We (my family) just got back last Friday from Sweden, where we spent 1.5 weeks. I can tell you that there is spiritual life in Sweden! Pastor Sven (Filadelfia church in Nykoping) has 20 cells and 200 attending. Pastor P.J. has 45 cells and approximately 300 people (New Life Center in VÃ¤sterÃ¥s). These two cell churches live on the cutting edge, and I had the privilege of holding seminars and preaching in both of their churches.
Sweden, which was once a “Christian” country, is now secular and materialistic, with only 5% attending church and 23% believing in a personal God. This country was once a missionary sending base but has largely forgotton the God who made it great. The country is truly impressive (e.g., scenery, landscape, transportation system, fashion, multiple languages, etc.), and we as a family greatly enjoyed our time there. Yet, the last night of the trip I couldn’t get to sleep as I thought of the spiritual poverty that can easily go unnoticed in the midst of prosperity.
Pastor Sven told me that many pastors from other countries come to Sweden to promote their particular models of church growth. Yet, the models don’t seem to work. “We don’t need more models,” Sven confirmed. “We need Christ’s power working in our midst.” Sven, a gifted networker, loves the cell strategy because it’s Biblical, based on principles, and focuses on relationships. “The only way to reach the people in Sweden,” Sven told me, “is to develop relationships with them. People are turned off to organized religion, but they desperately need Jesus. Often they’re more open to come to a cell group before celebration.” I was impressed that Sven had more people in cells than celebration. His cells effectively evangelize and reach new people for Jesus. He gave a testimony of a young person on the verge of suicide that joined one of the cell groups, made her way to the youth service, and then received Christ.
“Lonliness is the major problem in Sweden,” my translator told me. “People can live next to each other for years and never greet each other.” My translator was planting a cell church from scratch through building relationships with lonely people who desperately needed friendships.
I’ve come to realize more and more that cell church is not a formula or a model. It’s a lifestyle that focuses on winning people to Jesus through building relationships.