“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