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The Jesus movement in the 1970’s impacted Sweden quite a lot. Lonnie Frisbee and other American Jesus hippies visited the country, multiple communities called “Jesus houses” sprung up, and Jesus people were evangelizing in the streets and parks. People like Ylva Eggehorn, Stefan Swärd and Ulla Österjö-Jansson arranged Jesus conferences and Jesus marches – no wonder they were called Jesus freaks.
In my hometown of Uppsala, a theology student called Hans Sundberg were impacted by the Jesus movement and started to evangelize. Once, he was sharing the Gospel in the street together with some Christian friends, when an Iranian man who believed in Baha’i started to argue with them. Hans argued back, and their discussion went into sort of a stalemate until Hans’ friend Maria started to speak loudly in tongues. Hans was initially a bit embarrassed (after all, the Bible says that nonbelievers will think that we are lunatics if they hear us speak in tongues (which it is right about)), but he then realized that the Iranian man understood everything Maria said. She was speaking farsi, about how Jesus is the only way to God and salvation. Hans saw prophetically how an arrow came out from Maria’s mouth and gently hit the heart of the Iranian man with peace and eternal life.
Meanwhile, a small Swedish town called Surahammar (which means grumpy hammer) was struck with a youth revival as the Jesus movement came to town. Youths from the local Pentecostal church gathered daily in a bakery to pray, study the Word and then hit the streets to evangelize and heal the sick. One of the kids involved in the revival was Simon Ådahl, who after refusing military service due to theological reasons became a musician and, eventually, a prophetic evangelist. You can read more about him here. (more…)
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…)
Many were surprised a couple of weeks ago when pope Francis sent a message to a Word of Faith conference led by Kenneth Copeland, speaking about unity and asking them to bless and pray for him, as he blesses and prays for them. And Copeland got excited and blessed him back. It’s surprising because Francis and Copeland are very distant theologically – besides the usual differences between Catholicism and Pentecostal Protestantism, Francis is a guy who is well-known for economic simplicity and an emphasis on redistribution to the poor, while Copeland is well-known for his capitalist prosperity preaching. He not only owns a mansion worth 6 million dollars and several private jet planes, but also his own freakin’ airport, Kenneth Copeland Airport, where he stores his private jet planes close to his 6 million dollar-mansion!
However, this surprise doesn’t come close to what Christians in Sweden experienced two days ago when it was revealed that Ulf Ekman, the leader of the Word of Faith movement in Scandinavia, converts to Roman Catholicism. Ulf Ekman is probably the most well-known Swedish Christian living today, his international ministry reaches millions and he is well-known among both Christians and non-Christians, mostly because he manages to be constantly controversial.
He brought the “name it claim it”-teaching from Kenneth Hagin and Oral Roberts to northern Europe, emphasizing health, wealth and success, and gathered prayer warriors wanted charismatic revival in Sweden and political domination for Israel in the middle east. And they despised Catholics, arguing that they represented a dead religion that quenched the Spirit and stood for countless heresies.