December 9, 2009

This past weekend my wife and I returned from a business trip to Stockholm, Sweden. While there we had a wonderful opportunity to sit down and talk with the leaders of a local church of Christ (yes, there is at least one!) The couple (Americans) had been part of a mission team that started the church over 20 years ago, and had returned to lead the congregation again in recent years. They were eager for conversation with American Christians, and were more than gracious to drive over to our hotel for a short visit.

It was fascinating to listen to them, to hear their experiences and struggles. I was struck by how different things are for them in Stockholm compared to our situation in the Bible Belt of America.

1) By far most of the people in Stockholm are atheists. The approach for reaching out to them is therefore much different our approach in the American South. Their discussions focus on things like philosophy, ethics, the origin of the universe, the origin of life, etc. I would love to spend hours listening to them talk about the different approaches they have used in attempts to persuade people to consider Christ, and to bring them to maturity from such a remote starting point.

2) Their culture is very feminist — characterized by strong women and passive men. That creates lots of issues even in the church.

3) In Sweden it is illegal to spank your children (and it has been so for 30 years). Children can report their own parents as abusers by dialing a simple three digit phone number… and that can lead to the child being taken from the parents. As a result, parents are fearful of disciplining their children. Naturally, children grow up without proper respect for authority. This is a real challenge for the church, as they try to carry out their mission to the next generation.

I am reminded of a few things:
1) The need to pray for our brothers and sisters in places like Stockholm.
2) How blessed we are in America, though we admittedly have our own challenges!
3) The need for mature Christian leaders to travel to these young congregations to give advice and to share experiences. This couple genuinely appreciated our short visit. Longer would have been better. Not that I feel like my input is all that special — but they were eager for every thought I offered.

This couple were eager for our input on questions related to raising children — including how to know when a child is ready for baptism. There is such a shortage of people with that kind of experience. Here is yet one more reason for mature American Christians to visit mission congregations. Perhaps that would be a great way to spend retirement.

Meanwhile, please pray for our brothers and sisters in places like Stockholm.

One comment

  1. Couldn't agree more. Our church supports the "Baltic Nordic" churches including the one in Stockholm. Our Evangelist only makes it out once a year unfortunately. I'm hoping to make the trip sometime myself.It's easy to take our faith for granted in this country. It helps to get a different perspective either secular humanist like Sweeden and much of Europe, militant like in Africa, or impoverished like in SE Asia.We forget that Christianity is hard in these environments and our brothers and sisters in Christ are in constant need of prayer.

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