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Pentecostal Leaders in Scandinavia: Get Vaccinated and Stop Listening to Conspiracy Theories
It’s easy to laugh at all the insane conspiracy theories floating around right now, with people claiming that coronavirus vaccine will kill you, change your DNA or transform you into a satanist. But really, it’s nothing short of a catastrophic tragedy that millions of people seriously believe these kinds of things.
As Christians, we should be extra alarmed by the fact that evangelicals seem to be more prone to believing and spreading COVID conspiracy theories than others.
YouTube, TikTok and other Internet platforms have no lack of Christians claiming to “prophesy” that the vaccine will insert microchips or that nurses will try to kill you if you don’t want to get vaccinated.
Apparently, the fact that many Pentecostals got their Trump prophecies wrong has not kept Internet preachers from using prophecy to push their own agenda.
To combat this pandemic of misinformation, Christian leaders need to speak up. This is exactly what the superintendents of the Pentecostal churches in the Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – decided to do last week. In a joint statement, they warned against conspiracy theories and YouTube prophets, telling their flock to listen to medical authorities and take the vaccine.
Here’s an excerpt of what they wrote:
Parts of those who sort under the Pentecostal-Charismatic umbrella in the body of Christ, must be self-critical in their evaluation in regard to their promotion of prophecies and conspiracy theories. No significant prophetic voices did foresee the arrival of the virus. We urge those prophets who now spend energy on scaring people with the consequences of the virus, and warning against taking the vaccine, to be more cautious. The church and the world need prophetic voices, but not “YouTube prophets” who do not stand accountable to anyone but themselves.
Therefore, we ask the Pentecostal churches in the Nordic Countries to be in prayer, and make aticons based on love for our neighbor, and not based on fear. There is no contradiction in devoting one’s life in prayer, at the same time as we listen to the advice from the health officials. The political leaders are not combating the churches, they combat the virus.
For the five of us this means that we will follow the advise of the health officials in our respective countries in regard to social distancing for as long as it is needed, as well as taking the COVID-19 vaccine when it is our turn in line. At the same time we will continue to pray and remain vigilant in our calling, serving God in caring for the people around us.
The question is: when will we see similar statements from Pentecostal leaders in other countries?
Why Do So Many Think that Evangelicals are Hypocrites?
Originally published on PCPJ.
I’m sad to say that I wasn’t surprised when I saw that Jerry Falwell Jr. resigns as the president of Liberty University after posting a sexual photo from his yacht on social media and allegedly having approved of an extramarital affair between his wife and a business partner (including watching from a corner while they were having sex).
The allegations concerning the bizarre sex games are disputed, but the photo alone gave Liberty University enough reason to question Falwell’s leadership, as the evangelical university has some very strict guidelines concerning sexuality, dress code and alcohol consumption (Falwell is holding a drink in the photo, writing in the caption “I promise it’s just black water in my glass”).
If a student at Liberty University had posted the same photo, the consequences would likely have been more than $9,000 in school fines and 900 hours of required service, and possible expulsion.
There’s one word that people keeps coming back to when describing this situation: hypocrisy. The very thing that Jesus warned his disciples against over and over again. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy”, the Lord said. “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Luke 12:1-2).
Sadly, 62 percent of millennials think that hypocrisy is one of the main characteristics of the church. Why? Some evangelicals would push back, claiming that these kids have a lot of prejudice and are hypocrites themselves. But hold on a second. What if there are objective, factual reasons for non-Christians to perceive evangelicals as hypocrites?
Jerry Falwell Jr. was one of the earliest Christian leaders to endorse Donald Trump. It may be hard to remember nowadays, but Trump was hardly any evangelical’s first choice. Republican candidates like Ted Cruz were far more popular. It’s common today to hear evangelicals say that they simply don’t care about Trump’s curses, rhetoric and playboy lifestyle, as long as he nails conservative policies.
Falwell Jr. helped pioneer this line of thinking. It used to be the opposite of what evangelicals valued in a president.
These statistics show beyond any reasonable doubt that the white evangelical endorsement of Trump has radically changed their values. In 2011, over 60 percent of them said that an elected official who commits an immoral act in their private life cannot behave ethically in their public life. In the Trump era, this conviction remains among less than 20 percent. Falwell Jr. and other evangelical leaders have convinced millions of Christians that a good character simply isn’t relevant when it comes to leadership, despite there being hundreds of verses in the Scriptures that suggest otherwise.
It must have been a comfortable message for Falwell Jr. – he clearly thinks that this applies to himself as well. Other evangelical leaders have at least maintained that pastors need a good moral character, emphasizing that “we didn’t elect a pastor but a president” (which is a ridiculous logic in and of itself – American presidents have access to nuclear weapons!). Falwell Jr. on the other hand compared Trump to Jesus.
Furthermore, I wish we lived in an age where it was obvious to everyone that Trump is a hypocrite. He said that he would “drain the swamp” in Washington making it less corrupt, but has taken no action to do so and instead filled his administration with relatives, people currently under investigation and career politicians. Trump frequently accuses the media for lying, calling it “fake news”, when even his supporters clearly can see that he frequently lies himself. Just watch him deny that he has said things he actually said:
But here’s the really catastrophic part. In the gallup I referenced above, which shows that most white evangelicals don’t care about moral character in their public officials anymore, there was some stunning evidence of evangelical hypocrisy:
Do you see that? The number rises dramatically if the question is asked after Bill Clinton is mentioned, but plummets when it is Trump’s name instead. This clearly proves that at least a quarter of white evangelicals in the US are hypocrites. They disregard God’s teaching: “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” (James 2:1). They don’t shape their opinion on this matter based on God’s Word, but on the priorities of the Republican party.
The Constantinian relationship many white evangelical leaders have to whatever candidate the Republicans choose to nominate is having a disastrous effect on their discipleship and obedience to the Word. It is a problem far greater than one single former president at an evangelical school.
The Simple Tip from Jesus that Transformed My Life
Pornography, shopping, countless hours wasted on entertainment, social media scrolling that hardly gives us anything…
The age of the Internet is an age of huge potential and opportunities for mission, networking and activism, but it is also an endless sea of temptations and distractions right at our fingertips.
We often take the latter path, even when we don’t want to. I’m sure most of us clearly can relate to Paul’s words:
“For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Rom 7:19)
I myself have struggled with this for a long time. But as the title of this blog post suggests, a simple tip from Jesus Christ himself in his amazing Sermon on the Mount has been a game-changer for me.
And it might not be what you expect:
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)
Jesus gives this advice as he teaches on fighting sexual temptation. I took this to heart and now I look like this:
The 5 Worst Christian Responses to the Coronavirus Pandemic
We love the church. We love how beautiful, fun, messy and weird she is. She is the body of Christ, the city on a hill, the messenger of salvation.
However, this very love also compels us to point out when some of her bodyparts do things that are very, very wrong.
As the coronavirus pandemic marches on, we’re sad to report that the response of some Christians has been outrageously damaging. Either by using the crisis to earn money, spreading wild conspiracy theories or encouraging their church members to infect each other.
We must not forget that many other Christians do an amazing job of combatting the virus, helping the vulnerable and preaching the Gospel.
That being said, let’s have a look at the five worst Christian responses to the pandemic. (more…)
The Alien Argument Against Naturalism
Christians might have reasons to suspect that aliens don’t exist – one could reasonably expect God to say such a thing if it were true in His holy Word – but naturalists generally have no need to reject the possibility of E.T. existence. There might be naturalists who personally find it unlikely, but very few would claim that it is impossible or that belief in aliens is like believing in Santa.
However, this seems to be incompatible with naturalism. If there is no way for an atheist to exclude the possibility of intelligent life in our universe, how can s/he exclude the existence of intelligent, spiritual life outside of it? Openness to alien life seems to be necessarily combined with an openness to the supernatural.
The naturalist might respond that we have no objective reference point to non-physical persons, while aliens can be viewed as simply animals that happened to evolve elsewhere. To this objection I would point out that we can imagine vastly different aliens in out universe, and if we add possible parallell universes – that most naturalists are open to – there’s really no limit to what creatures we can conceive as possible.
Hence, openness to alien life seems not to rest on references to earthly animals but on what’s logically possible. And there is no logical contradiction in imagining non-physical, spiritual beings. To those who think that non-physical beings are impossible I would simply point out that that’s a circular argument that presupposes naturalism.
We have no evidence for the existence of alien life, or the existence of other universes. Yet most atheists would say that it’s entirely possible for aliens or other universes to exist. I find it arbitrary to view the existence of supernatural entities as impossible due to (perceived) lack of evidence when one does not draw that conclusion concerning aliens.
So just to be clear: I’m not saying that I know that aliens exist, or that God is an alien. What I’m saying is that a naturalist either must say that alien life is impossible, or cease to be a naturalist. There is no middle ground.
Why the Cross Changes Everything
Every Good Friday I usually go outside to pray when the time is approaching 3 PM. That’s when he died. He who transformed my life.
There was a time when I didn’t care at all about Jesus. He was cool, sure, but he didn’t have as many superpowers as Superman and he was far less badass than Samus Aran. The church, in my opinion, was a boring museum. The Bible was hard to read and lacked pictures.
But when I was confronted with my own mortality and understood the message of Easter – that he died for us to live forever – then I could not get enough of him. I opened the gospels and read. I can honestly say that I have never encountered so much wisdom and love from any other person, before or after.
Some want to reduce Jesus to a non-divine moral teacher. As C. S. Lewis has pointed out, it is impossible. A reasonable moral teacher does not claim to be the Son of God, the light of the world, and the door to eternal life – unless it is true.
But I understand why people recognize Jesus as wise and moral. He is! That’s what makes the painful killing of him so incomprehensible and wrong.
God died on that cross. God himself died for our sake so that we would have the eternal life we in no way deserve. This eternal life, in eternal happiness, is greater than anything we can imagine. No other gift is so great and as wonderful as the gift of living in paradise.
All the peace and justice we long for will be realized to its fullest in heaven. That’s no reason to stop promoting such Kingdom-values here. On the contrary, when we truly have the eternal perspective we will become even more zealous to bring God’s Kingdom to earth. As John says:
“Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.” (1 Jn 3:1-2)
What I realized 13 years ago is that when we celebrate on Sunday that Jesus arose from death, it is not just that we are happy for His sake. His resurrection shows where we are going if we follow him. His path is the path of life. A life that never ends. It is because of his painful death on the cross that we can go that way.
Today at 3 PM, think of Jesus and pray to him. He loves you so much that he was subjected to one of the world’s most evil execution methods. He gave everything for you. You are too precious and loved to be lost in the bottomless darkness of death. God, your Creator and Friend, calls you to eternal happiness.
The Nonviolent Reformer that Sadly Didn’t Have an Easy Name Such As Luther
The following is an excerpt of my upcoming book Charismactivism, due to be published later this year by Ettelloc Publishing.
The Protestants of the 16th century were far from the first who protested against Catholic errors and heresies, but this movement was the first one to escape being totally quenched by inquisitors and grow to a big, substantial size so that it was clear once and for all that Catholics and Orthodoxs didn’t have monopoly on the name of Jesus. This was primarily because unlike most previous Christian rebels, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564) did not question the state-church system — on the contrary they endorsed it! Thus, many Protestants weren’t persecuted; they persecuted others. Furthermore, while prophetic, charismactivist movements demanded believers to take discipleship seriously and actively seek holiness, Luther’s hostility towards works made it quite easy to be a Christian in his church.
Reformers like John Wycliffe (1331-1384) in England and Jan Hus (1369-1415) in Bohemia (which is now the Czech Republic) had already protested against Biblical ignorance, papal fundamentalism, ecclesial luxury, and indulgences. The latter refers to golden tickets to Heaven that you had to buy in order to decrease time in your or your loved one’s painful purgatory chamber, the existence of which was questioned by Wycliffe since it isn’t mentioned in the Bible. Wycliffe translated the Bible into English, and Hus translated some of Wycliffe’s writings. The Catholics burned Wycliffe’s books, and Hus’ living body. The pope initiated not less than five crusades against Hus’ followers in Bohemia, which they violently countered in the so-called Hussite wars.
In the midst of this destructive conflict, a Bohemian reformer called Petr Chelčický (1390-1460) stepped up and preached the message of the Sermon on the Mount: nonviolence, enemy love and good deeds. Instead of just reforming the church to a slightly better state, he wanted to restore the Biblical, apostolic church completely. He believed in the free will of the individual believer, criticized the marriage between church and state, and promoted economic redistribution and communalism (not to be confused with extremist revolution and communism). (more…)
Why the Church Sucks at Teaching
Most churches teach in ways that are contrary to core educational principles that the schools use. And most of them never preach the Gospel either. How can we fix this?
My Message to the Jesus Army
After eight months, I’ve ended my training year at the Jesus Army and have moved back to Sweden. It’s been painful but also beautiful, and I have learned a lot. The JA leadership allowed me to share my thoughts at the Alive Festival at Northampton Jesus Centre, seven years after I had been baptised in the Spirit at a previous Alive Festival during my first stay at the Jesus Army. In the interview, I said that I really think that the Jesus Army should step up with their evangelism again and never lose the vision of resurrecting the Jerusalem church (Acts 2) with charismatic gifts, community and evangelism combined.
How to Save a Church Movement from Extinction
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…)
Bring Forth the Apostles and Prophets!
In Ephesians 4, Paul describes the five ministry gifts that will lead to the church:
But to each one of us was given grace according to the gift that Christ measured out … And he gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. They would equip the saints for the work of service to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to the measure of the adult population of the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:7, 11-13).
In my Swedish house church, we once looked at this passage and realised that not only are the apostles and prophets extremely rare in the West, but when they still show up, we become terrified. Especially if they dare to call themselves apostle or prophet. This probably stems from the prevalence of cessationism in Protestantism, which elevated teaching as a major component of church life while prophecy and apostleship were viewed as obselete.
Today, most European churches have abandoned cessationism, and many realise that the Bible does not limit the title “apostle” to the twelve guys closest to Jesus. Yet, we have incredibly difficulties using the terms apostle and prophet. We look with skepticism when, for example, Christians from Africa are not afraid to liberally use these terms for describing their leaders. (more…)
Jesus Church: All Disciples Should Evangelise
Originally posted at Jesus Army’s Forward Blog.
In my last blog post, I explored the fellowship of Jesus and His disciples in the gospels, treating it as church. This has big implications.
Jesus managed to pastor his church without a church building. Most of the sermons he held weren’t even indoors. He would preach from the top of a mountain, in a field, at the temple courts or in a boat. His preaching was directed at people who didn’t follow Him just as much as to those who already were His disciples. In fact, when He talked to the disciples, He engaged in dialogue, listening to their views and responding with divine insight.
In Jesus’ church, it was impossible to be a disciple without interacting with non-believers almost daily. Jesus was charismatic in the dual sense of the word, attracting large crowds wherever he went. There were often discussions and debates with those who disagreed. On top of that, Jesus commanded:
Go… to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:6-8)
Jesus Church: Jesus as Pastor
Originally posted at Jesus Army’s Forward Blog.
Most people seem to think that the Christian church was born on Pentecost day in Jerusalem, as described in the book of Acts. Ten days after Jesus had risen to Heaven, the Holy Spirit was poured out on over a hundred disciples and they started to speak new languages (Acts 2:1-4). After Peter had powerfully preached the Gospel, 3,000 were saved and baptised and suddenly there was a church in Jerusalem, in which everyone had everything in common, miracles abounded and people were converted daily (Acts 2:42-47).
But if this was the birth of the church, what should we call the community Jesus had with his disciples in the Gospels? Was it some sort of preparation for the real stuff, a “church pre-school”? Admittedly, it isn’t spelt out to be a church in the Scriptures, but what else could it be?
Think about it, what’s the difference between the discipleship community in the Gospels and the church of Acts? The discipleship community also preached the gospel (Matt 11:1), healed the sick (Luke 10:9) and shared money (John 13:29). They baptised new believers (John 4:2), worshipped together (Mark 14:26) and shared the bread and wine (Mark 14:22-24). (more…)
What is Christian Community Like?
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.
The Resurrection of Gavin Stone – Movie Review
So this guy contacted me the other day and wrote “Hey, I’ve seen that you’ve reviewed Finger of God and Furious Love – would you like to review a Christian comedy?” and I was like:
I think that this is a pretty good film! It has a quite unique theme and can be used both for evangelism and to inspire a discussion within the church on how we treat and communicate to non-believers. Watch the video for a more detailed analysis!