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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.
In a British church known as the Jesus Army, around 400 Christians share all their possessions just like in the book of Acts. This documentary explains how such a community of goods works practically, how it affects those who are part of it and what other churches may learn from the Jesus Army when it comes to having everything in common.
Watch the whole film right here:
It took me two years to make Everything in Common. The quality is obviously not top-notch, but the passion and love I have for this way of living truly are! 🙂 I’m very grateful to God and to all those who helped me finish this project.
If you watch the film, I would love to get some feedback! Just comment below or contact me personally. Blessings!
My documentary about community life in the Jesus Army – Everything in Common – is almost complete. It still needs some sound mixing and small fixes, but in a month’s time I will release it on my YouTube channel. I have shown the film to some friends here in Uppsala and many have become inspired and fascinated by this kind of living by watching it. Here’s a snippet where some Jesus saints explain what community life means to them:
The people that have joined me on my trips to the Jesus Army have become dramatically inspired as well during the visits. Just seeing community of goods in practice makes so many disciples thirst for it. Asking people to “come and see” where we live, as Jesus did (Jn 1:39) is a simple but effective way to catalyst a movement.
Many communities have historically been quite isolated, which really isn’t a necessary component of community of goods but a natural consequence of many of them being rural due to their means of sustainance as well as skeptical to communication technology due to their values of simplicity. (more…)
As the Holy Spirit filled and renewed a small Baptist church in Bugbrooke, central England, during the mid-1970’s, many miracles occurred. When I visited the Jesus Army last year, Huw Lewis told me and my friends Hillevi and Emil about some healings that he saw, including a man whose sight was restored when he was baptized. He also shared his reaction to seeing a demon being cast out the first time and how the whole church was stunned by the presence of the Lord:
This footage is from my upcoming documentary Everything in Common. It was originally planned to be released last year, but I’ve been busy with book writing and finishing my studies. Now I have time to finish the documentary though, the first live screening will be here in Sweden on a conference that I’m co-organizing on Christian community life in April. I hope to to be able to publish it on YouTube shortly afterwards, there are some music licensing stuff that I need to deal with.
The documentary is about the community of goods that is being practiced at the Jesus Army: how it works, how it impacts people’s lives and what other churches can learn from it. Here’s an epic teaser trailer for the film:
The Jesus Fellowship Church, a.k.a. Jesus Army, was born out of a mighty work of the Holy Spirit through a small Baptist chapel in Bugbrooke, central England, during the late 60’s and early 70’s. The Holy Spirit loves to do miracles, and so the book Fire in Our Hearts by Simon Cooper and Mike Farrant that describes the history of the Jesus Fellowship records multiple miracles.
During a charismatic meeting on a Saturday evening in the chapel, one boy suddenly took his glasses off and exclaimed that he could see perfectly all of a sudden. A lady was healed of a deformed hand and a man’s gums were healed. A man called Mick had been mainlining a lot and had several ulcerations and scars all across his arms. When he emerged from the water during his baptism, all the marks were gone!
A woman called Carol once stood up at a meeting and declared prophetically “Mim is going to get baptised in the Spirit – tonight!” She was referring to her friend and the very same evening Mim was indeed spiritually baptised and started to speak in tongues. Carol’s dormitory was invaded by beetles, so she said “I rebuke you beetles in the name of Jesus!” – and they vanished. (more…)
How was Christian community of goods practically organized in the time of the Bible and how should it be organized today?
There are many myths and misconceptions about the apostolic church in Jerusalem and its community of goods. I’ve encountered people who think that all the disciples became homeless and unemployed as “those who owned land or houses sold them” (Acts 4:34), so that community of goods was more about having nothing in common rather than everything in common. In reality, however, they bought new houses after the resources were redistributed equally (8:3). Likewise, they probably bought new land and/or got other sources of income than agriculture.
The reason for doing this was most likely the fact that some people lived in quite luxurious homes while others were living in poor homes or even on the street. Selling everything and collecting the money in one pile under the oversight of the apostles made it possible for the church to provide a descent living for everybody, so that “there were no needy persons among them.” (4:34).
Now, we must remember that in the time of the New Testament there were no bank accounts. Everyone got paid in cash when they received their salary. This meant that even after the initial Great Selling of Everything, Christians in Jerusalem would receive their income individually (and most women, children and disabled people would not have any income at all). (more…)
You who follow this blog know that I love a certain British church called the Jesus Army, since they combine Spirit-filled life with evangelical theology and community of goods. You may also know that I live in Sweden, which sadly lacks a Jesus Army. I am fully convinced that God calls me to join a charismatic community where nobody is rich and nobody is poor, and also to plant new charismatic communities across the world. For this I need training, and praise God – Jesus Army has a training year:
The Jesus Army Training Year internship involves practical discipling within a community lifestyle to equip you to be fruitful in your Christian walk and witness. It offers a unique opportunity for you to intern with other christians in a Jesus Fellowship intentional Christian community house for up to a year, being coached to live out a full-on Christian faith.
Today I received my pastor’s blessing to start the application process of doing a training year, summer 2016 to summer 2017. If I get accepted – and I pray that I will – you can expect more inspiration and teaching from this church on this website. I also pray for wisdom and guidance when it comes to what happens after the training year. I trust that God will reveal this to me as the training proceeds.
If you also think this sounds exciting, come and join me! Apply for a Training Year here.
When discussing Christian community of goods, the term communism will inevitably pop up sooner or later. The Jesus Army, which has been practicing community for over 40 years, has many times been called communists by outsiders. They themselves don’t use the term, however, which is not so strange. Firstly, “communism” is to a large extent a pejorative in the western world, that is, a derogatory insult. Secondly, there are lots of different definitions and conceptions of what communism is about. Here are a few examples:
- That people commonly own the means of production.
- That people own property together.
- That people own property together because of coercion.
- That the state owns the means of production.
- That the state practices planned economy.
- That the state is run by a ruthless dictatorship which practices planned economy and kill lots of people.
- That workers revolt and install a dictatorship of the proletariat, which abolishes class society and make the means of production commonly owned, and then abolishes the state so that everyone can happily live in a communist utopia with no class divisions or oppression.
What all Christians practiced in the apostolic Jerusalem church was basically definition 2: “the ranks of those who believed were of one heart and one soul, and no one called any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common … None of them suffered any distress. All who had land or houses sold their possessions and brought what they had received for the sold property and put the payment at the apostles’ feet. And they gave to everyone according to what he needed. “(Acts 4:32, 34-35). (more…)
New wine requires new wineskins. I sense a radicality and a passion to follow Jesus in Europe today among the Christian youth. Many are inspired by Jesus first and foremost, but also histocial radicals like Francis and Clair of Assisi as well as modern like Heidi Baker and Shane Claiborne. With the increasing awareness of the suffering and misery the Western affluent lifestyle brings, with both environmental and social consequences, there is a longing to live more simple and equal, as in the apostolic age:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
Community of goods is a necessity. We need it to eradicate poverty and promote simplicity. And that in turn is what is needed to combat the secularism and individualism that is destroying the church spiritually. Jesus said that the “deceitfulness of wealth” will choke the word of God (Mt 13:22), and that is exatly what we see in rich countries. There is already an awareness of this, what is needed now is community houses. I talk about this here:
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.
We’ve now taken the train home to Sweden after an incredible Jesus Army week in the UK. One of the last things I got to do was to organize a little round table with Huw and Mike who both have lived in Christian community for almost 40 years, I brought up seven arguments against community of goods that I often hear when I discuss the topic, and asked them to counter them. You can enjoy it in the video above, and below are the seven arguments along with a brief summary of what we said:
1. There’s no command to have everything in common
Yes, the process of having everything in common – and thus eliminating poverty – starts with people selling what they have according to Acts 2:45 and 4:34. And to sell everything one has is exactly what Jesus commanded not just one rich ruler to do (Mt 19:21), but all His disciples to do (Lk 12:33)
2. Community was practised because the Jerusalem church was persecuted
They started to practise it before persecution, and the reason given was not that they excepted persecution but that they loved each other and didn’t want anyone to be poor. Besides, since “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12), ought we not to live a life like that today?
3. Community was practised because the apostles errantly thought that Jesus would come back in their lifetime
Again, there is no reference in the Bible to any other reason for community of goods other than that the early Christians loved each other and didn’t want anyone to be in need. They also clearly wanted to follow the commands of Jesus, including the one in Lk 12:33. Besides, shouldn’t we have even more reason to expect Jesus’ soon return now 2000 years later? (more…)
As you probably should know by now from reading my previous posts, I think that a certain British church called Jesus Army is amazing. Since it combines Bible-believing, charismatic discipleship with community of goods and care for the poor, it is one of the most Biblical churches I know of. The more people who join this church and/or adapt its model of charismatic community building, the better. But how, then, can it grow? Here are my three suggestions:
1. More Public Evangelism
The apostolic church in Jerusalem didn’t just experience miracles and practise community of goods, they also evangelised every day in the temple courts (Acts 2:46, 5:20, 42) as I’ve written about several times before. This can be adapted in various ways today: evangelism on the internet, in shopping malls, outside of mosques, on the streets, handing out leaflets, preaching, showing a drama, serving free pancakes, offering prayer for healing… God loves when we present the Gospel creatively!
However, since the evangelism of the early church was public and corporal, it cannot really be equated with private evangelism that an individual performs to his or her friends and family. I often meet the idea that this would be more effective than public, corporal evangelism, but it is very problematic to view Jesus’ and the apostles’ model for evangelism as ineffective, and it mostly has anecdotic rather than empirical support. Research shows that evangelistic activity is one of the most important things churches can do in order to grow, which is about as surprising as the scientific discoveries of fuel promoting vehicles to drive or consumption of food promoting human survival.
Since corporate, public evangelism is not just about reaching out but also about training disciples, people get more equipped to share the Gospel in other settings as well if they get evangelistic training by the church. Thus, there is no reason to say that we should cut back on public evangelism to promote friendship evangelism, because public evangelism already promotes friendship evangelism.
This post is written by Jesus Army member Joram on the Forward blog. We met Joram the other day and he told us about what he had experienced in Calais. This text expresses both the pain and hope of the refugee camp in a brilliant way, which is why I re-post it here.
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered in sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table…” (Luke 16:19-21)
Every generation has its ‘Lazarus’: the poor, mistreated, abused, and neglected. Part of this generation’s Lazarus is the third world migrants who wash up on the shores of Europe. Their governments oppress them, abuse them, imprison them, torture them; so those that can escape head for the rich man’s gate known as Europe.
When they wash up on the shore after unspeakable tragedy at sea, some of them head for western France to Calais and the literal gate to the rich man’s land known as the Eurotunnel.
A diaspora of refugees with families shattered and scattered across the globe, children in one country, fathers in another, mothers in another. It was never meant to be like this.
They redefine the word poor – they have smartphones, Nike trainers, mp3 players and navigate at sea using Google Maps. But only because we, in the rich man’s kingdom, are so driven by our mad consumer desire for the latest ‘thing’, we throw last year’s stuff away. But don’t be fooled by this – the real poverty is the loss of loved ones, of being stateless, homeless, jobless and friendless. The sores on the modern Lazarus are underneath his skin, too deep to be seen by the superficial glance of the citizens of the rich man’s country. (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.