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On Saturday, over 100,000 people will gather in Los Angeles to celebrate the 110’th anniversary of the Azusa Street revival and passionately pray for a new revival to break lose. The event is called Azusa Now and is arranged by TheCall. Heidi Baker, Bill Johnson and Daniel Kolenda will speak at the event, so expect it to be huge! It will be streamed online for those who can’t attend.
Jennifer Miskov has been laying the ground for the event by authoring a book called Ignite Azusa: Positioning for a New Jesus Revolution. Being a Vineyarder from John Wimber’s own church in Anaheim, she has a heart to combine charismatic fire with worship and compassion. She knows Heidi Baker and Bill Johnson well and she has founded an amazing charismatic intentional community called Destiny House in Redding.
Last weekend I got the opportunity to interview Dr. Miskov for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice. Here’s an excerpt:
Earlier this year my friend Faith Totushek explained on Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice why she is a Holy Spirit Activist – or as I like to call it, a charismactivist:
“From beginning to end, we see an amazing God who longs for the world and the people he created to flourish and find life. And time and time again, this God seeks to partner with us as his agents. And he empowers this people with his presence through the Holy Spirit giving gifts, insight, truth, endurance—whatever is needed to accomplish the purposes displayed in the Bible.”
In other words, God doesn’t leave us alone with the big task of loving people and promote life and happiness. He partners with us by bestowing His Spirit upon us. Peter writes: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10). Serving people is one of the main purposes of God’s gifts of grace, or charismata as they are known in Greek.
One of many Biblical examples of this can be found in the last chapter of the book of Acts. Paul is a prisoner of the Roman empire and his guards are taking him to Rome so that he can speak to the emperor. Their ship is wrecked on an island, probably Malta, and God miraculously saves Paul’s life after he is bitten by a poisonous snake. Not only that, God miraculously gives other people life as well through the hands of Paul: (more…)
Whenever I point out that our churches should be more Biblical and look like the apostolic church in Jerusalem that we read about in the first 12 chapters of the book of Acts, many fellow church leaders argue that there are many equally good models that we can form our congregations after, or that church structure really doesn’t matter much and so we shouldn’t discuss that too much. Allow me to disagree:
In this video I show that church structure does matter a lot, taking the example of Jerusalem and how it seemingly shaped the apostle James’ theology, and I question whether churches with different structures than the Jerusalem church really share the same fruit: conversions every day, nobody living in poverty and an abundance of signs and wonders.
Candy Gunther Brown if professor of religion at Indiana University and an expert on both the global charismatic movement as well as healing and how it is measured scientifically. As content creator for Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice, I was able to conduct an interview with her which you can read here. An excerpt:
MICAEL GRENHOLM: You edited the anthology Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Healing, which discusses various aspects of this international and rapidly spreading movement. In its final chapter, you write: ”The globalization of divine healing networks fuels the twin engines of supernaturalism and democratization, which together forcefully propel the global expansion of Christianity.” Could you expand on that?
CANDY GUNTHER BROWN: People in the Global North are taking cues from Christians in the Global South who tend to pray more expectantly for healing. Likewise, Christians in the Global South have tended to rely on pastors and leaders to do the praying; they’ve taken cues from the expectation of Christians in the Global North that any believer can pray effectively for healing.
This is a very interesting thought. I’ve often said that the North should give more money to the South in order to fight poverty whereas the South should share revival fires to the North in return, and while I think that Brown agrees with that she points at something more fundamental. Church democracy is great and biblical (1 Cor 14:26) and it’s actually something besides finances that us Northeners are able to share to our brothers and sisters in the Majority World. (more…)
I recorded some songs today with my dear friend Andreas Lundström. Here’s one of them, inspired by Simon Ådahl:
You made your decision to get on your knees and pray
You got no ambition, free from addiction to wealth and fame
You are chosen by He who died; so beloved.
Now get up, rise and shine,
’cause it’s time to walk with God
You have authority, nothing’s impossible,
No demon is too strong and no mountain’s immovable
Every gift that you need and require, you got it all
In the midst of darkness and deception
You got the power to destroy the scorpions
And you won’t fail ’cause you walk with God
You walk with God
You walk with God (more…)
For seven years, I have been arguing that signs and wonders should be combined with peace and justice and that the charismatic and activist streams of Christianity should unite. Early on I discovered Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice (PCPJ), and became a joyful member. PCPJ stands for what I stand for, and so it was easy for me to stand with them and promote their website on my website.
Recently, Brian Pipkin from PCPJ contacted me and asked me if I could help them create content for the PCPJ website and Facebook page. Of course I said yes! This is a dream coming true for me, I get to participate in an organization that I love, using gifts that God really has equipped me with.
Please check out the existing articles at the PCPJ website, including this political Christmas reflection by Craig Keener, author of Miracles, and this piece by Eric Gaboruel on Pentecostal veganism. And don’t forget to like the Facebook page and join the Facebook group if your a facebooker.
Without spoiling anything, I can assure you that many more interesting articles will show up on the website. If you like the Holy Spirit and activism and wants to contribute somehow as well, just tell me!
You may have noticed that I haven’t blogged for a week; that’s because I’m spending much time nowadays finishing my first book! It’s about how signs and wonders are combined with peace and justice in the Bible, throughout church history and today. During the last week I’ve focused on the history part, researching and writing about saints like Francis and Agnes of Assisi and radical church movements like the Moravian church and the Jesus Family in China.
I am so encouraged to see these myriads of people who combine miracles and activism. Did you know that Maria Woodworth-Etter, who is often considered the grandmother of the Pentecostal movement, was baptized in the Spirit in a Quaker church and at one time ministered in a denomination founded by Mennonites? Or that the Salvation Army, famous for its evangelism and social ministry to the poor, experienced tons of signs and wonders in its early days?
I have now arrived to the part where I discuss movements that only have one half of the Biblical Holy Spirit Activism combination. Like patriotic, prosperity-preaching Pentecostalism, or miracle-doubting progressive liberalism. Interestingly, both of these streams originated roughly at the same time, the 20th century. They are not just unbiblical, but historically unique. (more…)
Right now I’m on a train with my friend Hillevi, heading for Copenhagen. Tomorrow we will go through Germany and the Netherlands and finally arrive in the United Kingdom on Sunday morning. The reason we’re going there is to visit the Jesus Army, a church that has inspired me more than any other church. Why is that? Here are seven reasons:
1. It’s Jesus’ Army
The Jesus Army, or Jesus Fellowship Church as it is formally known, was birthed in a charismatic movement of the 1970’s called – you guessed it – the Jesus movement. And this Jesus focus isn’t just rhetoric or branding – these people are really passionate about Jesus and really try to live like He did (1 Jn 2:6). Like Anabaptists, they have Christ-centred theology and Christ-centred lives. That’s always something you want to see in a church.
2. They practice community of goods
While having a focus on Jesus is something most churches claim to have, community of goods is really rare. Even though it is clearly described as a Biblical way of following Jesus in Acts 2:44-45, most Christians haven’t even tried it. Having everything is common, is uncommon. The Jesus Army however has had their New Creation Christian Communities for around 40 years, and today hundreds of people pool their money and resources so that nobody lives in poverty and nobody in luxury.
3. They have ethical, social businesses
To finance the community and the charities of the church, these Jesus people run businesses like Goodness Foods and Good Timber which are very good, ethical and sustainable. Everybody get the same wage, all the profits go to charity and many of the businesses focus on creation care through organic products, renewable energy etc. It’s really amazing what the Holy Spirit can do in the commercial world.
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!
Happy Pentecost! I don’t know how it is in your country, but here in Sweden Pentecost is hardly celebrated at all – we’re must more eager to celebrate National Cinnamon Bun Day or Waffle Day (yeah, we have those). But Pentecost is worth celebrating – it’s the amazing power-boosting of the church when it receives the power and love it needs to perform its divinely commanded mission to save the world.
The book of Acts describes how the Holy Spirit baptized all of the early Jesus followers – men and women alike – and gave them the miraculous gifts of prophecy, speaking in tongues and preaching an epic sermon that leads to 3000 people accepting Jesus as their Saviour and receiving eternal life. It’s dramatic, it’s fantastic and it’s very supernatural.
Pentecost is repeatable – we can also experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit and be equipped with His miraculous gifts to spread the word about eternal life in Jesus. Pentecostals have always emphasized this: they often talk about preaching the “Full Gospel” – both salvation and Spiritual baptism – and the early Pentecostals said that they had restored the “Apostolic Faith”.
Had they, though? (more…)
Right now I’m at a Christian conference called Salvation, Miracles and Activism in my hometown of Uppsala, and I’m one of the organisers. It’s not a conference in a big auditorium; but just like my church we meet in the streets and in my home. We’re about fifteen people; if we had been more we would have met in several homes at once. Yesterday we started things off with a Jesus meeting in the city park, and afterwards we went to my place to watch the epic trailer for my upcoming documentary and plan today’s activities.
The theme of the conference is how to combine evangelism, Spiritual gifts and activism for peace and justice. We’re talking about these things in my living room right now, and in the afternoon we will do a demonstration for the Act Alliance campaign Act for Climate Justice, and in the evening we will evangelise together with the Pancake Church. Tomorrow we will have a “Come in, go out”-service with my church Mosaik.
Evangelical blogger and author Rachel Held Evans is no longer evangelical; she has joined the Episcopalian church which, in the US, is not very theologically conservative but rather progressive or liberal. This isn’t very surprising since Evans has been very critical to evangelical theology as well as evangelical views on politics, women, the LGBT community etc.
In an interview that has been published in several media, including Sojourners, Evans names these progressive values along with sacramental church life as being the reason she joined Episcopalianism. She’s also asked to comment the fact that the Episcopalian church is rapidly losing church attendees, to which she responds:
Just about every denomination in the American church — including many evangelical denominations — is seeing a decline in numbers, so if it’s a competition, then we’re all losing, just at different rates… Lately I’ve been wondering if a little death and resurrection is exactly what the American church needs… A church might produce thousands of attendees without producing any disciples.
This is quite remarkable, since the point of one of Evans’ most famous articles on CNN’s Belief Blog is that evangelical churches must become more liberal to stop millenials from leaving them. This is a similar argument to John Shelby Spong‘s famous thesis that Christianity must change or die. A former bishop in Evans’ new church, Spong argued that this change includes stop believing in theism, stop beliving in the supernatural, stop believing that prayer is useful and stop believing in physical resurrection. Pretty ridiculous. Evans is far from this extreme, but her reasoning in the CNN article was similar: liberal Christianity is necessary for church growth.
I’ve written several times about Surprise Sithole, the South African apostle who has raised several people from the dead in the power of the Holy Spirit and that has heard the external, audible voice of God. He’s a passionate activist and aid worker, and in this video he shares how he has seen multiple multiplications of food in Malawi and Mozambique. It’s certainly some food for thought!
I live in the same city as the world’s arguably most famous living Swedish Christian, namely Ulf Ekman. The founder and long-term leader of the Scandinavian Word of Faith movement (with many branches in the former Soviet Union), Ekman surprised many when he revealed last year that he and his wife would convert to Catholicism, which they also have done. Yesterday, Ulf Ekman was being interviewed on national Swedish television about his life, faith and different controversial topics like abortion, support for Jewish migration to the West Bank and prayer for healing (which apparently is controversial in a Swedish secular context).
Ekman’s conversion from being neo-Pentecostal to being Catholic wasn’t the first religious shift he has made. In his youth he was an atheist socialist in Gothenburg, protesting against capitalism and the Vietnam war, but when a Christian friend talked to him about how Jesus could give him forgiveness for his sins, he was saved. He went to Uppsala (my town) to study theology and became a Lutheran priest in the Church of Sweden. However, in the early 80’s he studied at Kenneth Hagin’s Rhema Bible college in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and when he came back he was a full-blooded prosperity preaching Pentecostal. He founded the Word of Life church in Uppsala in 1983, and the movement quickly spread to the rest of Scandinavia and to the USSR.
For Ekman, his conversion from atheism to Christianity also meant a political conversion from socialism to conservatism. He wasn’t afraid of preaching politics from the pulpit, whether it was against Sweden’s abortion laws, for the policies and military decisions of the state of Israel or simply prayers that the Social Democrats would lose the Swedish elections. (more…)