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Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

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Celebrating Celibacy

What happened to celibacy in the Protestant church? As a new believer, when I first read the New Testament I quickly understood that marriage shouldn’t be prioritized by Christians. Paul writes:

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion…

I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife — and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.

I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord. (1 Cor 7:8-9, 32-35)

Now, there’s nothing wrong with marrying, celibacy is just better. “He who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.” (v. 38) Now, some would argue that Paul’s words doesn’t apply to us today, since he may have spoken about a context of persecution or, as some argue, a false perception of that Jesus would come back any minute, based primarily on verse 29.

But persecution isn’t mentioned – and we should always be careful with building a Christianity that is unpersecuted since that tends to be very lame and unbiblical – and isn’t Jesus’ second coming even more immanent now than it was then? Furthermore, Paul’s reasoning about the celibate being undivided to the Lord is not dependent on either persecution or Christ’s return.  (more…)

Summer Plans

holy spirit summer

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!

“Can you help me because I do not have food!”

Denisa with her baby

Denisa with her baby

For the last two months, a friend of mine have contacted me almost every day, asking me for money. I trust her and know that she is in genuine need, but sending money via Western Union is so costly, and I am genuinely surprised that not a single soul in Coventry, UK, is giving her the help she needs. I’m very disappointed with the British churches, they have so far failed miserably when it comes to helping a mother in need.

I got to know Denisa when she was begging on the streets of Uppsala, Sweden, where I live. Being originally from Romania as most beggars in our town, she spoke very good English. It turned out that her mother lived in Coventry and that Denisa had studied there, but when her mother ran out of money she went to Sweden to beg.

Because of her language skills she actually got a job here that lasted until summer 2014. Then she and her husband Mugurel were begging for some months before they moved to Romania for a brief period of time. Having no source of income there, they then travelled to Coventry even though they had hardly any money and no income.

Two months ago Denisa gave birth to their first child. She contacted me and said that she needed money to get a place to stay and money for food. I helped her with the rent costs and asked her to go to the Jesus Centre in Coventry, run by the Jesus Army. She went there several times, but unfortunately they hardly helped her. I’m not surprised that they couldn’t give her money or housing (which she initially hoped for) but at least I expected them to help her with food. I mean, here’s a mother with a newborn child with no source of income at all!

However, they told me from the Jesus Centre that they could only give food on Tuesdays. And when she did get food there was no baby food at all, even though they knew that she had a baby. That’s just plain ridiculous, unworthy of a social centre that bears Jesus’ holy name.

So I send her money for food, but since I’m helping a lot of other families here in Sweden I’m running out of funds myself. And I don’t get how there is nobody in Coventry that can make sure that an infant won’t starve. I’ve tried to contact other churches but there has been no sufficient response. And so Denisa is contacting me almost every day on Facebook simply writing:

“Can you help me because I do not have food”

If you live in Coventry or at least the UK and want to help Denisa somehow, just call her on 07824070060. I especially pray that my friends at the Jesus Army will understand the seriousness of this situation.

Coming This Summer: New Documentary about Community of Goods in the Jesus Army

everything in common poster

When I visited the Jesus Army in the UK last year I filmed a lot – eight hours of footage to be exact – and already then I planned to make a documentary about their community of goods, where they share everything just like the apostles in the book of Acts. Then I found out that some Swiss brothers and sisters had decided to do the same and made an awesome documentary called Living in Community. At first I thought that meant that I didn’t need to do my documentary but still, I had eight hour of footage to do something with. So…

GET READY FOR AN AWESOME, SPIRIT-FILLED DOCUMENTARY THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND, COMING THIS SUMMER ON YOUTUBE

In a world filled with consumerism, individualism and atheism, a mighty Jesus revolution arises that practises community of goods. The Jesus Army is centred around 40 community houses where disciples of Jesus share a common purse so that nobody is richer than anyone else. When watching Everything in Common, you will get insight in how this is possible, what the people involved think about it and how you can start practising community of goods.

Everything in Common – coming to YouTube Summer 2015.

Why Church Splits are Necessary (and Even Good!)

The Jesus Army - Independent and Radical

The Jesus Army – Independent and Radical

A denomination could simply be defined as a Christian organization with one specified leadership. It isn’t necessarily about theology. Two Christian movements with exactly the same theology would still be two denominations if they had different leaderships. This is important to remember. When we talk about being one as Jesus prayed that we would be (John 17), also known as ecumenicalism, this could be understood in several different ways: either that we should find unity in faith, love and practice, or that we should unite under the same leadership, forming one denomination. Ulf Ekman, the Swedish Pentecostal pastor who converted to the Catholic Church, seems to have the latter understanding of ecumenicalism since he often explain his decision by saying that he wanted to obey Jesus’ wish that all His disciples should be one.

For the same reason, many Christians are a bit fed up with new denominations, getting horrified when hearing that there are over 30 000 of them (which is an exaggeration), and at least here in Sweden we have had a trend the last 25 years where local churches as well as whole denominations unite and form the same organization under the same leadership.

In such a context it would perhaps sound weird – even dangerous – to promote a formation of a new denomination. Don’t we have too many already? It may be so that the Holy Spirit is doing something new and fresh to revive the body of Christ, but that should be channeled within the existing churches rather than becoming new ones. A church split is viewed as something intrinsically bad, always. Even Martin Luther wanted to reform the Catholic church rather than starting a new church, didn’t he?

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Were the Apostles Mistaken in Having Everything in Common?

It’s YouTube Friday and the latest entry on the Holy Spirit Activism YouTube channel is this short interview with Huw Lewis, apostolic leader in the Jesus Army, where he explains why the JA practice community of goods. Community of goods means sharing possessions so that nobody is rich and nobody is poor and was being practiced by Jesus and the apostles (Jn 13:29) and in the first church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45). Huw, I and many others think that it is a very good way of living and we encourage all believers to pray about joining a Christian community.

However, there are Christians who think that community of goods isn’t something good but rather, that the apostles were naïvely mistaken when they started to share their possessions. I found an article arguing for this at biblestudytools.com, an article that is used as the official explanation to what community of goods is about and that has received one of the top spots when you search for “community of goods” on Google. It’s horribly bad though so please let me criticise it for you.

All rich people or some?

In Acts 2:44, it is said that, in the infant church at Jerusalem, “all that believed were together, and had all things common,” and (Acts 4:34 f) “as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet.” The inference from this, that there was an absolute disposal of all the property of all the members of the church, and that its proceeds were contributed to a common fund, has been disputed upon the ground that the example of Barnabas in selling “a field” for this purpose (Acts 4:37) would not have been mentioned, if this had been the universal rule. The thought conveyed is that all believers in that church held their property as a trust from the Lord, for the benefit of the entire brotherhood, and, as there was need, did as Barnabas.

The author of this article, H.E. Jacobs, almost immediately begins to argue that the Biblical community of goods was not required for all believers in Jerusalem to participate in. This is indeed a difficult task since Acts 4:34 says that all who had property sold it and gave it to the apostles so that they redistributed the money equally. And all really means all. Now, believers who didn’t own property such as widows probably weren’t obligated to give (instead, their participation in the common purse was by receiving) but Barnabas is rather used as an example of one among all the property owners who sold everything to introduce him to the readers. Likewise, Jesus’mother and brothers are mentioned in Acts 1 to highlight some of who were praying, not to say that the others weren’t praying.

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Christ-like Christmas Contradicts Consumerism

stop christmas treesMy blog post and YouTube video on rejecting consumerism and celebrating simple Christmas has gained attention. My friend Sunniva wrote in the comments about how she and her mother celebrates a simple Christmas:

We (read my mother and I) celebrate Christmas as an extended birthday. If we celebrate each others birthdays, we do so for Jesus so much more. Perhaps I will write a blog post how we do this, but for now: its a feast that’s Jesus-centered – anticipation begins at least a month before with old and home-made Christmasdecorations and greens from forest floor (no real tree-cutting here) appearing around the house bit by bit, with Christmas music, and by attending church in Advent-time.

On Christmas Eve we will decorate our home-altar with fairtrade-roses, fast from food and water till dark, sing Jesus-songs by the fire, go to Church, cook a vegetarian meal that’s 90 or so percent organically grown and which we present to Jesus before eating, watch the movie The Nativity (and Karl Bertil Jonsson’s Christmas is a must too, a modern Christmas Robin Hood story) and attend midnight mass, etc etc. We give each other a few meaningful presents to commemorate the joy, like fair-trade coffein-free chocolate and tea, something handmade and something useful etc (from this year not wrapped in paper but in a personal reusable gift-cloth-bag), while giving aid to the poor as well.

In short: Jesus is worth a splendid birthday celebration!

The only thing I miss is sharing this beautiful time with more people, wanting to be a minister so I can do that more easily. My dream is to arrange Christmas-retreats with simple feast-food and much prayer.

Jesus Army’s Forward blog has collected a number of different voices on the topic, that deals with the Christmas dilemma: Jesus’ birthday wasn’t celebrated very much in Biblical times (which is why we don’t know the actual date), rather, paganism has influenced the modern Christmas celebration quite a lot and today it’s a mindless consumption feast. At the same time, Christmas expresses love and community and many do connect it to Jesus. Here are some of the thoughts expressed by our fellow Jesus hippies as they try to deal with Christmas in a non-consumerist way: (more…)

Fire in the Desert

From Jesus Army’s excellent Radical Christian History blog:
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In the 4th Century, an astonishing movement of revolutionary Christianity was started – in the desert.

IN OCTOBER 312, the Roman Emperor, Constantine, claimed that the Christians’ God had helped him crush his enemies and secure power at the Battle of Milvian Bridge. This marked the end of persecution and the apparent promotion of the Church to a privileged position in society. “Christendom” was born – the Church was wedded to the political power of the day.

In reality, Christendom was a dreadful deception. The Church for the most part abandoned its call to be a countercultural embodiment of the Kingdom of Jesus – which He had described as “not of this world”. Empire and Church were mingled. The proclamation of the gospel was largely drowned out in the clamour of the marching feet of imperial armies. “Love your enemies” morphed into “slay the barbarian”.

Some, however, resisted this development. Men such as Antony, Pachomius and Macarius and other Desert Fathers forsook wealth and influence and moved to the desert. Here they formed radical communities, a quiet but powerful alternative to the political Christianity of the empire.

Antony

StAnthonyAntony was a true pioneer, whose influence is still felt today. Born in Egypt about AD 251, his parents died when he was young, leaving him a small fortune. One day he heard a Christian quote Jesus’ words: If you would be perfect, go sell all you have, give to the poor, and come follow Me (Matt.19:21). They cut him like a knife. He sold his estate and became the disciple of a godly pastor.Yet his heart grew restless. He didn’t belong to the world he saw around him. He felt a strong pull to the desert beyond the Nile. Here hot and cold, flood and drought engaged men in a daily, physical battle for life itself. To Antony, this mirrored the human soul in its battle between flesh and spirit, love for God and love of self. Here too was a pioneering adventure, where only the real would make it. (more…)

New Amazing Film: Living in Christian Community

living in community

When I visited the Jesus Army in the UK last summer – a church practicing community of goods – I filmed a lot. I collected hours of footage and decided to make a little 30-minutes documentary out of it. Life went on though, I laid the project on the shelf and a few weeks ago I discovered that somebody has already made such a documentary! Living in Community, or Leben in Gemeinschaft as the original German title reads, is a Swiss film that covers how community of goods works at the Jesus Army and eight other Christian groups in both Switzerland and the UK, and it’s a real inspiration in how we can practice the apostolic, shared lifestyle that signified the New Testament church. Wanna see it? Here it is:

The film makers write on their website:

During the years 2013 and 2014 we visited nine different christian communities in Switzerland and England. We gained insight into these communities and were able to capture statements from the people living that way.
This movie motivates and challenges the viewer to reflect upon the topic of living in community.

The movie is, as you can see above, free to watch online – so feel free to host a screening and share the inspiration!

Also check out this short bonus clip with Trevor Saxby, where he explains the Biblical foundation for community of goods:

How to Transform a Mainline Church into a Christian Community

Worship in New Creation Christian Community, Jesus Army, United Kingdom

Worship in New Creation Christian Community, Jesus Army, United Kingdom

In this third and final part of “extreme church makeover”, we will look at how a mainline, conventional church that doesn’t practice community of goods like the church of the apostles (Acts 2:43-44), can be transformed into a church that does practice community of goods like the church of the apostles. Because of my trip to the Jesus Army in the UK – that practices community of goods – in August I have already written a lot recently about sharing everything and explained why it isn’t impossible and why the example of the apostolic church in Jerusalem should be followed rather than ignored. Hence, I won’t go into that in this blog post.

Let us instead discuss the practical part – how can we deliver mainline churches from the claws of mammon so that they practice economic equality instead of inequality? In my previous posts, where I’ve talked about how to make a mainline church evangelize on the streets and how to transform a mainline church into an organic house church, the practical applications have come in the form of bullet points in the end, which honestly is because I felt it necessary to explain why these reforms are needed so that in the end, I didn’t have too much time discussing the practice (I usually don’t want to spend more than one hour on blogging per day).

What I think is important to note when it comes to all of these three reforms, or restorations rather, is that they are indeed entirely possible. That is, I am fully convinced that we could see thousands – millions even – of churches around the world going back to the apostolic structure of mandatory evangelism, organic simplicity and community of goods. Just look at the charismatic movement. 120 years ago, most Protestant churches believed that miraculous gifts had ceased, and very few included healing, prophecy or speaking in tongues at their meetings. Now, this is the standard in millions of Protestant churches around the globe. When the Holy Spirit spreads revival, the church can change very fast.

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Yes, Community of Goods Does Work!

Holy Treasure community house in Kettering. Tim and Jane to the right have lived in Christian community for over 20 years.

Holy Treasure community house in Kettering. Tim and Jane to the right have lived in Christian community for over 20 years.

When I visited the Jesus Army in the UK and enjoyed their community of goods, I obviously wrote a lot about it on the Internet. Apart from writing on this blog and my Swedish one, I shared a lot of pictures and joyful reflections, just being happy and thankful of experiencing the community of goods I had read about in Acts chapters 2 and 4. It didn’t take long before many of my Christian friends started arguing against community of goods, using all kinds of arguments why we shouldn’t live like the apostles. Many of them were based on myths and false assumptions, and on of the most common is the idea that community of goods simply doesn’t work.

It’s quite strange how I, when I’m in a community house that has existed for 30 years, hanging around with people that have lived in community for most of their lives, get to hear from my friends back home in Sweden that community of goods doesn’t work and is doomed to fail. There are usually three arguments for this: 

  1. The community of goods in Jerusalem obviously failed, since Paul had to fundraise money for the poor there around year 50 (2 Cor 8-9).
  2. Soviet! Stalin! Mao! Kim Jong Un! Communism sucks!!!!!1!
  3. I know of a Christian community that existed once, and people just got angry and today it is gone.

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Things that make the Jesus Army unique

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Frida enjoying the Jesus Army

Today, me and Frida will travel to London to Jesus Army’s Spreading Flame community house, and after spending a day there we will go back to Sweden. Both of us have been very inspired and with the help of the Holy Spirit we hope to launch a similar church in Sweden that combines community of goods with the power of the Holy Spirit and evangelism. I’ve written a lot about the Jesus Army’s community of goods, their Jesus-centered focus and their social, eco-businesses, but there are many other things that make this church quite unique. Some examples:

The Jesus Army doesn’t sent out missionaries, instead they have an international partnership network called Multiply. Most of the churches and leaders connected to it are in Africa and Asia, and so many of them inspire and preach to the Britons rather than the other way around, while the Jesus Army still finance projects to fight poverty over there.

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Training Year info

Jesus Army doesn’t have a Bible school, instead they have a training year where you live in a community house, work in a Kingdom business and partake in all the evangelism, social work, Bible studies, worship and prayer the church organize. You also get a mentor with whom you study Scriptures with and deepen your faith. Far more practical, biblical and intergrated with church life than most Bible schools I know of.

Jesus Army doesn’t do expensive weddings or celebrate Christmas and birthdays with lots of consumption and indulgence. Instead they value simplicity, fellowship and constant celebration. They want to avoid luxury and wealth, and are striving for a lifestyle of humbleness, free from materialism.

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There are many more things to write, but our transport to London is leaving now. Blessings!

Community Houses are Better than Church Buildings

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Fellowship in the New Creation Hall, Jesus Army's oldest community house

Jesus Army is ultimately a hourse church movement. While the revival that birthed the movement started in a small Baptist chapel in Bugbrooke, the Jesus Fellowship Church didn’t build new chapels or church buildings as they grew; instead they organised themselves in their community houses. Thus, the same buildings that were used for worship and preaching were used for living and sleeping, which of course reduced costs and increased flexibility. This is how the early church did it as well – they worshipped in their homes and had everything in common.

The church is simply organized in “households”, which generally corresponds to a community house plus church members that do not live in community. Generally this means between 30 and 50 people. They are often divided into cell groups of around 10 people each that have their own meetings once a week (just like cell groups in many other churches). All the church households in one city make up a congregation, which meets sometimes for regional events, and about six times a year there are national celebrations where the whole church gets together. In the 80s they bought a big tent for some of these occasions, the Golden Marquee. Other times, like on Jesus London Day, they simply celebrate in public on the streets.

So apart from the Bugbrooke chapel, which they actually bought to have for weddings and funerals, the Jesus Army has not had any church buildings. But in 2000, the Northampton congregation decided to by a cinema and convert it to a Jesus Centre. The idea was to mainly use it as a social centre to help the homeless, immigrants, elderly and other groups while also having it as a place for worship, prayer meetings and big celebrations. It has been quite succesful and they have started Jesus Centres in Coventry, Sheffield and London as well.
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A Cross-Centered Church

We’ve just finished a very intense and Spirit-filled festival here at the Jesus Army in the UK, and the theme for the three-day event was “A Cross-Centered Church”. One of the most charasteristic things with the Jesus Army is our red crosses. Sadly, the cross has to many become a piece of jewelry, pieces of gold and silver which middle-class Christians hang around their necks to pretend to follow Jesus’s words in Luke 14:27 while they go on with their Mammon lifestyle. The Jesus Army just uses simple material as wood and plastic, and paints it all red to remind people on the blood of Jesus. A true cross isn’t a shiny golden relic, but a tool for torture and execution.

Jesus Army’s motto is “Love, power and sacrifice”, and on this cross-centered conference the focus has been on the latter. Why have Jesus Army succeeded with still practicing community of goods 40 years after it started when so many other Christian communities have ended after less than ten years? Well, they have emphasized from the beginning that it requires commitment and sacrifice. Jesus spoke a lot about denying yourself and leaving stuff behind when you’re following Him. He’s not calling us to comfortability, but to commitment.

A cross-centered church is a Jesus-centered church, and it’s not the cosy, lamb-petting Jesus that you see on postcards but the naked, wounded, dying Jesus with nailed hands and a pierced heart. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”, He said (John 15:13), and He truly showed it by dying for us so that we through His blood may receive eternal life. He died our death so that we may share His life.

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Business according to the Kingdom of God

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The Jesus Army does not only practice community of goods, but they also have several business which are owned by the communities, called Kingdom Businesses. What make these small corporations stand out is firstly that everyone gets the same wage – the managing director does not get any more than the one who wipes the floor. Secondly, you have to be a part of the Jesus Army, either as a community member or as a covenant member – meaning someone living outside the community but who still have made a commitment to spending time, energy and finances in the church – to be employed in the businesses. Thirdly, all profit go to one of the charitable funds of the church, either the Jesus Centres who are social centres for people in need, or stuff like evangelism, national conferences and other church stuff.

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The Kingdom Businesses are basically “church at work”, and the Jesus people surely bring in a lot of ethics in what they do. Goodness foods distributes organic health food, TBS building supplies have started an EcoCentre programme that sells windmills, solar panels and other green technology. Several of those who are employed are people who have had difficulty getting a job.

I was very inspired by this – generally I’m skeptical towards businesses but since these are social, green and Christian I think they make a lot of good impact. Most churches don’t really care where people work, and so church goers worship Jesus on Sunday and sell products produced by child slaves on Monday without anyone reacting. For the people living in Jesus Army’s communities, church isn’t something you go to – it’s something you are, live in and work in 24/7. And while it brings several challenges, it’s scriptural, ethical and way more fun than the usual two-hours-a-week church.

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