Podcast: Can the Church Thrive in Socialism?

Several years ago, when Syrian refugees risked their lives to flee to Europe, thousands of muslim families made their way north to Sweden because of its liberal immigration laws. Pastor Joakim Lundqvist seized an opportunity to reach these families and saw God do amazing things. Now, as the United States welcomes Afghan refugees, we have an opportunity of our own.

In this episode of the Church InTension podcast, TKU President Dr. Jon Chasteen talks to Pastor Joakim about the refugee crisis, operating a church in a socialist environment, and the outreach opportunities it brings.

Dr. Jon Chasteen: All right guys, Pastor Joakim is the pastor of, I’ll just say it, he won’t want me to say it, largest church in Sweden. Word of Life Church in Uppsala, Sweden. What a fun word that is.

Pastor Joakim Lundqvist: It is.

Jon: Uppsala 3,200 members at this church, international network including over 700 churches, quickly approaching 800 churches. Word of Life has an extensive international missions program and has produced millions of books and audio, video materials and several languages. What he would want you to know is that he’s married, how many years?

Joakim: So, coming on 35.

Jon: 35 years. Congratulations.

Joakim: Thank you.

Jon: To Maria and has two daughters Evelina and Julia, let me just give you some stats so you know about my man Joakim. Word of Life Church has sent more than 6,000 people into the mission field. Word of Life Bible school has graduated more than 12,000 students, 12,000 students, but outside of Sweden, they have 15 Bible schools that have graduated 35,000 students.

Word of life Refugee Bible school has graduated more than 500 former Muslims. And so what I want you to know about Joakim is yes, he pastors a great church, but he has a global vision and his ministry, his impact is great. So, Joakim, thanks for being my friend. Thanks for being on the podcast.

Joakim: Thanks so much, Pastor Jon. It’s great to be here.

Jon: I’m so glad that you’re joining us. I really want to dive in. I got a bunch of questions that I want to… We had all these questions planned out and we might get to them, we might not. But as we talked before the podcast started, you kind of let us know of something that I think we should start with. So, we all know what’s kind of happening in Afghanistan and the difficulty and the Taliban coming back in there.

And as Americans, we’re pretty limited on what we know. And I know that your ministry, because of your far reaching in all sorts of different nations in the Word of Life Church, you guys have a ministry that’s happening, boots on the ground, the borders are closed, but you guys have a work that’s happening inside those borders. Tell us what you’re able to tell us. We would love to know what’s happening.

Joakim: I’ll be happy to, we’ve been working in Afghanistan for the last 19 years. So, we’ve been there during the time where this nation and the people of this nation have been allowed a certain amount of freedom. We have a lot of people turning to Christ in Afghanistan.

What is happening now is nothing short of a humanitarian disaster. The Talibans have taken over. Initially, if you all remember the reports, they said, hey, no, we’re nice guys now. And no fear, no panic. But now the borders are closed. Now the Talibans are collecting all the smartphones of the nations.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: So, that nobody will be able to record or share what is about to happen. And just a few days ago, pastor, they announced the public executions are coming back. Already now the universities are right back. But for the first time in 20 years, women are not allowed to go back to universities.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: So, all the freedom that the Afghani people have enjoyed for the past 20 years are now being stripped away from them. And of course the group suffering the most from this is the Christians. Already now we have Taliban raids pointing out, singling out Christian families. And when they find them, they’ll kill them. And if they have daughters that are 20 years or younger, they will be given as sex slaves to Taliban warriors.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: So, what we have been doing now the past few weeks is completely rearranging our work in Afghanistan. Now, praise God, we have about 300 people that we work with. We have the infrastructure, we have the contacts. So, what we’re doing right now is that we are going from village to village, and we are evacuating the Christians into the cities.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim:

Now the reason is that because the Afghani Christian families have been allowed freedom of religion, at least to a certain extent, they’ve been able to be open in their villages on the countryside to their neighbors. There’s been no problem saying, we are a Christian family, but now all of a sudden the Talibans are paying off people to identify and point out the Christians.

And that puts them in grave danger as long as they’re out in the villages, the small towns, the countryside where the majority of the people are living. So, what we’re doing now is we are bringing taxi cabs and to evacuate the people into the cities where we have safe houses and they can disappear in the crowd. And they will be harder to identify.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: And at the same time, we have many Word of Life Churches up in the north, the neighboring nation, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. We have many Word of Life Churches right there who are right now preparing to receive the great influx of Afghani refugees that will start coming as soon as the borders open, at least to some extent. And we want to make sure that when they come, we will give them the love of Jesus Christ.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: We’ll give them medical care, food, clothes, but more than anything, we will share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. So, I do believe that in this dark hour still, there is a seed of revival waiting to happen. But as of now, we have Christian brothers and sisters that are in grave danger. The Bible says that when one limb suffer, we all suffer.

Jon: That’s right. Yeah.

Joakim: And we are called to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. Right now, we have an obligation-

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: … to support them and do whatever we can to bring them into safety.

Jon: So, I’m assuming you would obviously call on our listeners and pastors and other leaders and anybody listening to this podcast to pray. Are there other things that we could be doing, kind of putting you on the spot here, is there anything we can do for you? Can we partner with Word of Life Church? Or is prayer really about it? What would you call on us to do even as Americans? What can we do in this situation?

Joakim: Well, in this urgent situation, every resource that could be released is welcome. I mean, even now we’re evacuating some families, but it’s a grave danger in doing so. First of all, we need private planes for that. And also it’s so easy for them. As we gather a family by the airport, they can be identified and they can be killed. So, as of now, our main mission is to get them into safety as soon as possible.

And then of course we need to provide for them in the new location. As we’ve taken them out of the countryside, we’re also taking them away from their profession and their way to make money. So, we had to provide for them during this time. But of course, any resource that can be given is thankfully received for sure.

But then also I know that there actually have Afghani refugees on their way to the United States. And I do believe from the bottom of my heart that we should look at this as an opportunity to share God’s love with the least of these. So, maybe in your neighborhood, maybe through the ministry of your church, you might come in contact with a Afghani people.

What a wonderful, beautiful opportunity to show them God’s love. And because love is the universal language, it’s the theme of our religion, of our faith and nothing speaks stronger to a former Muslim or even an existing Muslim than to be shown the love of Jesus Christ.

Jon:

So, I want to come back to that in just a minute, because you have an amazing testimony of some of the ways your church has done that. But backing up just a quick second, you shared right before we started the podcast, that there was one particular story that you could share with us about what’s happening in Afghanistan. You shared that?

Joakim:

Sure. A number of years ago we had a great influx of refugees into Europe. I can go into more details of that whole story later on if we have the opportunity and the time, but I guess many would remember the images that was sent out all over the world of people, desperate people getting into inflatable boats and the Mediterranean sea. Whole families.

And imagine the level of desperation you would be in before you bring your wife and your kids on an inflatable boat, out in the middle of an ocean, simply just hoping for a new chance, a new life on the other side of that boat journey, unless, it ends in disaster. Now, when we heard about that, we set up a welcome to Europe station, Word of Life, welcome to Europe station in Athens, Greece, which was the first destination point for these boats.

From Greece and the South of Europe, they would walk up towards Sweden in the north because of our liberal immigration laws. So, we realized this is what’s about to happen. So, we set up a welcome to Europe station in Greece. And it was manned by our young people. We flew down teams of our young people to man that welcome station and to guide the refugees on the way north.

Now, one of these families that ended up in one of these inflatable boats, we heard the story later. It was actually a family from Afghanistan. It was a mother and father and six children. Now they were living outside of Kabul. And one day there was a knock on their door and there was an Afghani warrior standing outside. The father opened the door. The Afghani warrior says, “I want your 12 year old daughter for my wife right now.”

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: And being a father of two daughters-

Jon: Oh man,

Joakim: … myself, just trying to imagine that situation. And he tried to talk him out of it, say, “She’s only 12. I can’t give… She’s my daughter. She’s the apple of my eye.” And the Taliban warrior said, “Okay, I’ll come back tomorrow with my army. And either you give her to me or I’ll kill your entire family.”

Jon: Oh my goodness.

Joakim: And that night as the family went to sleep, this man rolled out his prayer mat. He faced Mecca and he got down on his knees, started crying out Allah in desperation for help. But in the middle of his prayers, he realized he’s been praying to Allah all his life, but Allah’s never answered him. Then somewhere in the back of his mind, he remembered that somebody once told him about a Christian God who was love and only love.

So, in the middle of the night, he starts crying out in his prayer chamber, “Oh Christian God, oh Christian God, if you can hear me, save my daughter and save my family.” Immediately as he cries out, there is a man standing before him shining a bright light. Of course we know who that was. But he didn’t introduce himself by name.

He said, these things, “I will give you food when you are hungry, I will give you clothes when you’re naked, I will give you hope when you are hopeless, and I will give you light in your darkness,” those four strange statements. And then he said, “Okay, take your family, take your belongings and just flee in the middle of the night south and I’ll be with you.”

Long story short, their family ended up on one of the inflatable boats on the Mediterranean Ocean. As they approached Athens, the first thing that they saw was our welcome to Europe station, man by Word of Life, young people who happened to hold up four signs.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: One saying, “If you are hungry, we have food. If you are naked, we have clothes. If you’re without hope, we have hope. And if you are in the darkness, we have light.”

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: And that family realized that whoever these young people are, they’re connected with the person who appeared in the middle of the night, and they all came to faith in Jesus Christ.

Jon: My goodness.

Joakim: And now they’re in Sweden in safety. And every time I see that girl who is now 17 years old-

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: … I just remember and think about what could have happened? And what could have been?

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: But most of all, Pastor Jon, I’m just amazed that Jesus trusted in us completely to be there. What if we hadn’t gone? What if we hadn’t been there? He introduced himself and named himself according to our initiative-

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: … to reach these people. And that just brought me the fear of God. What if we hadn’t been there, He just trusted in us to be and we weren’t. And I do believe that speaks volumes to me, to us, and to the level in which God trusts us to be His hands reached out.

Jon: So, good. And I love what you said we’re just kind of on the heels of the Gateway conference at the time of this recording, you’re in town for that. And you were on a panel and you were mentioning this happened because of Sweden’s liberal border laws.

Joakim: Yes.

Jon: Right? The immigration. And you were talking about how there was people probably in your church, but also in the nation that were afraid.

Joakim: Yes.

Jon: So, all of these Muslims are going to be coming into your country and you made a choice. Okay. We can either be afraid and you kind of went into this thing, I think it’s important because there’s a lot of times when things happen in our church or in our government or in around us that goes against our values.

Sometimes the church is going to rise up in a couple of different ways. We’re going to rise up to protest, or all these different things. Your church made a very important, and maybe it was a challenging choice, I think it’s an important discussion.

Joakim: Yeah, for sure. When news broke about the humanitarian disaster and the upcoming influx of the refugees, we were just left two weeks notice. And we realized what was about to happen. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims are going to come to Sweden. And Sweden’s a small nation.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: It’s only 10 million. So, 10 million people. So, there was a huge panic spreading, even in Christian circles. And of course I want to point out that I’m not making a political statement here. I was not in favor of our liberal immigration laws. And of course we realized that when welcoming all these refugees, we also imported truckloads of social problems.

There was no question about that. The thing is we could not do anything to change our laws. These people were coming regardless of where we thought that was a great idea or not. Which left us as a church with two options really, either we could back away from the situation, we could point our finger and complain about it and write stuff on Facebook.

Jon: That’s so good.

Joakim: Or we could step into the situation believing that inside this problem, there’s a potential. Inside this obstacle, there’s an opportunity. And maybe, just maybe, God has a plan with us not being able to reach these people in Iran and in Syria, but all of a sudden, here they come.

Jon: Now they’re coming to you.

Joakim: Exactly. And the best thing we can do is to just believe that God is about to do a major miracle here.

Jon: I think it’s such a timely discussion. The timing of you being here and being on this podcast is really important because here we sit, depending on the listener, depending on what city you live in, if you’re in the states and maybe you’re… We have listeners in Europe too I do know. Maybe you’re in an area where you’re about to receive some refugees.

I’m in the DFW area and Oklahoma city, both of which I know are recipients of refugees. I was contacted just yesterday as the pastor of a church in Oklahoma city, letting me know that there’s 1,000 refugees from Afghanistan coming to Oklahoma city. I don’t know that stat for DFW, but I’m quite confident they’re coming to DFW too.

And so we were reached out, said, okay, can the church be a part of this? And I think is very important distinctive that we have a choice to make as the local church. You guys stepped into that.

Joakim: Yes.

Jon: What were some of the challenges you faced? This is a question for our listeners, but it’s a question for me. Because here I’m a pastor about to step into saying, okay, well I told the person that called me yesterday. I said the answer’s, “Yes.” But I don’t really even know the question yet.

Joakim: Right.

Jon: Right. Can you help? Yes. But I don’t really know what that means. How do I help? These people have some of the things you did as a church, the banners you got put up, I’ve heard you tell the story. Some of those things are so simple, yet complex. And so walk us through, what do we do? How do we help?

Joakim: Right. I think what I told my church over and over again is just open up your hearts. If we start with that, open up your heart, dare to love these people.

Jon: That’s so good.

Joakim: Dare to start there rather than start with, or starting with structures and technicalities. If our attitude toward these people is not rejection or distance, or skepticism, but actually we see them as created in the image of God-

Jon: That’s so good.

Joakim: … just like we… And loved by God. It’s to the point where he died for them, as well as he died for us, that’s where we had to start. And then we just allowed the creativity of the church to flow. Our young people started classes in the Swedish language with the young people that came. Our business people started giving classes in how the business world of Sweden operates to those who came with a business background.

We have to remember that. Not all people who come are poor beggars.

Jon: Right.

Joakim: These are educated people, intelligent people. Actually the people who actually had the opportunity to escape or primarily those with education and money.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: So, they left behind their business. They left behind their comfortability and now all of a sudden it would be like you and me sitting in an inflatable boat with absolutely nothing.

Jon: Gosh.

Joakim: Just stripped of everything that we had a week ago. And all of a sudden here we are with half a suitcase and our family and that’s it. So, we just did whatever we could to serve any need that they might have.

Jon: Well, and really when you’re stripped down that bear, right? I don’t know that you care if the person helping me believes what I believe.

Joakim: Right.

Jon: I need somebody to feed me.

Joakim: Yeah, exactly.

Jon: I’ll take food from any ethnicity, I’ll take food from any religious background. It’s such a ripe harvest for the church.

Joakim: Right. And especially for a Muslim, because if you start there, that will be to them an incredible statement. And they said so many times, if you guys would’ve come to us in this way, we would not have received you.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: So, why are you receiving us?

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: Even though we are different, even though we have a different religion, even though we have a different set of values and we could just share from the gospel from there. We didn’t start by throwing the Bible in their face, but just kind of loving them, giving them whatever they needed.

Many church members opened their home. We opened our church auditorium as a dormitory-

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: … for refugees.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: And we started throwing, welcome to Sweden parties.

Jon: I love this. You got to tell this story. I love the banner you put up and I love this.

Joakim: Yeah. We put up a big banner saying, Refugees Welcome.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: And all of a sudden now hundreds of refugees started flowing into our church. And then we started doing welcome to Sweden parties. And just simply to tell the Muslims that, hey, you are welcome here.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: You might not believe in Jesus the way we do, but that is not the qualification for us loving you, we’re called to love everyone because God loves everyone. So, the first I remember, we were a bit improvising and making things up as we went. But I remember when we planned out the first welcome to Sweden party, we set a faith goal, if we can have 100 Muslims coming to the church for this party, it would be amazing. Because you have to understand for a Muslim to come into us, a Christian Church-

Jon: Oh man.

Joakim: … that’s a huge step. So, we didn’t get 100, we got 471.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: So, all of a sudden, I’m looking at my church and the hundreds and hundreds of Muslims just being so full of thankfulness because we are reaching out, because we’re helping them. And we had a great night for them and just said, “We are here if you need anything.”

And then we just ended by sharing the brief story of how Jesus and his family went into exile in Egypt after Herod started this massacre of babies and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus had to flee into Egypt and was there for the first few years of Jesus’ life, who said, “Our savior knows all about having to leave your home nation.”

Jon: Which speaks, I was about to say, which speaks directly to their situation. Wow.

Joakim: Exactly. He was a refugee too. Wow. He knows what it’s like to leave everything behind and flee for his life. And because he knows what you’re going through, he can help you in that situation.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: And then a thing that we realized, as we were doing this, as we were loving these people and helping them and doing whatever we could is that when we share Jesus with them, two things, first of all, their response was to such a high degree that we are not only fleeing the terror of the ISIS or persecution, we are fleeing Islam.

We are fleeing our old religion because we are seeing its extreme consequences in the actions of the ISIS, for example. But still they have the concept of God. It’s just that they’re searching for the right one. And all of a sudden I found to my surprise that it was so much easier to share the gospel with a Muslim than a secularized suite.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: And the second thing that happened was that after we shared the gospel with them, it was a down count of three to four days. And then Jesus would show up to them in either a dream or an open vision.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: The things that we hear about in the mission reports taking place in the middle east, all of a sudden, it’s happening in Uppsala, our city in secularized, Sweden. And it says so much to me about how desperate God is. Yes. To love the sons of Ishmael.

Jon: Yes.

Joakim: How desperate he is to restore them, to love them, and to bring them close to his heart and to his arms. So, all of a sudden, now I got so many church members named Muhammad.

Jon: That’s awesome.

Joakim: And it changed the whole dynamics of our church.

Jon: I bet it did. Michelle, my wife, she has studied the Muslim faith and she’s fascinated. And therefore, I became fascinated with this idea that you hear so many stories and you’re sharing these, that of moments where a Muslim has a dream or a vision.

And why that’s a big deal to them. That dreams, that’s the Lord speaking to you. And that Jesus, so many testimonies you hear of a Muslim and having a dream in Jesus. You told one just a moment ago appears to them. And I’m always just amazed at how much God loves us, that He will meet us where we’re at.

Joakim: Exactly. Exactly.

Jon: He’ll meet them, if it dreams what you need, then that’s where I’m going to get you at, I’m going to give you that.

Joakim: I’ll give you a dream.

Jon: I love your church’s model. I love your heart.

Joakim: The beautiful thing you asked me a bit way back. And I’m not really sure I gave you a good answer, but-

Jon: It’s okay.

Joakim: How did the church respond? And how did the church react? Of course, initially there’s always the element of you fear the unknown, you fear what is far away, you fear what you do not know and understand. And I do believe that’s something we just need to get over.

Jon: That’s right.

Joakim: These people are not like us in many ways, but their differences shouldn’t be distractions. But a few of the beautiful things now is I do believe that our mission mindset of our church that we already had before could help us to kind of transition into the situation. So, now, example, for example, what we do every Ramadan the holy season of the Islamic faith.

Yeah. We pray throughout the whole Ramadan. We start praying the day before. Wow. And we pray throughout the entire Ramadan, including the day after. So, we cover the Ramadan in prayer. Wow. Because during Ramadan, the Muslims will pray several times a day, “God, show yourself to me, God, show yourself to me.”

So, in covering that cry in with our prayers, we’ve seen an increase of dreams and visions and all these things that we just talked about. Because again, like you said, they’re calling out in honesty.

Jon: Gosh.

Joakim: They just haven’t been given the opportunity to hear the gospel.

Jon: It so spoke to me when you said that it almost became easier, maybe you didn’t say almost, it did become easier to share their faith with a Muslim than it did a Sweden.

Joakim: So, much easier.

Jon: Sweden and they have such a discipline to them. Obviously the theology is not what we would come into agreement with, but their discipline in their faith actually far outreaches most Christians.

Joakim: Right. For sure.

Jon: Their hunger for God sometimes is greater than our Christian. We see the American Christian, the Western culture of Christianity and so that makes so much sense that they have such a hunger for truth. They such a hunger for the Lord and being drawn to that. So, I love that.

Joakim: And the Bible says so many times that, “If you knock, it will be open. If you seek, you shall find. If you’re hungry, you should you will be fed.” And I do believe it goes for the Muslims as well. It’s not their fault that they grew up in Iran and was not allowed to hear the gospel.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: But God will still respond to that hunger. And he will meet them where they are. And I just adding one more element, as a pastor of hundreds and hundreds of former Muslims now all of a sudden, it’s easier to come across.

Like, “Oh yeah, we shared the gospel with them and now they’re Christians.” And by God’s grace, they’re included in the church. I would actually say that they have contributed to our church.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: These are amazing, amazing people. If you would come to Sweden or know anything about the Swedish mentality, Swedes are very reserved. Swedes are very individualistic and Sweden, actually, when you look at the global value study, the study of values that is happening every year, Sweden always top individuality.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: Nowhere else in the world does belonging to a group or family or things like that mean less than it does in Sweden. But here these people come with a completely different attitude of family. They are family people, and they actually help our church. And now they’re becoming Christians. Now they’re living for Jesus, but they still have that positive element from their culture that we need.

A few times a year, we have this presentation of the different ministries in church. And like, hey, if you want to volunteer in something, here’s your choice. You can do this. You can do that. One thing that I saw these past few years is that we have the elderly ministry, people helping the elderly into the church and serving them a little bit extra.

Normally that’s not really a cool ministry for young people. We don’t get many teenagers involved in that. But all of a sudden, we got so many former Muslim young men wanting to do that.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: Because in their culture, there’s nothing more honorable than serving the elderly in your community.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: And all of a sudden they are helping us.

Jon: They’re making you better.

Joakim: Set a new standard. They’re making us better.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: Which is a beautiful thing because I do believe that the church should be the one place in society that shows the world how integration really supposed to happen. My nation Sweden is failing miserably when it comes to integrating the refugees.

But I do believe that church should be a place of integration. Generational integration, ethnical integration, cultural integration. If anyone should be able to handle-

Jon: Should be us.

Joakim: … all these difference, it should be us.

Jon: Yes. Well, Joakim one of the things I love about you is that I’ve met with you many times, we’ve spoke on the phone many times, you’re always happy. And so I had this thought, you’re the only Swed that I know.

So, I had this picture of, well, this is just how Swedish people are. This is just what they do. And then a couple weeks ago I met my second Swed.

Joakim: Right. And it was the original version.

Jon: It was the OG version. And within 30 seconds, I was like, okay, this conversation’s over, moving on. So, the reason I point that out is because in the American church, and I know we have international listeners too, but I’ll speak specifically to the American church, there’s this, I’m going to call it a fear that our heritage of America, our freedoms, all of those things are being impeded upon.

There’s a fear sweeping through America, through the Christian Church of America, that the political climate, the direction of our nation, all of these things are frightening. Okay. Towards socialism, towards Marxism, towards all these inflammable words. Right?

Joakim: Yes.

Jon: And I’m not devaluing that. I think that there is concern and I think there’s reason to be concerned. What I love about listening to you and what I love about spending time with you is that here you are building a great church, an amazing testimony, we hear all these amazing stories, you live in the most socialistic nation in the world. Do you not?

Joakim: Mm-hmm. I mean, so the-

Jon: Most close.

Joakim: Yeah. The second most secularized and one of the most socialistic, for sure.

Jon: So, I think it’s, not that I’m saying as, listen, please listeners, don’t hear me wrong, I’m not saying we just give up and stop fighting and stop fighting for our freedoms. We should do all those things. But also we should just start to say, you know what? It doesn’t have to stop the church.

Joakim: Right.

Jon: So, the church doesn’t rise and fall on the state of our nation. That’s where I’ll find encouragement through you. Is the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, even in a socialistic nation. So, how do you balance this? How do you still build a great church and lead people in a socialistic society?

Joakim: Right. I’m going to try to tread carefully. And if I mess up, you just have to clean it up in the next podcast.

Jon: That’s right. But is the church intention, talk about intention-

Joakim: Yeah. I want to speak my heart in this. Because first of all, it is a lie that the church needs a friendly society to bloom. It’s the opposite way around. If you look at church history, every time there’s been a successful growing season where the church has thrived, it’s been in seasons of persecution.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: I’m not saying we should be persecuted because we mess up. I mean, Peter is completely kind of nailing us regarding that. Nobody should suffer because you are acting in a wrongful manner, but when you are persecuted for the sake of Christ, you should rejoice.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: And even now as we speak, the nations that have the strongest revival are not the ones with the strongest Christian culture, is the opposite. The church is growing faster than anywhere in the world, in China and in Iran, those are the most hostile-

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: … nations and societies toward the Christian faith. And I do believe we just kind of need to come back to that mindset that we don’t need a friendly society for the church to be successful and to grow and expand.

And also coming from me, a pastor in a nation that is post-Christian, and might ethically and morally be where you guys might be worst case scenario in a number of decades, I see ungodly and immoral laws being passed all the time by our government. Every time we speak out, we say, no, we say we don’t approve. I’m not saying we should be silent. I should’ve said, we should raise our voice.

Jon: That’s right.

Joakim: We should speak out for the unborn. We should speak out for good values-

Jon: Absolutely.

Joakim: … Christian morals. Absolutely. But our main calling, I’m not saying our only calling, I’m saying our main calling and the very best thing we can do for society is to lift up the name of Jesus.

Jon: Oh.

Joakim: Is to preach the gospel of Jesus. I mean, even though we have to say no sometimes, our main calling and let’s not ever forget that is to proclaim the name of Jesus, salvation in the blood of Jesus, salvation in the name of Jesus.

And that’s the best favor we can do to our society. If we turn ourselves into a political organization, if everything that we do and say are angry comments on Facebook, we are degrading ourselves.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: We’re stepping out of our high priest calling. And we’re not being the salt and light that we’re supposed to be. We’re being this marginalized group on the outskirts of society known for being angry at anything and fighting among ourselves. Shame on us.

Jon: Oh.

Joakim: Shame on us if we slip down that road, if we slip down that slope. I do believe that every church, any church that has this main theme center around the good news, the gospel of Jesus, will thrive regardless of situation, regardless of the current weather, and the current circumstances.

Jon: That’s, I don’t even know where to go from there. That’s so good. And I love what you’re saying, because please don’t misunderstand us. We’re not saying that we don’t fight. We don’t speak up-

Joakim: Absolutely not.

Jon: … for those things, but it can’t be-

Joakim: For sure.

Jon: … the steering wheel for our churches. It’s not. Keep the main thing, the main thing.

Joakim: Yes.

Jon: Joakim… Yeah, go ahead.

Joakim: And I do believe if I was the devil, and I’m so happy I’m not, knowing what power is placed inside the church by Jesus Christ, knowing the authority, knowing the influence, knowing the power that is associated and connected with the church of Jesus Christ, I would work overtime to get it to become something that is not called to be.

If I can’t have it ceased to exist, I would just try to put it inside the four walls of a church and have them all arguing about things that doesn’t really make any difference in the long run. But because the second they step out and start living the Jesus life, and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, and speak more about salvation, and joy, and hope, and forgiveness, than about back sliding nations and all the horrible outcomes and moral values being erased, that’s where we have our greatest power.

Jon: And there’s people out listeners that are way smarter than me at this, but there’s a portion of CS Lewis’s book, Screwtape Letters, where the enemy is telling this strategy, is it this? Is it this? Is it this? No. And I’m paraphrasing. It just talks about no, we’re just going to distract them.

Joakim: Right. Exactly.

Jon: So, let’s just keep them distracted. Let’s keep them opposed to one another, and we won’t have to keep them from doing anything. They’ll keep themselves from doing anything.

Joakim: Right.

Jon: So, good. One last thing before we get off here at Joakim, I listed off your bio just a moment ago with 790 churches and your Bible schools and all of the things that are happening, not just in Sweden, but all over the world. And then you’re in the states quite some time.

Joakim: Right.

Jon: You’re speaking for me, you’re speaking at Gateway. You’re speaking at churches all over America. Tell me something about your leadership. How is this possible? How do you delegate? What is your leadership style to help make sure all of this is going and you don’t go crazy in the process?

Joakim: Right. Well, I think I was close to getting crazy in the process a few times, but it’s a great question. I do believe that one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is to try to trust in people the way God trusts in me and other people.

When I read the Bible, I’m amazed at how much trust God puts in imperfect people. He came to Gideon in Judges 6 when Gideon’s only qualification is being scared to death really.

Jon: That’s exactly right.

Joakim: Yeah. And He told him, “In my eyes you’re a mighty warrior.” He came to a man without any kids saying, “In my eyes, you are a father of many people.” He came to teenage girl, imagine that she must have been 13 or something and said, okay, can I get your help in bringing the second part of the Trinity into this world?

Jon: No pressure.

Joakim: No pressure at all. And all these imperfect, all these weak vessels like me, but I do believe that the way God trusts in people is the way we should trust in people. And I’d rather commit the sin of trusting people too much than trusting them too little and kind of holding on to everything myself.

I try to be good at delegating, and I try to be good at raising up young leaders. A number of years ago, God spoke to me, was just two and a half years ago actually, to start spend 40% of my time with people half my age or younger.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: And just releasing the next generation into leadership. Not of course leaving them to do whatever they want, but I do believe in the generational connection. Right? Don’t do everything, but I’m just kind of the spiritual father, the spiritual parent of the house.

Jon: Wow.

Joakim: So, for example, Marie, my wife and I, we took a six month sabbatical this spring. And sometimes when I met pastor colleagues, they kind of came across like, how do you dare do that? What if they take your church and run with it?

Jon: Then you’ll get to rest.

Joakim: Yeah. Well, that’s one perspective. But actually that thought, that angle hadn’t really occurred to me. We have such a wonderful, beautiful, amazing group of people back home. And I do believe that part of it might go back to the fact that we have, our emphasis has been three major things. And that combination I do believe has been key to us being able to do what we’re doing and expanding the way we have.

A strong foundation in the word of God, we can never do Christianity without a strong foundation in the word of God, in every single believer, hence the Bible schools. That’s why we ask every single of our young people to take a gap year after high school and go to Bible school for one year.

Jon:

That’s great.

Joakim: Whatever you’re supposed to do later on in life, have a strong firm foundation in the world of God.

Jon: That’s great.

Joakim: Secondly, a personal experience with the Holy Spirit, the up feeling on the Holy Spirit, worship, prayer, all those elements. And then thirdly mission, which keeps us healthy or make sure that our Christianity will not be only internal, but that will constantly be something that we give away to other people.

Can be social mission, evangelistic mission, traveling to other nations or the mission field that is just around your corner. So, I do believe that combination of those three has kept us really healthy. But then of course we’re nowhere near perfect. And we’re all always trying to be better and asking God to forgive our weaknesses.

Jon: Well, Joakim I know that you make me better. I love you. I appreciate you. I consider you a dear friend. And while ago, when you said, God told you to spend 40% of your time with people half your age, I know I’m not half your age. So, I’m thankful that I’m in the 60% of your time. I so appreciate you.

And so people want to follow what’s happening in your ministry. Maybe they want to reach out to your ministry and partner with the work in Afghanistan or other things happening around the world, is there a website? Is there an Instagram page? Is there something they can go to follow you?

Joakim: If you want to stick to English, you can just Google Word of Life, Sweden, and that will bring you to our website. Otherwise, our Swedish name is Livets Ord: livetsord.se, that will be the Swedish website, but we have an English version as well.

So, Word of Life, Sweden, if you Google that, you can enter our website. You can give a donation if you want to, and you can write specifically if there’s any certain calls like Afghanistan, for example, that you would want to support and we would be so happy and so grateful for any contribution.

Jon: So, what was that Swedish name again?

Joakim: Livets Ord. That’s Word of Life. Life word really.

Jon: Why is that? Why is English so boring?

Joakim: I wouldn’t say.

Jon: Swedish is such a cool language.

Joakim: It is quite a cool language. You can be called Joakim Lundqvist and all those things, yeah.

Jon: And have people butcher your names all the time.

Joakim: Yeah. But that’s okay.

Jon: What’s the most common mistake people make on your name?

Joakim: It’s when they go Jokum.

Jon: Jokum.

Joakim: Jokum, Jokumo. So, normally would I say if people ask me how to pronounce your first name, I say, imagine a rapper greeting the North Korean dictators.

Jon: Exactly.

Joakim: Yo-Kim.

Jon: Yo- Kim. That’s how I remembered it.

Joakim: Yeah. That’s right. Or you can just go the easy way and call me pastor you’re welcome.

Jon: You’re welcome.

Joakim: That’s not too far away.

Jon: Love you, man. Thanks so much for being on the podcast.

Joakim: Thank you for having me pastor.

Jon: Listeners, we appreciate you. If you could, take a second and give us a review on whatever platform you’re watching, give us the stars, give us comments, share on social media. We love you guys. Praying for you and your ministry and all the things that God is doing in and through you. We pray that this podcast help you. Love you and see you on the next episode.

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The Church InTension podcast is a place to have healthy conversations about areas of tension and the intentions of the Church. Hosted by Dr. Jon Chasteen and powered by The King's University and Gateway Church.