Livets Ord

A charismatic megachurch based in Sweden teaching prosperity theology.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Charismatic/Pentecostal
Founders: Ulf Ekman
Founded: 1983
Location: Uppsala, Sweden
Size: Approximately 3,000 members
Other Names: Word of Life, Livets Ord International

Livets Ord, also known as Word of Life, is a charismatic megachurch and new religious movement based in Uppsala, Sweden. Founded on May 24, 1983, by Ulf Ekman and his wife Birgitta, the church rapidly evolved into a significant religious institution, initially starting with about twenty members and growing to include a wide range of educational and missionary activities. Livets Ord is recognized for its emphasis on the prosperity gospel, which emphasizes faith’s role in physical health and economic prosperity, and has also faced criticism for its teachings, particularly around the interpretation of illness and death, which it attributes to the fall of man rather than individual sin or lack of faith​​​​.

Ulf Ekman, before founding Livets Ord, underwent a significant personal transformation from a left-leaning atheist and sympathizer of the Swedish Communist party to a devout Christian. After receiving his education at Uppsala University in ethnography, history, and theology, he was ordained in the Church of Sweden and pursued further studies at the Rhema Bible Training Center in the United States. His leadership marked the church’s direction for three decades, during which the church engaged in extensive missionary work across Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and beyond.

Livets Ord’s activities extend beyond regular worship services, but encompass a broad spectrum of educational programs, missionary endeavors, and humanitarian efforts. The church operates its own schools, including a Bible center and a Christian gymnasium, and is involved in international missions with a strong focus on supporting Jewish immigration to Israel. The church has also been active in media, running TV broadcasts and producing religious literature and other media to spread its teachings​​.

Ekman’s personal journey took a dramatic turn in 2013 when he announced his resignation from Livets Ord, and was succeeded by Joakim Lundqvist. In 2014, following a prolonged stay in Israel​, Ekman and his wife announced their conversion to Roman Catholicism, a move that sparked considerable discussion within and outside the Christian community in Sweden.

Livets Ord has faced various controversies and criticisms over the years, drawing attention from both the media and the public. One of the primary criticisms of Livets Ord has been its teachings and practices, which some allege to be manipulative and controlling. Critics argue that the church’s emphasis on prosperity theology, which suggests that faith can bring personal success and wealth, can be exploitative towards vulnerable members. There have also been concerns about the social pressure and isolation exerted on members who choose to leave or criticize the church, with some former members reporting experiences of shunning and emotional distress.

Despite the controversies, Livets Ord has also been acknowledged for its social work and community services, including its contributions to education and aid efforts in developing countries. Livets Ord remains a prominent example of the Neo-charismatic movement in Sweden, illustrating the dynamic and sometimes controversial nature of new religious movements on the modern religious landscape​​.

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