Living Simply so that Others may Simply Live

And he told them this parable: The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)

Have you ever been outside your country? Have you ever visited some of the poorest of the poor in another country or in the inner-cities of your own country? If you have seen the reality of poverty in our world today, like I have, you will view this passage differently.

I have to be honest.  Years ago, I read these verses in Luke and thought other people were the greedy ones.  Some of Jesus’ parables are confusing, but this one he explains right off the bat in verse 15.  The whole point of telling a story about a rich guy who keeps all his “grain and goods” to himself is to warn us against all kinds of greed.  And a while back I always thought that meant others.  I am not really rich, right? I don’t have to worry about this.

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Now I am convinced this rich fool is me—and maybe you. I have seen up close too many people who are suffering from poverty, disease, disasters, and bloody warfare, that I cannot pretend anymore.  How can you or I say that we are not greedy if we eat three enormous meals a day while a third of the world’s population starves? How can we live in our huge, comfortable houses while billions have nothing? I ate an ice-cream cone last week that cost as much as a farmer in some of our countries makes in a week to feed his family.  

So what are we going to do about it? We can continue as rich fools or we can begin to live more simply so that others may simply live.  We can store our possessions or learn to share and sacrifice in order to truly change the world.

“Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

“Lord, I am Here to Serve you With What you Have Given me”

Guatemala and Costa Rica hosted Encuentro June 30 – July 14. It impacted the lives of hundreds of people, from the communities where the teams ministered to the volunteers. Linda Alguera, 26, a doctor from Nicaragua, shared her experience in Guatemala.

“ …My friend and I spoke with our pastor and received help from the church. Even though the situation in our country threatened the possibility of us going, we remained positive…We arrived to the seminary excited. Four of us traveled together, and so began the adventure of the unknown. I only knew that I was going to serve, but I did not know how. The next day I found brother Milton and he said, ‘Hey doctor, you did not tell me you were coming. You would help us with a medical clinic, right?’ I excitedly agreed. I had brought my tools with me in order to do just that. That same day all the participants met for a welcome time and an explanation of what we were going to do. They told us that we should do everything possible to win one person for the Lord, and I said, ‘Wow. How do I that?’ In my heart I said, ‘Lord, I am here to serve you with what you have given me.’

The next day we met with the medical team. We had trouble with the medicine and with the dental equipment, but we served with what we had because, even more than human medicine, we wanted to bring spiritual medicine. We began the medical clinic the first week and every day we attended approximately 60-80 people, including adults and children. One day we attended 110 people and I remember the faces of the whole team with expressions of satisfaction and happiness for having seen all those people.

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We not only attended to the patients, but we also prayed for them and shared the plan of salvation with them. God gave me the chance to talk to a person who did not need human medicine, but only wanted someone who would listen. Every word of thanks we heard was as if it came from God himself. Many accepted God in the medical clinics.

I thought that I would only be there a week, but God allowed me to serve for 2 weeks. The Lord had great things prepared for me.

The second week I had the best experience I have ever had. I had problems at home and in a devotional I cried and cried. I had an internal battle all day because I had to go to a church and serve. At night I realized that even more than the problem it was God speaking into my life through this experience. That night I went to my room and prayed. I told the Lord that if He told me what He wanted, I would do it. In the last prayer when we were saying goodbye, I asked God to confirm his call to missions, and in that prayer the person who was leading said, ‘Your call is confirmed.’ That has been my best experience. The greatest blessing was to serve God with the gifts that He has given me.”

This testimony was originally published at: mesoamericaregion.org

Making Progress in the Panama Genesis Site

Forty-eight Panamanians and 21 people from the Kansas District, USA, joined July 27-29 for an urban Maximum Mission in Panama City. The purpose was to impact the sites where Genesis missionaries are serving.

On the first day they served in the Carrasquilla community, which is the area of responsibility for Genesis missionaries Keila Molina and Joselyn Garcia. They worked in the community school painting, cleaning, cutting grass, doing classroom maintenance and sharing an anti-bullying training. The volunteers also delivered bags of food to needy families in the same community. Others held an “Evangelistic Beauty Salon” where, in addition to offering their services, they shared the message of the gospel. Still others held a Vacation Bible School. They closed with a Jesus Film presentation where 17 people accepted Christ as their Lord.

On the second day, they focused on the Los Libertadores community, which is the area of responsibility for Genesis missionaries Marleidy Sanchez and Ingrid Jochola. In this community there are 8 high rises, each with 15 floors. Along with 35 volunteers from the Interamerican University of Panama, they cleaned and evangelized on each floor of all 8 buildings and the nearby areas. They offered their services in the “Evangelistic Beauty Salon” and played soccer with the youth in the community. A national television channel came to hold interviews about what was happening. Later, they held a Bible School with the children and closed with a Jesus Film presentation in which 15 people accepted Jesus as their Savior.

On the third day, the group met in the Rio Abajo Church of the Nazarene to praise the Lord and hear a message from Pastor Jim Bond, who serves as the Kansas District Superintendent. There was a special moment in which Panama Central District Superintendent Carlos de la Cruz presented a recognition to the Slingerland family on behalf of the district for their help during the 7 years in which they lived in Panama. Abby Slingerland received a present from the district NYI.

In the afternoon the volunteers went to the Juan Demosthenes community where they cleaned, evangelized, and held a Bible School. In that community, 28 people accepted Christ as their Savior.

“…We ask for your prayers for these three Genesis sites, which are places that need the Lord, and for our four Genesis missionaries: Keila, Ingrid, Joselyn and Marleidy. Pray that the Lord uses them and gives them great strength every day. We would like to thank all of the volunteers from Panama and Kansas for being instruments of the Lord,” said Joel Bermudez, Panama Central District NYI President.

This article was originally published at: Church of the Nazarene Mesoamerica

3 Ways to Become the Godly Elders/Mentors Today’s Youth Need – and Want to Follow

By Karl Vaters

The best way to help foster the Fruit of the Spirit in others is not by demanding it of them, but by living it out with them.

This generation wants to honor its elders and be mentored by them.

That may not feel like it’s true – especially if you, like me, are old enough to qualify for senior citizen membership. But I assure you it is.

I know this because I see it all the time. Youth, both in and outside the church walls are looking for genuine relationships with their elders.

They want to learn, connect and grow. They want to be mentored and discipled.

No, not all of them. Most of us didn’t consciously want that when we were their age, either. But in my experience, more of today’s youth want godly older men and women in their lives than we did when we were their age.

Becoming The Elders They Need Us To Be

A couple weeks ago, I wrote, Hey, Boomers! Let’s Step Up And Be The Elders The Church Desperately Needs Right Now, and got a lot of feedback – most of it very encouraging.

But there was some pushback as well. All of the criticism expressed the same viewpoint: today’s youth may need to have elders in their lives, but it’s impossible to find any who are truly willing to be discipled.

So why is there such a difference in the experiences some older believers have with younger ones? And how can we do this better?

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I think it comes down to three primary factors, all of which have more to do with how we, as elders, approach our role than how the youth behave or how they feel.

1. Meet Them Where They Are

Elders need to be willing to meet today’s youth on their turf instead of demanding that they come to ours.

Start by serving, not demanding.

Living and walking along with them, not just talking at them.

This means listening before speaking. Really hearing what they are going through.

When we do that, we’ll discover that they have three types of challenges.

First, they have challenges that are obviously universal. How to negotiate relationships and make wise decisions for instance. On those, we can offer wisdom from our own experience in Christ.

Second, they will express ideas and desires that will seem strange at first (like their choice of entertainment or wanting tattoos), but the more we listen, the more we’ll find common ground. Underneath most of those choices is a desire to both fit in and stand out. When we were younger we felt the same confusion, but expressed it in different ways. (Remember how our parents reacted to our hairstyles and choice of music?) In those situations, we can share wisdom from our common underlying needs, even if we don’t share their tastes.

Finally, there are the challenges they face that truly are different from anything we had to face. For instance, it’s likely that our kids’ and grandkids’ generation will, for the first time in our nation’s history, make less money than their parents did. They’re also facing a culture that is increasingly indifferent, even hostile to a Christian witness. None of that is their fault, but they have to live in the fallout of it. In such situations, the greatest gift we may have for them won’t be good advice, but a listening, sympathetic ear and prayerful, loving friendship.

To become the effective elders the next generation needs, we must have a similar approach as missionaries do when they go in to a culture that is new, and therefore feels strange and sometimes scary to us. In such situations, humility goes a long way. We have to listen and learn before we will have anything to teach.

2. Be Worth Listening To

We need to behave like elders worthy of honor. Living lives that people want to emulate. Following Jesus with such joy, passion and hopefulness that others can’t help but be drawn to him.

If you have a hard time finding young people who want to be mentored, seriously ask yourself this question. Are you behaving in a way that is worthy of being honored? Are you truly setting an example to follow? Not just in (self)righteous behavior, but in selfless generosity and humble teachability.

No one wants to listen to an old crank with a “what’s wrong with youth today?” mentality or a “when I was your age we knew how to respect our elders” attitude.

As elders, it is not our job to convict of sin or correct their behavior. That’s Jesus’ job. And he does it very well.

It’s our job to love them. To lead by example as we live a life of humility, holiness, patience and joy.

Certainly there will be moments of correction. But we have to earn the right to do that by showing ourselves to be trustworthy first.

The best way to help foster the Fruit of the Spirit in others is not by demanding it of them, but by living it out with them.

3. Help Them Be Like Jesus, Not Like Us

The goal of an elder or a Christian mentor is not to help the next generation become more like us. It’s to help them become more like Jesus. The only way we can do that is becoming more Christlike ourselves.

The current and coming generations don’t want to do church the way we did it. This is a good thing.

Becoming like your elders isn’t discipleship, it’s mimicry. Repeating their habits and behaviors isn’t growth, it’s going through the motions.

When elders become more like Jesus, we show those coming behind us how to do it too.

When elders become more like Jesus, we show those coming behind us how to do it too. Then, when they become more like Jesus, they’ll challenge us to keep growing even more. Each serving and blessing the other in an upward cycle of faith.

A servant will always become like their master. But an elder isn’t a master. An elder follows the Master, and helps others follow him, too.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

What to do When People Want a Church to Grow…but not Change – Part 2 of 2

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

3. Ban Delusional Talk

Those of us who resist change are often delusional.

I can continue to be rude to my spouse and our marriage will get better.

I can slack off at work and get a better performance review.

I can get abs of steel in a workout that lasts 60 seconds.

Most of us become crazy people when we’re fighting change.

So, as a leader, ban delusional talk around your table. 

Call it out. In love, let people see how crazy their thinking really is.

I know you love Southern Gospel music but most of the teens we want to reach don’t.

I realize you love our organization just the way it is, but the average age of our attenders is 65.

I know you think a new building will solve all our problems, but why can’t we solve them in our current half-empty facility?

Don’t let your leaders be delusional.

4. Get An Outside View

Familiarity breeds contempt and distorts perspective. If your team doesn’t immediately respond healthily to a call for change, you might be ripe for an outside voice to help you arrive at a new place.

This would be the perfect time to read a book together, attend a conference, or (best yet), hire a consultant. If the future is at stake, it’s not a bad investment to spend the money on an outside perspective.

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5. Offer Constant Feedback

As you move through these conversations, keep people honest. It will be hard. But you need to do this.

Continue to point the group back to the truth. Honestly, gracefully, but truthfully.

Just keep snapping people back to reality.

I say this because it will require herculean effort to ensure you don’t end up hoping for a diet-pill and cupcake solution. There is probably little gain without significant pain.

6. Draw A Line And Call It For What It Is

At some point you have to stop talking and start doing.

Here’s my suggestion. If you’ve been in an honest dialogue for at least a year and are not making progress (that is, you haven’t made a plan for change you are ready to act on), you have come to a moment of truth.

At some point, you just need to tell everyone where you have landed.

So our plan for change is to implement X, Y and Z by this date. Let’s do it!

Or

So essentially we have decided that we will not grow. We are content with the status quo. We will not change. And we will live with the consequences of stagnation, decline and decay.

Guess what? 99% of leaders will never utter the second statement.

And that’s why they’re stuck. That’s why they’re perpetually frustrated.

But that second statement is exactly what you need to say if that’s your reality.

And then—are you ready?—you need to decide whether you want to lead that organization.

This isn’t easy at all, but I do think it can help leaders who feel stuck leading an organization that says it wants to grow but doesn’t want to change.

This article was originally published at: Careynieuwhof.com

What to do When People Want a Church to Grow…but not Change – Part 1 of 2

By Carey Nieuwhof

I’ve heard it several times this week already this week from different sources.

One of the tensions many of us wrestle with as leaders who are trying to navigate change happens when people tell us:

I want our church to grow. I just don’t want it to change. 

Every time I hear or read that, my brain says “Ugh”.

As much as I think that’s a dumb reality to live in, it’s a reality so many of us face in leadership.

How do you respond when people want a church (or organization) to grow, but not change?

Here, eat this bacon cheeseburger

The problem you and your organization are facing is a challenge a lot of us experience in life.

Isn’t wanting to grow but not really change actually like saying “I want to lose weight, but I really want a bacon cheeseburger”?  Well, yes, it’s exactly like that.

People hire personal trainers all the time to help them lose weight.

A trainer’s message is not revolutionary.

It is almost never “just take this diet pill and you will magically lose 50 pounds while eating cupcakes.” Yet most of us want to believe that we can take a pill and eat cheeseburgers and cupcakes and lose weight. At least I do.

A good personal trainer’s advice is always some variation of “eat smaller portions, eat healthy foods, exercise and make sure your calorie input is less than your calorie output”.

And people pay them money—lots of money—to tell them what they already know to be true.

You’re not that different as an organizational leader. Really.

Six things you can do

As a leader, don’t try to navigate change in a congregational meeting. You will get stuck in the mud before you know what’s happening. 50 people or 500 people won’t agree on anything. And they will certainly never agree on anything courageous. (I talk more about navigating the dynamics of change in my book, Leading Change Without Losing It).

Sit down with your real leadership team—your board, your key staff, or even a new group you form for the purpose—and start the conversation.

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As you lead that conversation, here are 6 things you can do to tackle the challenge of leading a group that wants to grow but doesn’t want to change

1. Tell The Truth

Usually we hire trainers, coaches, counselors and consultants to tell us the truth we kind can’t see or, often, already know but won’t face.

That’s my job and your job as the leader of an organization: we need to help people see the truth.

So what’s the truth about wanting to grow but not wanting to change?

It’s quite simple.  Your patterns, habits and level of effectiveness as a church got you to where you are now.

If you want your current level of effectiveness, keep doing what you’re doing right now.

If you don’t want your current level of effectiveness, change.

It actually isn’t much more complicated than that.

Sometimes great leadership is simply about pointing out the truth that nobody else wants to talk about.

You need to do this in love, but often our desire to be loving kills our need to be truthful.

So, as a leader, help people see the truth.

2. Plot Trajectory

Learning how to plot trajectory is one of the best skills a leader can bring to the table.

Plotting trajectory is simply mapping out the probable course or path an organization, person or object is on. This is critical because usually, when it comes to people and organizations, we’re not sure where we’re headed.

To plot trajectory, ask two questions:

If we continue doing what we’re doing today, where will we be 1 year, 2 years and 5 years from now?

If we change X, where will we be 1 year, 2 years and 5 years from now?

Sure, you don’t know for sure where you end up, but if you start asking the question, you’ll be amazed at what you discover. Try it.

*This article will continue in the next post.

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.