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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…)
I can’t remember what kind of Google search or hyperlink that first led me to the website of Jesus Army almost seven years ago, but I remember how thrilled I was to finally encounter an evangelical, charismatic church that has complete community of goods. The closest resemblance to such an apostolic church that I had previously discovered was in a dusty, old book in my father’s home library called In His Footsteps. I was so excited as I earnestly turned the pages and read about this amazing church in the middle of nowhere which took Jesus seriously, had everything in common and led countless people to the Lord. Then I came to the last page which revealed that it was all fiction.
But the Jesus Army was real! I sent them an email, asking to come and visit them in Northamptonshire for a few days in April 2010. I was interested in the Training Year they offer and wanted to get a feeling about what New Creation community life was like. It was amazing; as I’ve previously shared I was baptised in the Holy Spirit during that trip, and I was so encouraged to see that community of goods is not just possible in the western world today – it’s very effective!
Without giving any convinced promises I told the Jesus saints that I wanted to do a training year (or rather, six months) in 2011. But after some time I told them I wasn’t going. I was feeling too young, insecure and inexperienced to take such a step. God was good and let me experience some amazing things in Sweden during that time. But I now know that of course I would have enjoyed and benefited a lot from a Jesus Army training year back then. I’m not luring myself into believing that whatever my life ends up like is what God wanted all along. He wants me and everybody else to share our possessions from the day we are saved. But even as we fail God can lead us onward, never forsaking us but faithfully caring for us.
With the rise of individualism in the West there has been an increasing trend of “private Christianity” where people believe in Jesus but they never attend any church. Some of them acquire teaching and/or worship songs via the Internet at home, while others just pray sometimes. I encounter several of these “secret Christians” when I’m out evangelising, and most of them seem convinced that church meetings really are unimportant, that it’s perfectly fine to be a Christian alone.
The Bible, on the other hand, clearly commands us “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebr 10:25). Even as the early Christians went on missionary trips they weren’t alone. Jesus commanded us to pray “Our Father” in plural, Paul emphasises in 1 Cor 12 that we’re all body parts in one body, dependent on one another.
But let’s face it, Christians who leave church aren’t doing it because they have a special Bible interpretation, but because church has disappointed them. As a house church leader I have seen several people go during the last five years, some of them to other congregations but a substantial number have become private Christians. Some of it is due to mistakes from our parts, other times we have been too radical. (more…)
Sarah and I have spent the weekend in the small village of Åsele in northern Sweden, doing evangelism with the pancake church at a big market fair. We’ve had the opportunity to talk to, pray with and love hundreds of people, mostly youths. One girl received salvation there and then after she was healed in her neck, many others received Bibles and were very interested in getting to know God more.
On Saturday evening I hung a paper plate around my neck that said “Evidence for God in 2 minutes”. Needless to say it caught lot of attention, and I got to have apologetic and evangelistic discussions with at least 25 people. I illustrated my points using my phone, which was very effective and increased the attention rate of my listeners even more.
“This phone is very unique”, I said, “because it has no cause for its existence. It popped into being out if nothing without a cause, and now I use it to call people and take photos. Do you believe me?” Nobody said yes, some looked at me as if I was a madman and others just laughed out loud. Then I explained that of course this is not the case, everything that begins to exist must have a cause. “So what do you think is the cause for the big bang and the origin of the universe?”
At least one Sunday a month we have “Come in, go out”-meetings in my house church, where we firstly gather in my living room for some worship, prayer and Bible study, and then we go out on the streets of Uppsala to hand out coffee and evangelize. Yesterday, we had two remarkable encounters during the outreach phase.
A Kurdish man came, received a cup of coffee and then loudly announced “I don’t believe in religion! Not in Islam, Christianity or anything else!” Thinking that this was an atheist, I started to bring up some apologetic arguments for God’s existence, but they fell flat to the ground. “I do believe in a creator! But not in religion! It is impossible for humans to understand God and to have contact with him!”
Oh, so it’s a deist then, I thought. My friend Tryggve and I then started to question him on how the Creator is able to create an entire universe without being able to cure a disease or talk to those that He has created, but our attempts were unsuccesful as the man repeatedly just stated “It’s impossible! It’s impossible! You don’t understand!” I then started to testify about miracles that I have witnessed and how Jesus revealed Himself to me, but I could hardly finish a sentence before the man shouted “No! Those are just illusions! You don’t understand the truth!”
The man furthermore claimed that we all believe what we believe because of our upbringing, whereas I told him about the amazing church growth in Nepal, where millions have converted to Christianity during the last 30 years mainly due to visions, healings, signs and wonders. Again, his response was that it was impossible. I asked him how he knew that it was impossible, and he claimed that “everybody” knew miracles are impossible. When I pointed out that this was a lie since we Christians know that miracles exist, he again said that miracles are impossible and that God does not reveal Himself to people. (more…)
Every weekend, an evangelistic group known as the Pancake Church occupies the central square in the Swedish town of Uppsala to hand out free pancakes and share the Gospel about Jesus. For three years now I have had the privilege of leading this group. We’re not an own, independent church but an evangelistic organization that gathers Christians from different churches who want to share the Gospel in a fun and culturally relevant way to the youths of our town.
I can honestly say that every evening is an amazing evening. We get to speak to so many people, pray for them, discuss God and life with them or sing gospel songs with them. We hang out with the poor and homeless as well as the rich and lonely. And the Holy Spirit is with us. We have seen several healings and conversions during the years, and some who have been saved on the streets join us and helps us to further spread the Kingdom of God!
There are over 20 Pancake Churches in Sweden, connected though the Pancake Church National Organization. We print our own Pancake Bibles (which are normal New Testaments with some testimonies and pictures), t-shirts and organize events and summer tours. A friend from the Jesus Army contacted me and wondered how one organizes a local Pancake Church and what one should think about. So here are my tips: (more…)
The Jesus movement in the 1970’s impacted Sweden quite a lot. Lonnie Frisbee and other American Jesus hippies visited the country, multiple communities called “Jesus houses” sprung up, and Jesus people were evangelizing in the streets and parks. People like Ylva Eggehorn, Stefan Swärd and Ulla Österjö-Jansson arranged Jesus conferences and Jesus marches – no wonder they were called Jesus freaks.
In my hometown of Uppsala, a theology student called Hans Sundberg were impacted by the Jesus movement and started to evangelize. Once, he was sharing the Gospel in the street together with some Christian friends, when an Iranian man who believed in Baha’i started to argue with them. Hans argued back, and their discussion went into sort of a stalemate until Hans’ friend Maria started to speak loudly in tongues. Hans was initially a bit embarrassed (after all, the Bible says that nonbelievers will think that we are lunatics if they hear us speak in tongues (which it is right about)), but he then realized that the Iranian man understood everything Maria said. She was speaking farsi, about how Jesus is the only way to God and salvation. Hans saw prophetically how an arrow came out from Maria’s mouth and gently hit the heart of the Iranian man with peace and eternal life.
Meanwhile, a small Swedish town called Surahammar (which means grumpy hammer) was struck with a youth revival as the Jesus movement came to town. Youths from the local Pentecostal church gathered daily in a bakery to pray, study the Word and then hit the streets to evangelize and heal the sick. One of the kids involved in the revival was Simon Ådahl, who after refusing military service due to theological reasons became a musician and, eventually, a prophetic evangelist. You can read more about him here. (more…)
Who needs buildings when you have homes? Here’s a video I made where I describe why I’m such a passionate promoter for house churches. The seven reasons are the following;
1. They’re biblical – Acts 2:46, 1 Cor 16:19, Col 4:15 and other passages tell us that the early Christians met in homes. The earliest archeologically discovered church, the Dura Europos church, was a house church. In fact, church buildings where people didn’t eat and sleep wasn’t constructed until the late third and early fourth century.
2. They’re utilized – again, people actually eat and sleep there. Most church auditoriums – the big room with a lot of pews – stands empty for the most part of the week. Homes, in contrast, are usually used daily.
3. They’re small – and this is a good thing! 1 Cor 14:26 tells us that everyone attending a church meeting should contribute with something. When was the last time you’ve experienced that? Frankly, you need a small group to have such a wonderful spiritual interaction. (more…)
The Maranata Church in Stockholm is probably the only charismatic church in Sweden that practises community of goods. A month ago when I visited the Jesus Army, one of very few British churches practising community of goods, I got to know two girls from Maranata: Anne-Lie and Elaine Vidén. Up to that point I had thought that no Christian groups in Sweden besides the monasteries had everything in common like the apostolic church in the book of Acts, but the Vidén sisters told me about how they had been living all their life in an extended family community. Yesterday, I paid them a visit.
The Maranata Church runs a hotel called Pilgrim’s Home close to Bromma Airport in Stockholm. Most of the community’s members work in the hotel or in a taxi firm that the church also runs. All the income the businesses generate goes to the account of the church, which pays for food and accommodation for the community’s members. On top of that, they also receive €70 every month to spend on what they want.
This system is very similar to how the Jesus Army works. They also run businesses which generate income to the community, they also pool their income into a common account and they also get pocket money – around 40 pounds a month.
‘For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Mt 25:35-40)
The New York Times has written about my little country, Sweden, and how we treat poor immigrants from Romania. It’s not a happy read:
From media reports, Expo has counted 77 attacks against beggars in the last 18 months, though charities assume such crime is underreported.
The attacks include one in Malmo, where tents in a Roma camp were set on fire; another in Boras, where a beggar was run over by a moped; and one in Skara, where at least one migrant was hit by a pellet from an air rifle.
I’m very involved in this situation; as I have shared previously I am almost daily helping poor Romanian immigrants. I have started a small organization with some friends to support them and help them to get housing and an income, and I personally know about 100 people in this situation. The hatred and racism that NY Times is reporting about is something I witness all the time, and I’ve had countless discussions with people who are convinced that these extremely poor beggars are rich, criminal liars who should be deported. (more…)
To share everything is commanded in Scripture and eradicates poverty better than anything else.
Last week I was attending one of the bigger Christian conferences here in Sweden called Torp, where I was speaking on the topic of how to combine miracles, evangelism and social justice. I pointed to the fact that Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 does not just include signs and wonders but also community of goods, i.e. having all possessions in common so that nobody is rich and nobody is poor (Acts 2:44-45). I argued that if we want to resurrect the spiritual power and evangelism of the Biblical Pentecost we ought also want to resurrect community of goods. I developed my thoughts on community of goods and how it relates to Jesus’ command to sell everything one has in this MennoNerd video:
These thoughts were new and radical to several of those who were listening. Some were curious, others sceptical. One pastor in particular raised two objections. Firstly, he said, community of goods cannot be equated with using Spiritual gifts or doing evangelism because there is no command saying “practise community of goods”, just a description of how the early Christians did so. Secondly, the pastor thought that the Swedish evangelical church was already very generous when it comes to giving alms to the poor, so he saw no need of preaching community of goods as something we should resurrect in evangelicalism.
My direct response to his first question repeated what I had been saying in the lecture, and that I briefly talk about in the video above, namely that community of goods is the practical application of Jesus’ command to sell everything one has and give the money to the poor – which he gives not just to one rich young ruler (Mk 10:21) but to all his disciples (Lk 12:33). Jesus himself practised community of goods with his disciples (Jn 13:29), and he told them to teach their new disciples to do everything he had commanded them to do (Mt 28:20). To sell everything one has doesn’t mean to live completely without possessions, for then the early Christians would have been nudists, instead we see how the community of goods in the book of Acts is described as being the consequence of the early Christians selling everything they have (Acts 4:32-35).
Have you ever wanted to meet an angel? If so, let some homeless people into your home.
Scripture says: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebr 13:2). And even if the person we’re hosting turns out to be mere human, that’s not a very big problem since we are then simply doing a very good deed: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Rom 12:13).
In Sweden where I live, almost 50% of all the households are single households, meaning that only one person lives in them. We have almost half a million vacation houses standing empty most months of the year. And yet, so many – even Christians – are arguing that we don’t have space for more immigrants, that we should send Syrian refugees back to war and Romanian beggars back to misery. How about showing some hospitality instead?
Yesterday I defended my paper on the Isreli-Palestinian conflict and since it seems to have gone pretty well, this means that I know can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in peace and development studies. And it’s summer break! Now, I will get much-needed time to work on some really cool projects that I’ve felt God wants me to do.
First of all, I will spend more time writing on my book. An American publisher has given me the opportunity and honor to publish a work on church history through them. The main thesis of the book is that Christian movements that have emphasized evangelism and miracles have almost always also emphasized peace, justice and social activism. I hope to get the project finished by the end of this year.
Secondly, I will release my very first documentary film. It’s about how the Jesus Army in the UK practice community of goods, and will hopefully give insights on how it’s not only possible but also really nice to share all one’s stuff with others. Half the movie is already edited, and I hope to get this thing done this summer.
Thirdly, I will of course continue to blog here as well as publish videos on my Youtube channel. I have an unfinished blog series on a Biblical, non-Zionist perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which could be suitable to pick up now that I’ve studied the actual conflict a bit more, and when it comes to the Youtube videos I’m thinking about perhaps posting some theological sketches that could be fun to do, and perhaps reboot my old God vs Wealth series to some better quality. We’ll see, God knows 🙂
Away from keyboard, I will visit and speak at some Christian conferences here in Sweden, travel to the Jesus Army together with some friend as well as rest, enjoy God’s creation, evangelize and help the poor.
So, what are you up to this summer? And would you like to help me out in some of my projects? Let me know in the comments!
Today I’ve spent some six hours with my Romanian friends, buying them a caravan. They used to sleep in a car. Northern Europe has seen a lot of Romanian economic refugees, due to the mistreatment if the Roma minority in the country. Romas (also known as the degrading name “gypsies”) are Europe’s most discriminated ethnic minority, especially in eastern Europe.
80% of Romanian Romas are unemployed, 30% can’t read, and their life expectancy is 10 years shorter than other Romanians. They’re trapped in poverty, not getting the social security they need, and then they migrate to other European countries to beg. Here, they lack homes, education and health care. It’s a mess.
I love them so much. Most of them are Pentecostal and we pray and worship together. I see Jesus in them. They are poorer than those I met when I was in Africa two years ago. I’m obliged to help them.
God wants equality. I know that I am destined to share community of goods with several of these people. I’ve identified a few families that could stay here in Sweden and build their lives here. Others have their future in Romania or another country. One woman I got to know here in Uppsala moved to Coventry, where I helped her to get in touch with the Jesus Army.
When I help the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why people are poor, why we are rich and why children have to sleep in cold cars in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, they call me a communist and extremist. But it was my Master, Jesus, who said “blessed are you who are poor… But woe to you who are rich!” (Lk 6:20, 24). I’m following His footsteps. And He walks among, and in, the homeless Romanians on the streets of Europe.
I attended a 48-hours prayer meeting a couple of years back in Stockholm, and during a worship session a dear friend of mine approached me, asking me to pray for her so that she may receive the same passion for the poor that the Lord has given me. I was so glad that this was what she wanted, but as I started praying I realized that it would be impossible for her to have the same passion as I have without feeling the pain and suffering of making sacrifices, knowing more about the horrible face of poverty and realizing how many it is that do not get help.
This was why I became an activist in the first place – I realized that innocent people were dying while I was playing video games and dreamt of getting a car and a house. I just prayed that God would make it impossible for my friend to close her eyes to the suffering of the poor, and that she would partake in their suffering.
I don’t know if she ever got the same passion for them as I have, at least she’s not revealing it as clearly on Facebook 🙂 But there and then I think we both realized that this was truly what was necessary for passion. When we follow Christ, a cross is always attached. As He Himself said:
“Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple… suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:27, 31-33)