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Leaders in an Adverse Wind

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I am reading an excellent commentary to 2 Corinthians titled ”Leaders in Adverse Wind”, for the third time this year. The authors – pastor Sören Perder in Örebro and pastor Marcus Sönnerbrandt in Linköping – has produced an outstanding work, writing this commentary. 

Not only does it give the reader knowledge and insight into the situation of the church in Corinth, but many details worth pondering,  are  given in the book. An example: Did you know that this is in fact the apostle´s fourth letter to the Corinthians? The authors argue their points very convincingly.

They also solve another problem, the question if 2nd Corinthians should be divided into two, the reason being that Paul has a different approach to the church in chapters 1-9 than in chapters 10-13. The Vineyard pastor and theologian Hans Johansson argues that you need to think two letters, while Perder and Sönnerbrandt hold the view – with very good reasons in my opinion – that you should stick to Christian tradition and hold on to the view that 2nd Corinthians is one letter. Also, they show in their commentary that Paul holds to the antique rhetorical tradition how a letter should be constructed in order to reach its purpose. We have to keep in mind that Corinth was a Greek city that was very well familiar with this way of reasoning. Paul also shows his deep knowledge concerning this. The most important reason for treating the letter as one letter only is according to the authors that Paul seeks to win over the church for his views on the matter and also that Paul seeks to clarify what his enemies are up to: to hurt their relationship (i.e. the one between the church and Paul) completely. Thus, it is quite possible for Paul to be conciliatory towards the major part of the church (consisting of about 100 members when the letter was written) and at the same time hold a radically polemic attitude towards the false brethren and apostles. The leaders that had taken over the leadership have among other things questioned Paul´s apostleship, they have worked against him, cast suspicions on his motifs and actions. For instance, he had not visited them like he had promised to do and he had supported himself (and therefore showed that his theology wasn´t of much worth)

They had gotten most of the church to turn their backs on him. They don´t hold and doctrinal view that is heretical per se, but the preaching is still wrong since it is different from what Paul the apostle teaches. Thus, a few things here and a few things there have grown to big proportions. Now they are trying to silence Paul, for instance by accusing him of mistreating the church. They say that Paul is a bad preacher. He doesn´t provide enough charismatic gifts and sign and wonders. 

They are in fact accusing him of being a bad apostle. They themselves on the other hand are much better, they claim.  Who are these non-believers and false apostles as Paul holds them to be?

They are leaders with strong charismatic gifts (however, observe that that doesn´t make them Christians or worth following!) They have arrived in Corinth and in fact made a coup d´état, they had quite simply seized power. Theu had come bringing letters of recommendation that they had used to take over leadership. Now they had furthermore done what false apostles and leaders like to do: they use their stolen position of power in a wrong way and they base a lot of it on the contempt they spread, slandering Paul. They climb onto Paul´s shoulders and compare themselves to Paul, using their own measuring-rod.

And guess what: they win that comparison since Paul isn´t there to defend himself. ( I also think that they have used a kind of paralyzing accusation that is still being used today. Theu accuse Paul of defending himself and in their eyes that proves he is wrong. This way of reasoning likes to refer to Jesus whi refrained from defending himself bore the Romans and the Jews. However, they fail to realize that everybody knows that those who accused Jesus were wrong and that everybody knew that. People in situations like that don´t get the whole world´s attention on how wrong the perpetrators were! Hence, the only logic thing is that the victims should have the right to defend themselves!)

How does Paul defend himself?

He clarifies how wrong the non-believers are. He draws the conclusion that they call themselves Jesus believers without being that. The church should have been able to realize that. The Jesus-like character of Paul and the preaching cannot be found in the false apostles, no matter their ecstatic spiritual experiences.

Thus, he attacks their claims on authority and genuine spiritual life. Hugo Oderberg has also written commentaries on the letters to Corinth. He observes that a true apostle is a pioneer who founds new churches. The false apostles are of course aware of that, but they are not willing the embrace the conditions of true apostleship: that is all the suffering, the loneliness and abuse with which the world attacks the apostles. They also seek to escape what was most difficult to the apostle Paul: the ”false brothers”, that is those who from within the churches seek to ruin what gives Paul joy in his life: the fruit of his life´s work. The main theme in the letter can be found in chapter 5:11-6:2, addresses what is the very heart in our Christian faith: Reconciliation. All Christian confession, faith and life are characterized by what God in Jesus through the Spirit is and has done for us, and most importantly, has done in our place. The reality is that we through Adam´s sin lost our position as God´s children and now deserve our status as broken sinners. Despite our being created in the image of God, we have lost that position and cannot atone for or heal this ourselves. However, through the atoning death of Jesus Christ, God as both subject and object has reconciled us with God. Everything can be redeemed through faith in the last Adam, the one who atoned for our sins. He is God, the Son, who was made into ”sin” totally and wholly and took the punishment for our transgressions and died in our place. 

This atonement is the foundation for Paul´s theological teaching that we need to be reconciled with God and with each other. This has been made possible through God´s gift of love through Jesus Christ. What was impossible to man is now possible through Jesus, hallelujah!

Thus, Paul seeks to reach a ”restored relationship with the church”, which is the main purpose of this fourth letter.

He argues passionately for this and seeks to win over the church in Corinth. His motif is of course the most important thing of all: to stand up for truth about Jesus and with what´s best for the church. This is his criterion. In fact, he confesses that in his weakness is his true strength. One more thing is very clear in this letter: chapters 8-9 are important. They are about generosity being important in a Christian´s character. It is not about everybody having responsibility that all believers are expected to show. Here it is about the needs of the original church, the church in Jerusalem, their need for financial support.

The Corinthians have offered to help. But Paul is concerned that if they so quickly have changed their views of him, they may change their minds about giving and stop giving generously to them in Jerusalem. He points out that it is a question of balance. We all belong together and we have received their spiritual riches: preaching, apostolic ministry and a direct historic line to Jesus himself and thus we are obliged to respond and give from our riches, in this case financially. The apostle also points out that the very essence of God is incomprehensible generosity. So, he calls for all to open their hands to receive and open hands to give to others of all that God has given: money of course, but also charismatic gifts, comfort etc. In fact, everything is first and foremost there to be received with thanksgiving and then to be passed on.

There is of course a lot more to be said about his commentary, this is just a short summary to give us insight into how we today treat each other in our church and in the body of Christ.

”Leaders in an adverse wind” is a very important wind. Buy it! (Libris förlag) Read it on your own and read it together with others. Suggestion: In our church Mosaik we read this book this year to deepen our leadership. Also, spread the book to others!

Final article in the series on us, Wimber and Vineyard Norden

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Faith and life-series published August 19th 2020 in Världen Idag

The years go by so quickly, I notice, as I get the opportunity to go back and remind myself of what God did during some intense years, beginning 1988 and onwards.

What happened in Vineyard in the Nordic countries after the renewal? My wife Lotta and I became Nordic leaders in 1988 and came to focus on the development in the 5 Nordic countries and Russia. Brent Rue came to be very important in breeding a radical commitment for missionary work in me, as he was invited to share responsibility for founding churches i Sibiria.

His vision was for all people to be reached with the gospel and for every local church to be part of this worldwide commitment.

To Stockholm Vineyard sending groups to plant new churches resulted in a loss of members, and the renewal meetings stopped. Thus, we decided to from the car sales hall to the assembly hall at Skytteholmsskolan. The focus was more and more on evangelization and missions.

Towards the end of 2003 we passed on our leadership of Stockholm Vineyard to Ted and Siw Jeans. After a few years we felt it was time for us to plant a church in Uppsala together with Ida and Markus Sandström. Little by little this church became a Mosaik – a house church in Uppsala with a strong focus on evangelization and street mission. Today the church is led by Sarah and Micael Grenholm.

What did actually happen during these much spoken of renewal meetings in the mid-1990s? We know from the many testimonies we have received through the years that people met God and that these meetings left positive marks on many people´s lives.

Church history tells us that practically all revivals and renewals have had various reactions and opinions of what took place, and quite often the outsiders reacted to what they considered over-emotional meetings and, in some cases, strange reactions/behaviour from those who encountered God. We also met these reactions to our meetings.

However, many had a very personal encounter with God that had a positive impact on their lives for a long time.

Hans Martinusson, pastor and entrepreneur, gives his personal testimony, describing his experience from a renewal meeting in the mid-1990s:

” I would like to share a period of my life around 1995. I was working in a team in a Pentecostal church and we worked very hard to reach people with the gospel. We were working with people in difficult social circumstances. It was great fun but also very hard. I had a tremendous hunger for more of Jesus.

In January 1995 I went to a meeting and got to experience what many called the Toronto blessing. I remember that meeting at the end of January very fondly. During intercession I went forward for prayer and they prayed for me, and I remember falling down on the floor under the power of God. There I was on the floor, experiencing the power of God, but after five to ten minutes it seemed to fade. I had thoughts like: Maybe all this was just my doing, or was it really You, God?

After spending some time on the floor arguing with myself, I said to God: ”Don´t allow me to lie here doubting, but fill me with your life again!” What then happened to me was something quite marvellous: God filled me with such joy that I laughed for four hours. 

It was a very remarkable situation, since I was filled with joy for many days after that and the power of God rested upon me in such a mighty way that I noticed how people started to laugh all around me, the joy quite simply spread. Some people reacted in a very strong way with anger, saying that this could not happen when you encounter God. Many judged what could be seen on the outside, but to me the fruit was so obvious and fantastic..

My hunger didn´t stop there, but soon I went to a conference, held in Stockholm Vineyard. There so many spiritually hungry people came together from many different churches in Sweden and we fellowshipped with Salvationists, Lutherans, Baptists, Congregationalists and Pentecostals and many more…

What had happened in my life was that the Holy Spirit had come in such a powerful way that it changed my life forever. That spring I experienced the Holy Spirit taking over my life, in a positive way. When I sat down to prepare my sermon, it was like someone had anointed my pen and preparing was so much easier than before. This flow of the Spirit has stayed on in my life even until today.”

Hans Sundberg

Toronto – a blessing that touches Sweden (publ in Världen Idag)

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The Toronto blessing – a renewal that touched Sweden

The rumor of ” meetings of renewal” spread. Soon people started to come to the meetings in Stockholm Vineyard to seek God, Hans Sundberg writes.

Faith and life – series August 5th 2020

From the very beginning of the Vineyard history in the Nordic countries, God worked through signs and wonders to heal and restore people. But we were hungry and constantly prayed for more of the Spirit of God.

In connection with the conference held by Nya Läglar in Stockholm with among others Marc Dupont, we came to experience an increasing holy presence. Soon many started to come to our meetings in Stockholm Vineyard to seek God.

Perhaps the rumors of strange reactions also contributed to this growing attention and interest? The reactions to meeting God could certainly be expressed in bubbling laughter, liberating crying, jumping, dancing and falling over, but also in being still before the Lord. It was all about being touched by love and healing from God.

For a few years in the mid-90s we had several renewal meetings and conferences with the theme ”Come Holy Spirit”. We continued with our house groups and asked our members to prioritize the Sunday service. At the same time, we as a church had to acknowledge that we were in a time of visitation.

We found it very important to come together as a church during this time, and also to minister to those who visited us from other churches. We knew that we were not supposed to create a megachurch of all the visitors, so we sent them back to the churches they had come from and prayed that God would continue his work there.

There were within the Toronto Blessings certain linguistic expressions that we very early chose to change. They said the what happened in the meetings were ”manifestations” of the Spirit. I couldn´t find that this was in accordance with what Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 12:7-9 about the gifts of the Spirit.

We decided to describe these phenomena as ”reactions” to being touched by God. Sometimes it was perhaps a person´s own reaction in a broken situation. If the reactions turned out to be demonic reactions, and the casting out of demons took up too much time or space, we always helped the person to a secluded room, where experienced intercessors prayed for him/her.

We had many devoted intercessors, also from other churches. Toronto Vineyard advised us to train all those taking part as intercessors. We wished to treat everybody in a correct way. Thus, we prioritized women praying for women and never practicing the laying on of hands in a way that would be uncomfortable to the one being prayed for.

Every meeting had a leader that was especially appointed to be in charge of the intercession. For practical reasons we saw to it that the places for prayer had plenty of space if someone should fall to the floor during the intercession. It happened quite often, but we were always very careful to stress that the intercessors should never communicate an anticipation of a physical reaction to prayer.

We encouraged the intercessors to avoid putting their hands on the forehead of the one being prayed for, since it could be interpreted as a well-meaning light push. Nobody was to be manipulated into falling.

Rumors of these ”meetings of renewal” spread. Then suddenly we were faced with a challenge concerning the facilities where we met. The restaurant in Alvik changed owners and the new owners gave us a shock rise of our rent. We decided to try to find a new place, which we needed quite quickly, since we were planning for a big conference to take place in January 1995.

We advertised the conference with all the information needed plus adding the little ”place will be announced later”. Our whole church united in prayer for a new place.

There was a big car sales hall in Solna, where we had bought our own car. The present car salesman rented the premises with a long-term contract from a big insurance company. The car salesman wished to break the time of leasing, but the insurance company didn´t accept that, unless they could find someone else that would rent the facilities. We wanted to be that someone.

However, we realized that it would be absolutely impossible for us to pay the present rent. Instead, we offered a sum which we- believing God for an economic miracle- thought could be possible for us to pay.

Our contact at the care sales hall was a Christian and he went to his boss with our proposal: that the car sales man should pay half of the rent and we-the new tenants- would pay the other half. Our friend told us that he was so nervous when he went to the meeting, but he also sensed that the proposal was from God. We were delighted to learn the boss accepted the proposal.

The conference was to take place three weeks later. We were in a hurry to transform the premises from a gigantic car sales hall to a meeting place. How an empty hall could be transformed into a conference hall in just three weeks, well, that I will tell you in my next article.

Hans Sundberg

The Toronto blessing, publ in Världen Idag

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The Toronto blessing – The abundant outpouring of the Spirit

Pastor Randy Clark was preaching at weekend of meetings. That weekend the Spirit of God came upon the church in a way they had never experienced before, and rumour of this spread far and wide. People came from afar to receive this renewal , Hans Sundberg writes. 

Faith and life- series published August 4th 2020

In 1994 a spiritual wave of renewal in the Vineyard church in Toronto, Canada and spread all over the world.

John and Carol Arnott were pastors in a church of about 300 members. However, from January 1994 this changed. For a period of three years they had Sunday services and also services every evening Tuesday-Sunday with about 600 000 people totally. What compelled people from all over the world to go to Toronto?

It started after Randy Clark, then pastor in St. Louis Vineyard, was called to Toronto to speak at a weekend. That weekend the Spirit of God came upon the church in a way they had never experienced before, and rumor of this spread far and wide. People came from afar to receive this renewal.

What was ”new”, was per se nothing new, since revival history tells of several similar powerful occasions, but in Toronto it manifested in strange physical phenomena like shakings, laughter and crying. The leadership in Toronto considered these to be ”manifestations” likening them to what is described as the spiritual gifts of grace in 1 Corinth, 12:4-6.

The renewal in Toronto came to be known as the Toronto blessing. This renewal was a place of encountering God.. Perhaps another name for this renewal gives the most profound meaning of it: ”Catch the fire”. The Holy Spirit that baptized the 120 disciples on the day of Pentecost with tongues of fire, is the same Spirit today and wants to fill all those longing for it and are willing to receive him.

Once again God´s Holy Spirit had opened a spring lake to thirsty people longing for new life. Different traditions have different ways to reach the spring, but it is the same God and Father who in Jesus meets his children with his Spirit; and then it´s not that strange to find that the children react in different and expressive ways.

Sometimes it is just not possible to remain silent or pretend not have been touched emotionally by him. We who were present in Toronto will never forget how God touched us through the intercession, the preaching and, not the least through worship songs.

John Arnott has written about his own personal journey and his biblical reflections on the renewal in his book The Father´s Blessing (1995). It is an important book for anyone who would like to understand how the renewal was perceived and how questions were answered.

I would especially like to point to the obvious choice   of title for his book: The Father´s blessing. He didn´t call the book ”The Toronto Blessing”, since it was in fact the Father´s blessing, not that of Toronto. 

In his book, Arnott then chose to point out very strongly and underline that it was all about a good Father meeting his beloved children. It was the Spirit of God touching people with his love.

People from a variety of denominations and movements came to Toronto: Pentecostals, Charismatics, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists and God met them all. There are countless testimonies from people who had their lives changed during this period of time.

In Great Britain the HTB (Holy Trinity Brompton) became the center of the same renewal, as the Toronto Blessing came to England. The church of Holy Trinity Brompton had already experience renewal and change after a visit by John Wimber and his team.

From this visit also arose the world-famous evangelization programme Alpha, as the founder of Alpha, Nicky Gumbel met Jesus in a life changing and radical way.

As for Sweden, the Stockholm Vineyard became the center of this wave of renewal. We arranged many big conferences and renewal meeting several times a week for some years.

The renewal then spread all over the world from renewal centers like Toronto Airport, Holy Trinity Brompton i London and Stockholm Vineyard.

I will share more about the time of renewal in Stockholm Vineyard in another article

Hans Sundberg.

Stockholm Vineyard is established, publ in Världen Idag

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Stockholm Vineyard is established and gets its own premises

the meetings were filled with excitement looking forward to God was going to do. Many people met God, not the least in connection with the intercession and the prophetic words at the end of the service. This is what Hans Sundberg writes about the meetings in the premises in Alvik that Stockholm Vineyard inaugurated in 1992.

Faith and life -series July 29th 2020

Our growing fellowship needed somewhere to meet. We had no idea to solve that, but we felt that God led us to Alvik Strand. Suddenly we found ourselves standing in front of a building, where there was a restaurant. Was this the right place?

At that very moment a woman with the gift of prophecy called me to say that God´s Spirit had told her: ”Everything is ready, even curtains and table cloths are in place.” And was exactly true. We offered them a sum of money and could rent the restaurant twice a week, provided we let them serve food at our meetings and take care of the cleaning. Everything had been prepared!

When it was time for the inauguration service, we had just had a church weekend as well as a leadership conference on Blidö. The speakers were Håkan Sunnliden, Brent Rue, Larry Randolph and myself.

At the Sunday service Lotta and I were ordained as principal leaders. Hans and Lisbet Johansson and Ted and Siw Jeans were ordained pastors in the church.

The Spirit of God was shed abroad in a powerful way during this inauguration weekend and we looked forward to the autumn before us. Our adventure had started.

Our services always started with the most important thing: time for worship. Then fellowship (coffeetime) and after that the preaching of God´s word.

I felt that we were to teach and expand the Bible texts, chapter by chapter, every Sunday. When I left as a principal leader 11 years later, we had covered the entire New Testament and parts of the Old Testament.

Our house groups then could take up the Sunday teaching as starting points for the conversation at our weekly meeting. We also celebrated the Lord´s Supper every month.

To us the gifts of the Spirit were a natural part of church life, so we always gave time to share prophetic words in the service. The meetings were filled with great expectation for what God would do. Lots of people had an encounter with God, not the least in connection with the intercession and the prophetic words at the end of the service.

In accordance with Paul´s words 1 Cor. 14:1-5, the prophetic word should be given with the intent to encourage and comfort the person who received them. The recipient should test the word, we always very carefully reminded all of. 

If there was any doubt or insecurity about the word that had been shared, the recipient was encouraged to speak to the leader of the meeting or the pastor for help with discernment. Our position was that everybody can hear the voice of God, in accordance with the words of Jesus: ” My sheep listen to my voice.” (John 10: 27)

One Sunday as I was preaching in the Restaurant, a woman entered. When I saw her, I heard in the middle of my sermon, the Spirit of God say: Prophesy to her! I interrupted my sermon and turned to the woman and shared the words I sensed that God wanted to tell her. Then I went on with my sermon and thought that we could talk to her and pray with her later on. However, she left the premises.

A few weeks later on a young man came up to me and said that he was the son of this woman. He said that his mother hadn´t been interested in Christian faith before, neither had she shown any interest in visiting our services.

That very Sunday he had asked her to take his car to Alvik and then bring the car keys to the restaurant. The son had promised her: ”Don´t worry, I´ll be sitting at the exit, so you just have to pop in for a few seconds.” However, God had other plans. The words had touched her deeply and a few weeks later she accepted Jesus as her Saviour at a Pentecostal church in Stockholm.

The church consisted of many smaller house groups where care and discipleship could take place in a safe environment. Both the bigger worship fellowship and the smaller house group were equally important to us and this constituted our concept of membership.

The house group was the place where we encouraged living relationships with God and with each other in everyday life, and it was also place where we ventilated various church issues, it was a way to ensure a sound development in our church. In addition to that, we were united in worship at the bigger meeting and all this gave birth to our hearts committing to each other.

The house group was the basis for living the Great Commission (Matt. 28;18-20) We admonished each group to always have an empty chair ready to welcome new people to share our fellowship, since closed groups have a tendency to stagnate after a short time. 

Our calling was to show care not just to the members of the house group but to share it with others. Among other things, to feed people we knew were in need. We also organized food distribution and offered intercession etc. through groups that went out into the streets and squares.

The next article will be about the outpouring of the Spirit in Toronto in 1994

Hans Sundberg