Tag Archives: Lewi Pethrus

Prominent Novelist Sven Lidman Shocked Sweden in 1921 by Converting to Pentecostalism

Lidman1This Week in AG History — March 12, 1927

By Darrin J. Rodgers
Originally published on AG News, 12 March 2020

When Sven Lidman (1882-1960), one of Sweden’s most prominent authors, accepted Christ as Savior and was baptized at the leading Pentecostal church in Stockholm in 1921, it seemed as though the entire nation took notice.

Sven Lidman (pronounced Leed’man) was born into great privilege. He received a classical education and he earned a law degree from the University of Uppsala. He spent several years in the military and then studied the Italian language and literature. By 1920, he was an acclaimed author and had published 13 books and collections of poetry.

Lidman was a renaissance man. His writing explored family issues and sexuality, philosophy and ethics, and religion and politics. He cultivated relationships with the leaders of his day, and his early life was steeped in worldly pleasures.

Despite Lidman’s background, his conversion to Christ was not entirely unexpected. For years, he had experienced a deep spiritual struggle. He felt deep inner longings that could not be satisfied with brandy, tobacco, and women. He openly shared this struggle through his pen, most notably by authoring in 1920 an annotated translation of St. Augustine’s Confessions. Lidman closely identified with this fifth-century-Christian theologian who abandoned a life of youthful sin and who used his testimony to proclaim the transformative power of the gospel. Lidman soon followed in Augustine’s footsteps.

However, it came as a shock to many that Lidman cast his lot with the Pentecostals. Lidman could have easily joined a respectable Lutheran congregation of the State Church of Sweden. Instead, Swedish Pentecostal leader Lewi Pethrus baptized him at the Filadelfia Church.

Lidman’s conversion was widely covered by the nation’s press and became an ongoing topic of conversation at dinner tables across Scandinavia. The Christian press in other corners of the world also trumpeted this news.

Why did Lidman join the Pentecostals? Lidman’s conversion to Pentecostalism, according to a March 12, 1927, Pentecostal Evangel article, occurred because “Lidman is no half-way man.” Lidman would not settle for anything less than genuine, historic, biblical Christianity. “He believes in the power of Christ’s blood and redeeming death to save from sin,” the article continued. “He believes in a whole dedication to the Christian witness.”

Lidman rejected the notion that his conversion consisted merely of “a series of processes in the subconscious.” Rather, he maintained that “real conversion” to Christ was “the consequence of meeting with a supernatural power.” True Christians who have encountered and submitted to God’s power, Lidman wrote, are living sacrifices. “It is only upon the whole offering on the Lord’s altar that His fire falls,” he declared.

Lidman illustrated this theology of full consecration with his own testimony. At first, Lidman was not willing to surrender all of his ways to God. Early in his Christian life he defended his use of brandy and tobacco. But he recounted how his mind changed after an encounter with a man who had suffered the ravages of alcoholism. He realized he could not calmly stand before an alcoholic and say, “Drinking is an adiaphoron, a matter of indifference, and not a sin per se.” He could no longer in good conscience say, “There are many splendid and real Christians who are not abstainers.” Lidman came to believe that saving faith should permeate every aspect of a Christian’s life. Lidman submitted his destructive habits to God, and God took away his desire for alcohol and tobacco.

Although Lidman was an intellectual, he grew disenchanted with certain intellectual fads of his day. He had the independence of mind to challenge prevailing cultural assumptions and instead wanted something real. And reality, for Lidman, was the living Christian faith that he found in the Pentecostal church. The Pentecostal baptism in the Holy Spirit, he wrote, “is a full-blooded reality and no pale intellectual ideal.”

Filadelfia Church pastor Lewi Pethrus asked Lidman to become editor of the leading Pentecostal magazine, Evangelii Härold. Lidman accepted and served in that position from 1922 until 1948. Lidman became a popular Pentecostal preacher, and countless people accepted Christ through his voluminous writings. Lidman became the second best-known Pentecostal in Sweden, after Lewi Pethrus.

The article concluded by noting that Lidman encouraged both education and heartfelt faith. While some “rationalists” and “revivalists” seemed to believe that faith and understanding are mutually exclusive, Lidman asserted that Christians need both.

“I know not how the forces of cold and darkness can ever be driven from the heart save through revival Christianity. They can never be cultivated away,” he wrote. “But after revival has gone ahead with its spring break-up of ice and frost the work of education begins.” According to Lidman, education is a work of the Spirit.

Sven Lidman’s profound influence on Swedish Pentecostalism may have faded from the memory of many American Pentecostals, but his testimony and writings continue to challenge readers to seek the fullness of God. Lidman had the world but found it wanting. Like Augustine before him, the Swedish novelist and intellectual found that only Jesus could satisfy his deepest longings.

Read the article, “The Witness of a Swedish Novelist,” on pages 4 and 5 of the March 12, 1927, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

* “Reminiscences of a Faith Life,” by Marie Burgess Brown

* “African or Scriptural Brick,” by Arthur S. Berg

* “The Blood,” by J. Narver Gortner

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions are courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: iFPHC.org

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Lewi Pethrus: Swedish Pentecostal Pioneer

This Week in AG History — Aug. 3, 1958

By Glenn W. Gohr
Originally published on AG News, 3 August 2018

Sixty years ago delegates from the U.S. Assemblies of God as well as representatives from many other Pentecostal organizations were preparing for the Fifth World Conference of Pentecostal Churches scheduled to convene in Toronto, Canada, at the Coliseum Arena of the Canadian National Exhibition, September 14-21, 1958.

An article in the Pentecostal Evangel announced that the opening speaker on Sunday morning would be Lewi Pethrus, the well-known pastor of the Filadelfia Church in Stockholm, Sweden. Even though Pethrus had hosted the fourth Pentecostal World Conference in Stockholm three years earlier, it was important to introduce him to the readers of the Evangel.

Lewi Pethrus (1884-1974) was a former Baptist pastor in Sweden who became the leader of Pentecostalism in Sweden. The article gave an overview of his highly successful ministry. It said at that time he was 74 years old and the pastor of “what is believed to be the largest Protestant church in Europe.” His church was organized in 1910, starting with 29 members. By 1958, according to the article, the church had an “adult voting membership of 7,000 and has a major responsibility in the support of 400 overseas missionaries.” The building could seat more than 4,000.

In addition to his preaching activities, the article said Dr. Pethrus, in 1916, “initiated the publication of Evangelii Harold (Gospel Herald), a religious weekly with a circulation of 60,000.” It was reported that in 1945, in collaboration with Karl Ottoson, a Swedish industrialist, Pethrus “founded Dagen (The Day), a daily secular newspaper which in 1958 had a circulation of 25,000 and was sold on newsstands throughout Sweden.”

He also founded the Filadelfia Church Rescue Mission, the Filadelfia Publishing House, and the Filadelfia Bible School.

In an effort to assist Christians in money matters, in 1952, Pethrus took the lead in establishing a savings and credit bank which could help to finance many church projects. Pethrus also won a moral victory in 1955 when the Swedish government radio system held a monopoly on broadcasting. They reserved the right to censor content of religious broadcasts and also forbid the establishment of any private radio station. Lewi Pethrus took steps to organize an independent radio association to broadcast from Tangier, North Africa. The government tried to block his efforts, but when the matter was discussed in the Swedish Parliament, after much debate, he received approval to use this radio station to send broadcasts into Sweden.

IBRA Radio (now IBRA Media), international Christian broadcasting and media group founded by Lewi Pethrus, currently broadcasts Christian programs to more than 100 countries, including Sweden.

Lewi Pethrus continued as pastor of the Filadelfia Church until his retirement later that same year in 1958. He remained an active voice in the Pentecostal movement until his death in 1974 at the age of 90.

Read more about Lewi Pethrus in “Swedish Leader to Preach at World Conference,” on page 15 of the Aug. 3, 1958, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.

Also featured in this issue:

• “Crisis in the Classroom,” by Charles W. H. Scott

• “Pentecostal Outpouring in Rangoon,” by Glen Stafford

• “A Man With a Jug of Water,” by Victor R. Ostrom

And many more!

Click here to read this issue now.

A pictorial report of the “Fifth World Conference of Pentecostal Churches” can be found in Oct. 26, 1958, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel on pages 8-11.

Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

 

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Review: Scandinavian Pentecostal Mission

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Visions of Apostolic Mission: Scandinavian Pentecostal Mission to 1935, by David Bundy. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis. Studia Historico-Ecclesiastica Upsaliensia, 45. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University Library, 2009.

Scandinavian missionaries have played an important role in the spread of Pentecostalism both in Europe and in the southern hemisphere. That is one of the major conclusions of David Bundy’s recently-published dissertation: Visions of Apostolic Mission: Scandinavian Pentecostal Mission to 1935. Among many other things, Bundy underscores the achievements of T.B. Barratt, the Norwegian pastor and Pentecostal pioneer.

The Pentecostal revival spread across the globe following the Azusa Street outpouring in 1906. From the very beginning Scandinavians took part in this process. By 1906-1907 a foothold had already been established for the revival in Sweden and Norway. In contrast to the development of the movement in North America, the advent of Scandinavian Pentecostalism did not initially cause splits and the founding of new denominations. Many viewed the new revival as a continuation of the earlier international Holiness movement, which in the Scandinavian countries was influenced by Lutheran pietists, Methodists and Baptists. In Sweden the largest Baptist denomination became the center of the Pentecostal revival.

Bundy shows how Scandinavian pietism influenced not only the character of Pentecostalism in Scandinavia, but also Pentecostalism in other parts of the world through the work of Scandinavian Pentecostal missionaries. One of the characteristics developed by Scandinavian Pentecostalism was an emphasis on the autonomy of the local church. This peculiarity arose from the heritage of Baptist congregationalism in Sweden. Through the missionary strategy of the emerging leader of Swedish Pentecostalism, Lewi Pethrus, this ecclesiology was exported with remarkable success, particularly to Brazil. Bundy’s research using early Pentecostal primary sources in the native Scandinavian languages is unparalleled. His painstaking scholarship has resulted in a great narrative of early Pentecostal revival and missions and is recommended reading for everyone interested in the formative years of global Pentecostalism.

Reviewed by Torbjörn Aronson, Livets Ord University

Paperback, 562 pages. To order, contact the publisher: Acta@ub.uu.se

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Review: Correspondence of Lewi Pethrus

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Lewis brev: urval ur Lewi Pethrus korrespondens, by Joel Halldorf. Foreword by Per Olof Enquist. Örebro, Sweden: Libris, 2007.

Sometimes it is not obvious how an investigation should be conducted and what methods are most appropriate for working through subject matter. Sometimes we think that the strict scientific approach is superior. Other times we learn that there are perspectives that can help us reach insights that go beyond what is determinable by scientific method. We might discuss the relative merits of keeping a distance from the subject, or at least attempt to not be too positive towards it. However, some serious scholars and philosophers claim that an inside perspective towards a subject is, in their scientific judgment, a precondition for doing justice to the material. Everything must be understood from the inside.

These thoughts ran through my mind while reading Joel Halldorf’s book, Lewis brev: urval ur Lewi Pethrus korrespondens (in English, Lewi’s Letters: Selections from Lewi Pethrus’ Correspondence), which is based on the correspondence of Swedish Pentecostal leader Lewi Pethrus (1884–1974). Halldorf shoulders a number of roles as author of this book. He unearthed letters to and from Lewi Pethrus that until now had not been public. He places this correspondence in its historical context. And he also conducted journalistic interviews with children and close friends of the correspondents. Halldorf acts as a critical and constructive presenter of the Pentecostal movement of which he himself is part.

This is a beautiful book. By the choice of title and preface-writer it is also connected to Per Olof Enquist’s great novel about Lewi Pethrus. It also works through, with new perspectives, some of those tensions and conflicts documented by Enquist. The book is well-designed, with different fonts for the regular text and the letters, and it also includes a number of pictures and photographs. The author provides commentary alongside the correspondence, and the book also lists the sources used. This demonstrates great care on the part of the author. An investigation of this kind is particularly welcome since the scholarly treatment of the life of Lewi Pethrus was previously limited to one dissertation. Neither are there any reasons to question the author’s insights concerning the material or his willingness to uncover sources. All the stones have been turned.

Also interesting are some of the author’s own comments about the journalistic method he at times employs, in particular because he belongs to the very movement he studied. There is no need for an apology. I think his broad investigation yielded more insights than if he had limited his methods. The journalistic interviews that are included not only shine brightly, but they provide depth to the related comments, due to the author’s ability to link them to both the present day and the his own insights concerning our own times. Halldorf’s connection to the Pentecostal movement often adds color to his comments and makes it possible to see different connections, although at times it runs the risk of becoming “a book inside the book” when the author does not clearly identify his own opinion concerning the early debate on whether to provide education for ministers.

What, then, is the picture of this Pentecostal leader offered through these letters? And how does it complement earlier presentations? I am not sure of the answer to these questions. Here, too, we meet the modernity of Lewi Pethrus to which Carl-Gustav Carlsson introduced us in his dissertation (Människan, Samhället och Gud, Lunds Universitet, 1990). Lewi Pethrus was the man of the great projects. The man who was able to see around the corner, and to make it there, in his building of an empire. He was a leader whose building of the kingdom of God demanded sacrifices, not only of his own personal comfort, but also of friends and colleagues. Nothing important must stand in the way of the most important.

The new things, that we earlier might have guessed but can now see more clearly in this material, are the tenderness in friendship and the awareness of the price of leadership that Pethrus was willing to pay. He does really write to his colleagues in love. His friendship extended also to ordinary people who asked simple questions. He was a center of communication, not only on stage – the stages of the whole world – but he also gave time and room to give advice, counsel and direction, and often in a tender way. It is a beautiful portrait.

Halldorf’s method also demonstrates how this leader lived with and, over time, reflected over his own leadership. He could write a letter on how every leader must be ready to be tried and face challenges in his everyday work, and then in another context view these challenges in darker colors as something that has to be fought and weeded out. The leader Lewi Pethrus had a sense of timing. And when he claimed to be ready to step aside after facing opposition from the wife of one of his colleagues, one really wonders how this was possible. His cause was greater than his own position, at least that was his own view on things. And this might be the salt of every great leader: that the personal comfort, but also the personal position, might have to give room to a greater cause.

Reviewed by Dr. Runar Eldebo, Stockholm School of Theology
This review was originally published in Swedish in Kyrkohistorisk Årsskrift , 2007.
Posted with the permission of the author and publisher.

Hardcover, 359 pages, illustrated. SEK218 plus shipping. Available from Libris.se

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