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How to Save a Church Movement from Extinction

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Originally published at Jesus Army.

Andreas Ehrenpreis is not a well-known name in church history, but what he managed to do is truly astonishing. Born 1589 in Illingen, Germany, Andreas was brought up as an Anabaptist – a persecuted, radical Christian movement that emphasised faith, peace and justice. At seven years of age, his family joined a Hutterite community in Morovia, modern-day Czech Republic.

The Hutterites had been founded by Jakob Hutter (1500-1536) as a church that believed that community of goods is something all Christians should practice. However, as Andreas Ehrenpreis was commissioned as a minister of the Word in 1621, things had changed drastically.

Community was not practiced the same way as before – people usually laid aside money for themselves and stored various luxuries. Some bought weapons to defend themselves against persecutors, despite the church’s official, pacifist stance. As the Mennonite Encyplopedia puts it, “moral slackening was observable everywhere”. (more…)

The Jerusalem Project: Starting a Christian Community from Scratch

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Originally published at PCPJ.

The Jerusalem Project is based on the radical idea that biblical followers of Jesus should live like the followers of Jesus in the Bible. Specifically, we don’t think that the community of goods that Jesus practiced with his disciples (John 13:29) and that they then continued to practice in the apostolic church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45), was a mistake or has gone obsolete. On the contrary, since Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and the apostles are the foundation of the church (Eph 2:19), we believe we should live like them.

Most Christians would agree that the apostles has ultimate authority on who Jesus is, what he did for us and what he wants us to do for him. In fact, this authority is so great that the words they or their associates wrote down in letters and books are considered to be the Word of God!

That’s basically as much authority one can get.

But if they have this much authority, shouldn’t we view their lives and works as expressing God’s will as much as their words? Not that they would be sinless, but they had spend a lot of time with the sinless Son of God. He had taught them not only doctrines but practices, not just orthodoxy but orthopraxy. And so, they continued to heal the sick, preach the Gospel and have everything in common just as Jesus had trained them. (more…)

A Culture of Hospitality

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For the last couple of years I have been spending a lot of time helping the homeless. I have taken them into my home, helping them get a job, taking their children to school and arguing for their rights and dignity in the media. I’ve protested when they have been mistreated or deported and I’ve celebrated God’s victory over Satan with them on street parties. Also, I’ve been frustrated with them over the fact that most churches and Christian homes won’t take them in.

There are four million homeless in Europe and eleven million empty houses. Not only that, their are at least 14 million evangelical Christians who could easily fit the homeless into their living rooms and guest rooms. The Bible emphasises that hospitality is something all Christians should engage in:

Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13).

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2).

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The Hunger Argument for Veganism

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When people hear veganism, they think about animal rights activists or people who care for the environment. It is less known that skipping meat and dairy also is the single most effective thing one can do to fight global hunger.

My fiancée Sarah and I recently talked about this in MennoNerds video (above), and last month, Sarah contributed to PCPJ with an article on the hunger argument for veganism:

I have discovered that few things are so controversial among Christians and met with such incomprehension (and ignorance) as veganism. “Do you eat only salad?” is a question I often get, or “you don’t eat wheat flour, right?” Not to mention all the extremely hilarious meat jokes (sarcasm intended). But I have discovered that most times people have preconceptions about what it means to be vegan and the reasons behind it.

When I tell people that I’m vegan, most assume that it is due to the animal ethics. And to be honest, it was probably how it started. Twelve years ago, I became a vegetarian because I loved animals, and felt like a hypocrite towards them when I ate meat. But over time I began to think about whether this really was a sufficient reason. As a Christian, I believed that humans have been appointed to manage creation and that we have a higher value than animals. If an animal’s death would be the prerequisite for human life, it would be a morally acceptable thing to do (as it turns out this is not the case today, as I will explain below). (more…)

Jesus Church: Selling Everything

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This was originally posted on Jesus Army’s Forward Blog.

In this third and final blog post of my Jesus Church series, I’d like to talk about money. Twice, John points out that the ‘Jesus Church’ had a central fund that Judas was responsible for (John 12:6, 13:29). The income that the church received, probably from donations (Luke 8:3), seems to have been pooled, and the surplus given to the poor.

This was an obvious practical expression of Jesus’ radical economic teachings.

“Blessed are you who are poor”, he said, “but woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:20, 24). It’s clear that Jesus didn’t want us to be rich.

This is also evident when he said that we should not store up treasures on earth:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).

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How the Holy Spirit Caused the Jesus Army to Practice Community


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Originally published at PCPJ.

Huw Lewis is one of the apostolic leaders of Jesus Fellowship Church, or Jesus Army, in the UK. A charismatic church founded in the late 1960’s, it has practiced intentional Christian community with a complete sharing of possessions for over 40 years. Pax Pneuma interviewed Lewis about what community is like:

Please briefly describe how the outpouring of the Spirit led you to practice community!

The main consequence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was a very real and deep love for God and one another. This meant that we wanted to be together, to share meals, to meet and gather, worship, pray and open up our hearts to each other. Each night we would spontaneously just gather at the chapel and stay around until late.

It became something of a disturbance at the end of an evening to have to go back to our own houses/ flats so it was a natural progression to start experiments of living together. It began small but grew to larger community houses in time. I believe “God’s love shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5) will lead to a changed lifestyle of sharing, openness, justice and equality as hall marks of God’s character. We just didn’t want to be away from the very tangible presence of God that we found when we gathered together.
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A Book Packed with Community Inspiration

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A review of Charles E. Moore’s Called to Community (Plough Publishing, 2016).

I had not looked at the book cover closely enough when I opened Called to Community to realise what kind of authors it had, so it was with great surprise I turned to the first chapter and saw that it was written by Fjodor Dostojevskij! Yes, an excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov about how heaven is realised when we reject individualism, initiates this unique contribution to the Christian community litterature.

Containing writings by C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, Benedict of Nursia, Dorothy Day, Jean Vanier and many more, this is an excellent source of inspiration for anyone interested in Christian community and its pioneers. Its 52 brief chapters makes it a good weekly reading over a year, obviously suitable for a collective reading in, for example, a community.

The editor, Bruderhof member Charles E. Moore, restricts his own writing in the volume to the introduction, a chapter about children in community and a chapter on knowing and loving our neighbours. The topics he lets his fellow authors cover include counterculture, calling, obstacles, love, conflict, money, forgiveness, hospitality and revolution. The chapters are organised in four different (quite chronological) sections: A Call to Community (alluding to the book’s title), Forming Community, Life in Community and Beyond Community. (more…)

Generosity in the Midst of Poverty

Article written for the Multiply Network.

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In late November and early December last year, a group of youth from the Jesus Fellowship went to Machilipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, in India. They visited Berachah Children’s Home, a ministry led by pastor Kiran Paul that houses and helps 180 children. The Home is supported by the Multiply Network.

15123125_1521609821199483_5989671886325040443_o (1).jpgHonor Hunter was really impacted by being in India for the first time. “When we arrived I was really tired but I was amazed how beautiful it was,” she says. “It felt like a completely different world. Rice fields and really bright blue birds. The people from Berachah were so welcoming. Kiran Paul, the pastor, was sick in meningitis but still came to the airport to greet us.

“They have hardly anything so they put God first, not possessions. When the children prayed and were so emotional and desperate. Over here, kids don’t get too involved with God. Wealth is too much of a distraction for us. But in India they go through horrible things and they see that God is love and that they need him as an anchor point.” (more…)

What is Christian Community Like?

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An interview with me originally published at the website of Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice.

Micael, can you explain to me your living arrangement, both in domestic terms and economic terms?  

Holy Treasure is part of something called New Creation Christian Community (NCCC) which in turn is part of the Jesus Fellowship Church, or Jesus Army. NCCC is at the core of Jesus Army, basically every local congregation is based around a community house, and almost a quarter of all church members live in community.

I work at one of the church’s businesses called Goodness Foods with video making. All my wages are sent to the bank account of Holy Treasure, the “common purse”, which then provides me with all the food, clothing and transport I need.
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Modern Civilisation is Collapsing – What to Do?

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It probably won’t look as cool as this, but the Great Collapse will still be very damaging

All complex civilisations in human history have eventually collapsed. As the complexity of the Babylonian, Roman and Maya empires increased, their administration eventually became to costly and inflexible, leaving the whole system vulnerable to any famine, war or social uprising that would tear it totally apart. The inevitable collapse were seldom instantaneous, it could take decades or even centuries. What it always produced however was decreased complexity with more decentralised governance, more poverty, rural living and a smaller population.

I am fully convinced that if Jesus doesn’t return to end history soon, we will see modern civilisation collapsing. With modern civilisation I refer to the political and economic structure that is based in the “Western”, white part of the world but that influences all nations of the earth and use their resources. It is totally impossible for its complexity to remain on this level or even higher; sooner or later most of our societies will be thrown back to pre-industrial times, and millions will die.

This gloomy prediction of course contradict the myth of eternal Progress that has been a dominant paradigm in the West. Just like in the early days of the Roman empire, increased wealth, health, education and technology made people believe that the future will be eternally bright, everything will get better and more efficient.

This is very different from a Biblical worldview which predicts that the sinfulness of man will constantly follow and eventually consume us. The book of Revelation talks about how the pseudo-glorious city of Babylon, representing power, wealth and civilisation, will collapse: (more…)

What the Arctic Tells us about Following Jesus

Originally posted at Jesus Army’s Forward Blog.

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The Arctic is alarmingly warm this year, in fact, 20 degrees hotter than usual. What scientists have been warning us against for decades is becoming reality. If nothing is done, we might see an enormous climate catastrophe that would kill and displace hundreds of millions.

The vast majority of scientists have also been telling us for years that we do far too little to stop climate change. Even if the relatively ambitious Paris Climate Accord is implemented by all countries, it will not be enough. And the outcome of the American election puts into question whether the Accord even will be implemented.

The main root cause of these problems is an industrially driven economic growth that is not restricted to areas that seem necessary and beneficial like better healthcare and education. The astonishingly high consumption level that has driven climate change for decades deals a lot with fashion, technology, entertainment and luxury products that we, if we’re honest with ourselves, simply don’t need. (more…)

Heidi Baker Aims to Build African University the Size of Stanford

Heidi Baker is known to be courageous, ambitious and a bit charisma-crazy. Together with the rest of the Iris Global leadership team they’ve decided to build a whole frickin’ university in Pemba, northern Mozambique. “The Lord said: ‘Build it the size of Standford'” Heidi excitingly says in a recently published video that I’ve included in the clip above. The university will be an amazing contribution to development in the whole region. To support the project, head to Iris Global’s Giving Center and/or include it in your prayers.

Why Won’t Most Americans Care About The Rest of the World?

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Trump has won the election, which is nothing less than a disaster for the world. He doesn’t care about climate change and his policies will most likely kill millions of people around the world due to climate inaction. He is anti-immigration and wants to block out people fleeing from poverty and war, which might very well kill many of them too. And his willingness to engage in nuclear war is unprecedented, if his irrational rage makes him go crazy on Twitter, what will he do when he has nuclear launch codes at his disposal?

It’s not a mystery why he’s popular though. The American working class and rural population know that they have been screwed by the urban elite – poor Americans have almost seen nothing of the economic growth of the last decades. Of course, somebody who has benefited from that growth in a very unethical fashion is Trump himself.But people tend to see him as a successful businessman (which he’s not) who can save the American economy (which he won’t) by protectionism and putting America first, making it “great again”.

The fact that his policies are tremendously bad for the rest of the world don’t matter too much to them because it’s America that’s going to be great, not necessarily Mozambique or India. They could say things like climate change being a hoax (“invented by the Chinese” as Trump has claimed) or that Syrian refugees are terrorists. What this shows is not just that they haven’t taken the time to listen to those in the majority world who are already suffering from climate change or those fleeing from war, but also a lack of empathy to these people. (more…)

Why Capitalism Will Never Save the Climate

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I often hear that the Biblical views on the sinfulness of wealth, the need for simplicity and the universal calling to economic equality are radical ideas. But they’re actually extremely realistic, in contrast to the mammonistic and neoclassical ideas of the necessity of wealth, growth and inequality. Not only because the Biblical ideas, if put in practice, fights poverty much more effectively, but also because they’re the only ones that can reduce the devastating impacts of the upcoming climate change catastrophe.

The other day I listened to a very interesting lecture by professor Kevin Anderson from Manchester University. He talked about the really dangerous form of climate change denial, which isn’t the goofy ideas that the planet isn’t warming or that its warming but we’re not the primary cause and so on. Those views are rejected by the vast majority of scientists and most ordinary people don’t believe in them either. No, the real problem is when scientists adjust or deny their results in order to communicate that we can mitigate and adapt to climate change without too much reduction in economic growth and without adjusting our economic system. He writes on his website:

In several important respects the modelling community is self-censoring its research to conform to the dominant political and economic paradigm. Moreover, there is a widespread reluctance of many within the climate change community to speak out against unsupported assertions that an evolution of ‘business as usual’ is compatible with the IPCC’s 2°C carbon budgets. With specific reference to energy, this analysis concludes that even a slim chance of “keeping below” a 2°C rise, now demands a revolution in how we both consume and produce energy. Such a rapid and deep transition will have profound implications for the framing of contemporary society and is far removed from the rhetoric of green growth that increasingly dominates the climate change agenda.

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Why Churches Should Abandon Stage Lights and Fog Machines

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Are there any reasons to believe that colourful stage lights and fog machines are anything else than the toys of Christian stage technicians and a compensation for lack of Biblical revival? No. The global trend of churches investing billions of dollars in superfluous show equipment has increased dramatically over just the last few decades, but not many have asked themselves why we do it and what happens to church when we do it.

Of course, if someone dares to question this unbiblical practice that person is easily dismissed as someone who doesn’t understand young people or who isn’t into culturally relevant evangelism. So hi, I’m a young evangelist, and I hate stage lights. And fog machines, those horrible, stupid fog machines! How painfully obvious isn’t it that modern, Western churches lack God when they literally try to fabricate something which the Scriptures describes as a manifestation of the Lord’s presence?

As I’ve explained in my God vs Wealth series, Jesus doesn’t want us to be rich but live as simply as possible so that we can give as much to the poor as possible. This applies not just to individual disciples but to churches as well. There are hundreds of millions of Christians around the world living in poverty. If we truly think that they are our brothers and sisters, we can’t ignore their suffering by spending loads of money on superfluities.

As John puts it: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 Jn 3:17) (more…)