Sweden (MNN) — In Sweden, people know much about church history. They know who Jesus is, and they still choose to hold their marriage ceremonies within the walls of a church.
However, for most, this is as far as their association with faith and religion goes, as only two percent of the Swedish are evangelical believers; about four percent belong to the Lutheran, former state church.
Stewart and Beth Webster of The Evangelical Alliance Mission, along with New Life Church in Stockholm and Gothenburg, are seeking to overcome pre-conceived notions about Christ and the Church in an effort to reach out especially to the younger generation of Sweden in a culturally-sensitive way.
"We're trying to keep our hands on the pulse of the society and the questions they're asking. And what seems to be touching people the most is community, loving relationships, realizing that they don't have to be alone," Stewart Webster said. He sat, surrounded by laughing and chattering youth in New Life Church in Gothenburg, which doubles as a cafe during the week.
Of the youth around him, only about half regularly attended the church, and many did not know Christ as their Savior. However, through visiting teams and church group outreach using friendship evangelism, youth are attracted to the church and the energy and excitement emanating from it.
As TEAM, New Life and the Websters reach out to this next generation, their message is clear. Webster said, "Jesus Christ is for everybody," regardless of one's gender, ethnicity, age, orientation or socio-economic class.
Reaching out with genuine interest in building relationships, while still clearly preaching the whole Gospel message, Webster said he has seen their ministries in Stockholm and Gothenburg grow and diversify. In Stockholm, they now hold two services each Sunday. Half of the congregation is Swedish, while the other half is composed of people from around the world.
TEAM is not just ministering to people within the church walls, however. This Sunday, in celebration of the National Day of Sweden, they plan to hold festivities along the lakeshore in Stockholm after the morning services. The celebration will include worship, fellowship, fun-filled activities and games, and baptisms in the cold lake water.
Overall, they hope the joy of Christ will be apparent to the community of Stockholm, as many others gather in the public space to celebrate their nation.
Webster indicated that too often, there's the mistake of thinking people from developed cultures and economies already know the message of Christ and do not need outreach.
"There's a lot of consciousness that needs to take place toward seeing, particularly, affluent Northern Europe as a place that needs people to come and preach and live out the Gospel," Webster said. "People here are in the same need of the Good News."
Do you want to impact Northern Europe with the Gospel? Visit TEAM's Web site to see more of the incredible work taking place throughout the continent and how you can join in. Also, consider aiding the Websters and New Life Church, who are looking for a new church building in Stockholm, as they quickly outgrow their current one.