To declare His glory, display His grace & demonstrate His generosity

Sweden

Mission to Scandinavia

Last month I was interviewed at City Church, Canterbury about Newfrontiers in Sweden and church planting. This is what I said.

Newfrontiers mission into Scandinavia from Phil Whittall on Vimeo.

 


The future of the church in Sweden

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:

  1. Ministry has been crippled by negativism after years of little fruit and a developing ‘minority complex.’ Where are the leaders of vision and faith?
  2. Aggressive secularists are marginalizing and even persecuting Evangelicals in particular. There is need for a holy relevance and boldness in witness to them.
  3. 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.
  4. Evangelical ranks are being swollen by immigrants. All Evangelicals need to be able to work together for the re-evangelisation of Europe.
  5. 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.


A flag flying high

I’ve never particularly thought much about flags, and that’s mostly because in the UK where I’ve lived most of my life, you hardly ever see them. Not so in Sweden. Here they love them. In the small village in which I currently live there are more flagpoles and national flags than in a city fifty times its size in England.

The presence of the flag says something, it communicates a pride and a belonging to a people and a nation. Perhaps in the UK that’s not important enough, perhaps in other countries it’s too important. Whatever we think about national or civic pride, as Christians a different banner has been raised and on it is a dead animal. A lamb. Slain. That says something too.


Swedish stereotypes?

The Swedish blog has a post on stereotypes of the Swedish. Here are a few of them:

“The Swedish looks. Blonde. Blue eyes. Tall. Beautiful. It seems to focus on women, but men are also included in this one.

There is the utopian society that suggests that every beneficial service is free and that the government takes care of your every whim.

How about the polar bears in the streets of Stockholm? Or the fact that Sweden is actually Switzerland?

The sing-songy language infamously stereotyped by the Swedish chef and his “Bork, bork, bork!” (That’s not Swedish by the way. Not at all.)”

Since going public and then actually moving here, I’ve heard them all. Especially that last one.

But the closing point is a good one and well worth remembering about whoever it is we’re building relationship with…

“So many people tend to stereotype because it’s easy. It’s easier to say that all Swedes drink. All Swedes are blonde. All Swedes are shy. That way we don’t have to think on an individual basis.  It’s an understandable reaction. The challenge is of course to overcome that and to not let those stereotypes define who we meet.”

What stereotypes have you heard about the Swedes? Most importantly the Gospel rejects easy stereotypes because everyone we meet is made in the image of God unique and uniquely valuable.


Building community Swedish style

Moving to a new country always poses some challenges and none more important than how to build genuine community. Each culture has its own different ways of relating, building friendships and growing community and as a newcomer it can sometimes take a while to work it all out.

Fortunately in Sweden there is a cultural habit that they may as well pass in to law that makes it much, much easier. It’s called ‘fika‘. Fika is like the old English habit of ‘elevenses‘ and it means ‘ to have a cup of coffee (or tea) with something sweet or with a sandwich and preferably in the company of colleagues or friends.’

When I say mean, that’s literally right because ‘fika’ isn’t just a name for a habit but a genuine verb – att fika which illustrates how ingrained the habit is in the everyday life of a Swede. So a good portion of our church planting budget (when we get one) will get spent on sticky buns, coffee and making time to talk with people. Fika is a heaven sent gift for a church planter, it really is.