On the 26th of May, Word of Life will celebrate its 30th anniversary. That day will be Pastor Ulf Ekman’s next to last as senior Pastor for Word of Life in Uppsala. The following Sunday, the torch will be passed on as Joakim Lundqvist will be inaugurated as Pastor for the church and successor to Ulf Ekman.
During the Sunday service on March 3rd, Pastor Ulf Ekman informed the church of the major change that will take place in the end of May – Ulf Ekman, founder of the church and its Pastor for 30 years, will resign as senior Pastor and be succeeded by Joakim Lundqvist.
- It will be a significant day, a strange day. Naturally, it is a major event in the history of Word of Life, but I feel joy and a great peace for this decision, says Ulf Ekman.
- During the last years, I have given much thought to Word of Life’s and my own future, and I have considered how to invest my time. I will turn 63 this year, and as pastor and leader for a ministry of this size, I must of course think about the fact that there will come a time when I won’t be able to be as active as I have been. Step by step, it has become clear to me that there needs to be a change. I have prayed about it, we have discussed it with the church board and prayed about it together, and we have come to the decision that this is a good time for the church adapt to this change. I feel strongly that this is a decision from God, and that He has told me to hand the ministry over to Joakim.
In May 2012, Ulf Ekman suffered the repercussions of severe overworking, and has since then taken much time off from traveling and teaching. Even if this is not the main reason for him leaving as senior Pastor, it has played a part in the decision.
- The thoughts of a change have been there for quite a while, but the situation with my health gave me an opportunity to think and pray about it more. So in that sense, my health has played a part in the decision.
Pastor Ulf Ekman will still be active in Word of Life in a number of ways.
- I am resigning from the duties and responsibilities of the senior Pastor, a big and important calling. We have always believed and taught that it is the Pastor that runs and develops the church ministry together with his co-workers. It is with great joy that I now hand this position over to a talented, energetic and spiritually equipped successor - Joakim Lundqvist.
What will you do in the future?
- I want to focus on writing, teaching, travel on occasion and develop our understanding of our theological foundation. I look forward to being able to concentrate more on writing, and I will also be teaching in church. My yearly Spring Seminar will also still be on my agenda.
- So even if I am handing over a big and important part of my job to Joakim, I won’t be lacking things to do.
Joakim Lundqvist has been one of the pastors at Word of Life since 1997, when he became youth pastor. Apart from his work as a pastor and as director for Word of Life Bible School, he has been head of the ecumenical student organization New Generation, which he started in 2002. To him, the question to become head pastor for Word of Life did not come unexpected.
- I like to think that God’s plans are best viewed in the rear mirror. Now as I stand on the threshold of this new assignment, I can see that God has led me here during a much longer time than I was aware of. The moment pastor Ulf asked me, there was an immediate inner confirmation that this was from God, even though I did not see it coming. Then, as I prayed about it, that feeling has become even stronger, and I feel a great joy, says Joakim Lundqvist.
- I have a great respect for this new step. Word of Life has always been a big part of my life, ever since I first met God as a 16 year old during the church’s New Year Conference. But the overwhelming feeling now is one of joy, amazing inspiration and thankfulness towards pastor Ulf and the board for their confidence in me.
- Word of Life is a unique church, and I see it as a great privilege to be able to serve as its pastor. I will be more passionate about this than anything I have ever been passionate about, and I have no other plan than committing the rest of my life to this calling.
Joakim, will there be any immediate changes now that you are taking over as head pastor?
- There will, of course, be a number of different changes. Pastor Ulf and I are different persons with different personalities, but I would focus on the continuity rather than the differences. Word of Life is a vision first and foremost, and neither pastor Ulf nor myself can change that. My mission is to keep building the church, and to shepherd the calling that is already there, into 2013 and beyond. I will make sure that the vision and the calling of the church will be communicated in the best possible way in this time.
Joakim wants to put the primary focus on the work of the local church. He believes that many are seeing only the outer things – the conferences, the products and the broadcasts – when they think of Word of Life, but not everyone is aware of the things that are going on inside of the church.
Word of Life, the local church, is the heart that is pumping life out to every part of the work, through prayer, commitment, generosity and dedicated work for other people. I want to take the shepherd staff and with the help of God become a shepherd after his own heart for this church. That is where I want to start, and that is where I want to keep my main focus, since it is the core of the whole ministry.
Pastor Ulf, how do you look at Joakim as the new pastor?
I believe the change will mean a new injection into the church. For me, it has always been important that my replacement has a heart for the church and its members, that he is a shepherd to all sheep, not only for just a specific part of the work. I feel very comfortable with Joakim in this regard. I am sure all church members will be very happy as well, and certain that many new initiatives will be sparked as a result. I am very excited to see the results.
Are changes in other areas, such as the mission’s work, to be expected?
- I will continue as leader for our international organization, Word of Life International, and be present there. Joakim will take part in this work as well, but the details are still being worked out. We have not tried to work out every single detail here, but are open to the Holy Spirit for His guidance in what is to come. Step by step, all the pieces will come together as the Lord leads us. Is has always been that way, and will continue to be so in the future.