When I turned 50 I got a new phone as a gift from my church. I have really appreciated it. Every 4-6 weeks a text has appeared on the screen saying: ”This phone has not been updated during the last six weeks. Do you want to do it now?” The question always comes when I am terribly busy or just at the ”wrong time”. Every time I get equally frustrated and think: 1. ”NO, I don’t want to update anything now. Don’t disturb me”. Even worse, I think: 2. ”This phone really does not NEED any updating. It works perfect”.
1998 the hubby and I bought a charming, little house in Parainen, outside of Turku. The house was built in the 1930’s and no real renovation had been done since that. There was no running water and the electricity had been installed perhaps in the 1950’s. An old man sold it to us. He was a little drunk and cried of joy when we signed the contract at the bank in Turku. He said: ”You don’t need to fix this house in any way, just move in”. Bernt and I looked at each other and thought: ”My goodness. Everything needs to be thrown out, repaired and renewed”. The house was indeed charming but it was in terrible shape. But the man who sold the house to us loved it and saw absolutely no need of an update. He was totally in love with his house and completely blind to its’ real needs.
Every church needs to be updated regularely. We need to update and rethink how we receive new people, how we create a loving, welcoming atmosphere, our cafés, our teaching, our way of teaching, our music, the whole church-building, the interior – everything. Nothing is kept fresh and updated automatically, not even we ourselves. If we are not updated we lose the ability to see the reality around us and we become “passé”, without realizing it ourselves. We maybe think we stand for something that is relevant and fresh but every new, normal human being that enters the church thinks: This feels like 1982 or 1997. And 1982 or 1997 was not yesterday.
Soon we meet for a conference in Vaasa (6-9.6 2019). Then we will talk about being updated, representing something fresh and alive. I think the theme is extremely relevant and fresh. I hope you come!
In the beginning of the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible, there are two chapters with personal greetings from God to seven specific churches in what would be today’s Turkey. The greetings are quite different, not general words to churches generally. Behind the greetings seems to be an analysis of the situation and, in some of the cases, a concern on the heart of God. What makes it even more alarming is that there is absolutely nothing more left than a rumble of stones where these churches once existed.
It is both
healthy and important, especially in the beginning of a new year, to think:
What does God see when He sees our church? What word or greeting does He want
to give us? What does He say to us personally and what does He say to us as
individuals? These questions are in line with the thought in the book of
Revelation: May the one that has ears hear what the Spirit says to the
When you have a physical problem and you go to a doctor, the best solution is not that the doctor, just to be kind and positive says: ”Everything looks fantastic in your life and in your body – congratulations!” It is much better if he, based on his competence, takes the situation seriously, analyses, and comes to a conclusion: This needs to be done. This is also the thought behind the greetings in the Book of Revelation: They are an analysis, a description about the real situation and they offer a possibility to health and restoration.
Now as we soon enter a new year, let us ask: What does the Spirit say to our church? Are there things we need to see, learn, set aside, correct, add, seek? As long as we are alive there is a possibility to grow, to develop and to be pruned. Now the question is: What does God see in us? Please, communicate if there is something you get or hear that we all could benefit from!
Sometimes it is as if it would be hard for us to understand what church really is. We make it sound as if the church-building is “the church” that we “come to” and “go from”. This easily leads to a double-life: One life, neat and clean, when I enter the church-building and another, a more private life, when I get back home. We develop a life-style where we ”serve God” in the worship-team on the platform and one other life at home. There we might have a very limited understanding of what it means to serve God. But the fact is: We, the people of God, are the church. We do not stop being church just because we leave the church-building. Quite the opposite: we serve God, in and through our lives, through everything that we are and do, every day.
Jesus places us in the middle of society, where we belong. He reminds us that we are ambassadors, sent to this world, called to live in it but not by it: ”As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). He clearly shows that we really are called to serve out there where we are placed, to ”seek the peace and prosperity” of the city where we live and work (Jer. 29:7). All gifts and talents, all the capacity and strength that God has given us is meant to bless our cities. And when we serve in that way, we honor God: ”…whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).
Imagine the fruit and the consequences this all would mean, if we really and in depth understood that we are sent to our work-places and neighbourhoods as representatives of the kingdom of God. Imagine what feeling of meaningfulness it would give us, imagine all the possibilities we would get to share Jesus with people we meet.
Let us do our best to see a better world become reality. And let us give our hearts and dedication to God so that focus on Him saturates all our work. The fruit might be a visit of the kingdom of God, in our cities and countries, through us.
When I was 13 years old, I read a book that literally changed my life: David Wilkerson’s ”The Cross and the Switchblade”. The book hit me like a bomb and became a means of God’s calling in my life. For the first time I realized that Jesus really, really can change the life of a human being. The true story about Nicky, Israel, Jo-Jo, Maria and many others, young people destroyed by drugs and violence, with really no hope in life, touched me deeply. When pastor Wilkerson prayed and preached for them in Brooklyn, New York, everything almost collapsed. The guys wanted to destroy the meeting, steal the offering and show the pastor who ruled the streets. Instead they were overwhelmed by a power, the Holy Spirit, stronger than themselves. The next day they walked up to the police station to have the police men sign their Bibles and to share what had happened. A radical change.
We should never reduce faith in Jesus to some religious ceremonies or some sweet, pious words on life generally. We are called to preach the power of Jesus that changes lives, also today.
Author and pastor RT Kendall shares in one of his books about a sign he placed on the inner side of his pulpit in Westminster Chapel i London. Every time he went up to preach he could read the words: ”Maybe today”. That expectation is crucial to keep. Every day is a day when someone can be deeply touched by God. Let us never lose faith in a God that changes lives, also today.
Our bodies contain a lot of water and we need water to stay in good health. Dehydration is sometimes hard to discover, but our skin might send some signals and headaches, irritation and fatigue are of often a sign of dehydration.
Man is not just a physical being. We are spirit, soul and body, according to the Bible, and need humidity in an inner sense as well. That is why Jesus stands up, during a Jewish religious festival and cries out: If anyone is thirsty, come to me and drink. He gives us a clear message: He, Himself, has water for our inner man and He invites us to drink of Him, daily. The religious activities and festivals won’t do the job. Drinking of His presence is what waters the soul.
But, as much as we need an input of water we need an output of it as well. Tears are a great gift. When we cry we reveal that we have the ability to be moved. Stone-heartedness is fatal. When the pressure gets too high, when there are reasons to grieve or when our hearts are deeply moved, we need to be able to cry. Our tears move the heart of God. The Psalmist says that He even collects our tears in a bottle. That is how valuable they are to Him. And one day He will dry all tears from our eyes, IRL. Wow – that is my God!
When Alexander Graham Bell was credited with patenting the first telephone in the end of 1800, he could probably not imagine what a phone would look like in 2018. What started as a big, clumsy thing, fastened to a wall, became a thin little something with which you can not just call someone, but also pay your bills, read newspapers, send emails and google on recipes – for example. The development of the Christian church looks, however, in quite the opposite way. What started as a mobile, organic fellowship, led by some simple disciples, became a complex, huge organisation, led by “professionals” and as hard to turn as Viking Line’s M/S Amorella.
This, in my opinion, means that when we look for the prototype of the Christian church today, we need to go back to the early church. There I see at least three things that stand out: Grace and mercy, not perfectionism, as the atmosphere of the church. The real experience of God’s power as foundation for your faith (1 Cor. 2:5). Discipleship and mentoring as a work-method in the church, not just as a nice theory, but as a way of stepping into your calling.
This really stimulates my thoughts this early February morning 🙂 What kind of thoughts stimulate you?
Jesus is very down-to-earth in His teaching in the gospels. In Matth. 13:33 He speaks about the kingdom of God, i.e. that which He came to establish among us, and says: ”The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” What Jesus is and stands for, is like a yeast, with the purpose to saturate us and our fellowships until everything is worked through. Something comes from above, influences us and all we meet and the result is a change of culture.
These last days of December 2017, I have been reading a book by author and pastor Anders Olsson. The name of the book is “Welcome home. Building a church for those that have no church”. Anders writes about churches that are ”professional when it comes to arranging program and activities, but find it hard to make disciples and develop relationships”. He writes about the time when he and his wife were about to have their first baby – how the house had to be made more kids-friendly and safe before the arrival of the new family-member. It meant a huge change of culture. for them and their home.
During the last six months our church has gone through a major renovation. It is part of our change of culture as a church. We have renewed our café, the very center of the church, to make it more fresh, welcoming, open and hospitable. But an inner change of culture is also needed among us, in order to make us more competent to meet and welcome new people, see them integrated in the fellowship. ”We love because He first loved us”, John writes in one of his letters (1 John 4:19). The more we are saturated by the love of God, the better we can give it forward. If our inside is empty, we work and function only because we “have to” and must. And that can always be felt and seen.
As the new year 2018 begins I pray for a change of culture in myself and in all of us. I pray that we will be saturated by the love of God, over and over again. I pray that we will become good at being a church for those that do not have a church.
Many valuable things happened as a result of Pentecost and the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Christian church. There was a new boldness and a new freedom. There were breakthroughs as people were ministered to. Remarkable healings took place. And there was this: “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven…” (Acts 2:14).
Peter stood up with the rest of the disciples. He did not have to do it alone. The eleven were not simply watching him preach. They joined him. They supported him. They stood behind him. They were one in preaching, one in prayer, one in ministry.
In all honesty, this feels like the biggest of miracles. So often we stand watching (and maybe even criticizing). So often we think: “well, we’ll see how this goes”. What if we would let the Holy Spirit create togetherness and unity, corporate involvement and dedication? “Together” is our theme in September 2017. Welcome to church!
We have a training course on coaching leadership going on in the church. Last time we met, we talked about team-work. Have you ever been part of a team? I am an introvert and I like to work and be on my own, but I have also seen the power of team-work. A while ago I read somewhere that even if you have great and talented team-members, if you lack a good coach the result will not be satisfying.
A dream-team is a blessing. It is not just a means of getting work done effectively, it can be a home and a harbour when the storms in life get rough. It is a blessing to belong and it is a blessing to be needed by others. Currently, we are working with and developing three teams in the church: Number one, a team that focuses on social work, providing food and clothing for people in need every Thursday night. Number two: A music-team that is in charge of the music in the Sunday services. And number three: A kids’ ministry team that arranges good meetings for kids every Sunday morning. Welcome to join us, if you’d like!
Some people collect stamps, others LP-records from the 1960’s or veteran cars. I collect quotes. For me, words have weight and give direction for life. At the moment, my favourite quote is one by Eric Geiger: ”If you want to make everybody happy, don’t be a leader. Sell icecream”.
I like the quote because it challenges me with an important question: Am I driven by impressions coming from the outside or driven by what is inside of me? If I am driven by impressions from the outside I will anxiously ponder: Do people like me? Do they like what I stand for? What if someone is angry with me?
“All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God”, Paul writes (Rom. 8:14). Observe that he does not say: “All God’s children are driven by the Spirit of God”. It is fully possible to be a child of God and yet driven by fear, own ambitions or others’ desires. But our calling is higher than that: As a child of God I am to be led by His Spirit and His impulses. What a challenging thought!