Called unto Holiness – Part 3 of 3

This week we have been exploring the characteristics of a holy life as outlined by Dr. Nina Gunter.  We have reproduced the introduction and the first part of the body of her sermon “Called unto Holiness.” Now we finish this message by detailing the final five traits of a holiness people.

  1. Holistic faith (life) based upon the provenance and preeminence of God.

He is the source of all we are, and He is Lord of all we do.The disciplines are integrated.

Everything is permeated with God’s presence . . . all we are7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and all we do.

Our lives are not compartmentalized.  It is God in us—in all: at home, work/office, school, church, traveling—a living out of the reality of God’s constant presence.

John Wesley’s question at the beginning of his class meetings was, “How goes it with your soul?” Holistic faith influences every walk of life.

  1. Purposeful hearts based on the love of God.

The love of God—the unconditional, holy love of God—is the bottom line.  It is the heart of God’s message.

This is about the theology of love . . . God’s love is not based on performance.  God’s love is not based on good works, but on the love, grace, and mercy of God Himself.

We are who we are—children of God—because we are filled with God’s love.  This love empowers us to be people of integrity and authenticity. God is serious about our loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. This is the essence of holiness.

Be holy. 

Be my witnesses. Being comes before doing. 

Be the people of God.

  1. Servant leadership based upon the servant mind of Christ.

“Jesus humbled Himself.” He girded Himself with the towel of Service.  He was interested in the towel—not toys, titles, and trinkets.

We serve God in ministry to people.

We empty our rights in submission to God’s right.

Illustration:  A pastor in the Democratic Republic of Congo walked for days to get to Assembly to be ordained.  He was asked the traditional questions by the General Superintendent:  Do you preach holiness?  Do your people understand holiness?  How do you know?  His answer: “When problems arise we come together.  We identify the problem, then together in love seek the solution.”

Holy people empty themselves of themselves to serve God’s purposes.

  1. Meaningful work based upon the call of God.

The meaningof our work is not seen through the results—even though that is important.  No – the meaning of our workis based on the call of God.

We believe in a God-called ministry.

Did you hear “The Voice”?

It is the heart of God.  Behind the voice is a person. That’s God.

Where is the value in what we do?  Not the money…not the benefits.  But there is a Caller who gives our work meaning and purpose.

That caller does not leave us or forsake us.  When the clouds are low, the nights long, and the duties many—The Caller is there giving meaning to all we do.  Psalm 46:10

There is no God-forsaken place. 

  1. Restored self based on the image of God.

A sense of being broken drives people to seek wholeness to be restored.

Salvation is the restoration of God’s image in us.

            “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.

              Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

              All the King’s horses and all the King’s men

              Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.”

But God can put people back together again.

We Nazarenes believe no one is so lost but what he/she can be found—no one so bad but what he/she can be redeemed—no one so far gone but what he/she can’t come back.

If you are convinced you have a treasure, it’s easy to recommend it to others.

In every person, there is the covered-up image of God. 

Holiness will never be a dated theology because human nature has not changed.  Holiness is about God’s nature transforming our nature to be like his nature.

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Therefore, we can preach a message of hope and holiness.  The holiness message is a message of hope.

We can be delivered from the power of sin!  We can be purified, wholly sanctified, empowered with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, restored in the image of God.

There are crisismoments in this.  And there is processin this.

God can deliver us from whatever is in our lives that is contrary to the nature of God that puts us in bondage.

Closing:

John Wesley: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist in Europe of America.  But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.  And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

Nazarenes, what is our basic doctrine, spirit, and discipline? It is the same as John Wesley defined for the Methodists—that Nazarenes experienceand growin holiness of heart and life.

The greatest compliment paid to you as districts, churches, offices, or schools:  A holy God walks among holy people in this place.

Is the holiness movement alive in your district?  At the Global Ministries Center?  Your church? Your school?  Your home?

It’s in your hands.

Called unto Holiness – Part 2 of 3

In the previous blog entry, I shared the introduction to a classic holiness message by Dr. Nina Gunter.  Today and in the final installment of the week, I am providing the remainder of her sermon.

In the 11 pages of the Historical Statement of our Manual, the words holiness and sanctification are referenced more than 70 times.

Holiness is our calling.

Holiness is our impetus.

Holiness is our passion.

Holiness is our fire.

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  • People are asking questions about holiness.
  • Mainline denominations are wanting to know more about the holiness movement.
  • The Roman Catholic church is asking questions. In fact, they sent a representative to the Wesleyan Holiness Study Project meeting.
  • Young people are drawn to the integrative force of the holiness message.

The Board of General Superintendents with general superintendents and bishops of the Wesleyan tradition participated, through Board representation, in a consortium to define the holiness movement.

The convenor, Kevin Mannoia, former bishop of the Free Methodist church and currently the graduate chaplain at Azusa Pacific University, released 10 phrases (the first five of which will be shared here, and the last five later this week) that are descriptors or characteristics of the holiness movement.

  1. Transformed character based, in large part, in the otherness of God.

We too will be “other.”

We have received the mandate: “Do not conform to this world.”

  • Jesus prayed for His followers, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
  • As believers, we are “set apart.”
  • Jesus gave Himself for us and purified for Himself “a peculiar people” or “a special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:14
  • This does not mean we are extreme—if so, we would tend toward being sectarian. But we areto be a special people.
  • The community around will then see the followers of Christ as a different people with godly values, Christian principles, right attitudes, and as honest, upright citizens.
  • Across the years, all over the world, the Church of the Nazarene has gone where we were not wanted, stayed, and lived Christ-like until the community said, “Don’t leave. We can’t do it without you.”
  1. Responsible engagement based in God’s incarnation.

God was not satisfied to be “other”, but rather took the initiative to live with and in us.

As a result, we take the initiative to engage in that which is broken among us.  This is the Missio Dei that derives from the nature of God.

Social and Missional engagement—incarnational expressions of personal and social holiness.

This includes ministry—making Christ-like disciples in all nations.  You cannot separate holiness and missions.

This missional engagement is here—there—everywhere—and includes ministry among the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized.  It engages us to redress injustice.  Now we join with God in His purposes.  This is the optimism of grace.  Grace brings wholeness out of chaos.

The Missio Dei (The Mission of God) is best understood in the language of the Kingdom.  Kingdom living embraces God in worship in the midst of transnational, multilingual, multicultural, and transgenerational settings.

  1. Healthy relationships based upon the triune nature of God.

      Relationships based on the Kingdom model of mutuality.

  • Voluntary submission
  • Unity out of diversity

There is no unity until first there is diversity.  If there is no unity, there is no power.

  • We disagree, but we don’t destroy.

It was said of the New Testament church, “See how they love one another.”  That is, “See how they get along, accept each other, include each other.”

Healthy relationships are characteristic of a holy people—a holy church.

The Holy Spirit is the great unifier.  The proof of the Spirit is the works of love.  John Wesley spoke of a “pure love to God and men.”  God sanctifies together.

  1. Wise decisions based on the free choice of God to impart free will.

God has graced us with the freedom of choice.

Determinationdoesn’t make sense.

Wisdomcomes from the presence of Christ in us.

“If we lack wisdom, ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

God gives us freedomto use the wisdom He gives us.

  1. Curious thinking based upon the awesomeness of God.

            In His creativity God made us in His image.  He releases His creativity in us.  God is not a micro-manager.  He is the Creator and He hands it off to humanity.  God said, “You go rule over the earth.  You take care of my creation.”

            This curious thinking relates to our philosophy of liberal arts.  We pursue God in all the disciplines . . . with all the adventures . . . all the great discoveries.  We become lifelong learners of God’s truth . . . of His world . . . His people.

Therefore, the church embraces education—liberal arts—learning.

J.B. Chapman said, “We must build schools or die as a church.  We must be spiritually right, intellectually correct and scholastically strong.”  In a holiness movement, there is curious, critical thinking based upon the awesomeness of God.

***The rest of this sermon will be published later this week.

Called unto Holiness – Part 1 of 3

Several years ago, I had the privilege of translating for Dr. Nina Gunter in the Holiness Summit held in San José, Costa Rica.  Her message, as many of hers do, had to do with holiness.  As I was reflecting on her words anew just days ago, I decided to reproduce her sermon this week, with her permission.  The following is the introduction to her marvelous sermon.

Called unto Holiness
1 Peter 1:13-16

By Nina Gunter

A gathering of Wesleyan scholars and leaders explored the mission of the churches of the holiness movement.  This Wesleyan Holiness Study Project asked serious questions, such as, “Is the concept of holiness relevant for Christians in the 21stcentury or is it a relic of the past?”

I offer these conclusions for the Church of the Nazarene:

  1. The Church of the Nazarene unequivocally insists that holiness is not only relevant but essential in the postmodern world.
  2. Nazarenes hunger for a coherent message that is compelling.
  3. Nazarenes have an opportunity, as never before, to embrace the emerging realities of this holiness doctrine and become catalysts for spiritual renewal and growth in the Christian church through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit.
  4. If Nazarenes would invest more effort in preaching and teaching holiness with conviction and clarity and in giving witness to the Spirit-filled life, there would be unprecedented victory and growth in our churches.

            Illustration:  A mischievous little boy caught a bird and thought he’d have some fun with a wise old man who was blind.  The boy held the bird in his hands, walked up to the old gentleman and said, “Mister—if you are so wise—tell me.  Is the bird in my hands dead or alive?”  

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The wise old man thought to himself, “If I say he is alive the boy will squeeze the bird to death. If I say the bird is dead, the boy will turn the bird loose.”

So the wise old man replied, “It’s in your hands.”

I ask you leaders in the Church of the Nazarene, will the doctrine and experience of holiness continue to be the blessed message, mission, and lifestyle of the people called Nazarenes?  Or will holiness become a nice, quaint, but antiquated part of our story?

4 Ways to Involve Everyone in Evangelism

By Ed Stetzer

Many people have slipped into the mindset that evangelism is a gift that some believers have and others do not. The reality is that when someone becomes reconciled to God, He sends them out to reconcile others. That’s not a gift—we all have the responsibility to take Christ to others.

Pastoral leadership can go a long way in shifting those mindsets. Pastors can and should equip the church body to understand their role in evangelization. Among other things, a church can do four things to encourage the spirit and practice of evangelism.

  1. Build Relationships

Only a very few hear the gospel or show up at church without first being in relationship. Most people who come to Christ are invited by a person they know.

God calls us to evangelize, including our family, friends, and neighbors. He invites us to invite others. Personal relationships are the best way to reach out.

Your friends trust you when you talk about restaurants, plumbers, and baby sitters. That same trust gives each believer an open door to introduce their friends to Jesus.

  1. Encourage Engagement

Sometimes the world gets the wrong idea that being a Christian means our lives are perfect. They feel disconnected and unworthy. So whenever we can remind our people and those looking in that we are all in need of a Savior, it breaks down walls that keep people from Christ and the Church.

The church and its people must understand that no one gets through a broken world unbroken. So as they go back out throughout the week, they should connect with broken people as broken people who have met the One who restores. They should offer restoration through Christ. That is evangelism.

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  1. Inclusive Events

Some parts of church are more exclusive. The Lord’s Supper, baptism, even some small groups are just for believers. But a church has the freedom, and really a responsibility, to have gatherings where seekers feel welcome—places where they are ready for company.

One of those low-threshold events is an annual Easter egg hunt. You ramp up by involving the whole church. They bring their friends, neighbors, and families.

Do these events where everyone can be involved. Why? Events can show love for our community and increase visibility to invite people to our church. Multiple relationships can form in these open and inclusive events. These relationships can ultimately lead back to Christ.

  1. Teach Well

The Easter egg event mentioned above is an inroad. But the greater thing happens when we actually preach on the resurrection—we want to bridge relationships from something as simple as a children’s event, to something as important as the gospel.

And, we don’t just preach about the resurrection on one Sunday.

Our people understand that after they bring their friends to the church community event, there will be an intense Gospel thrust in the following weeks. We call each other, and the Life Group leaders make calls. Everyone knows that everyone should invite their friends to hear about Jesus.

We teach the gospel well and over and over.

Holistic Approach

It’s a full-court press. We do all of these things in waves at the same time, but we don’t do them all the time. Spring and fall, summer and winter, on mission to share Jesus.

Everyone is on board. Everyone understands that our church leadership will provide opportunities for their friends to hear the Gospel, but their friends are their responsibility.

I don’t know their friends. They do. I can’t invite their friends. They can. And they must. Evangelism is everyone’s responsibility.

We can complain about the lack of evangelistic activity in our churches, but this goes back to leadership. We as leaders create the culture of evangelism. When the church sees we are intentional and serious about creating a pathway, they will be more likely to engage their friends and invite them on the pathway.

What has your church done to make sure everyone participates in evangelism? Why do you think people often drop the ball in the area of evangelism?

*This article was originally published at: Edstetzer.com

Pastor, Take a Vacation—for the Good of Your Church – Part 2 of 2

*This is part two of the article published in the previous post.

4 Commitments to Combat Vacation Anxiety

  1. I commit to being honest about my vacation anxiety.

Some anxiety is appropriate. As the leader, I am responsible for ensuring that leadership is being raised up and trained to do the work of ministry. My husband and I are ultimately responsible for having all our bases covered. Pastors who leave town without a thought to what might go on in their absence send a message of disengaged inattentiveness.

However, some types of anxiety are not only inappropriate—they are toxic to my soul and lead to the sin of idolatry. I have to ask myself,

  • Is my anxiety rooted in fear or in a compulsive need to please the people of my congregation?
  • Am I micromanaging the people around me and doubting their ability to do good work without my presence?
  • Have I taken undue responsibility for the Spirit’s movement among the people of God to the extent that I believe that, apart from my physical presence, the Spirit will not (or even cannot) move?
  • Is my identity so rooted in my vocation that the idea of time away from work is disorienting and unsettling?

These are not easy questions to answer honestly, but my answers reveal the ways in which my heart veers toward that “blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.”

  1. I commit to going.

Yes, I will actually take my vacation. This requires wisdom and discernment. It’s probably not ideal to take two weeks of vacation in the middle of Advent. But I won’t kid myself into thinking every church function requires me to be there in the flesh. I will work to empower my leaders, be they pastoral staff or lay leaders, and then let them do their jobs. Equipping the saints for ministry is sacred work.

  1. I commit to being absent.

When I leave, I will be as fully “gone” as possible. This may not require a costly overseas escape. A simple, affordable “staycation” will work just as well, if I take the call to absence seriously. That means I will need to communicate clearly that I will not be responding to emails, calls, or texts. But that’s not enough. I must follow through and stay off my phone and email! I will probably disconnect from social media as well. It has the power to make us present in mind and spirit to the wrong things, even when we are absent in the body.

I will, of course, leave emergency contact info with someone who I trust to respect my absence—someone who understands the definition of emergency.

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  1. I commit to being present.

Being absent is only half the battle. As I embrace the call to absence from work, I must accept the challenge to be present—to my family, to my body, and to my spirit.

Present to my family. I commit to paying attention to my loved ones in intentional ways. Even if I don’t go on a lavish trip or even leave town, I will find a way to spend quality time with my family.

Present to my body. So much of pastoral work is work of the mind. After a long day of sermon prep, I find that I have left my seat perhaps only twice, but I am exhausted from the mental fatigue of studying. During times of increased stress and anxiety, my body lets me know through stomachaches, tight shoulders, and jaw tension—once so severe I could barely chew! I will use the time of absence from work to be present to my body through physical movement and bodily care. Exercise, even a simple walk, reminds me that I am a whole person, not a disembodied spirit or mind.

Present to my spirit. It never fails that when I have a moment of stillness, anxiety pounces on my peace. My initial reaction is to flee or distract. Hurry, get busy! If I’m constantly moving, anxiety can’t slither in. Or, Start that Netflix binge! My mind will be too busy with the steady stream of entertainment for anxiety to get a word in. In her book Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind, Jennifer Shannon says this is the wrong approach to our anxiety. It sends the false message that the fear we are experiencing is dangerous and should be avoided. But it’s not dangerous; it’s just uncomfortable. Shannon encourages her readers to open their minds and hearts to the anxiety and to sit with the discomfort, thereby debunking anxiety’s lies and stealing its power.

As I sit with the discomfort, I ask the Lord to remind me that I am his beloved, and with me, the Lord is well pleased. I confess the ways in which I have sought to do God’s work on God’s behalf. I ask the Spirit to heal the wounds that led me to these anxious behaviors.

Vacation as Co-laboring

Without a doubt, taking vacation as a pastor can be a challenge. But time away is not merely important—it is essential for both the pastor and the congregation. Those of us who bear the mantle of pastor need to be reminded that we are not the head of the church. Christ is.

Pastors are not, as Eugene Peterson puts it, “the linchpin holding a congregation together.” We are co-laborers with our flocks, cooperating with the Holy Spirit who is doing the work of calling, comforting, and convicting. Our congregations need a reminder that pastoral vacations can deliver blessings as well. They are not to be passive consumers of what the “professional” pastor has to offer, but rather to be engaged, contributing members of the body of Christ.

By refusing to participate in the blasphemous anxiety to do the work of God for him and confessing the idolatry in our own hearts, we will shape our congregation to follow Jesus faithfully—more faithfully than 365 consecutive days of work ever could.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I need to get back to planning my vacation.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

Pastor, Take a Vacation—for the Good of Your Church – Part 1 of 2

By Stephanie Dyrness

You are not the linchpin holding your congregation together.

I sit on the couch, flipping through my digital calendar, trying to do the math. When can we actually fit in some vacation time? There are so many factors to consider: the launch of the combined summer service, Vacation Bible School, various camps, vacations for other staff members. I also worry about the summer slump, which is already upon us. Can the church really afford not to have their lead pastors present, if only for morale?

My husband and I, co-lead pastors of our church, have the vacation time. All the books and all the ministry blogs and all the professors say pastors must tend to their families, guard their souls, and rest. I know in my heart we need to take more than one week—that in fact we need two in a row—to truly decompress and separate from the beautiful but weighty vocation that is parish ministry.

But so much can happen in two weeks. My mind begins to race. A conflict might emerge, a pressing administrative issue could arise, someone might end up in the hospital with only a good word from my lips able to sustain them. As my thoughts careen out of control, images of a church in tatters, a mass exodus, and possible explosions flood my mind’s eye.

Get a grip, I tell myself.

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The irrational fear and anxiety of taking a mere 14 consecutive days away from my parish has unveiled a wound within me that needs attention.

Why the Anxiety?

Vacation anxiety is not unique to ministry, but the pressure does have a unique faith-flavored flair to it. The stakes feel elevated for those in the field of soul care.

Practical concerns

There are, of course, practical concerns. Who will do what in our absence? How will the everyday, unseen tasks be completed? Who will honor the pulpit and preach faithfully when we’re gone? For those of us who feel a sense of scarcity in terms of local leadership, these practical concerns can paralyze us.

Perceptions

But vacation anxiety runs much deeper than the who, what, and how questions that arise when the pastor is out of town. There is also the anxiety of perception. Some pastors are more prone to this anxiety than others, but it merits mention.

As I plan time away, I find myself explaining, almost defending, our vacation. We haven’t taken any time off in 6 months. Or, We’ve been saving up for a long time to take a trip, and we’re doing it on the cheap, so we’re not being extravagant or anything! I secretly wonder, does my congregation begrudge me the time off? Will they perceive me as disengaged, selfish, and uncommitted to the church and the church’s needs? The fact that my paycheck comes from their tithes and offerings adds a new layer of angst, since I often feel the need to prove I’m worth the investment and that I’m not living large at their expense.

An idolatrous heart

But if I am truly honest with myself, my anxiety surrounding taking adequate time off goes even deeper than the practical concerns or the perceptions. I cannot in good faith say, “It’s them! It’s the congregation with their unreasonable expectations!” Because it is also me, with an idolatrous heart that has participated in and perhaps even propagated the narrative that the life of the church flows from, or at least through, the pastor.

In his ever-timely book The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson quotes Hilary of Tours who describes a sin so often committed by pastors: irreligiosa sollicitudo pro Deo, a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.

And there it is: the sin of this pastor’s heart. I could blame the constant deluge of images that portray leaders as an organization’s capstone—the source of inspiration, motivation, and momentum. I could blame those highly “successful” pastors who peddle their systems and theories as necessary to salvation and vital to every church’s life together. I could even blame denominational leaders who present stories of visionary, gregarious leaders to mimic and ensure ecclesial growth and vitality.

But my accusations fall flat. I must take responsibility for the state of my soul and the lies I have believed—lies of my own self-importance, lies that my identity is contingent upon my vocation, even lies about the Spirit’s power to move and transform without direction from me. With that in mind, here are a few commitments I am making as I plan my upcoming vacation.

*This article will continue in the next post.

Not Obligation, but Love

By Freya Galindo

Mexico’s big cities contain a multitude of social problems and unfavorable conditions for many people who live in vulnerable situations. Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, is not the exception, even more so because it is a city bordering the United States.

Eleven years ago, aware of this reality, the 1stChurch of the Nazarene in this city decided to set up a civil association dedicated to the formation, development and strengthening of families: “Ministerios Verbo de Vida, A.C.” (Word of Life Ministries).

In 2014, with a desire to meet a more specific need in the area and the goal of serving their community, they decided to use their church’s facilities to open a community soup kitchen through an alliance with the Mexican federal government’s Secretary of Social Development (SEDESOL).

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On August 4 of this year, the soup kitchen will celebrate four years of serving its community. Monday through Saturday, from 7-9 am and from 12-2 pm, food is provided for an average of 100 people, most of whom are senior citizens. In addition to the donations that this soup kitchen receives from SEDESOL, it is also supported by other churches, non-profit organizations and individuals. Pastor Conrado, his wife Petry, and their two children, along with some other volunteers, are the ones who regularly cook and serve in the soup kitchen.

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Recently, as a civil association, they presented a project to the federal government soliciting support to open 5 guitar schools in different parts of the city to provide a teaching space to train children and young people in music. This program is already developed in CERSAI # 3 (Center for Social Reintegration for Adolescent Offenders) in Ciudad Juárez, with 20 adolescents.

Another of the church’s dreams for the future is to open a shelter for immigrants (another social issue prevalent in Ciudad Juárez).

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Pastor Conrado’s words are inspiring as he describes the work they do as a church through the civil association and the community soup kitchen: “We do it with pleasure, not because of obligation, but with love.”

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Thank God for churches in the city that are making a difference through serving their communities!

To learn more about this ministry, visit their Facebook page: Ministerios Verbo de Vida, A.C.