The Jerusalem Project is based on the radical idea that biblical followers of Jesus should live like the followers of Jesus in the Bible. Specifically, we don’t think that the community of goods that Jesus practiced with his disciples (John 13:29) and that they then continued to practice in the apostolic church in Jerusalem (Acts 2:44-45), was a mistake or has gone obsolete. On the contrary, since Jesus is “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and the apostles are the foundation of the church (Eph 2:19), we believe we should live like them.
Most Christians would agree that the apostles has ultimate authority on who Jesus is, what he did for us and what he wants us to do for him. In fact, this authority is so great that the words they or their associates wrote down in letters and books are considered to be the Word of God!
That’s basically as much authority one can get.
But if they have this much authority, shouldn’t we view their lives and works as expressing God’s will as much as their words? Not that they would be sinless, but they had spend a lot of time with the sinless Son of God. He had taught them not only doctrines but practices, not just orthodoxy but orthopraxy. And so, they continued to heal the sick, preach the Gospel and have everything in common just as Jesus had trained them.
Sadly, throughout church history Christians have often not wanted to follow Jesus in the original way. Cessationism, the idea that miraculous Spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles, have no Biblical support and originated 1,500 years after the apostles, but still gained much influence. “Preaching the Gospel” changed from proclaiming the message about Jesus to nonbelievers, to holding lectures in church buildings to those who already are Christian. And community of goods have over and over again been portrayed as a failed or at least temporal practice, that wasn’t followed by other churches and that has no normative force on us today.
So instead, we get churches that don’t experience miracles, that aren’t evangelising publically, and that allow economic inequalities. These churches are not only dissimilar to the biblical Jesus movement, but very often fail to do what they’re aiming for. They want to grow and include new people, but oftentimes they shrink. They want to be relevant to young people but are instead abandoned. They want to help the poor and make an impact on society, but find themselves very limited in what they can do and that they are mostly unknown by the local population.
In December 2015, I and some friends started the Jerusalem Project to promote the original way of doing church. Our chart states that we want to promote evangelism, simplicity and community of goods. We want evangelising community-churches to be common again. We argue that the original, apostolic Jerusalem church in the book of Acts can and should be resurrected today.
Because of this, we pray and prepare for starting our first community this summer, in the Uppsala area in eastern Sweden. It’s very exciting, and a bit frightening. We really need a miracle, if not multiple miracles, for it to practically work. But we do have a lot of inspiration, support and vision. I fully believe this is what God wants, and as long as we hold on to him and love each other, we will not fail.
This is what we’re envisioning:
We want a community with total sharing of income and possessions, where nobody is rich and nobody is poor. We will make sure that the community includes people from various background, including those who previously have been poor. We will live simply; eating food that is vegan or saved from being wasted, reusing and recycling material, using electronics sparingly.
We will be a church; worshipping, praying, reading, eating and evangelising together. Men and women will be equal and we will all contribute based on our gifts and callings. We will resolve conflicts according to Matthew 18, and support married couples as well as celibates.
We want to give full freedom to the work of the Holy Spirit, welcoming his gifts and fruit, and we want to be missional and multiplying. We seek to train disciples and build centres of creativity, sanctification and purpose.
Practically, we will pool our money in a common bank account which covers all of our expenses. Guests can stay short- (less than a month) or long-term (up to a year). Short-term guests don’t need to pay, long-term guests pay for their expenses if they are able. Novices give all their income to the common purse and test community life for three to five years. After that, they donate all their assets to the common purse with the aim of being part of community for life.
As soon as possible, we would want to have multiple community houses. We’re not sure where we’ll end up this summer – God will have to show us – but before long we hope to have at least one bigger community on the countryside and at least one smaller community in a town. The rural community can focus on gardening, recreation and family life, whereas the urban community can focus on evangelism, ministry to the poor and hospitality.
We will start in Sweden where we’re from, but our vision is for this to spread internationally. If we hold on to God, we believe he will show us a simple model for evangelising community-churches that can be adapted anywhere at any time. Imagine churches that looks like the book of Acts in Italy, Thailand and Mozambique. And how awesome wouldn’t it be, if there was a church like the apostolic church in Jerusalem, in Jerusalem?
Please pray for us. This will most likely be the most transformative year of my life. The fact that I and Sarah also will get married in September doesn’t make it less exciting.
Micael Grenholm is editor for PCPJ. Having studied theology as well as peace and development studies in Uppsala, Sweden, Micael Grenholm’s passion is to combine charismatic spirituality with activism for peace and justice. Apart from editing pcpj.org he vlogs for the YouTube channel Holy Spirit Activism and is active with evangelism and apologetics both locally and online.