The Two Faces Of The Moon

By: Marleidy Sánchez, Missionary serving with Genesis in Panama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Waiting Power

By: Dr. Dan Schafer

President, World Gospel Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Prayer:

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

 

 

 

The Top 7 Reasons Guests Return To Your Church

By: Dan Reiland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 7 Reasons Guests Return:

1) The Presence Of God Is Felt.

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

2) The Key Leaders Are Perceived As Trustworthy.

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

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

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

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

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

5) They Hear Current Stories Of Life Change.

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

6) There Are No “Glaring” Shortcomings.

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

7) The Children’s Ministry Is Outstanding.

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

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

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

  • Small groups
  • Serving opportunities
  • Deeper friendships

Make your next steps simple and clear.

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