Lewi Pethrus was born in Sweden and was
the son of a factory worker. He grew up in the Baptist Church
when there were many groups gathering in homes to pray for
revival. He became an evangelist (1902-04) and attended
Bethel Seminary in Stockholm (1905-06). Pethrus experienced
a powerful inward cleansing in 1905 and, after reading a
book by A. J. Gordon, he began to yearn for the Baptism
in the Holy Spirit. In his own words, ‘There were
thousands of others (in Sweden) at the same time crying
to God, ‘Give us revival and fill us with the Holy
Spirit.’” In January 1907 he read in a Stockholm
newspaper of T. B. Barratt who was experiencing Pentecostal
tongues in Norway. When this young zealot arrived in Oslo
with such intense earnestness he soon received what he was
looking for and became a Pentecostal Christian by experience.
At the time he was pastor of the Baptist
Church in Lidkoping (1906-11) and his entire congregation
also accepted the Pentecostal message, as did numerous other
churches in Sweden. On August 30th 1910, a new Baptist Church,
Filadelfia in Stockholm, was formed, allowing the full freedom
of the Holy Spirit in its meetings. On January 11th 1911
Pethrus was called to be its Pastor, but in April 1913 the
Swedish Baptist Convention expelled Pethrus and his new
congregation from the convention. The reason stated was
their ‘open communion’ policy, but the real
issue was their Pentecostal doctrine and practice. Nevertheless,
Pethrus always respected his Baptist heritage, even employing
a Baptist ecclesiology as the basis for the newly founded
God’s blessing was upon Pethrus and
thousands joined his church’s ranks in the home church
in Stockholm and across the nation. When he took on the
pastorate of Filalelphia the membership was abot 70 but
within a year it reached 244. The next year it rose to 438
and by 1918 it stood at 1,411. By 1926 it was 3,176 and
by 1938 it reached a colossal 5, 887.
What were his outstanding features? He
had a charming but simplicity in his style and a rare graciousness
of spirit, but his great organising ability is beyond question.
His sharp mind and strong leadership style gave a solid
backbone to the Pentecostal movement throughout Scandinavia.
‘Pethrus led his own congregation to become the largest
in the Pentecostal world (until c. 1975) and the Pentecostal
movement in Sweden to become the largest Free Church in
Sweden, primarily by his ability to relate the church to
all aspects of life. His holistic vision for the Christian
life and the moderation, dignity, and realism of his expectations
of spiritual development won him a hearing throughout Europe,
North America, and the Third World. He demonstrated to the
Pentecostal world that the movement did not have to be alienated
from the national culture of which it is a part.’
He was clearly seen as a Pentecostal statesman, not only
in his own nation but also across the world.
He remained pastor at Filadelphia, Stockholm,
until his retirement in 1958 and active in the movement
until his death in 1974.
He also founded the Filadelia Church Rescue
Mission (1911); the Filadelfia Publishing House (1912);
the Filadelfia Bible School (1915); the periodical Evangelii
Harold (1916); the Kaggeholms Folkhogskola (a secondary
school) (1942); a national daily newspaper, Dagen (1945
); a savings bank, Allmanna Spar-och Kreditkassen (1952);
and a worldwide radio network, I.B.R.A. Radio (1955).
Pethrus was also a prolific author. His
first book, Jesus Kommer (1912) was also the first publication
of the Forlaget Filadelfia (Filadelfia Publishing House).
His collected writings comprise ten volumes, not counting
his five-volume memoirs and a number of books written after
1956. He also contributed widely to periodical publications.
His books and essays have been translated into many languages.
Bibliography: Donald Gee, 'Wind and Flame'
1941 and 1967; D.D.Bundy art. 'International Dictionary
of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements' 2002.