched ducks and swans circling by the feeding station while small blocks of ice floated down the river to the Baltic. The royal standard on the palace was flying merrily in the wind! So here I was, not quite sure what to do, but enjoying the moment. I walked over to the royal palace, admired the soldier on guard duty outside an entrance door, then headed to the Riksdag where it is possible to walk round the outside of some of it. After that I headed back by the steps in Lejonbacken to the palace main entrance, then past Storkyrkan, the royal chapel and a parish church. At that point I felt it was done for this time and headed down to Gamla Stan T-bana station and home.
What can I say to describe my feelings and thoughts? For the whole walk I had a clear sense of His presence and pleasure, and also a sense that Stockholm is waiting, the ground is ready to be taken. We are kingdom carriers and wherever we go, we bring His presence. I came home with a sense of excitement, anticipation and something like His satisfaction in a good start for our prayer walks.”
Last month I was interviewed at City Church, Canterbury about Newfrontiers in Sweden and church planting. This is what I said.
I’ve been flicking through Patrick Johnstone’s The Future of the Global Church looking for clues as to the decline of the church here in Scandinavia as well as the rest of Europe. As Johnstone looks to the future he identifies five ministry challenges. See what you think:
- Ministry has been crippled by negativism after years of little fruit and a developing ‘minority complex.’ Where are the leaders of vision and faith?
- Aggressive secularists are marginalizing and even persecuting Evangelicals in particular. There is need for a holy relevance and boldness in witness to them.
- Declining indigenous populations are pulling in immigrants who need to be evangelised – especially Muslims. Children need to be reached – few nowadays are exposed to anything Christian.
- Evangelical ranks are being swollen by immigrants. All Evangelicals need to be able to work together for the re-evangelisation of Europe.
- Vision for missions has declined among Evangelicals in the face of a prevailing pessimism and creeping universalism. How can it be revived?
What do you think? Is Johnstone right or is there something he’s missed – mull on it over the weekend and then leave a comment.
“All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing” (Col 1:6). Except, it seems, in Europe. Here the picture is much more mixed; there are some shoots of growth amongst the rubble of decline. Secularism continues to advance and the church continues to retreat and it is in Scandinavia where these trends seem most apparent.
The Nordic nations are consistently scored as having the highest standard of living anywhere in the world but are among the lowest when it comes to any form of religious belief. Theologian Al Mohler contends that, “the Scandinavian nations…are the most radically secularised nations on earth.”
Sociologist Phil Zuckerman wrote a book called Society without God (a title telling enough all by itself) after spending 14 months in Denmark and Sweden. In an interview in the New York Times in 2009 he said, “Religion wasn’t really so much a private, personal issue, but rather, a nonissue.” The people he talked to just didn’t care.
Yet Pentecost is still a national holiday, as is Epiphany. In Sweden a majority of young people go to confirmation classes yet end up non-believers. Cultural religion remains strong but personal faith is almost non-existent. At least, it seems, among ethnic Swedes, Danes, Finns and Norwegians. There are Iranians, Iraqis, Eritreans, Pakistanis, Afghanis and Somalis all finding Jesus here in the godless north. There is also a new generation of young people who are hungry for something more but have never encountered Jesus and never heard the offer of grace in the Gospel. The gospel isn’t finished in Scandinavia just yet.
There are just two existing Newfrontiers churches in the region, one in Denmark and one in Sweden. For us as a family of churches Scandinavia is only just beginning to get our attention but here and all around the Baltic that is starting to change.
A couple of years ago Keith Hazell prophesied a starburst of church plants. He believed God was saying that He was closing one chapter but opening another, and that “as [we] begin to catch a vision for another wave of church planting, that God is going to send [us] people who want to stand alongside [us] to do the job.”
We are now moving into this new chapter. In Norway a church plant is underway in Lillestrom (just outside Oslo). In Sweden church plants have started in Malmö (one of the most multi-cultural cities in Europe) and in Stockholm (the region’s biggest city) while our first church plant in Finland is planned for the capital Helsinki. This is just a beginning and there will need to be many more new church plants in many more towns and cities in the years to come.
All of this makes church planting in Scandinavia both incredibly challenging but incredibly important. We need men and women of courage, determination and imagination to engage in mission on the front lines of the battle against secularism and see new missional churches planted that will take the Gospel to all the different communities that exist here.
We want to build on this momentum for mission. With multiple apostolic spheres working in the region there are a growing number of opportunities, but we need more pioneering men and women to take on the challenge and move to some of the materially richest but spiritually poorest nations and introduce them to our Lord and King, Jesus. Could you be one of them?
We’d love to invite you to find out more in our ‘Scandinavia Day’ event on 29 September in Peterborough. You’ll have the opportunity to hear from the different apostolic teams and meet some of the church planters involved and find out more of the joys and challenges of mission to Scandinavia.
For more details and to book in, visit this website.
First published here
‘The Scandinavian nations are… the most radically secularized nations on earth.’ Al Mohler.
Church planting in Scandinavia is mission on the frontlines. With church plants in Stockholm, Oslo and Malmo underway and with plans for a church plant in Helsinki we are only beginning to play our part. There is much more to come.
• Are you interested in joining an existing church planting team or a brand new one?
• Do you have a heart for the nations of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden?
• Are you willing to support these pioneer ventures in prayer?
If so we’d love to see you this autumn at our Scandinavia Day. It will be an opportunity to meet and talk with some of the leaders involved, a chance to hear the vision and to seek God together. We’d love to see you there.
To download a pdf of the flyer click here Scandinavia Day