Wednesday, March 31, 2010

OUT OF SIGHT - OUT OF TOUCH ... (from our archives)

Recent discussion of the FSAOF blog has focused on the Army’s response or lack of it to those who ‘leave the work.’ I am hopeful that this discussion will generate some specific guidelines for use across the Army so that officers who are taking up the “former” mantle will find some systemic support for that oftentimes traumatic transition.

Yet all too often, a corporate policy is only as good as the abilities and attitudes of those who are charged with carrying out that policy. I know of very few Salvation Army officers who would say that they have too little work to do, as most of us are dealing with a plate that is overflowing with responsibility, and sadly, pastoral care doesn’t always rise to the top of the list. Like many corps officers, the typical divisional commander is hard-pressed to meet the pastoral needs of his or her active and retired officers, and the expectation that they will be able to keep in contact with those who have moved in a different direction may be unrealistic. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a fact of life, whether we like it or not. This is not to say that we shouldn’t reach out to former officers, but it’s probably not top priority at the beginning the day.

The recent posts have, however, forced me to consider my own reactions, both past and present. As an active officer, my response to someone choosing a different path than officership has generally depended upon my relationship (or lack of one) with the person involved. If I'd normally send them a note or call them were they sharing a college graduation or a death in the family, I've generally done the same upon hearing of their decision. If I had little more than a passing acquaintance, I probably wouldn't be in contact.

However, there have been times when I have gotten involved in the dynamics of an officer resignation. In a recent situation, our corps was privileged to invite a DHQ officer to be with us on her last Sunday as an active officer, where we were able to provide her with affirmation of her work, a blessing upon her new ministry, as well as a luncheon and some shower gifts for her new home. Our intention was to treat this transition for her with respect and with appreciation for her impact on our lives.

I’d suggest that what made this particular situation a positive one was our commitment to treat our friend’s decision as one that we were willing to support, even though I was sad to see her leave the Army. People do change directions in life, and working to normalize those transitions is a healthy response to people we love, even if we don’t fully agree with their decision. By helping those involved grieve the losses and celebrate the new possibilities, we are modeling a healthy approach to life in general.

The more difficult situations are those when there has been a dismissal or a marriage breakdown. What do we do? After all, there is often no public announcement, only a whispered message that implies some difficulty that can’t quite be explained. I must admit that in all too many instances, I've done nothing, excusing my inaction with the thought that perhaps someone else who is closer to them will have involvement. Sadly, that may be the thought of many officers, and the officer being asked to leave is also stripped of much of his or her support system at a time when they most need that support. No one offers to baby-sit, help clean the quarters, or lend some money.

A friend who left officership, admittedly under a cloud of her own making, told me that I was the only officer who had even called. That saddened me, knowing that there were many who were all too willing to talk to me about the ensuing scandal. Perhaps those are the situations where the administration needs to request that someone make contact and stay in contact, whether they be an active officer in the vicinity, a retired officer of discretion, or even someone from outside our denomination.

Ultimately, while the corporate response is important, all Salvation Army officers, active, former or retired, have a responsibility to each other to support, comfort, confront and care for each other. While we may not reach out every time a rumor comes our way or a bulletin crosses our computer screen, we can make an effort to call or e-mail a session-mate or a former officer whom we had served with simply to check in and to say, “I remember.” And we can do it now.
So to those whose paths have crossed with mine, you are not forgotten. Your ministry has touched my life, and I am grateful. The words of II Thess. 3:5 from The Message are my prayer for you today: “May the Master take you by the hand and lead you along the path of God's love and Christ's endurance.”


Major JoAnn Shade
Major JoAnn Shade ministers with her husband Larry as the corps officers and Directors of the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. She received a B.A. in sociology from S.U.N.Y. at Binghamton, a M.A. in Pastoral Counseling, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Ashland Theological Seminary in June, 2006. She is a prolific writer, lecturer, and busy counselor and has contributed to this blog since its inception.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Journey Part -2-

Peace- It’s funny to think that not all of the questions being asked at the start of this journey have been answered. God has taken incredible care of us, and there is a renewed sense of passion and urgency for Him, and for sharing the Good News about His Son Jesus. We are only two years out, and look forward to the next part of the journey.


Honesty/Introspection- Interestingly enough it was when another Former told me about this website that I (www.FSAOF.blogspot.com) began to clear my mind and look at our situation through the eyes of others who share the same journey. As I read of similar experiences I was able to step back and start to name the things I was responsible for creating. I could see how much my pain, anger, and frustration would feed on themselves. The blame did nothing more than delay the incredible healing that awaited me. Others who were hurt much worse could move beyond the pain and accept the goodness and grace of their Heavenly Father. This needed to become my testimony.

Acceptance- While there was an intellectual and spiritual acceptance of the new path God had chosen, my emotions were not in sync. SA officership had come to define me in many ways. There is an immediate acceptance of the “major” in every community. While not always the best emotion, I was comfortable being an officer, and I realized much of that was gone. I had to accept this mid-course correction, accept the severing of many relationships, and accept responsibility for the hurt I caused to family and friends still faithfully serving. As hard as it was, I had to accept the fact that I was no longer an officer. This acceptance began the process of knowing that I was ok. Now there is a new course, with new challenges and new victories. I would begin to embrace the understanding that the God who called me, loves, accepts and approves of Jeffery Todd Bassett with or without a rank.

Growth- I have such a long way to go. My feet are still made of clay, I still don’t trust as much as He deserves, and I still fail on too many occasions. But through it all I can honestly say I am not the man I was two years ago when I left SA officership. I am learning that my growth, my health, my faith, and my fears are not the responsibility of any organization, not even The Salvation Army. I am finding renewed confidence in and dependence on the One who alone can be trusted.

Healing- Because I was trying to be obedient and to know what God’s plans were, I left under the assumption that by following Him healing would be instant. The past 2 years have allowed me to see that God’s love and mercies are new every day. For me this means that He lovingly and purposefully begins to scrape away all of the garbage and pain from my past. I have found that healing is mostly subjective. My tolerance for pain may be less or more than yours. The time it takes for me to heal can take more or less time than for you to heal from the exact same hurt. I believe God wants every one of us to know His healing power. I am grateful for the process and this forum that has contributed to my journey. It has been therapeutic to name the stages, knowing that they have led to the place where I am today.

My humble bit of advice is simply this;
1. Don’t skip any stages in your journey; you will have to address them eventually.
2. Don’t stay in any part of the journey beyond your appointed time; God wants to keep you moving forward.
3. Finally, don’t judge anyone; instead encourage those still struggling along in their journey!
I am finding that it gets better every day☺


Jeffery T. Bassett
Former
USA East
Jeffery Bassett is the Founding Pastor of Living Water Church Ministries. He has a BS in Bible and MS in Organizational Leadership from Philadelphia Biblical University where he teaches as an adjunct professor. Jeffery is employed full time by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association where he serves as the Director of Development.
Living Water Church Ministries
Wall, NJ
pastor@livingwaterchurchministries.org

The Journey Part -1-

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has become the youngest billionaire in the world at age 23 according to a Forbes estimate. He is ranked 785 on the World’s Billionaires list.

Imagine a world where you never have to choose where you will live or what you will drive, have little to no worry about bills, or even what you will do for a living. Other than an occasional move, and perhaps a disappointment from time to time there is a predictability that defines your rhythm of life.

Now picture you are standing at the edge of a cliff with a blindfold on. You hear a voice telling you to jump. You don’t know how far from the ground or how long the plunge will last, you only hear and recognize the voice of the One calling you to jump.

After serving for 21 years, in July of 2008 we entered the world of “Former Officer”. As a third generation officer and fourth generation Salvationist this was never part of the journey that I could have anticipated.

Many who read this have known similar experiences. I hope to share in an attempt to connect with those who have become “Formers” and with many who continue to share concern for us. Obviously our steps and time we spend at each stage of the journey are be impacted by many variables: personality, tolerance, self esteem, support, acceptance, years of service, commitment, etc., etc., etc. The point is we will experience all or some of the strong emotions associated with leaving officership, as it was so much a part of our lives.

Fear- As this odyssey began I was scared to death about leaving. The “spiritual” questions like: have I correctly heard God’s call, will I be out of His will, how will this impact those we have loved, nurtured, and seen come into the kingdom? And the “practical” questions like: can we survive without the Army, where will we work, where will we live, can we afford to walk away from the security, what will our friends and family think?

Faith- The months preceding our resignation were marked by an extreme sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. This sensitivity was due in large part because I could not answer most of the questions that caused my fear. When our letter of resignation was written there was no promise of employment, no housing, and no clear indication of what the future would bring. I only knew it was God who was leading me.

Freedom- Following 21 years of service there was a sense of liberty that did not always exist as an officer. We attended a local church and the pastor shared how he had met many SA officers who would implode after they left the Army, this because they were not conditioned to make many of their own choices. We developed a healthy friendship and I continue to make myself accountable to him.

Frustration- It didn’t take long for me to move from healthy to unhealthy. While God had miraculously provided for all of our needs, I took my eyes off Him and started looking back at all the reasons why I wasn’t an officer. My appreciation for everything good was replaced with criticism for everything wrong with the organization. There was unresolved hurt. I focused on the friends, leadership, and session mates who abandoned me rather than the handful of godly officers whom God used to reach out and minister on a regular basis. As a result I became increasingly frustrated and my frustration turned to blame and anger. I was angry at The Salvation Army for every perceived wrong they did to me, for every perceived wrong they did to others. I was angry that the connection was gone, and whether real or perceived angry that the Army no longer cared about me and my family. I was upset that there did not seem to be any interest or concern about where we would worship. I blamed the Army for any problems our children were having, I blamed the Army for my having to work three jobs to keep a basic standard of living, I blamed the Army for me leaving the ministry I loved…I was angry!

Part -1-

Jeffery T. Bassett
Former
USA East
Jeffery Bassett is the Founding Pastor of Living Water Church Ministries. He has a BS in Bible and MS in Organizational Leadership from Philadelphia Biblical University where he teaches as an adjunct professor. Jeffery is employed full time by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association where he serves as the Director of Development.
Living Water Church Ministries
Wall, NJ
pastor@livingwaterchurchministries.org

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Cross is Central 7

The Cross of Christ is Central to every Scandinavian's Identity !

From one of Sweden’s leading newspapers this week; ‘In our time the hunt takes on Christianity’s increasingly ridiculous twists and there seems to be a touch of horror on all that is called Christianity…Some, however, see the hunt as abating just a bit. Sweden continues to seemingly flip flop in accepting, and the next day rejecting, the significance of Christianity in the history of the country. However, the populous’ allegiance appears to have weakened with clear signs that the struggle is waning.

Madleine Fredell, a Dominican Sister, (General Secretary of the Commission for Justice and Peace, Catholic Diocese of Stockholm) said at a lecture in Oslo recently that; "it is rather atheism showing convulsive death throes and, therefore, makes fierce attack on the mainly Christian faith.

There is no question but that in serendipitous times one might easily forget and perhaps even dismiss its cause; God’s plan and effect. God’s presence isn’t quite so notable nor necessary when things are ‘bright and gay’.With smooth sailing we go where the fairwinds lead...





While stationed in Östersund, in northern Sweden’s beautiful fell country I was able to convince the local city government that TSA was the organization that could best take over the administration of the city’s failing homeless shelter and half-way house. It became one of the corps’ key mission efforts, taking us back to basics, and the income fully covered all corps expenses; self-supporting for the first time in decades. And the blessings ? Priceless !

One of our ‘regulars’ was Bengt, a professional exterior house painter whose need for drink often caused him to sip from the alcohol used in his work. He had worked for years alongside his father, and their expertise lay in refinishing church steeples. I joked with him that they were ‘God’s co-workers.’ And I suggested to him that the steeples were their Garden of Eden, "to work it and take care of it" (Genesis 2:15).

Three blocks from the corps stands one of Sweden’s largest cathedrals, and I asked Bengt if he’d ever painted the steeple that crowned one of Östersund's landmarks ?He quickly responded, “Yes, of course I have- 150 meters at the top with a gold gilded cross… the ascent is tiring and we do it in stages, especially if we’re downloaded with paint, brushes and other equipment.” I pressed him further, ‘what if you get all the way to the top and begin to paint and a storm begins to roar do you then seek shelter?’ “Well, not usually, we simply move to the cross- there’s one on every steeple, and we hold on tight till the clouds pass…”

A favorite modern day philosophy professor of mine is Jacob Needleman. His, The Heart of Philosophy speaks about “remembering”, those unique spiritual moments in our past that cause us to reflect on God and His ‘sometime’ presence. In our comfort, and when all is bliss, the ‘remembering’ is infrequent. But when the storms come, and for most this occurs when the children are gone and their visits to the family home are less often. They are the years when we become church-goers at a more frequent rate; weddings, Christenings, child baptisms, but perhaps when the ‘remembering’ is most needed is when attending the ever increasing number of funerals or reading of friends’ passings.

As God’s stewards we’re entrusted with the responsibility of caring for His children, often proud, dismissive, rude, self-aggrandizing. As God’s worker-stewards we are mandated to cultivate the ministry opportunities God places before us. Could it be that in the noise and drama taking place in debating God’s historical impact has caused His heart enough grief, and that He now steps in again, a gentle small voice, His holy spirit speaking to warring hearts, now ‘remembering’- reminded to seeking the Truth. Have I, have you, naively sought to win a verbal battle in our own despairing weakness? I believe that in those moments when both sides stop to rearm and take a breather, God speaks and reminds us all; “Be still and know that I am God; The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exod 14:14.


John Gowans told us to “find out what the Holy Spirit is doing and join in.”
Perhaps we, who seek ‘to be like Jesus’, need to re-analyze our mind set when we speak for God’s intent. It will take some specific choices on our part to be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s expectations, “forgetting what lies behind..." We must focus on the future with Christ, and let him lead us away from the disappointments and indifferences of our past. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ( Jeremiah 29:11)

Another well-known internationally respected leader is Commissioner Joe Noland, whose recent blog entry included:
"Salvationism is a two part word: Salvation + ism. The salvation part is never changing – the same, yesterday, today, forever (The conservative part). Ism, by its proper definition is “a movement” – always changing: “Mobile, fluid, robust, pulsating, progressive, maturing – Genesis in motion.” In other words, our methodology needs to stay relevant, inclusive and flexible in order to reach the last, the lost and least (The liberal part)." God supplies us with the creation— the raw materials— and invites us to cultivate it and care for it (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). We manage, preserve and sustain it on God’s behalf.

Not surprisingly the stewardship motif emerges on the pages of the New Testament. According to Jesus, his disciples are to participate together with God in the task of sustaining and preserving the created order. On several occasions, Christ describes his followers in his parables as stewards and house-holders enlisted by him (Matthew 24:45-51; parallels Psalm 104: 27). Our work can be seen as an act of cooperation with God.

Unfortunately, God’s "cultural mandate" is frequently neglected by Christians today. In his book, Living by the Gospel, Regent College professor Klaus Bockmuehl writes, "The ethics of sustainment and preservation are necessarily part of Christian ethics. This fact must be upheld against those among us who confess to knowing only Christ’s Great Commission, Matthew 28: 18-20, and neglect God’s cultural mandate, Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 2:15....God’s creation and man’s commission in it must not be disregarded or disdained. Christians will have to find the proper balance between the two tasks assigned to them— on the one hand, in the preservation of creation; on the other hand, in the realm of salvation."

In this Lenten season we recall the build-up for what were your and mine most crucial sermons- built on the centrality of the Cross of Christ. And leading up to it was His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus chose a donkey to serve as His royal transport. His disciples were instructed to say, “The Lord has need of it” (Mark 11:3). Alexander MacLaren commented on this: “Christ comes to us in like fashion, and brushes aside all our convenient excuses. He says, ‘I want you, and that is enough.’ ”

There will never be a greater request made of you or me! The Creator of the universe needs us to fill a unique role in His eternal design! Though all-powerful He has chosen us to help in carrying out His plans.

Someone once asked Francis of Assisi how he was able to accomplish so much. He replied, “This may be why: The Lord looked down from heaven and said, ‘Where can I find the weakest, littlest man on earth?’ Then He saw me and said, ‘I’ve found him. I will work through him, and he won’t be proud of it. He’ll see that I am only using him because of his insignificance.’

Yours is a mission you alone can fill,
 Whether it be to build or teach or till;
 Your goal may still be hidden from your view,
 But somewhere God has urgent need of you. —Thayer



Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former

Exeter Temple Corps
UK

Monday, March 22, 2010

For Such A Time As This, Listen to Paul ! Sweden 6B


Are some more EQUAL than others? The benchmarks of Paul speak against such notions...

EPHESIANS 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the Saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.”

Around 33-34 AD, Paul, a contemporary of Jesus Christ meets the risen Lord, a key characteristic in being appointed as an apostle according to John H.W. Stott. In addition, Stott specifies that an apostle has to be appointed by God and begin his apostolic mission in Jerusalem.

Within the New Testament, Paul's conversion experience is detailed in both Paul's own letters and in the words of his close friend Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles. In both instances, the conversion experience is described to be miraculous or revelatory in nature. It’s worth noting that Luke, a physician, known to be scrupulous in researching for more than two years, in Mary’s domiciled geographical area, prior to beginning the writing of his own epistle. And, he is the only Gentile who contributed to the New Testament and describes Paul’s conversion in Acts 9 as a third-person narrative: “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.

"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

According to both sources, Paul was a persecutor of the early Christians and although Paul refers to himself as an "Apostle" of Jesus, it is clear that Paul was not one of "The Twelve" (1 Cor 9:1-2).

AN APOSTLE

Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians 9:1 “But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man (Paul) is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name."

And in, Corinthians 15:3-8 “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” Interestingly, Paul uses his alternative name “Paul” in this letter, his Roman name; his father was a freed slave, as we know from Paul’s belonging to the Freedman’s Temple. “Saul” means “Asked of God” while Paul simply means “Little.” Some commentators suggest Paul chooses the name that minimizes his own significance.

P.W. Barnett states that ‘apostle’ simply means “messenger There are numerous papyri collections in which the substantive apostolos is used in a secular context to mean a “commissioned agent.” In this context, the apostolos would be much more than simply a messenger. Taking this as the primary source for the term “apostle” as used in the New Testament, it is easy to understand it as, “one sent to act authoritatively in the name of another.” Paul could well be described as an officer of, and commissioned by the [heavenly] court.”

Messengers in the ancient Near East were not mere couriers. They were the official representatives of the sender of the message. Barnett says, “The royal messenger stood in the court of the Great King, participated in the deliberative processes of the court, received the declaration of the king’s wishes from the kings own mouth, and then carried the tablet or sealed role of papyrus to its destination This is why Jeremiah writes,

“But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD
to see or to hear his word?
Who has listened and heard his word?”

“I did not send these prophets,
yet they have run with their message;
I did not speak to them,
yet they have prophesied.

PAUL was an apostle “of Jesus Christ,” not simply an apostle, but by the will of God. That is not to say, however, that Paul saw his role as something more significant than other people’s part in God’s plan. Rather, as C. Leslie Milton writes, “Nothing is clearer in Paul’s writings than his awareness that both his conversion to Christ (2 C. 5:18) and his commissioning as a missionary (Rom. 1:1; 1 C. 15:10) were ‘all God’s doing.’”

Almost every revolt, rebirth and revival of Christian religion in the past has involved a reaction against priestly authority. And it often demanded lay power and activity. The most God honoring successes I have witnessed in TSA were initiated by lay-persons answering mission needs: local hands-on programs answering perceived needs. Not, where leadership appropriated to itself a dominant role and assumed some regulatory status. In my own experience tacit approval came from DCs, TCs and even 2 Generals. They all deemed 'our' initiatives as being Spirit led and ‘shaped in the pattern of early William Booth’, and this in our appointments in 5 different countries! And the very first were the brainchild of one SA recruit, two newly enrolled soldiers, and 2 Supply Officers- none trained in ministry or ordained or yet commissioned. (GED program NY) The 2nd; SA take-over of city mission and rehab center; 2 Auxiliary Captains, Opening Fire in 3 countries – Led by officers who never attended training college, and local SA soldier recruits)

(Booth) “You cannot say you are not ordained. You were ordained when you signed Articles of War, under the blessed Flag. If not, I ordain every man, woman and child here present that has received the new life… I tell you what your true business in the world is, and in the name of the living God I authorise you to go and do it. Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature!”

More from the Founder
Here we find an essential ambivalence as far as clericalism is concerned – and as far as being a church is concerned. The pragmatic origins of ministry and polity have meant that the Army has championed the concept of the priesthood of all believers and rejected the clerical role, while at the same time it has claimed ministerial status for its officers whenever that has seemed advantageous.

William Booth wanted to disabuse his officers of the notion that there is any “exclusive order of preachers”, Harold Ivor Winston Hill in his A Case Study in Clericalisation, Victoria University of Wellington, 2004. Gordon Cotterill, an officer stationed at William Booth College in London, posted the following on his blog: “Although we have referred to the trend for officers to become clergy and soldiers to think of themselves as laity, there has always been a counter-movement, a consistent tradition of soldier initiative and participation in the Army’s work.

If one accepts Paul’s commissioning and appointment as one equal to a lay ministry position; bandsman, YPSM, HL Sgt., Literary Sgt., and that indeed all Christians are “lay”, in the sense that all belong to the people of God, without distinction of status, ought we not follow the commissioning/ appointment model from Acts 6? In the very first commissioning ceremony in the church, recorded in Acts 6, the brothers choose seven men and appointed them to a particular ministry, and the apostles put their hands on them and prayed. That is all. There is no promise of a new status in the church, no hint that they are now priests and different to the people they are appointed to serve.

Booth in fact made it clear on more than one occasion that this was his theoretical position; his theology required it.

“I have lived, thank God, to witness the separation between layman and cleric become more and more obscured, and to see Jesus Christ’s idea of changing in a moment ignorant fishermen into fishers of men nearer and nearer realization.
Booth maintained egalitarianism from early on; “I honour the Order of Preachers; I belong to it myself… but as to his possessing any particular grace because of his having gone through any form of Ordination, or any other ceremonial whatever, I think that idea is a great mistake…Not only were officers not “clergy” but soldiers in effect were". Booth in 1898 hoped that soldiers would not shirk their duty “by any talk of not being an officer.” Booth's edict applies well; a growing late twentieth century trend has been the employment of soldiers and non-salvationist Christians in ministry roles – as youth workers, pastoral workers and Music and Social Services secretaries, corps leaders, as well as in PR professionals and administrative roles. This has been particularly the case in western countries with declining officer strength; Australia, Canada, the USA and Western Europe. And, it has led to constructive debate about the respective roles and status of officers and soldiers.

Often, with onset of decline, some renewal movement strikes out upon a new trajectory of growth and we have witnessed that there has sprung up pockets of dissent, at issue with decline, expressing Ecclesia rights and responsibility. God has and continues to bless their universal readiness to serve.

Today’s army is following the egalitarian form as we witness soldiers, adherents and friends become involved and take greater control in their local mission. It’s a mission expression and reality endorsed by THQ, in Sweden. (examples follow in the next and concluding article) "...forgetting what lies behind..." (Philippians 3:13) We must focus on the future with Christ, and let him lead us away from the burden of our past. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ( Jeremiah 29:11)

Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former

Exeter Temple Corps
UK

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hitting "The Wall" Sweden 6A

"While I can run, I'll run; while I can walk, I'll walk; when I can only crawl, I'll crawl. But by the grace of God, I'll always be moving forward…" - Cavett Robert

“The Wall” evades easy definition. Dick Beardsley defines hitting the wall as; "It felt like an elephant had jumped out of a tree onto my shoulders and was making me carry it the rest of the way “ at the second marathon of his career, the City of Lakes Marathon.

To borrow from my daughter Kaari’s description, shortly after completing her first triathlon. and at the time a mother of 6; “You know it when you hit it! Months of pumped up psychobabble goes out the window, and self-doubt casts a deep shadow over your entire being… but determination and giving it your utmost brings you across the finish line and the claim: I finished !” Most modern day marathons report that some 20-70% of entrants fail to complete the course. And many tell of hitting the wall and becoming dizzy to the point of losing focus, mentally and visually...The key words in any race is: I finished !! To give anything less than one’s best is to sacrifice both the gift and all the training committed to developing it.

The name Marathon comes from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger. The legend states that he was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon, in which he had just fought, in 490 BC. It is said that he ran the entire 25 mile distance without stopping and burst into the assembly, exclaiming, 'We have won,’ before collapsing and dying.

There were other Persian revolts during the same period. Esther got a message from her cousin Mordecai when living in Susa, one of four capitals in the great Persian Empire. It was 15 years following the famous first marathon run.

A hundred years previously, the Jewish people had been overrun by the Chaldeans and had been taken into exile in Babylon. Fifty years later, Babylon was conquered by the Persians, and the Jews were allowed to return home. But some Jews chose to stay where they were. They had discovered that God did not just live in the land of Israel. Assured that God was here too, Mordecai and Esther were among those Jews who remained.

Strange as it may seem, prayer is never specifically mentioned in this book, nor is the name of God. Yet, we can be sure that there is a purpose for God’s presence and Divine appointments. “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther. 4:13, 14).

We Christians thrive as a minority, and we too live for such a time as this, to finish the race and earn the victor’s crown. And like the loneliness of a long-distance runner we too can experience “hitting the wall”, losing focus and faith in our ability to finish the course.. Perhaps in Sweden and elsewhere, where the goal seems unattainable, perhaps we need reminding that we are never alone, and that our victory is sure; “thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. (II Corinthians 2:14 NIV)

That is God’s purpose “for such a time as this.” He has something specific for TSA to accomplish in our present situation and condition.

We believers should be living with confidence as people of destiny. God will be honored when we claim His grace to be what He wants us to be and do what He wants us to do in our present circumstances. God is at work in the life of TSA although our circumstances may not always reflect it, nor is it all we would like it to be. But we can thank God for them anyway. There are many areas of growth in TSA in Sweden (and Latvia) where He continues to demonstrate His sovereign love and care, and they provide us with an opportunity to glorify Him. Let us believe that He will work those circumstances together for good, as we look for ways to serve Him in them. The number of Christians world-wide have never been as numerous as now and they continue to grow!

Carl-Erik Sahlberg, associate professor of church history Uppsala University, and Tuve Skånberg, visiting professor of church history Fuller
Fellows at Clapham Institute.

º Almost 100 000 people every day, the world over, make a decision to personally accept Christ.

º An estimated 3 000 Christian churches are founded every week.

º In 2000, approximately 33.0 percent of the world's population had been baptized in the name of Jesus. That figure is projected to increase to 33.4 percent in 2025 and about 35 percent in 2050.

º Christianity is growing faster than the world population... We live in Mission history's greatest period of growth.

"God is on the march!" Even in Europe.

-------------------------

A visionary leadership seeks to unite people from different backgrounds to work towards the same goal. And Commissioner Vic Poke, Territorial Commander, is seeking to do just that uniting soldiers, adherents, friends, service clubs, local government and businesses, to the benefit of all in the community, spiritually and socially. In spite of diminishing effectiveness in certain SA quarters, TSA is marching steadily onward with a new focus and vision.

Deuteronomy 31:6 
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Commissioner Vic Poke, said while visiting SA centers on a fact-finding mission; “I see, hear and have a strong feeling that we are bound by a spirit of fear in this territory. It is not wrong to be afraid sometimes, but when fear becomes a fetter to stop us moving forward, it is wrong. God wants to bless us. Do not be afraid! We will do our best to explain what our situation looks like. Let us all pray for God's strength to move on and go forward; we must cut the tapes of fear that bind; He will inspire us to do great things again.

Commissioner Vic Poke shared his findings revealed through research over the course of the last eighteen months saying, “I can not over-emphasize how important the first fact finding days have been for my thinking.
The huge budget deficits in recent years result from three factors;
- Support to the corps
- Support to Latvia
- Operation Costs of Territorial Headquarters.

The theme 'Find the best (most logical) cities and concentrate - collaborate, ....'that is more important now than ever. We (HQ) have exercised too much control and now need to place more responsibility for local services and give greater freedom on ‘locals’. We need to trust each other in this... And, we must become very good at communicating, in order that everyone knows about the changes. Nothing may be more important in the coming weeks prior to the change." continued Poke; "We have gone through some difficult months and a difficult time looking back. I trust the future and that God will lead us forward. In Romans 5:3 it reads that” suffering creates endurance.”

Part 6A


Dr. Sven Ljungholm
Former

Exeter Temple Corps
UK

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Road - Part II

Fast forward to December of 1998: A few months earlier a dear friend shared a dream that our baby would be in our home for Christmas. We were nearing the end of the month and there seemed to be no sign of this happening. Our case worker was nonresponsive; didn’t seem to care about our enthusiasm, and informed us there was no way we would be considered for adopting a baby, given that we already had three children. However, on December 18 we received the call we were waiting for. The Children’s Home of Cincinnati was given our case and called about a potential adoption. The caseworker shared that the baby was born with a lack of muscle control in his limbs, and turned down by three previous adoptive parents. There were two possible causes for this. The first is Hypertonia, describing when the muscles are extremely tense, and can usually be outgrown through exercise. The second might be as serious as Cerebral Palsy, a brain disorder caused around the time of birth. We shared the news with our children, wanting to involve them in the decision. When confronted with the worst case scenario our twelve year old son Jonathan said, “That’s ok; I will teach him to play basketball in a wheelchair.” It was then we knew that this baby would soon be our son.

The appointment was made and we were introduced to our son. He was a beautiful brown baby boy just 3 ½ months old, an innocent and helpless life created in the image of God. Sensing this was right we asked if we could take him home with us…so naive! The staff informed us of the “process” and there was no way he would be in our home before the middle of January. Wanting to assist God, I pronounced the vision my friend had shared and asked if we could spend Christmas in the home of the family who was providing Foster Care. This request was summarily denied. Instead the offer was made for us to pick the child up on Christmas morning, spend a few hours with him, and return him later that evening. We have a video recording of Jared sleeping under our Christmas tree on December 25, 1998. Arrangements were made and on December 30, 1998 we brought our son home and he continues to be a source of joy to our family and others he meets every day.

Fast forward to today: It’s been eleven years since the day we brought our son home to be adopted into our family. We have not regretted 1 minute, even though not every minute has been easy. Last fall Jared started intermediate school…it has been a difficult year. While our nomadic life may have contributed to his struggles, there are indicators that his biological mother’s drug use while pregnant, color of his skin in a mostly white community, and other separation issues many adopted children experience have impacted his own life journey. This was clearly seen during an extremely emotional confrontation about some choices being made by our son. Following his barrage of, “I hate you” and “You don’t love me”, thinking she knew my heart, Jessica turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, “I am sorry, all of the children would be grown and moved out of the house by now, if we hadn't adopted....”

In a millisecond I again heard that small voice, prompting, encouraging, and exhorting me, clearly and lovingly saying, “If not you then who?” My response to Jessica was pure, and unlike the selfish self that too often defines me. I put my arms around her and with unbridled sincerity and love told her to never say that again. And then I repeated what was just whispered into my heart, “If not me then who?"


Jeffery T. Bassett
Former
USA East
Jeffery Bassett is the Founding Pastor of Living Water Church Ministries. He has a BS in Bible and MS in Organizational Leadership from Philadelphia Biblical University where he teaches as an adjunct professor. Jeffery is employed full time by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association where he serves as the Director of Development.
Living Water Church Ministries
Wall, NJ
pastor@livingwaterchurchministries.org

We are actively pursuing plans for international (Haiti) and domestic (urban) adoptions through Living Water Ministries. Also are looking at providing ministry to troubled teens of clergy.





Living Waters Ministries; Fellowship Hour.

We have been given $300,000.00 to purchase 6 acres on a lake and plan to use it in conjunction with both ministries.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Road Less Traveled…If Not Me Then Who? Part -1-

The story begins 27 years ago when Jessica and I first met. She dreamed of raising a large family (at least 10 children) and I was determined that 1 would be enough.

Fast forward to the year 1991: It was as my wife was lying on the operating table having just given birth via caesarian to our third child that the doctor asked if she wanted her tubes tied. This was my opportunity to strike a deal that I had no intention of ever honoring. I told her that we would consider adopting in five years if she would go forward with the procedure. She reluctantly agreed.

Fast forward to the fall of 1997: It was the second year of our appointment as DYS in Cincinnati Ohio. I was driving to work on the same road, listening to the same music, behind the same cars and busses I had seen every day. But on this particular day the advertisement on the back of the bus caught my attention. It was a simple photo of some children and a toll free number to inquire about adoption. Very clearly I heard a still small voice prompting me to write down the number…I did. As soon as I got to the office I called Jessica and shared this new revelation to which she replied, “What took you so long, I have been praying that God would change your heart for the past 6 years.”

Fast forward to January of 1998: By now the counsel of family, friends, and fellow officers had taken its toll on me. Every possible horror story of adoptions gone wrong was shared. I was told that our officer career was on a solid path, and adopting a child from the inner city would most certainly derail any possibility for advancement. Without telling Jessica I determined that this decision to begin the adoption classes was simply an emotional response which didn’t make any practical sense. We already had three beautiful children whose lives would no doubt be impacted, and our first responsibility was to them. So the night we were scheduled to begin the mandatory classes I decided to stay late at the office, providing the excuse needed to end this craziness. As I traveled home my mind was focused on how Jessica would receive the news. And then while sitting at the same traffic light I had stopped at a hundred times, located in the same part of town, out of nowhere they came. Peering out the windshield as my wipers tried to clear the freezing rain; three small children, alone and without coats crossed the busy intersection right in front of me. Once again I heard that still small voice, this time it asked, “Do you love Me?” Before I could formulate an answer I could hear Jesus say to me, “When you look at these children you are looking at Me. Now go home, pick up Jessica, and follow Me!”

Fast Forward to spring of 1998: The adoption classes were completed and we were ready to meet the perfect child that God had chosen for us. We began the Salvation Army approval process to adopt, expecting there would be full support from the organization. Unfortunately this was not the case. At that time there was a policy forbidding officer families to adopt when they had three or more children. We appealed the decision but were denied at every level. Jessica and I requested an interview with the Personnel Secretary, who was coming to Cincinnati for the Annual Command Review. There was no doubt in our minds that this was the path God had chosen for us, and were prepared to walk away from officership if it meant not following God’s clear plan. Before we could say a word the Colonel shared that he received an email from his secretary stating the Army had modified its position, and we were officially approved to pursue adoption.

PART -1-

Jeffery T. Bassett
Former
USA East
Jeffery Bassett is the Founding Pastor of Living Water Church Ministries. He has a BS in Bible and MS in Organizational Leadership from Philadelphia Biblical University where he teaches as an adjunct professor. Jeffery is employed full time by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association where he serves as the Director of Development.
Living Water Church Ministries
Wall, NJ
pastor@livingwaterchurchministries.org

We are actively pursuing plans for international (Haiti) and domestic (urban) adoptions through Living Water Ministries. Also are looking at providing ministry to troubled teens of clergy. We have been given $300,000.00 to purchase 6 acres on a lake and plan to use it in conjunction with both ministries.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

How Brave are You?

This morning I went down to my weekly weigh in at Weight Watchers; yes you hear it right late last year I committed to do this thing that has swept the world trying to get people to loose tonnes and tonnes of fat, to live a healthy lifestyle and look a little more like the people that we see on screens and magazines. Beautiful people who by their very appearance and the accoutrements that are around them to be living the perfect life, finances all sorted, relationships all perfect, emotions all under control etc etc.

Over a number of years I have had doctors tell me that I need to lose weight so that my BMI is in the correct range. I have lost count of the doctors, who have told me to stop smoking and to cut down my alcohol intake, but never having smoked, and a virtual lifetime teetotaller should give me some credit but I have no doubt that the next time I see a new doctor the mantra will be the same.

And so off I go to the ‘weekly weigh in’ and see if I have to celebrate or feel guilty again because of some unattainable magic number that I am sure will only be achieved after amputation of a leg. I am not alone and there are many people around me who take all this far more seriously than I do.

Over recent years I have been aware that everyone has a story and so many are more related to a novel than they are to real life. We as Formers (and of course ‘Actives’) all have our story and so many times I have just wanted to reach out and just be a support for them in what I perceive as their pain. It may be that it is nothing to do with being or becoming a Former but the recent narrative, although I struggle with the practicalities of it, that revolved around Sabbaticals and the like is something that indicates that we have yet to address so many issues that we have not even thought about yet.

I am very positive about the ability that we all have to create the future that we want and we all know what it is but fail to access it and understand what it is for us. I talk a lot about those ‘Golden Moments’ that we have had and why were they like that. They are all different for each of us but I am convinced that they can be replicated long into the future. At a recent seminar that I conducted I was trying to help people access their Golden Moments and there were the usual ‘sitting on the beach with my husband and kids and watching the sun go down’ sort of stuff; but one mature woman who was a retired palliative care nurse wanted to tell us her Golden Moment. It was when she ‘Sang a woman to Death’. The family were gathered around the bed and she wanted someone to sing for her ‘you are the sunshine of my life’. So as the family held her hand the nurse sang the song and as she sang the lady peacefully passed away. Yes we were all in tears and I sort of lost control of what we were all there for.

I guess that I am guilty of sometimes thinking that all problems can have an answer that is in my frame of reference. On the rare occasions when I have told my story of leaving Officership and family, and passion for all that was Army, etc etc, some people have said that was a very brave thing to do, but it is something that for me will never have a resolution so each day almost I have to battle the ‘what if’s’. I know emotionally where it is coming from and I can support people to get through it; but when it is personal it is a different matter.

On my way to weight watchers this morning I was thinking of all the people there and I already have a store of funny stories to have a chuckle; but there is an unseen bravery that keeps these people going back again and again even though very little, in the majority of cases, is being lost. So whether it is just Weight Watchers or Formers I believe that we express a great courage in just saying we are Formers or as in my case a Weight Watching Former.

So how brave are you?

The first quote I put in my latest Journal was one I did not even get an author for but for me and possibly many others it can be a very supportive mantra.

Courage does not always roar like a lion. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says, “I will try again tomorrow”








Fletch
Peter Fletcher
Former
Australia

Friday, March 12, 2010

THE LANGUAGE OF ORDINATION…

It seems to me that the euphemistic use of ordination to explain commissioning has made quite some journey where now a given Territorial Commander declares to each cadet
"I commission and ordain you..."

It seems interesting to me that within TSA we are keen to maintain a certain line that causes frequent periodic debate when it comes to our non-sacramental stand with regards to baptism and communion. Battle lines drawn between those that both argue that 'to' or 'not to' is essential to our essence of church.

I'm not sure if I have come across the same rigour of debate with similar issues. While the more contemporary sacramental debate seems more black and white - it is interesting that the whole emphasis of ordination of officers doesn't receive the same intensity of attention.

Recently as I watched the Commissioning of the latest session I was struck by how far our language has moved. It seems to me that the euphemistic use of ordination to explain commissioning has made quite some journey where now a given Territorial Commander declares to each cadet "I commission and ordain you..." (or words to that effect). It seems interesting to me that a choice of language to protect the kudos of officership with our ecclesiastical cousins has become so mainstream as to now even infer a supposed 'higher calling' of officership.

But no debate, no walk outs, no resignations, no battle lines, no edicts from International Headquarters, no articles, no letters looking at such an impact on SA views on the 'priesthood of all believers' . Nothing to question the language of ordination as it, like a cuckoo, surreptitiously kicks out the centrality of dedication. I might be missing something, but essentially any discussion here would share something of the same root as that within the well worn conversation around that of our sacramental position.

So why the lack of debate in one area and intensity in another?


Gordon Cotterill
Active Officer
UKT

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sweden is the area where we have to prove the future of Christianity in Europe

Regular visitors to this site may have decided that I am making too much of the dire state of religion and the church's waning influence on Sweden's culture and society in general. A clear reading and understanding of the crisis The Salvation Army and all religious groups in Sweden face should serve as a red flag warning of what will follow. Two decades ago Father Peter Hornung, one of the great Jesuits in Sweden said, "Sweden is the area where we have to prove the future of Christianity in Europe. “If we can remain a living church in Sweden, then we can do it in all of Europe. If not, then in 5, 10 or 20 years, all of the traditionally Catholic parts of Europe will be without the Catholic religion, too.” No doubt this alarming impending doom, and its impact elsewhere, is what caused almost a doubling in the number of daily blog visitors and the unusually high retention rate.

Today the Catholic Church is the biggest free church of Sweden with nearly 100,000 Catholics, and if you add in the immigrants who were never entered into the registries, the number perhaps doubles that. Nearly every year we are building new parishes and churches.

During their first three or five years in Sweden, immigrants (the group that represents the largest growth factor) feel at home in the Catholic Church; but then, when they are established and know the language, two-thirds of these Catholics disappear into the normal Swedish population.

What do you mean by “disappear”?

"In Sweden, we have a very small number of active Christians. The latest European Value Studies report says about 9 percent of the population can be called Christians—that is, they believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, life after death, the triune God—traditional dogma. About 3 percent of the population participates in services every Sunday.

In Swedish society, religion is viewed as superstitious, old-fashioned, uninteresting, nonscientific, and fanatical. The Catholic Church has the stamp of being fanatical and fundamentalist because of its stances on abortion, homosexuality, homosexual marriage and the role of women in the church. The evangelical churches are thought too small, too controlling and also too fundamentalist—they quote the Bible all the time, and they do not take on philosophical or theological arguments. The Church of Sweden has a wonderful framework, but the content is uninteresting.

They’re not interested in religion and they’re not interested in God, either. You ask them and they’ll say they don’t need it. They’re not aggressive, they don’t debate, they don’t want to have conflicts. They just tell you they don’t feel the need."

Does Christianity have a future in Sweden?

The European Value Study showed Sweden on the top in the development toward individualism. Each person has his or her own patchwork of individual convictions in theological and ethical questions. Every new generation, then, must be won for God and for the church one by one. And we have to inform our Catholics again and again that you have to swim against the stream at every point.

On the other hand, even besides the refugees, the number of Catholics is steadily increasing. Every year about 100 Swedes convert to the church; the Jesuit review Signum is the most respected national religious newspaper; and our Bishop Anders Arborelius is perhaps the best accepted Christian leader in Sweden. Therefore we look with confidence and optimism to the future.

(Klaus Dietz, S.J. a German who is one of 17 Jesuits working there, has been serving in parish ministry in Sweden for 37 years. Jim McDermott, S.J. an associate editor of America, spoke to Father Dietz in December 2007, about Christianity and secularization in Sweden.)

Thirty years ago there were approximately 5,000 practicing Catholics in Sweden. Today they have increased by twenty fold. SA statistics were shared in an earlier post)

As shared in an earlier article, the church’s’ voice was becoming silent: “the traditional free churches have lost their voice. Missing entirely are the colorful and influential leaders in the Missionary Church, The Salvation Army, the Evangelical Free Church, the Alliance Mission, and Baptist Union… We've been silent, marginalized, unknown in the wider society…And is that not the term for the traditional Free Church collapsing?”

“The list of the ten people who influenced Swedish Christian unity (the last decade) includes 4 Pentecostalists, 3 members of the Swedish Lutheran church, an atheist, Ulf Ekman and Bishop Arborelius. (Catholic)” We've been silent, marginalized, unknown in the wider society…And is that not the term for the traditional Free Church collapsing?

Where was our voice?

Anyone who has taken the time to observe how the army ‘moved’ its leadership in Sweden during the 20 year period 1986 -2006 might well ask why so many and so often? Clearly all were well groomed for leadership roles, with two eventually nominated to be the army’s international leader, and four serving at IHQ as IS, Europe. General John Larsson, born in Sweden, was well known on the army’s stage as a skillful communicator and inspiring and creative corporate executive. Few doubt that had he remained in Sweden for an extended period his voice would have been one of those speaking for all free churches, but he like others was summoned to London!

During the period when TSA experienced its greatest loss in the number of Officers and soldiers, Evangelistic efficiency saw a change of territorial commanders no less than 7 times in that two decade span, and that translates as a new Commissioner every 3 years with some serving less than 2 years and one a mere 14 months before being appointed abroad

Effective leadership in global organizations, according to several Harvard Business School professors, requires a collaborate management style across international borders with English the mandated common language, this to ensure minimum miscommunication and to aid in avoiding culture clash:the costs and benefits of homogeneity.

Of the most recent seven Commissioners, one was from the other side of the army world, and one from a neighboring country. One Commissioner and spouse spoke no Swedish. Communication was further hampered in that their immediate THQ assistant was less than fluent in English. For three TCs and there was the adapting to a new culture. Although Swedish by birth, two had not worked in or been a part of the Swedish SA or country’s culture for several decades.

Each leader contributed positively, but one wonders how much can be achieved in the space of only a year or two with diminishing resources. And, there must have been the question too on which programs needed prioritizing and the cost to sustain them? And with each leader comes initiatives; "which of my initiatives should be prioritized asnd will they be supported and maintained if I move in 12, 18 or 24 months? These are the common concerns faced by every visionary, motivated and fully committed officer.

With the promotion of the CS, American educated and trained Commissioner Birgitta K. Nilsson there was a period of streamlining administrative directives and also adopting creative corps leadership initiatives. Many suggest however, that it was too little to late. The time had come when the limited financial and personnel began to impact negatively causing an ever-smaller band of faithful officers, soldiers and supporters. Much 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation Salvationist felt excluded and uninformed. Not only was the army’s voice not heard by the country’s political leaders and the general public, those loyal to the army and its mission witnessed a consolidation of leadership strength and saw it as a ‘drawing down of the troops,’ retrenchment rather than rearming.

Sven Ljungholm
Former
Exeter Temple Corps UK

Friday, March 5, 2010

THE CHURCH IS COLLAPSING ! Part - 4a-

"Beginners and outsiders are open to possibilities and don’t make assumptions. By extension, they’re often better at finding solutions the experts have stopped seeing."
~Michael McMillan










SWEDEN THE NEW MISSION FIELD… TSA, Sweden has historically been a main source in providing missionary officers.

Tentmaking, in general, refers to the activities of any Christian who, while functioning as a minister, receives little or no pay for his or her church work, and supports him or herself by additional, unrelated work. Specifically, tentmaking can also refer to a method of international Christian evangelism in which missionaries support themselves by working full time in the marketplace with their skills and education, instead of receiving financial support from a church.

Sweden population - 9,059,651 (2009)

9,600,000 mobile phones (in excess of total population; highest per capita in the world)

8,085,500 Internet users as of Sept/09, 89.2% penetration. Scandinavia has highest per capita internet users in the world)

English is taught in schools from the first grade. Most people in Sweden speak fluent intermediate to advanced level English.

Swedes enjoy partaking in intellectual conversations; debates on social and cultural matters from a Swedish perspective, including religion.

Moves To Curb Influence Of Religion In Schools
At the end of 2008, 72,9% of Swedes belong to the Church of Sweden, a number that is decreasing by about one per cent every year, and Church of Sweden services are sparsely attended (hovering in the single digit percentages of the population). The reason for the large number of inactive members is partly that until 1996, children became members automatically at birth if at least one of their parents were a member.

In 2009, nearly 72,000 Swedes left the Church of Sweden, considerably more than in 2008 when 50,504 Swedes left the Church of Sweden.

Some 275,000 Swedes are today members of various free churches (TSA is a free church) where congregation attendance is much higher, and, in addition, immigration has meant that there are now some 92,000 Roman Catholics and 100,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians living in Sweden.

Due to immigration, Sweden also has a significant Muslim population. As many as 500,000 are Muslims by tradition and between 80,000 - 400,000 of these are practicing Muslims.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice.

RELIGION IN SWEDEN

• 23% of Swedish citizens responded that "they believe there is a God".
• 53% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force".
• 23% answered that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force".
• Atheism rates in Sweden run to 85%

[ Phil Zuckerman, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College]
.
An article on Sweden's official website asserts that that just three out of 10 Swedes state that they have confidence in the church. The same article lists the following facts about religion in Sweden.

• 8 out of 10 Swedes are members of the Church of Sweden. (7 million)
• Membership does not connote attendance (3-4%).
• Only 1 in 10 Swedes thinks religion is important in daily life.
• 7 out of 10 children (70%) are christened in the Church of Sweden and thereby registered in the church as members.
• Just over 5 out of 10 weddings take place in church. Sweden has one of the lowest marriage rates in the world at less than 60 per cent.
• 9 out of 10 Swedes have Christian burials.


Sweden ranks aside with France, South Korea, Japan, Czech Republic and the Netherlands on having a large minority or even majority of its citizens who have no religion.

Observation:

Sweden has one of the lowest marriage rates in the world at less than 60 per cent. Fifty years ago the figure was 91 per cent for Sweden. Instead of marriage, cohabitation is common in Sweden. About 32 per cent of all couples in Sweden are cohabiting. A number of factors contribute to the high rate of cohabitation in Sweden. Religion is weak, and the moral and cultural taboos against partners living together have disappeared. In addition, government benefits are given to individuals regardless of their relationships or family arrangements. Spousal benefits in such matters as health care simply do not exist. And all income tax is individual.

For its part the United States stands out for having the world's highest divorce rate. The divorce rate is less than 40 per cent in Sweden. Swedish cohabiting couples do, however, break up in large numbers. It is estimated that the risk of breakup for cohabiting couples in Sweden, even those with children, is several times higher than for married couples.
---------------------------
Religious education covering all major world religions is compulsory in public schools. Parents may send their children to independent religious schools, all of which receive government subsidies, provided they adhere to government guidelines on core academic curriculum.

Sweden wants to curb the influence of religion in private religious schools in a move to prevent the spread of fundamentalism and creationism in science, government officials said on Monday.
The new rules being drafted by the centre-right government would ban religious elements being taught in subjects other than Religious Education lessons. Education Minister Jan Bjorklund told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter: “Students must be protected from every form of fundamentalism. A student shouldn't be able to pass a natural science test by answering that God created the world. We don't think that's OK. Teaching in school must have a scientific basis.” The schools would also be required to report financial donations to the authorities, he said.
His comments came after a legal dispute involving efforts by the Exclusive Brethren to start a school
in southern Sweden.

The Exclusive Brethren Christian Fellowship, which dismisses the theory of evolution, was granted permission by a county administrative court to start the school after it promised to follow the Swedish school plan and to welcome all students. It wasn’t clear how a cult with the word “exclusive” in its name could be open to non-cult members. The decision to permit the school was widely criticised. The group is regarded as isolationist, imposing heavy restrictions on its membership, including those on children at school.

There are 67 elementary schools and six high schools with a religious character in Sweden, mostly Christian. They are outside the public school system, but are governed by Sweden's law on education. The government claims the law is not clear on how much religious influence is allowed in the curriculum. The new rules, which need parliamentary approval, would be introduced in 2009, Bjorklund's spokeswoman Anna Neuman said.

The Council of Europe this month voted to urge European schools to strongly oppose teaching creationism and intelligent design in science classes, saying attacks on the theory of evolution were rooted in religious extremism.
It would also propose to parliament that it enable authorities to swiftly issue fines or, in especially serious cases, close schools that failed to adhere to the new rules. 


"Beginners and outsiders are open to possibilities and don’t make assumptions. By extension, they’re often better at finding solutions the experts have stopped seeing."
~Michael McMillan

Given the above facts, what are the most effective means to attract and engage SWEDES in our battle against religious apathy and secularization ? Tomorrow's post will share some thoughts to which we ask you to add yours. ALL comments will be forwarded to THQ, Stockholm, Sweden.

Sven Ljungholm
Former

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

MARGINALIZE: “to relegate to an unimportant position within a society ” Part -3- of 6


I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
- C. S. Lewis –









Stefan Sward, Pastor of one of Sweden’s largest fellowships, in mid-town Stockholm, suggests that Swedish churches have become marginalized, a word first used in 1970. MARGINALIZE: “to relegate to an unimportant or powerless position within a society or group.”

Sward has two reflections on why the churchs’ voice is becoming silent. He suggests that the traditional free churches have lost their voice. “I think the newspaper ‘Today’ is right in their analysis.” Missing entirely are the colorful and influential leaders in the Missionary Church, The Salvation Army, the Evangelical Free Church, the Alliance Mission, and Baptist Union… We've been silent, marginalized, unknown in the wider society…And is that not the term for the traditional Free Church collapsing?”

A (Baptist) church that once had 3,000 members, today has 266 members, and a majority of 28 members can vote through a binding decision, such as has never been taken by a Christian church in Sweden, and nowhere in the world by a Baptist community.

As I read the changes taking place in Sweden and beyond I see less of a search for truth than I do as dismissing Christ from its history and culture. I would point to two obvious influences; the comfort and quality of life enjoyed and which provides a false sense of security. One might term it intellectual laziness. The second reason would be Sweden’s too prevalent submission to foreign and alien voices demanding an equal voice. Swedes in their pride to remain ultra neutral and honorable go overboard to the point of bankrupting a 900 year tradition of Christian faith. Christianity today varies significantly, not only from denomination to denomination, in Sweden, but from country to country.

In a recent television interview, Charlie Rose questioned Frank McCourt, best-selling author of Angela's Ashes, about his spirituality. McCourt likened all of the world's religions to a smorgasbord or buffet before him,and he takes a little of this from here and a bit of that from there-whatever pleases him and works for the present.

Christianity and the church continue to be tainted by modern culture and influences. The history of both Christianity and Judaism repeatedly demonstrates how religions are influenced by and adapt to surrounding cultures - sometimes in acquiescence to those cultures, however, increasingly in rebellion against them. Wherever the willingness to rethink has been squelched and buried under convention and complacency, the Christian faith in all its forms is in trouble. While some denominations claim to be growing the world in general is indifferent. What is often called “secularism” in Sweden and the rest of Europe is most often a rejection of Christianity, especially on the part some elites and opinion makers. The church is marginalized both within and without and it is relinquishing its tenuous grip on historical Christian authority. Members are jumping ship and the Swedish Lutheran Church has halved its worshipers during the past 20 years.

It isn't a case of people arguing for or against God's existence, it's a case of God, and his Son not having a substantive role in modern day life. Those who actively argue against the church and our faith and values, often do so because there is little left on which to take issue. It's an intellectual exercise where the value is in the arguing per se, not in the issues on which the verbal fencing is grounded. In Sweden I see less of a search for truth than I do a dismissal of Christ’s role in its history, present and future.

In large part this indifference has opened cracks allowing heretical teaching and races and ethnic groups far removed from northern climes to gain a foothold. Their fervor doesn't require anything beyond a casual attempt to exploit and overcome a nine-hundred year old tradition. The same holds true across borders. A USA editorial stated: "The biggest threat to Britain isn’t plague or terrorism-it has survived both before. It is the loss of the faith that shaped it. That’s something that should really frighten our British brethren-and serve as a warning to us on this side of the Atlantic. For in recent history, what has happened there soon spreads to us."

In his new book, The Future of Faith, Harvey Cox makes a helpful distinction between belief and faith.
He writes: “We can believe something to be true without it making much difference to us, but we place our faith only in something that is vital for the way we live.” If faith doesn’t seem essential for living why should I take time to examine it? We can believe without it making a difference.

“Many people are guided by today’s culture driven values and even accept a ‘God’, and that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, but that belief makes no difference in their lives. They possess mere belief but lack faith. The church in many places has begun to placate people to draw them into worship by echoing the ‘right answer’, baiting people, not with Christ, but with heaven. “

It’s a watered down message that people find ‘works for me’, because it costs me nothing and asks nothing of me. The promise of heaven with no strings attached ! Bonhoeffer’s ‘cheap grace’?

God’s plan for man is rather simple to grasp- Faith is is centered in His plan of salvation; the belief that Jesus dies for the sins of the world and His resurrection. The provision of promises and instructions on leading a moral life follow after. We, the church, must be prepared for our mission, if we want to disturb the status quo to secularists, to pray and seek a renewed equipping by the Holy Spirit, and impervious and unreceptive to all the social changes pressing around us. We are not obligated to give equal voice to those attempting to distort Christian truths for 
political gain or to present a hypocritical solution in falsely representing neutrality.

Stanley Sjoberg a leading Christian figure and spokesperson in Sweden shared in his blog; ‘We believe in spiritual freedom, freedom of thought and respect between different philosophies.’ He was speaking specifically to a TV debate in which it was suggested that Christianity be deleted from Swedish history teaching in Swedish public schools.

The Education Minister Jan Björklund and the Left Party are represented by Jonas Gardell who contrast the Christian argument by ridiculing, distorting and describing God as mentally ill. Stefan Gustavsson, Secretary General of the Evangelical Alliance urges his website visitors to listen to the School Board debate and in which he stressed repeatedly that the shift of Christianity's role in the curriculum is not acceptable. Another opponent, Lars Ohly, stated that School Board's proposal was excellent, that it is pursuing the path to SECULARIZE Sweden and that people should avoid being influenced by religion.

“- Human dignity has evolved in a unique and powerful way in the West who have been influenced by Christianity. The idea that every human being has a sacred value goes back to the Christian faith that human beings are created in God's image… Western culture, with its music, literature, science and law, is marked by Christianity, "says Gustavsson. It is a fact whether you believe Christian faith is a good thing or not. “

“There are between three and four thousand churches in Sweden. To suggest that it is not important to know what the Church stands for than to know the various gods in Hinduism is plain nonsense. Christianity has a special status in Sweden. Approximately seven million Swedes are members of a Christian church. Not to recognize that Christianity has a special position is mendacious to reality. “ Lt. Peter Baronowsky SA Regional Commander Latvia






For the Greeks, the ultimate goal was knowledge. "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." For Paul it was; "I know whom I have believed." Salvationists worldwide share this witness;

I know thee who thou art,
And what thy healing name;
For when my fainting heart
The burden nigh o'ercame,
I saw thy footprints on my road
Where lately passed the Son of God.

Thy name is joined with mine
By every human tie,
And my new name is thine,
A child of God am I;
And never more alone, since thou
Art on the road beside me now.

Beside thee as I walk,
I will delight in thee
In sweet communion talk
Of all thou art to me;
The beauty of thy face behold
And know thy mercies manifold.

Let nothing draw me back
Or turn my heart from thee,
But by the Calvary track
Bring me at last to see
The courts of God, that city fair,
And find my name is written there.

The Salvation Army Songbook - No. 59 - Albert Orsborn

Part -3-

Sven Ljungholm
Former
Exeter Temple Corps