Sweden faces widespread spiritual decline. Nearly every religious group loses members, and only 23% of people still believe in a personal God. Sweden has a rich Christian history, with many 19th-century revivals, a strong Free Church movement, and a great commitment to missions. But numbers of Christian youth, and of missionaries sent from Sweden, declined drastically in the last 30 years. The Church of Sweden (Lutheran) is no longer the state church. Society places a high value on material comfort, personal pleasure, and individualism. Pray for God to raise up teachers and leaders who know the Bible, who know the culture, and who do not compromise with the majority mindset in society.
There are positive signs among evangelicals. Pray for these to grow:
- The continued presence of evangelicals in Lutheranism (for example, the Swedish Evangelical Mission), in low/Free churches and in the charismatic/Pentecostal movement as well as numerous evangelicals outside of church structures altogether. The diversity of expression and very real unity within evangelical circles demonstrate that evangelicalism is still a living and dynamic presence in Sweden.
- Increasing social engagement by most denominations. There is growing unity among churches and denominations increasingly have strategic church planting projects. Churches are increasingly involved in diaconal ministry to help people with problems such as alcoholism, sexual abuse and unemployment. The Swedish Evangelical Alliance is a growing movement with a public voice and clear standpoint for biblical faith.
- CREDO, the IFES-linked student ministry, has grown through some innovative outreaches; there are groups on 80 university campuses and in 50 secondary schools. Over 1,000 participate in camps and conferences annually. New Generation began in 2002 and has grown through innovative ministry to number around 500 groups in secondary schools.
- The Alpha Course movement continues to grow, with over 500 courses run annually. Other similar courses appropriate to a more secularized, younger generation are also effective.
Groups needing extra prayer focus:
- Youth. This youngest generation can be accurately described as post-Christian; most are thoroughly secularized and ignorant of biblical truth. The aging population and overall spiritual malaise contribute to a general decline in youth ministries, but a new spiritual curiosity is starting to build. Culturally relevant youth-focused ministry is as vital as ever.
- The indigenous Saami peoples (20,000-25,000 in Sweden) of Lapland in the north speak four languages, and at least some of them retain their traditional culture. Most are at least nominally Lutheran. Mission Covenant Church, ECM and the Lutherans have fruitful ministry among them. Translating the Bible and publishing Christian materials in Saami is a slow and expensive process; praise God for the NT completed in two Saami languages. Pray that there might be an authentic Saami expression of the Church.
- European immigrants from former Communist nations are one of the faster-growing groups. Influx has made Orthodoxy the fastest-growing Christian megabloc. Pray for genuine Christian witness and ministry to the spiritually needy Bosniaks, Serbs, Poles, Russians and others.
- Muslims have grown from a handful in 1960 to around 350,000 in 2016. They are primarily from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Bosnia and Somalia.
- Integration is a major problem. Large swathes of these populations never learn Swedish or successfully enter employment, potentially creating a Muslim underclass. In Stockholm and Malmö, some Muslim neighbourhoods are deliberately non-integrative and can be unsafe for outsiders to enter.
- Nominalism and secularism are challenges for Muslims as well as for Christians, since a large number of the younger generation stray from the faith of their fathers. The response to European liberalism can often be a dangerous reactionary fundamentalism.
- There are very few workers focused on these largely unevangelized groups. Pray for more awareness, more workers and more resources for this challenging task.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.