Lift Up Your Eyes

By: Joselyn García, Missionary serving with Genesis in Panama City

“Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white for harvest” (John 4:35).

In order to make the message clear for his Hebrew hearers, Jesus used illustrations from their daily life, including many dealing with agriculture. In John 4, Jesus tries to teach his disciples how to take advantage of opportunities to extend the kingdom.

Discerning that a field was ready for harvest was not the specialty of a few who understood the subject. The golden color of thousands of spikes of grain clearly would have indicated to all who passed by that the harvest time had arrived. But in order to see it, one thing was necessary: the lifting of your eyes.

I want to tell you the story of Judith, a new believer in Carrasquilla, Panama City. Judith is a very helpful and active lady, and we saw her every week when we went through her neighborhood for the kids club we were organizing. Sometimes she wasn’t in a good mood, and we always greeted her, but we hadn’t ever had a deeper conversation with her. Several months passed. Judith3.jpeg

Taking John 4 into account, we might say that we had not yet learned to lift our eyes to see that there was an opportunity in front of us. How many days had we passed by the field and not noticed the harvest?!

One day we were able to have a conversation with her during a difficult time in the community. A great storm had come over the neighborhood, and we decided to visit each family, pray with them, and deliver food and water.

From that point our relationship with Judith grew. We shared Jesus with her, and we began discipleship in her house. She has grown a lot. She constantly tells us how her life has been transformed by Christ and how she has left behind actions and attitudes that did not please God. A few days ago, she took another step of faith. She was baptized!

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We thank God for her life, and what he will continue to do in her.

The Holy Spirit is the one who helps and guides us, but many times as a church we have missed countless opportunities to share the gospel. Lifting our eyes is an act of will. Let us decide to look at the world with the eyes of Christ, for He has said in his word that the harvest is ready.

May our prayer be: Lord, give us vision. Count on us. Use our hands to harvest. Lift up our eyes so that we can see beyond the faces of the people we meet. Help us to see their hearts.

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The Two Faces Of The Moon

By: Marleidy Sánchez, Missionary serving with Genesis in Panama

In life, we learn the most in times of difficulties, complicated circumstances, and when life does not go as we would have expected. If we were to receive everything we wanted too easily, we would undoubtedly lose the value of effort, perseverance and, above all, patience.Marleidy selfie niños.jpg

Author Pablo Latapí Sarre writes a reflection where he compares the life of a teacher to the two faces of the moon. On the dark side he mentions all the hardships and problems one faces, and on the bright side the greatest of pleasures: seeing the student learn.

This causes me to think about missionary work. Every missionary faces many things that at the moment seem to make no sense. On the dark side, I could mention the difficulties on the field: the cultural shock of finding ourselves in a country not our own, limited economic resources, the lack of interest of people in responding to our message, or even if they do their lack of growth afterwards in their spiritual lives, etc.  If we focus on all this, we can lose sight of the most beautiful, luminous part of serving.

What can we say about the bright side? Throughout the entire time we have been Niños cajas.jpgserving in Panama, I have seen many lights: children and adults listening to Jesus and inviting him into their lives, the Word transforming minds and hearts, people leaving their pasts and beginning to lead new lives in Christ, and meeting every Sunday morning with a new church to praise God in a place where months ago there was nothing. In ministry we will have to pass through lights and shadows. Trusting in God’s promises makes us believe that, in the midst of difficulty, He has control.

There is a phrase that fits perfectly with this concept: “Do not forget in the dark what God has shown you in the light.” Shadows are part of ministry and also part of our growth. When we do everything with love, we can be assured that (in the words of Latapí Sarre) “the lights outweigh the shadows, and we know that the moon is decidedly bright and beautiful.”

 “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light, we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

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Waiting Power

By: Dr. Dan Schafer

President, World Gospel Mission

*The following is an extract from the book: Transformational Vision

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” – Psalm 27:14

Mind boggling! Sitting in the sweltering heat of an Ugandan afternoon, I typed up and sent off an important email with several recipients. One of those recipients sat across the table from me, the others were scattered around the world.

“Got it!” was the reply from my colleague seemingly before I lifted my finger from the sent button. How is it possible for that email to travel from my computer in the depths of Africa, across the continent, over the ocean, to the heart of the US, and then repeat the journey back, signaling its arrival into the inbox of my table companion in just a few seconds?

Not only is this possible, but its occurrence is expected. If the email fails to make its appearance within those few acceptable seconds, our impatience grows. What’s wrong?! We should have gotten that email 30 seconds ago.

Like our email, much of life is delivered at ultra-high speed. Many of us have grown accustomed to next day delivery from Amazon, instant downloadable movies, and an Uber “taxi” driver waiting just around the corner for our beckon call. delivery

What a wonderful convenience these ultra-fast services and products bring to our lives. But writer Tim Elmore shares that there is an unexpected consequence of all this high-speed delivery. There is a significant danger that we will conclude that everything slow or that takes time is bad. This results in a practice of avoiding anything that takes time.

Why is this a danger to us? Simply put, we need the resistance that time consuming activities produce in our lives. Without it, we will not develop into the fully healthy persons God intends for us to be. It is these time-consuming activities that build character in our lives. For example, it is only as we practice waiting that we learn to be patient.

Waiting is important! Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. There is something about speeding through life that causes us to miss the power of God that is available to us. Elijah had to slow down from the events of Mount Carmel to hear the still, small voice of God.

Such a voice can only be detected when we are standing still. Remember, God’s voice wasn’t detected in the wind that went rushing by. It’s only when we learn to wait, that we can truly experience the strength of our God.

Again, waiting exercises the muscle of patience. Without the discipline of waiting, we will find ourselves woefully short on patience. Without patience — we will find ourselves short on love.

Love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4). The mathematical law of equality informs us that we can flip this equation and restate it — patient [or patience] is love. The reality is that it requires a great deal of patience to live with and to love others. We must learn there are times when it is important to go slow because it builds the patience we need to love one another. And without that perseverance-developed patience we will not have what it takes to maintain the relationships with others that are needed to navigate life.

So, go ahead and enjoy the conveniences that bring speed to our lives, but don’t write off everything that requires time and hard work.  Those mental, spiritual, and emotional exercises are important to your mental, spiritual, and emotional health.

My Prayer:

Lord, teach me that some good things only come by waiting. Amen.

 

 

 

The Top 7 Reasons Guests Return To Your Church

By: Dan Reiland

Recently we came across the following article and believe that it has some wonderfully practical suggestions to help any local church leader.  Although our readers will know that we bristle against vocabulary that refers to “church” as a place we go to or something that can be “attended,” we trust that the wisdom provided here will be gleaned in spite of such language.

The most common reason people check out your church is someone invited them. The most common reason people leave your church is they don’t feel connected.

But what are the most common reasons people return to your church after their first visit or two?

There’s lots of conversation about church attendance patterns these days, and that affects how we measure guest retention rate, and the length of time it takes for guests to connect with your church.

Here’s a new reality, new people connect more slowly than in the past and disconnect more quickly than we’ve previously experienced. It’s a double-edged sword. It takes longer for new people to connect because they don’t necessarily attend every week. And, they disconnect faster because the best “connection factors” are relationally based and therefore depend on attendance!

We can’t change current culture, or can we?

Here are two big reasons why people attend church less frequently (not in order):

  • Families are busier now than ever. From demands in their jobs (travel etc.) to sports for their kids on weekends, people are on the go nearly seven days a week.
  • People get bored faster than lightning. If guests attend your church and it gives off even a hint of being out of date, not fresh, “seen this before” or in some way behind or irrelevant, they are gone!

That’s difficult to compete with, so perhaps competing is not the answer. We might be wise to focus just a little less on why people don’t come, and invest more energy into why people do come. Focusing on what church does best is a smarter approach. Doing it the way your church does it best, is smarter still.

That takes us back to the top reasons guests return to your church. Put your energy here.

Top 7 Reasons Guests Return:

1) The Presence Of God Is Felt.

There is an unmistakable awareness of the presence and power of God at work. It may be inspirational and filled with emotion, or a more quiet and peaceful stirring within, but however it’s experienced, the presence of God is felt.

2) The Key Leaders Are Perceived As Trustworthy.

Guests come to your church at varying levels of “readiness” to trust the leaders they encounter. But it’s surprising how quickly they can discern if they trust you or not. Even from only a message or two, or brief connections in the lobby, they intuitively have decided if they can trust you. Your level of authenticity and clarity of communication make a huge difference in this process.

3) The Worship Service Is Positive, Relevant, Biblically Sound, And Executed With Heart And Excellence.

You don’t have to compete with the other churches near you. The important thing is to be the very best that you can. For example, if the worship team isn’t strong, select less challenging music, and do it with excellence. If the preaching isn’t strong, make the message shorter. In all cases, keep practicing, so you get better. Make sure the service is positive, clearly biblical, and upbeat and communicates faith in an atmosphere of grace.

4) The Volunteers And Congregation Express Authentic Love And Care.

Genuine love and attention are unmistakable and irresistible. When people encounter it, it’s truly transforming. The source is God’s love, but the expression and experience come from the people in your congregation, both from your volunteer leaders and regular attenders.

5) They Hear Current Stories Of Life Change.

Connected to brief and creative communication of your purpose or mission/vision are stories of life change every week. These stories need to be communicated in a variety of creative ways. That is hugely compelling and draws people back. Life change is inspiring, and it gives hope that they too can experience positive and spiritually oriented change.

6) There Are No “Glaring” Shortcomings.

There are no perfect churches, we all have flaws. But there should be nothing that is an immediate turn-off, or so grossly out of line that it makes people feel awkward and uncomfortable. For example, I’ve seen nurseries that were unclean and unsafe. I’ve listened to worship music that was painfully unrehearsed. Or it may be something as simple as the building is in desperate need of a fresh coat of paint or signage that is clear and helpful. If you are not sure, invite a church consultant to come in for one Sunday, that’s all it takes!

7) The Children’s Ministry Is Outstanding.

Each of your ministries matter, but children’s ministry is the one that receives the least grace from your guests. Parents are justifiably protective and want the best for their kids. They don’t yet know you or what happens when they drop off their children. Candidly, guests will give an “average” service another shot, but if their child has a bad experience, they will not likely return. Invest great effort and energy in your children’s ministry.

These are the elements that inspire guests to return. This gives you the opportunity to make the “deeper connections.”

The most common paths to deeper connection – (longer term, greater commitment, and ownership of the vision) are:

  • Small groups
  • Serving opportunities
  • Deeper friendships

Make your next steps simple and clear.

Leading a local church is complicated. But sometimes breaking it down like this helps you become more intentional and know where to invest your energy best.

 

Six Missionaries Trained to Bring a Genesis to Two Cities

By: Alejandra García

On September 29, 2019 the new missionaries assigned to Genesis arrived in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for training before going to the field. After six weeks of previous online training, these four weeks would be the final step to prepare for their task: planting new churches in Monterrey, Mexico and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.75271515_2430500563712655_1334343848062615552_n.jpg

Oscar Isem Quej (from Guatemala), Elba Duson (from Dominican Republic), Teresa De cuesta García (from Mexico), Diana González (from El Salvador), and Edgar Daniel Santiago and Andrea López (both from Mexico) brought with them an eagerness to bring the good news of salvation to those in need, the desire to see lives transformed through Christ and to be used for his glory, and most of all, the conviction to obey and always say “yes” to the Lord.

Once they finished their classes on Urban Mission, Church Planting, Missionary Anthropology, Personal Care, Teamwork, and much more, they departed on October 25 for Monterrey and Quetzaltenango with many useful tools and a new knowledge of how to serve in their cross-cultural ministries. They learned a great deal and expressed an unwavering commitment to continue serving the Lord. Let’s hear some of their testimonies:

Elba: “During this time of training and living with my fellow missionaries in Genesis, the Lord confirmed even more strongly the special call that he had placed in my heart about 4 years ago. Each of the topics discussed were of great importance to us as we carry out the work ahead. As we reached the last day of training, I was more convinced than ever of what God wants to do through our obedience in the city.”

Oscar: “I thank God for the time of training in the Dominican Republic because it was a great blessing and help. I thank Him for all the facilitators who taught us the courses, the moments of evangelism and the prayers of Scott and Emily Armstrong, and the help and care of Gary and Naomi Faucett and Alejandra García. I feel more prepared after seeing how God is leading me and giving me wisdom for my missionary work. It is a joy to be part of this mission.”

Diana: “The training time was a great blessing and full of challenges. Above all, God spoke to my heart about the love and interest he has for the city. Sometimes, when we think of the city, we focus on material abundance, busy lives, self-centeredness, or people living their lives as they want, but now I thank God for the opportunity to serve in the city by sharing the hope Jesus gives us.”

Teresa: Without a doubt it has been a time of great blessing, full of laughter, learning, tears, but above all challenges. During this month God has touched my heart and has made me see that Genesis begins with me. He has completely demolished some barriers in my life and has now begun to build a new city, a new life, as I am comforted with the vision of preaching the message of salvation.  I am sure that God is already working in the hearts of those I will meet and that these two years will be of blessing to Xela (Quetzaltenango).”

Daniel and Andrea: “From the moment we arrived in the D.R., everything felt different. We began to miss several things from southern Mexico, and God showed us in a surprising way what He wanted for our lives in each of the topics discussed. During several activities in the city, we could see the difference in urban classes, and we were surprised to see the large number of houses and people living in the apartment buildings. Seeing the lack of water and basic sanitation services also impacted us, since the garbage trucks do not pass through the places we were walking. During this month of training, we touched lives, and we are positive that the seed was sown in their hearts and that God will continue to work in them.”

76762622_2398626683713206_4071879294417108992_n.jpgWe thank God for the life of each of these missionaries. Pray for their ministries in the next two years. And may God bring a genesis to Monterrey and Quetzaltenango!

 

The Relevant Church

By: Dan Reiland

Culture is changing, and it’s changing fast. More than ever before, the church has an incredible opportunity (and responsibility) to make a difference.

But let’s be honest, we can’t lead with cultural relevance from the back of the parade.  We can’t lead future generations if we don’t know what they want, how they experience life, and how God wants to engage them.

Keeping up is the baseline. Understanding how people perceive their world is essential. It’s best to be thinking ahead, seeing around the curve, anticipating, and staying relevant.

This doesn’t mean you need to panic.  It’s not a race; it’s about being deliberate in your leadership. Relevance is not about being cool, creative, and clever; it’s about the ability to connect.

Churches become irrelevant when they can no longer connect with the next generation.  The gospel is never irrelevant, but we have a responsibility to discover the best way for it to be received.

How do you assess if you are relevant? Who decides? This article gives you practical insights to frame a conversation for your leaders.

5 Insights For A Practical Grasp Of Ministry Relevance

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1) To Be Relevant, It Simply Means That It Matters.

Relevance means what you do matters. Relevance means that your ministry makes a difference, and people’s lives are changed.

True relevance would suggest that the surrounding community notices your presence and appreciates your ministry. Relevance is measured only in part by attendance, and perhaps a smaller part, it’s truly measured by the community’s opinion of the good you do.

The first step in your city perceiving your ministry as relevant begins by knowing that you care.

2) Don’t Confuse Relevance With Style Or Culture.

Relevance is not about your choice of worship songs or how casual you may or may not be; that is a matter of style, preference, and culture. Relevant isn’t about whether your shirt is tucked or un-tucked, or whether you preach 25 minutes or 45 minutes.

Ministry relevance is more about quality and effectiveness.

Pastors will ask me if I think choirs are still relevant in today’s culture. If the choir is really good, it is absolutely relevant. Bad choirs are irrelevant.

Regarding relevance, just ask the question, “Does it work?” If it works, it’s relevant. But you have to be honest about the answer to that question.

3) Don’t Answer Questions That No One Is Asking 

Have you ever played Trivial Pursuit? It’s a fun game, but beyond that, who really cares about those questions? If you weren’t trying to win the game, no one would care about the answers.

If we aren’t careful, we can answer questions as part of a local church ministry that no one is asking. That is irrelevant.

As a leader, I first learned this principle with my own children. When they were young, they asked hundreds of questions. By their teen years, the questions slowed to a near stop. I had to find where they were at, be patient, learn what their questions were, and parent from that perspective. Then I could use their questions to lead to timeless truth.

You don’t have to dumb down your theology to be relevant, but you do need to understand what people are asking to be a relevant leader, teacher, and pastor.

Start with their questions and then lead them to biblical truth.

4) Relevance Requires Asking What The Community Needs

Innovation that comes only from your boardroom is not likely to be relevant.

Talk to people who don’t attend church. Ask people who left your church. Ask people in your church who are under thirty years old. Learn how other churches are connecting. (Again, that doesn’t mean you need to do what they do, but you can get ideas and adapt to your context.)

One of the best ways to shut down relevance is to talk to the same people about the same issues, making a small tweak and end up doing the same things.

Relevance isn’t in competition with the culture; it’s about connecting with current culture. It’s not about surrendering truth; it’s about meeting people where they are at.

How’s your church doing with that?

5) Embrace Innovation And Change. 

You don’t have to do what other churches do, but you can’t do what you’ve always done.

The message remains the same, but our methods must change. Technology alone insists that you change your approach to ministry.

Technology changed positions we put together a ministry team, how we broadcast and share messages, and how we communicate with volunteers.

People used to carry their Bibles to church; now Bibles are in their smartphones.

Relevance matters.

What are you doing really well?

What is working?

What’s not working, and you need to change?

 

Dan Reiland is the Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. 

© 2019 Dan Reiland | The Pastor’s Coach – Developing Church Leaders

 

Seeking Virtue In All

By: Scott Armstrong

A recent journey into social media caused me to end up pushing myself away from my laptop and cell phone, wide-eyed at the exaggerated self-promotion of so many voices proclaiming they are right and the other side (whoever that may be) is wrong.  It all reminded me of an excerpt from Stevenson Willis’ book, The Proverbs of Leadership, that I have found particularly insightful (pp. 134-136):

“No longer use the gift of your vision to focus on the flaws and frailties of another.  Search instead for the virtue within him and bring it to light for all the world to see.  Never pay attention to the whispers of gossip, nor allow your ears to hear words that slander or diminish.  When the idle or the agitators commence their hurtful chatter, always speak up for the one who is maligned and sing of their qualities to all whom will listen…

No longer must you view yourself as superior to any, for though prosperous or poor, will your bones not return unto the same pile of dust? Never walk so tall to think that you can never stumble nor esteem yourself as wise and incapable of error.  All forms of arrogance and conceit must be banished from your mirror, for such blinding self-deceptions distort your sense of worth.

Neither must you draw attention to your strengths nor boast of your talents that others might be awed.  From this day forth dedicate the usage of the gifts you’ve been given for one purpose only: to stir within others an awareness of their own.

The creator has endowed each soul with potential and asks of you to see it in whomever you shall meet.  With this simple truth the masses will receive you and the cause you’ve embraced.  Without it you will flounder, even with those whom you love.  From this day forth you must view every person in only one way: not as they have been or as they are, but as how they were created to be.

For when you view your fellow man through the eyes of our maker compassion and humility will flow from your heart. 

And many will draw near to discover the source”.