Pastors, the Church is not our Personal Platform

By Karl Vaters

The church does not exist to give us an audience for our ideas, projects or egos. It exists to fulfill Christ’s purposes.

The church belongs to Jesus.

It is not owned by its denomination, its donors, its members, its staff or its lead pastor.

Jesus said he would build his church – and he’s not about to give up that ownership to us or our ideas.

As a pastor, this is a lesson I need to remind myself of regularly, so I thought I’d share that reminder with you as well.

pexels-photo-64057.jpeg

Why The Church Exists

The church does not exist to give us an audience for our ideas, projects or egos. It exists to fulfill Christ’s purposes. Our role is to equip the church members to enact those purposes, both inside and outside the church walls.

The church exists to make Jesus known, not to make pastors famous.

Yet we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. We (try to) take control because without our strong hand on the wheel (we think) the church will fall to pieces. The budget won’t be met. The membership won’t grow. The ten year vision won’t be realized.

The Pastor’s Role

This happens in churches of every size and type. From the charismatic founding pastor of the high-energy, non-denominational megachurch, to the long-term, patriarchal pastor of the traditional, centuries-old congregation.

We have big ideas. Grand projects. Exciting opportunities. And it’s tempting to use the resources at our disposal – namely the people, building and finances of the church we pastor – to bring those about.

But it’s not our job to get a group of people to agree with us and carry out our vision. No matter how good that vision might be.

As a pastor, it’s our calling to help the church body (re)discover God’s purposes together, then participate in them as the Holy Spirit leads us all.

If we want to build a platform, a project or a ministry based on our ideas, we need to start a parachurch ministry – or a for-profit business. Not use a church body to carry them out for us.

The Pastor’s Focus

The focus should never be on the pastor, but on Jesus.

  • • Not on the preaching, but the equipping.
  • • Not on the presentation, but the discipling.
  • • Not on the music, but the worship.
  • • Not on the building, but the gathering.
  • • Not on the platform, but the people.
  • • Not on the packed (or vacant) seats, but on the empty cross.

Always and only.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

Offering of Thanks: Sharing Christ’s Love in 162 World Areas

As followers of Christ, we are all called to be ambassadors of the Kingdom throughout the world. And through the global Church of the Nazarene, you are doing exactly that. Not only are you showing Christ’s love to your neighbors locally, but you are also showing it to those thousands of miles away.

When your church supports this fund, they are supporting the actions of Nazarenes loving others in Christ’s name, truly making Christlike disciples in all nations.

Nargiza’s redemption story began after surviving two suicide attempts when she was 13 years old. Not long after, a classmate invited her to church, setting her on a trajectory that would change her life forever.

“The reason why I wanted to commit suicide is because I believed no one loved me,” Nargiza said. “But when I came to Christ, I realized how much He loves me. [So] I didn’t just go to church, I really committed my life to Jesus.”

Today, Nargiza is not only alive and healthy, but she is a minister in the Church of the Nazarene.

“The difference between my life before Christ and after I accepted Him is that I have hope,” Nargiza said. “Through all the difficulties, God is with me, and I feel His love in my life.

OfferingofThanks.png

Every time you pray for the church, participate in giving to Nazarene missions, or go on a missions trip, you share Christ’s love in 162 world areas and beyond, resulting in transformed lives.

Promote the Offering of Thanks to your congregation using the materials and resources that are now available.

The offering website, nazarene.org/givethanks, includes promotional materials such as social media graphics, posters, brochures, a PowerPoint graphic, and bulletin inserts to support local churches.

Be sure to follow Church of the Nazarene (Official) on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so you can share posts about the offering with your social media followers.

For more information visit 2018 Offering for Nazarene Missions.

Testimony of Dr. Natalia Nikolova

Four months ago I received the news that a friend and colleague in ministry from years ago had passed away.  I have been thinking about her legacy a lot since that day.  The Nazarene Seminary in Costa Rica produced a wonderful tribute to her that can be found on their website.

Dr. Natalia Nikolova was born in Russia and indoctrinated in communism and atheism.  But God had a different plan for her life.  I had the privilege of meeting her first in Costa Rica, and then we traveled to Ukraine in April 2006 on a missions trip with Ardeo Global.  After getting to know her in those two weeks, I asked her to write her testimony. Here, in her own words written a few weeks after that trip, is the amazing tale of God’s faithfulness.

2723814360091525558oWhEoj_fs.jpg

I was born in Ukraine in 1973 in the city of Belgrad in the region of Odessa.  My father was a communist leader, and we lived very well-off economically.

Since kindergarten I was taught the communist doctrine.  It was instilled in us that the best child in the world was Lenin, and that all of the children of the Soviet Union should be like him. He was very obedient to his parents, he did not say bad words, and he was very well-educated.  Therefore, all of the Ukrainian children wanted to be like him.  The kindergarten teacher chose certain children who showed the capacity to remember the verses of the communist doctrine and recite them by memory.  Of course, the majority of the verses had to do with Lenin.  Many years after kindergarten those same verses still rang out in my memory, the same ones that the teacher had me recite in the kindergarten parent-teacher meetings.

In school we also spent much time reading about Lenin, his childhood, the historical context of his time, about his heroism, his revolutionary character, and that we should be indebted to him because our country was the best country in the world: free, where neither rich nor poor existed, where each person could become what he wanted to be.  That image of him was projected onto all children, and we knew he was a perfect person.  That was Lenin.  The obvious result is that he was not only the best child in the world, but also the best teen and the best man in the world.  I wanted to be like him.  Inside myself there was a sincere desire to be a good person.  And I was taught that the only way to become a very good person was to be like Lenin.  Therefore, I passed through the different stages of the communist discipleship: named in Russian octyabryata, pioneers, and komsolmolsyu.  I even became leader of a communist young people’s organization.

In my family, we viewed God as something based on superstition.  In my conscience I always wrestled with what Marx and Engels had said: that religion was the opiate of the masses, that it was designed to dominate people, and that it was for the weak.

In 1989, when I was 16 years old, I finished high school and enrolled in the State University of Medicine in Odessa.  In 1993 I married a medical student from Costa Rica. He was studying medicine in Ukraine on a scholarship from his country.  It was a bit strange; I was educated in the communist spirit and, as we were engaged, I told him that I loved my country so much and that I was not willing to abandon it.  He insisted that we get married, and after 9 months of persisting, I think out of compassion I gave in to the pressure.  Ever since I was very little, I had dreamed of having a beautiful home where my future husband and I could live in love and bring up our children in a loving environment.  And so, eventually in order to fulfill my dream I had to travel very far away, and I became willing to do so.

That same year my daughter Linda was born.  In 1995 I finished my degree at the School of Medicine and I traveled with my daughter to Costa Rica, where my husband had been waiting for me for a year.  He had to leave a year earlier because, upon finishing his degree, he had to leave the country immediately so that he would not lose his free airfare that Ukraine had given him.  And there was no option anyway because he was from a poor family.

Upon arriving to Costa Rica and spending one month there, I wanted to return to my country, because the person that I thought I had married, a loving and attentive man, had become very prideful and repugnant.  He was not prepared to manage large amounts of money nor was he prepared to be viewed as an important person in society, because he was before accustomed to being poor and insignificant.  I wanted him to change and be the man he was before, and I complained to him of his coldness and lack of affection, but he simple blamed me and my character and said that I did not pay attention to him.

My family in Ukraine was very opposed to my marriage and my move to another country.  They warned me of the risk of failure, but my husband (now ex-husband) had promised me heaven and earth and that he would always be faithful to me and love me as long as I lived.  I believed him and not my parents and I risked everything to travel so far away and create a happy home.

As a result, the idea of returning to my homeland appeared very embarrassing to me. So, I tried to fight for my home.  However, the situation got worse every day.  It got to such a point that while I was pregnant with my second child, Leonardo, I decided to run away from home.  I wrote my husband a letter telling him that I could not last in such a hell and that I was giving him a week to think things over.  After one week, he promised that he would change, and I returned home.  But due to the constant suffering that I lived with in my own home, in no way was I ever happy as I had imagined I would be after getting married in Ukraine; I began to have contractions and I was only seven months along in my pregnancy.  It was 1997.  Due to the increased risk of infant mortality in premature babies, I traveled from the city where we lived to the capital of Costa Rica and to one of the central hospitals. In order to avoid neonatal hypoxia, I had a Caesarean.

I remember very well when I went to see my son after the C-section.  It was a very moving image for me.  My little son, only weighing 3 lbs. 13 oz., was connected to the assisted breathing machine and he had various vein catheters with various solutions attached.  He was connected to the monitor and was in the critical care unit of the nursery.

I burst out in uncontrollable weeping.  I could not take the pain that had overwhelmed my entire being.  I felt powerless, unable to help him in any way.  My son was gravely ill and, although I am a doctor, I understood that I could do nothing for him.  Every mother wants her son to live.  I also wanted my son to live.  But upon realizing the gravity of the situation, I felt crushed by the pain and the personal sense of powerlessness.

Every day in the morning I arrived at the hospital and spent the entire day until 10pm with my son.  And every night I arrived at the house of some friends in San José, the capital of Costa Rica, and I cried all night until I could wake up in the morning and rush to the hospital again.  I always hurried frantically to my son’s incubator, and I feared I would find it empty and they would tell me that he had died in the night.

One morning I arrived at the hospital and the neonatologist told me that my son had breathed in 5 milliliters of blood into his lungs.  That was the worst night of my life; I knew that babies in similar condition often died of massive heart hemorrhages.  After arriving at my friends’ house, I told them that my son’s condition was very serious. My friend told me to prepare myself because my child was not going to survive.  But his wife, who was a Christian, simply told me, “Ask God to help.”

I had no idea how to ask God to help, and she did not explain to me any further, so my first prayer was very primitive, although sincere: “God, help my son.  Do not let him die.”  I did not understand what Christ had done for us.  To say that I had much faith in God is false.  Furthermore, in one moment I said to myself: “If God did not save his own son and he allowed him to die on a cross, how is he going to save my son?”

My son spent 22 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.  There was a great risk that he would die or at the very least end up deaf, blind, or paralyzed.  But my son survived.  And I was with him through the entire process.  I was a witness of the power of God.  By the time he was 2 months old, he was a chubby, beautiful baby, and no one who saw him could have imagined how difficult it had been for him to survive.

After I saw that my son did not just survive, but that he was a perfectly healthy boy, it left me very surprised.  I understood that something extraordinary had taken place.  I did not know how it all had happened, I could only comprehend that I was seeing a miracle of God.  My atheist mind had suffered a 180° turn.  I remained so profoundly grateful with this God that had saved my son that I wanted to find him so that I could tell him: “Thank you for what you did.”

My life began to change.  I started to distance myself from certain sins: bad words, bad thoughts.

My relationship with my ex-husband changed.  Both of us felt guilty because our child, due to our arguing, was born too early and had to suffer.  But the change did not last long.  Very soon we were arguing as badly as before.

In September 1998 some of my friends gave me a Bible.  Seeing that my home situation was nearly unsalvageable, I began to look in the Bible for ways to save a marriage.  I told myself: “God saved my son once; perhaps he could do the same with my marriage.”  I was not familiar with the Bible, so I looked in the concordance at the back of the book for any verses that mentioned “husband,” “wife,” etc.  Through that process, I found a verse—Ephesians 5:23—and I read that God said that the husband should be the head of the wife.  Discontent and angry, IclosedtheBible.  “That cannotbe,” Itold myself.  “There is no one in this world that is going to tell me what to do.”  I could not believe this was the will of God, for communism had instilled in us the equality of the sexes.  I could not accept that I had to have a husband as head over me.

I did not touch my Bible for the next 3 months.  Although I felt very thankful to God and there remained in me a deep desire to search for him, I was not in agreement with that verse.  Many times during that period, I thought, “Why would God invent something like that?” But my home situation continued to worsen.  And what hurt me most was not the thought of losing my husband; even the idea of marrying again did not scare me.  But it hurt me that my kids were not going to live with their father.  I understood that some day I could choose another husband if need be, but my children could not choose another dad.

At the end of 3 months I sensed the desire to go back and look for the verse that had caused me such disagreement.  And I began to convince my own self: “¿What good is it if I order him around? When he does what I tell him to do, and it ends up well, he says that it was his idea.  And when it ends up badly, he blames me.”  So, I decided to obey God, and I told my husband that from that day forward, he would be the one who could order me around.  Of course, he was very impressed.  But for me it was the end of a difficult test.  If the test with my son was very hard, this test was not any less difficult for me.  My will was being broken in order that it could be submitted to God.  Many times I felt inside myself like a volcano that was in discord with God, but I remembered what he had done for my son, and at great cost I submitted to him.  For many years I was a very domineering person, and for that reason it was not easy allowing God to dominate me.

The test with my son dealt with my emotional side, while the test of submitting to my husband dealt with my will.

Every now and then God won and every now and then I won.  Finally, I grew tired of fighting with God, I grew tired of a life of sin, and I told God: “God, I want to do Your will.”  It was April 2000.  That was my conversion experience.  From that moment on my life began to change more rapidly.  I still did not understand God’s plan through his son.  But God had much mercy on me in spite of my great ignorance.

During that time, I started to understand that the communist leaders had tried to remove the true God and replace him with communist idols.  While before I wanted to make anyone who talked bad about communism disappear, now I comprehended that I was a victim of communism.  We were deceived!  I felt betrayed.  My heart became overwhelmed with so much pain for my people.  My poor people!  How could we endure so many lies and deceptions?!  In 1991 alone, there were 250 million inhabitants of the Soviet Union.  How many people went to hell during those 74 years of idolatry?!  I could not believe it—all that I had believed was a great farce.

Due to this disillusionment, I was very fearful that I would be deceived again by some sect.  I wanted to start going to church, but I wanted to know something about the Bible before choosing a congregation.  So, when I found out that the Church of the Nazarene in Ciudad Quesada, where I lived, was offering a course called Old Testament I, it interested me a great deal and I enrolled.  It was September of 2002.  After that course, they invited me to the Old Testament II course that they were going to teach the following month.

When I arrived to take the class, they explained to me that this class was a part of a program made up of 30 courses spanning 3 years, 10 courses each year.  I liked the doctrine of the Church of the Nazarene.  I prayed to God and through this process I made the decision to join a congregation.  However, the first day my husband followed me to church without me knowing and when I returned home, he told me it was scandalous that I, being a medical doctor, could go where they were playing tambourines.  He also said that if I went back he was going to kill the pastor and place a bomb in the church.  His entire family was Catholic.  But he was more an atheist than a believer.

I spent several months very discouraged, thinking that I could not join a congregation until he became a convert.  I saw other brothers and sisters that could go easily to church, but did not, and I wanted so badly to go.  I decided that I could not do it because it would have created problems in my home, and I felt that it was not God’s timing.  I did not have much faith that I would be able to go to church any time soon, but God had a surprise in store for me.  He always surprises me.  I received a word from him that I was going to begin going to church very soon.  I felt that this word was truly from God.  An assurance came to my heart.  I began to pray that God would prepare my husband for the news that I was going to give to him.

And God backed up his word.  The day came when I told my husband, “I did not know it at first, but a while back I became a convert.  God is in first place in my life and you are in second place.  So, I am going to church.  You can kill the pastor, you can go and put a bomb in the church, but you are not going to kill the faith that I have.”  My husband was perplexed and stayed that way.  He ended up reacting against all of this, but only after 15 days had passed.  He disputed my going to church, but it was already too late.  I was already attending church each Sunday and I was not going to give up the position that God had delivered into my hands.  For me it was like seeing the impossible, because I never imagined myself going to church, especially with my ex-husband being radically against the evangelical church.  Even though he never went to church at all, if I would have gone to a Catholic church, it would not have been a problem for him.  But the evangelical church was the church that he most detested.  It was a miracle for me.  God made possible something that was previously impossible.

For many years I lived a clandestine Christian life: I read the Bible or listened to Christian songs or watched the Christian television station only when my husband was not around.  I suffered much verbal abuse; he told me my head was empty and I had turned into a religious fanatic.  I never imagined that it would be possible for me to serve God with my husband being an unbeliever.  Even though he saw and admitted that there had been a great change in me, he never ended up accepting my faith.  God had changed me, but my home life was a wreck.  My ex-husband always blamed me.  And for many years I accepted that guilt and blame.  I told God that I was willing to suffer through the hard treatment and pain that he inflicted on me if it meant that God would change me through it.  I did not want to be the same anymore.  And the truth is that God fulfilled that request.

Still, my ex-husband continued in his alcoholism and rebellion against God.  I could not take such suffering much more.  I told God that he needed to change my husband or take him away, but either way I was at the end of my rope.  However, God allowed me to endure one year more.  I was at a dead end.  I wanted a loving spouse, but I instead had an aggressor; he was violent toward both me and our children.  Furthermore, I understood that I could not take part in serious ministry for the Lord while my home was stealing all my strength and courage from me. I went through a very serious depression that I managed to conceal in my workplace so that I could survive and not close myself up in my home.  The Lord was my only refuge.  Finally, a year and a half ago he led me to a crossroads where I could make a decision. After much prayer, I said to my ex-husband, “I cannot take one drop more of your liquor.  I am giving you 15 days.  Think about it and choose between liquor and your family.  I am not pressuring you.  Take your time.”

After 8 days my ex-husband threw off his wedding ring in front of our children and said, “I’m getting out of this house.  I will keep drinking.  No one tells me what to do.”  I felt that God himself was liberating me from this monster of a person.  Later God revealed to me that my ex-husband wanted to possess me as if he were my owner, annulling every personal decision I might have made.  He wanted to make my decisions regarding everything.  The Lord truly became my Liberator with regards to this.

Five months after being separated from my husband, I realized why things never went well in my home.  All the years since I arrived in Costa Rica, and possibly before, my ex-husband had been unfaithful to me with many other women.  As a doctor, I have had to treat many patients that have lived lives of infidelity.  They testify that it is a life of hell, living a double life, and they end up coming to a point where even they have no idea whom they love.  It is an unhappy life.  That was what I went through with my ex-husband.

I believe that was the hardest test of my life. Before getting married, we had talked about that subject—even during our marriage as well.  I always held the position that if one day he wanted to look for another woman, that he should just let me know, and we could end our relationship completely in that moment.  I wasn’t going to make a big deal about it or get in his way.  Each one can choose what he wants.  The one thing I asked of him was that he be honest and never deceive me. He swore that he would always be faithful to me and that he loved me so much.  So many times I had my doubts, but usually I did not have any proof, so I continued believing his lies.

When I realized all of this, my heart truly broke. I spent a month in agony with unbearable pain.  I understood in those moments why some choose to end their lives by committing suicide because of betrayals like this one.  In my life I have suffered with 2 terrible betrayals: with communism for 27 years, and with the infidelity of my ex-husband during more than 10 years of my life.  But the Lord was faithful in raising me up from these difficult tests.  So once again I must testify to his power, and that he lifted up one whose heart had been crushed to pieces.  In Him I found genuine truth, holiness, and so much tender and eternal love.  He is my King.  He is my reason for living.  He is the one who gives my path direction and meaning.  Thanks to Him I can live a life of love and holiness.  May His name be praised!  Amen.

What I Wish I had Known about Stewardship

By Dave Briggs

Five insights that changed my awkward relationship with this core part of the Christian life and church ministry.

I grew up in church, and my family rarely missed a Sunday. I don’t remember a single sermon, but I do remember feeling nervous about the word stewardship.

Every September our church hosted Stewardship Sunday, where the minister would preach an emotional sermon stressing the need for everyone to give more. It worked—I left those services feeling guilty. To make matters worse, when I was in high school I was recruited to visit the homes of church members and present them with a Stewardship Pledge Card. It was my job to compel them to fill out their giving commitment for the coming year. They felt awkward. So did I.

Thankfully, in my mid-20s I was exposed to some outstanding teaching about the biblical perspective on stewardship. It changed the trajectory of my life. Things I had never seen before jumped out at me. I discovered that the Bible speaks about money and possessions more than any other topic except love. Jesus talked often and openly about our relationship with money.

For the last 14 years, I have served on staff at two large churches leading their stewardship ministries. During that time, I realized a surprising number of church leaders also have an awkward relationship with stewardship—similar baggage to my own. Here is what I wish I had known about stewardship.

  1. “Stewardship,” “generosity,” and “giving” are not synonyms.

I now realize, using these terms interchangeably confuses people. Stewardship is a role, giving is an act, and generosity is an attitude. In biblical times, a steward was a respected person of high integrity who was entrusted with the master’s possessions. The steward managed the possessions in accordance with the master’s wishes. Since God created and still owns all we have, stewardship is recognizing that God is the owner and we are his managers, responsible for using God’s possessions to please him. This elevates “stewardship” for people.

Generosity involves a willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of others. Giving is merely the act of releasing something of value. Giving can be done without generosity (the Pharisees are one example), but you cannot be generous without giving. However, generosity is only one characteristic of a biblical steward. A steward’s primary responsibility is to manage the resources that are not given away. Take a look at the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14–28 for a good example of both positive and negative stewardship.

  1. Poor stewardship is dangerous for you; rich stewardship is for your benefit.

When I communicate to people about money, I guide them to understand that I want something for them, not something from them. If my teaching on money is only about giving to the church, people will check their phones, and I’ll miss a great opportunity to help them grow.

Poor stewardship is dangerous for you. Between 25 and 50 percent of church attenders give nothing or next to nothing. This is not a financial problem but a spiritual one. God is a giver. Our willingness to give reveals our relationship to God.

Examples can be found throughout Scripture, but two of the most potent are found in Luke 12 and Revelation 3.

In Luke 12:15–21, we see a rich farmer blessed with an abundant crop. He gives no credit to God, nor does he give thought to being a steward. He thinks only about himself. Jesus calls him a fool, not because he had great possessions, but because his possessions had him.

In Revelation 3:14–17, we get to eavesdrop on God’s letter to the church in Laodicea. The people in the church believed their material blessings indicated they were right with God. But God exposed their blindness, nakedness, and depravity.

In both cases, a harmful relationship with wealth became the root of spiritual blindness.

On the other hand, rich stewardship benefits everyone.

The Acts 2 church provides an encouraging contrast to the church in Laodicea. In Acts 2:42–47, the early church lives out a culture of stewardship. Verse 45 says, “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” This first-century church is a beautiful picture of generosity in action, even in their scarcity.

bank-notes-blur-close-up-164474.jpg

  1. Stewardship is about hearts, not causes.

We live in a world fraught with causes to support. Yet the point of stewardship isn’t about causes, important as they may be. Jesus surprised his disciples with this principle. The story of Mary and the expensive perfume in Mark 14:3–9 is one example. During a visit to the home of Simon the Leper, a woman emerges with a year’s wages worth of precious perfume and pours it on Jesus. Some of the disciples grumbled, imagining all it could have accomplished for the poor. But Jesus wanted to focus their attention on the heart of the giver. This woman showed her deep love for Jesus through the use of her resources. The disciples missed the point. When we make God our highest priority, our desire is to honor him. This releases a spirit of love, which releases resources to meet real needs.

In 2 Corinthians 8:8, Paul addresses this same concept when challenging the early Macedonian church: “I am not commanding you, but want to test the sincerity of your love.” Generosity, even amidst poverty, reveals our love for God (2 Cor. 8:2).

  1. We need more teaching about money, not less.

When I became a stewardship pastor, I was shocked to discover how much people were struggling financially. Money is an emotional topic, so people want to hide their financial struggles. They often feel they are not in a position to be generous. Avoiding the topic of money only deepens the problem. Preaching frequently about money creates a greater willingness in your people to address their financial health.

Here are three aspects of money to address to help your people grow as stewards:

The practical aspect: This involves teaching people how to organize their finances and manage their money. We have all preached at some point on the Good Samaritan, but have you taught this parable from a financial perspective? In Luke 10, the Good Samaritan not only gave of himself, but he was also a good steward. He saved money in advance for an unknown and unforeseen need. Because he was a saver, he had a surplus from which to express his generosity to the wounded traveler.

The emotional aspect: This is rarely addressed and usually leads to bad financial decisions. When it comes to money, if the heart overrules the head, the result is frequently disastrous. Just follow teenagers around the mall to see what I mean.

The spiritual aspect: Your people will never be good stewards if they do not align their financial decision making with the wisdom of God’s Word. It’s that simple.

A powerful example of how our relationship to money impacts our spiritual lives is found in the parable of the four seeds and the four soils in Mark 4. Beginning in verse 18, Jesus explains the meaning of the third seed: “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful”. Don’t miss the striking message here. A wrong relationship with money robs God’s Word of its fruitfulness in our lives.

However, Jesus gives us good news in explaining the fourth seed: “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” Isn’t this the kind of multiplication we want to see in every area of our lives and churches? Teaching your people to resist the deceptive power of wealth will keep the door to their hearts open to accept the Word and to experience fruitfulness.

  1. Your relationship with money impacts your relationship with God.

This energized me to leave behind the financial apprehension of my childhood and commit to helping people grow in this area. Stewardship is not a financial ministry; it is a discipleship ministry. If people don’t hear teaching and preaching about money, they are left exposed to one of Satan’s favorite tools.

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says it is impossible to serve two masters. Either we will follow and serve the powerful force of Mammon (greedy pursuit of wealth) or we will serve the one true God. It is not possible to do both.

In one of the saddest passages in Scripture, we experience a conversation between Jesus and a rich young ruler. In Luke 18, the intelligent and influential man asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus engages him in conversation and learns that the man believes he has kept the commandments from an early age. Knowing the one thing holding the young ruler back, Jesus asks him to part with his wealth and follow. When confronted with prioritizing Jesus or his wealth, the rich young man chooses his wealth.

The stakes are high. We cannot leave our people lacking a clear understanding of the spiritual implications of their relationship with money.

As I’ve learned over time, if you build a healthy stewardship culture, your church will never be the same. Your people will grow closer to God, your congregation will experience increased spiritual vitality, and greater resources will be unleashed for kingdom impact.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

 

World Evangelism Fund

One of the things that characterizes us as a denomination is our heart for missions.  The primary way we fund the global missionary enterprise is through the World Evangelism Fund (WEF).  But what is WEF?

The World Evangelism Fund fuels the Church of the Nazarene’s mission by combining each person’s and church’s gift together to fund ministries everywhere. Every church is asked to give a portion of their yearly funds for the purpose of making Christlike disciples in the nations.

Why does the World Evangelism Fund exist?

In 1923, the Church of the Nazarene moved to a centralized funding system called the General Budget. In 1997, the name was changed to World Evangelism Fund, but the purpose remained the same: to sustain valuable ministries through consistent mission funding. The World Evangelism Fund provides the undesignated money and mission network that all Nazarene ministries need. Your gifts create and sustain ministries, and allow ministry personnel to spread the gospel.

How does the World Evangelism Fund work?

When you give, the money comes to the General Treasurer’s Office where the funds are distributed to various regions, missionaries, and ministries around the globe. The World Evangelism Fund not only provides ministries on the ground with the monies they need, but the money is used to ensure that legal, federal, and support needs are met so that ministries are as safe as possible and can be sustained for years to come.

Easter Offering2018DRC

Here are a few examples of ministries that the World Evangelism Fund makes possible through direct funding or the ministry network:

Read Engage Magazine to hear the stories of individuals who have been helped by Nazarene ministries. All of this work only happens because of the combined gifts of people like you!

How is the World Evangelism Fund Received?

Much of the monies received come directly from local churches as a part of the Funding the Mission plan (watch the USA or Canada video about the plan). When you donate, your church gives a tithe of that money on to the worldwide Nazarene church. The World Evangelism Fund goal for every church is 5.5% of their income for the year less mission giving.

Some churches choose to raise funds through the Easter Offering and Thank Offering for the World Evangelism Fund. These two offerings happen every year, and Stewardship Ministries provides promotional and informational resources to help churches communicate the offerings to their congregations. Churches also use Faith Promise pledges to raise funds throughout the year. We encourage churches to actively engage their congregations in understanding and giving toward mission work through the World Evangelism Fund. Many churches choose to invest more than the 5.5% goal toward ministry, and those gifts make a huge difference.

Thank You

When a church meets its Funding the Mission tithe goals, including the 5.5% for the World Evangelism Fund, it is recognized as a World Evangelism Church. All World Evangelism churches receive a special thank you for their faithful generosity to the mission. Additionally, Nazarene Missions International recognizes churches that meet their World Evangelism Fund goal at 5.7%. Click here to read more about church recognitions. 

None of the ministries the World Evangelism Fund sustains would be possible without the gifts of people like you. It is a pleasure to partner with you to take the gospel around the world. We thank you for your faithfulness to give and pray for Nazarene mission work everywhere.

This information was originally published on the official website of the Church of the Nazarene.

Recommendations from a Caribbean Missionary

In our previous entry, Cleon Cadogan shared his testimony from his time spent in Grenada as a volunteer missionary as part of GENESIS.  The primary objective of his time there was to plant and organize a new Nazarene church in the community of Content.  Within the first year of his arrival, God had done the work and this goal was met.  Now there is a thriving congregation in that community that is preparing to start another church in order to reach their island.

20915539_10214310623942364_5463531799315109872_n.jpg

As Cleon concluded his time in GENESIS, he shared several pieces of advice that he would give to anyone saying yes to a missions’ call. Here are his 15 recommendations:

1: Be sure that God has called you to the people you are going to.

2: Learn and love the people you are going to live among; be willing to drop your preconceived ideas of them.

3: Prayer support is vital to your physical and spiritual health.

4: Fasting and spending personal time with God is necessary to keep your sanity.

5: Do not let money be the factor for you not being able to accomplish your task.

6: Remember: God provides for the mission in every way.

7: Be creative in the methods you use to partner with persons who will be giving to the mission.

8: Demonstrate a level of transparency and accountability with your partners.

9: Communicate the vision clearly to your prayer partners and donors.

10: Do not fail to use varying mediums to communicate and keep in contact with your partners.

11: Listen to the needs of the people with whom you are working.

12: Let the creative juices flow within you at all times.

13: Rest when Jesus says to rest.

14: Do not forsake your friends and family for the sake of the mission.

15: Nothing should be done without consultation with God.

Seeing the Harvest Grow

Sent from Georgetown, Guyana to the island of Grenada as a part of the GENESIS initiative, Cleon Cadogan served as a volunteer missionary for two years. A month ago, he finished his primary work of planting a new congregation in the community of Content, and he has recently shared his thoughts regarding the challenges and blessings of that assignment:

Working in the Island of Grenada, the challenges were many. Leaving family, friends, and work to live in a place of uncertainty was indeed a challenge. But you must know the one who has called you is able to keep and provide for you. He can only do what He has promised if you are willing to go through the valley of shadow of death experience according to Psalms 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (KJV).  We must go through challenges to experience the power of God. One is reminded of Jesus, who went through difficulties and great temptations, and came out victorious. He (Jesus) took on the sins of the world but came through.

22791549_738353939690947_1572385664621097384_o.jpg

In ministry, one may encounter negatives such as who is in charge, identity crisis, unsettled hurts, and power struggles, just to name the more prevalent ones. These are just strategies that the enemy uses to distract the missionary from the bigger picture at hand: souls for the kingdom.  Michael Youssef writes the following in Conquer: Your Battle Plan for Spiritual Victory: “If the enemy can get you to debate any of the issues that are settled in the word of God, he’s two-thirds of the way through” (p. 34).  The enemy seeks to make us question each other’s motives.  He desires to use it as a means of sowing seeds of negativity, discord and confusion. Yet, the word of God reminds us in 1 Peter 5: 8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (NIV).  We must be vigilant, sober, and in the spirit of warfare for the mission that is before us. Jesus was and is our ultimate example.  We must not allow the negative to outweigh the good. Some of the tools I used to defeat the negative were prayer, writing, speaking with persons who have a heart for the vision, fasting, and equipping myself with the word of God. Without continually hearing the voice of God, you will kill yourself trying to accomplish the mission.

There were other churches that had gone into the mission area where we were located but failed to return. The community of Content is seen as a “hotspot” by the local government and has been known for “nothing good”. I guess you can say it’s their “Nazareth”.  But John 1:46 tells us: “‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked. ‘Come and see,’ said Philip” (NIV).  Even the men of old had issues with places that did not fit their status quo. However, Jesus came for all of humanity.  We will truly reflect Jesus to a postmodern society when we change the way we ARE and DO CHURCH. This does not mean the gospel will change according to our doctrinal and theological distinctives or preferences, but we must show Jesus.

24879094_10215246253332514_1590665822_o.jpg

Reflecting on our time in Content, I remember that the same members of the community worked along with me and the new believers in celebrating their first community dinner. The congregation now has an established church board, ladies’ ministry, youth ministry, Sunday School, Bible study, intercessory prayer meeting, deliverance group, and they are already looking in the next six months to launch an outreach. If we are not willing to trust God, and let people develop, then we are wicked farmers who plant seeds and pay no attention to them, or plant seeds and dig them up the next day. We must be willing to see the harvest grow.