The Reformation(s) of the Church

*During the month of October we will be focusing on the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

By Charles W. Christian

Looking back on the Protestant Reformation reminds us of God’s continual desire to be in right relationship with His Church. 

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Reformation before Luther

Though the catalyst to the series of events known today as the Protestant Reformation was sparked in 1517 by Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses to the church doors at Wittenburg, the Church had long before been engaged in the process of reformation. In fact, one could argue that ever since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God has been reforming. The Church continues its process of reformation today.

The coming of Jesus and the new Kingdom He embodied was a clarification of the reform that God had been attempting throughout the Old Testament. Even after the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples felt the need for ongoing reform. The experience of Pentecost in Acts 2 assisted the Church in carrying out the admonition of Jesus (Matthew 28) to “go into all the world,” because the Kingdom of God defies societal limitations and borders.

The work of God among the Gentiles through the ministries of Peter and Paul added another dimension of reform, culminating in key agreements among early church leaders in Acts 15. Through the words of Paul and other writers, the rest of the New Testament demonstrates a variety of “mini-reforms” needed among a growing and changing constituency. God lovingly and consistently reforms the Church.

The “next generation” believers, commonly referred to as the Church Fathers and Mothers, experienced a myriad of reformation opportunities, the best known of which were the Ecumenical Councils and the formulation of creeds in the first eight centuries of the Church’s history. These steps toward reformation led to unity among several groups, but also resulted in schisms. Most notably, the Eastern and Western branches of the Church (the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic groups, respectively) experienced an official schism in 1054 A.D.

On Luther’s Doorstep and Beyond

Around the time of Martin Luther, the stage had been set for a particularly earth-shaking renewal. A century before Luther, for example, a Czech priest and professor named Jan Hus (1369-1415) had been put to death for writings and protests regarding the actions of key church leaders. In fact, after Luther posted his 95 theses, many began referring to Luther as a “modern Huss-ite.” Many factors surrounding Luther’s contribution to reformation in the early sixteenth century, such as his education, the invention of Gutenburg’s printing press, and Luther’s powerful friends, allowed Luther’s message to transcend the confines of his village and of Germany and become a key catalyst of reforms already taking place throughout the world. From there came other movements: Calvinists, Arminians, Anabaptists, Quakers, Puritans, and Wesleyans, just to name a few.

This article was originally posted at: Holiness Today

 

The Worst Brand Ever

By Rev. Brady Wisehart

Dying to live

I was greeted this morning as I sifted through my inbox with an email titled “We can HELP your Church’s brand” sent from a church branding company. I had not solicited help form this company and I was about to move the email to the trash folder when I paused and was captivated by the following thoughts… 
What is the brand of the church? Not just my local church but the Church of Jesus Christ. Is there a difference between the brand of the broader Church of Jesus Christ and my local church? Have we in western culture elevated our local church brands above the core brand of Christianity? 

My thoughts were not debating denominational distinctions, or dumping on marketing or branding as tools. My thoughts were quite the opposite. I believe denominations are helpful to the Body of Christ, and I believe that the greatest news in the world, the gospel, is worthy of our best efforts to communicate as effectively as we can. 

Marketing consultants tell us that your brand is very important. It’s what tells the story of the core of your message. It’s what you present to the marketplace as who you are, what you are all about, and what you have to offer. 

For centuries, the brand of the Church of Jesus Christ was embodied by the cross. Atop of a cathedral or a country church the branding was consistent, a cross. For centuries, the image of the cross has been universal. Not limited to one culture but around the world the cross communicates the message of Christianity.

But think about that with me for a moment. The core branding image of Christianity is an execution device. Can you imagine a marketing consultant encouraging your institutional identity to be an electric chair? Welcome to our Church, the church of death! Yet this is the message! When Paul says “I did not come to you with persuasive words of wisdom but…I preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2-4) The message of the cross is one of death to sin and life in Christ (Eph. 2:16; Heb. 12:2; 1Cor. 1:17-18; Gal.511-14; Phil. 3:18).

It is in the death of Christ that we find freedom from sin and life in Him. This brand of the cross is not just a symbol of what Christ did for us. Jesus clarifies the message when He says “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35) Jesus calls us to choose. When I choose to accept Christ by grace and faith alone I walk with Him as a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).

The Apostle Paul writes, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24) “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20-21).

That’s a lot of death talk for a core brand. I can see how some may be tempted to “refresh” the brand and give a lighter spin on the message. But Paul helps us in Galatians 2:21 see that if righteousness could be gained some other way other than Jesus, then Christ died for nothing.

In short, a “refreshed” or “touched up” brand, sanitizing the uncomfortable parts of the message and replacing them with a more “crowd friendly” narrative is not only dangerous but completely undermines the entire gospel. Leaving us with a “product” that is powerless. 

I came across this graphic today depicting how the Apostles died. Suddenly it hit me, they lived the brand! They all gave up their life for Christ. This was not just a testament to their devotion to the brand, but more so… they “lived” the brand in their deaths. 

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While I’m not suggesting God is calling each of us to be physically martyred for our faith in Christ, I do believe the core brand is clear. Through the cross I find life in Christ. When I am in Christ the old has gone and the new has come. Truly following Jesus leads us to a dying out to self and sin. To the point… If you are not ready to die, you are not ready to truly live. 

Are you a Christian? Are you a true follower of Jesus Christ? If yes, are you living the brand of the cross of Christ? Or have you drifted into a fixation with your own unique niche articulation of your preferred “idea” of Christianity? Has your faith become more focused on your preferences, your interests, your agenda? Has there been an erosion of the call Christ gives to love Him so much that by comparison it’s like you hate everything else? (Luke 14:26)

I have amazing news for you friend! There is no better way to live than to die! When we allow Christ to save us from our sinful selves, when we allow the power of His spirit to lead us to crucify our desires so we can embrace the desires of God… We start TRULY LIVING! The old has gone and the NEW HAS COME! 

Youth in Mission – Haiti

The following report was written by Estefania Amador, Valeria Narvaez, Elsie Rodriguez and Rubi Piñon, who are serving in Haiti for two months through Youth in Mission.

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It has already been a busy summer! We have participated in three pastors’ kids’ camps, with the first one being held in Puerto Principe (Central District): 22 children and teenagers participated. The second one was held in Blek (Southeast District) with an attendance of 26 kids, and the last one was held in Gonaives, where four districts participated (North-central, Upper Artibonite, Lower Artibonite and Northeast) and 56 pastors’ kids attended.  We are thankful for what God is doing in the lives of each one of these children!

 

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In these camps we’ve helped with bible lessons and crafts that are made using recyclable material. Many of the pastors’ kids have shared their testimony; one that really blessed our lives was Clelie’s testimony.  She is a young lady that is very thankful because we taught her how to reuse a shirt and make a bag out of it.  She shared with us that she wants to reproduce what she learned with her church and friends. The pastors’ kids have also received words of encouragement, and during the last camp three of them decided to accept Jesus as their Savior. It is a great joy for us to be a part of this project.

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We are working in a mission (or preaching point) three days a week.  Our ministry includes evangelism, children’s and youth ministry, visiting needy brothers and sisters from church, and giving educational workshops and Spanish classes. We are very happy to see what God is doing day by day in our lives and in the lives of the people that we share with. The church members are very thankful for the evangelism tools that we have given them: the evangelism cube and the wordless book have been implemented immediately and now 5 people have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord!

 

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Finally, we want to say that the will of God won’t take us where His grace can’t protect us.JEM con Pierre Ornan.JPG

Blessings to all and thank you for your prayer support!

A Multicultural Missionary Summer

On July 7-23, 2017 the communities of Cecara and Banegas in Santiago, Dominican Republic were blessed with the Maximum Mission and “4×4: All-Terrain” Global Mission projects hosted by Genesis missionaries Wendy Rivera, Sugey Barron and Joselyn Garcia. The missionaries were also assisted by brothers and sisters in Christ from the USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Young people from four districts in Dominican Republic participated in the 3 day Maximum Mission project.

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After the Maximum Mission project, a 14 day “4×4: All-Terrain” event was held. This event provided the opportunity for door to door evangelism, visitation of new contacts, a workshop for women called “It is wonderful to be a woman”, another workshop for married couples, VBS,  a talent show, and a movie night where the movie “War Room” was shown.

Nine people from Worthington Church of the Nazarene in the United States collaborated in the first week with the two communities and hosted a VBS. This event received additional support from coordinator Beverly Brown of the Dominican Republic Work and Witness ministry.

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In addition, everyone involved in both the Maximum Mission project and the 4×4: All Terrain event dedicated much of their time to community service, such as home and street cleaning, food and clothing delivery to families in need, conversations about environmental care or personal hygiene, house repair and painting, as well as many sports activities for youth.

In addition to the Genesis missionaries, Angel Meran, Reidyn Amador, Elba Duson, and Cristobal Urbaez from Dominican Republic formed an excellent ministry team.  Kimberly Vazquez, Keneth Robles, Desiree Perez, Diana Cruz, Yolanda Avilez, and Julio Mercado from Puerto Rico also participated in fruitful work, as well as Freya Galindo from Mexico.

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Four Churches of the Nazarene from the Dominican Republic North District – Ingco,  Manahaim, Bella Vista and Cienfuegos – also greatly supported many of the activities.

One of the participants stated, “It was a very blessed time knowing we could impact the two communities where we worked. The people from both communities joined us in some of the ministries such as washing children’s hair and cleaning the streets. As we repaired the houses the two communities also came together to help. In the end, we not only served them; they also served their own community.”

Elba Duson said: “I define this as a project of love, faith and courage…the days in those communities taught me to see Jesus in the face of the children, in the people in real need and in the outcry of affection and love in their faces.”

Written by Adriana Carreon in collaboration with Freya Galindo, Central Field Global Mission Coordinator.

10 Things I’ve Learned From Difficult People

By Steve Dunmire

When I first went into ministry, I was warned that, as a pastor, I would have to deal with difficult people. But I was not prepared for how venomous they could be at times.

I have been on the receiving end of vindictive anonymous letters, berating phone calls and accusing rants. I’ve watched too many difficult people literally storm out of the churches I have served (not to mention their passive aggressive behavior, sarcastic remarks, cutting jokes and backhanded compliments).

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But I’ve also learned a lot from difficult people. Here are a few of the lessons they have taught me:

1. Difficult People Have the Nerve to Say What Everyone Else is Thinking.

Sometimes (not always) difficult people are the people who say to your face what others will only mutter under their breath. They are sometimes the only ones who have the nerve to say what everyone else is thinking. Difficult people can be the pastoral equivalent of when a physician orders blood work for a patient: an efficient way to find out what is going on in the church’s bloodstream.

2. Difficult People Help Me Develop Thick Skin.

Dealing with difficult people is one of the most effective ways to develop the thick skin a pastor needs in order to be fit for ministry. There may be no other substitute. Dealing with difficult people is to our souls what weight training is to our bodies, so I have learned to love difficult people because they make me stronger.

3. Difficult People Reveal My Insecurities.

Difficult people force us to face up to our insecurities and our need to be liked. They force us to choose the need to be firm on some issues over our need for acceptance. Their criticism strikes at the lie that the Enemy has planted in our hearts: “This is who you really are, and all the nice things people say is just them being polite.”

Difficult people and critics in our lives can be like carnival mirrors who criticize an exaggerated and distorted version of ourselves. We recognize immediately that the distorted image is not who we are—and this can provide for us the opportunity to look at our lives and see ourselves as we really are.

4. Difficult People Make Me Clarify What I’m Doing.

Just as one out of tune string on a guitar can force us to retune all six strings, one difficult person in a church can prompt us to clarify everything we do. They force us to make things clearer and more precise because of their complaints and sometimes in anticipation of their complaints. In this way, difficult people make our ministry better because they force us to be clear and precise about what we want to do, and how we are going to do it.

5. Difficult People Show Me I Am Doing Something Right.

There is a common strand running through every major turning point of ministry, every breakthrough, every visible success, every time I could point to measurable results, or even every time I received some level of recognition. The common element in each of those things is the pestering presence of difficult people who opposed me every step along the way. I love people difficult people because they are one of the most reliable indicators I have been able to find to tell me that I am doing something right.

6. Difficult People Create Supporters.

A pastor needs meaningful friendships in order to endure. And in my case, some of my most meaningful partnerships and friendships in the ministry have been forged in response to the difficult people in a church. At times I have seen people become much more vocal supporters of me as a pastor because they have seen a critic’s harsh attack. I am grateful to have several significant friendships that were forged in direct response to difficult people.

7. Difficult People Make Me a Better Boss and a Better Subordinate.

Difficult people have helped me to see how important it is to recognize good work, applaud hard work and express appreciation. They also help me to see that not every opinion needs to be expressed. On the whole, I would like to believe that I am less critical of those who serve above me because of my experiences with difficult people.

8. Difficult People Drive Me To Prayer.

I wish this was not true, but it is. And if difficult people drive me to my knees in prayer, then I know they are a great gift. A.W. Tozer writes, “Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense, and he will have no other. But let him come defenseless before the Lord and he will have for his defender no less than God Himself.” Difficult people drive me nuts, so they drive me to my knees in prayer, and that is one of the reasons I have learned to love them.

9. Difficult People Are Not an Obstacle to Conquer.

I once heard someone give a sermon about Eliab, David’s older brother, who burned with anger against David when he was asking the men about Goliath (1 Samuel 17:28). The pastor pointed out how David had to choose in that moment to press on to defeat Goliath, or stop to fight his critics.

Critics are neither an indicator of success nor failure, so I have chosen in advance to battle giants, not critics. I have learned to love difficult people because loving them is an option. I do not want to be remembered as the man who triumphed over his critics; I want to be remembered as the man who triumphed over giants.

10. I Am Someone’s Difficult Person.

I know I have been a difficult person in someone’s life. Sometimes I appear difficult to another person because of a disagreement, sometimes it is just because of a personality conflict, and sometimes it comes with being a person in leadership. But I have learned to love difficult people because loving them is a way I can do unto others what I would have them to do me.

Learning from difficult people and learning to love them is still a work in progress, but I hope that someday I’ll be able to truly love difficult people as God loves difficult me.

This article was originally posted at SteveDunmire.com.  Read more at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/10-things-i%E2%80%99ve-learned-difficult-people#tUIcsOltP9IqbjMq.99

Dangerous Holiness Prayers

By David A. Gallimore

Several years ago I was on a personal journey for more of God.  I was hungry for a fresh Word.  While reading Psalm 139:23-24 one day, I discovered what I call “5 Dangerous Prayers” that have literally revolutionized my relationship with Jesus Christ.  I have prayed these prayers every day for the last 20 years and it has been an incredible ride.  However, let me warn you…these prayers are dangerous!  They will mess you up!  I say that in the “best” of ways. At the end of the day these prayers will produce a fully sanctified and surrendered life.

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DANGEROUS PRAYER #1:  Search Me

Picture yourself going to the doctor and getting on the examination table. You put yourself in a vulnerable position where the doctor can perform the examination.  You give up control, privacy, etc.  It can actually be an uncomfortable experience.  Would you be willing to get on God’s examination table and say, “I give you permission to search every area of my heart, mind and soul?”  

DANGEROUS PRAYER #2:  Break Me

I must confess when I first prayed these prayers my attitude was cavalier at best:  “Go ahead God…search me…I think I’m doing pretty good.  I’ve grown up in the Holiness Movement.  I know how to do church the RIGHT way!”  I had no idea what I was in store for. I started praying these prayers and God started breaking me of what I will call for lack of a better term, “spiritual pride.”  I began to realize new growth comes when old habits and attitudes are broken.  To say it even stronger…there is room for repentance even in the saved and sanctified life.

DANGEROUS PRAYER #3:  Stretch Me

When I first began praying these prayers God led me out of a very comfortable pastorate into a cutting edge multi-cultural church that forever changed my perspective of ministry.  Hymn books were replaced by Hillsong, suits and ties were now shorts and tee shirts, and testimonies changed from “I’ve been saved and sanctified for 50 years,” to one innocent but enthusiastic biker who shouted from the altar to a packed congregation, “this is the greatest day of my life…God just saved the Hell out of me this morning!”  Was I ever being stretched out of my comfort zone!  I had the privilege of baptizing 50 new converts one Sunday.  Three women approached the baptistry in two piece bathing suits!  I got all mixed up.  I’m thinking to myself “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” what am I going to hold on to!  We got on the phone in the church office on Monday morning and ordered baptismal robes.  That took care of that problem.  Watch out when you pray these prayers.  

They’re dangerous!

DANGEROUS PRAYER #4:  Lead Me

King David prayed “lead me in the way everlasting.”  For the past twenty years I have prayed that God would daily lead me out of my comfort and safety zones into a life of radical obedience.  After serving the church as a pastor for many years, God called me into a fulltime itinerant ministry of evangelism.  I tried to reason with God about this…it’s not 1950, most churches do not have revival meetings anymore, we will starve to death!  I ran the numbers on the calculator and they did not add up, but I kept praying these prayers.  Lead me Lord…I’ll follow.  We took this huge step of faith and left the security of a great church that was taking wonderful care of me and my family and we found that when you trust and obey, God always provides.  For the past 10 years I have averaged preaching 45 evangelistic meetings a year here in America and abroad.  What I’m saying is that you can trust God with your life.

DANGEROUS PRAYER #5:  Use Me

When all is said and done, has your life counted for the Kingdom’s sake?  The mantra of this world is “he who has the most toys at the end wins.”  My prayer for you today is that God would deliver us from the wisdom and ways of this world and that we would be willing to live fully surrendered lives that say “I am available today God…lead me to the person who needs you most and use me to be a winning witness.”

Would you be courageous enough to pray these five prayers every day?  Remember the disclaimer…the fine print…they are dangerous, but they have the potential to radically revolutionize your life.  May God bless you as you start the adventure.

This article was originally posted at Holiness Legacy.