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.

Mission Briefing: Contextualization

By Howard Culbertson

When believers from one culture introduce the “unchanging gospel” to people of another culture, how do they keep the Good News from being dismissed as a foreign import? The short answer is one word: Contextualization.

When Christianity moves from one culture to another, there is danger that it will be thought of as belonging in the first culture, but very much out of place in the second one. The chances of that happening can be lessened if the Gospel will be proclaimed and lived out in culturally understandable ways. That process of meaningfully connecting biblical revelation to a specific culture is called “contextualization.”

Missiologist Darrell Whiteman said it this way: “Contextualization attempts to communicate the Gospel in word and deed and to establish the church in ways that make sense to people within their local cultural context.”

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Having the gospel “make sense” to people of a culture does not, of course, mean everyone will rush to embrace it. People must decide if they are willing to make the changes necessary for Jesus to be their Savior and Lord. That does not mean, of course, that people must abandon their ethnic or cultural identify to follow Jesus. Authentic contextualization is based on the premise that when people allow Christ’s transforming power into their lives, they will be even better Nicaraguans or Japanese or Bulgarians or Navajos than they were before.

Contextualization does not mean robbing the Gospel of its essence or “watering it down” to make it more palatable. On the contrary, good contextualization renders expressions of the “unchanging Gospel” more faithful to Scripture than they would otherwise be. Holy-Sprit-led contextualization allows Scripture to be as powerful and transformative in each cultural context as it can possibly be.

Proper contextualization moves gospel proclamation past a sense of foreignness to allow each people group to hear God say: “This is my design for you.” Contextualization allows people of a culture to see that Yahweh, Creator of the universe who reveals Himself in Jesus Christ, loves them and wants a relationship with them.

In tangible terms, contextualization involves the wording of theological expressions as well as things like sermon illustrations, music styles, artwork, decision-making, lifestyle choices, church programs and schedules, modes of preaching and teaching, the process of discipleship, evangelistic outreach, leadership selection and even architecture.

It must be clear says missions professor Zane Pratt, that the ultimate purpose of contextualization “is not comfort, but clarity.” Thus, authentic contextualization does not involve the softening or white-washing of Jesus’ radical commands. Indeed, contextualization enables the Gospel to be offensive to each culture for exactly the right reasons. Whiteman has said that good contextualization makes sure that the Gospel “engages people at the level of their deepest needs.”

Authentic contextualization must travel on two rails. One rail is an unwavering faithfulness to Scripture. The other rail is that of communicating and living out the Word of the Lord in ways that are familiar to people in a particular cultural context.

This article was originally posted at: Engage Magazine

7 Steps to Start Becoming a Church People Want to Commit To – Part 2 of 2

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

4. Discover Your Calling – Then Be Good at It

Every leader and church needs to discover who you are and what you’re called to do. Then, do that and be that!

Giving people something worth committing to isn’t a matter of competing with the big church down the street. It’s not about offering nicer facilities, bigger events or even better preaching. It’s about discovering what God has called you and your church to be great at, then being great at that.

Excellence isn’t limited to churches with big budgets.

There’s no excuse for second-rate. It costs no more time or money to do it right. It just takes a full commitment.

5. Don’t Just Talk – Hang Out and Listen

No one wants a relationship in which one side does all the talking. We have TV and movies for that.

But even TV and movies are giving way to social media. One of the best parts about watching a show that has some social media buzz is chatting about it on Twitter and Facebook as it airs.

People want to engage with others, not just sit passively while someone else talks.

Sadly, the church does not have a reputation of being open to dialog – or to hard questions. And definitely not to criticism.

No, you don’t have to turn your sermon into a discussion group (although, some churches do that with great success), but there needs to be an easy and obvious way for people to engage, dialog, chat, hang out and feel like their life and their opinion matters.

And leaders, especially pastors of small churches, need to be engaged in those conversations. Listening, participating and learning, not just teaching.

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6. Keep Learning and Getting Better

I communicate, minister and lead much differently today than I when I started in pastoral ministry 35 years ago. In fact I do it differently than I did just ten years ago. And I expect to change at least as much in the next five years.

I now have over 30 years of ministry experience in addition to my formal ministry training. But that experience matters less today than it ever has. If I’m not constantly learning, listening and growing, I’ll fall behind very quickly.

But that shouldn’t intimidate us. Learning and growing is Discipleship 101. It’s central to being a follower of Jesus, let alone a church leader.

Jesus never made discipleship easy. He always inspired people to a bigger commitment by calling them to a greater challenge.

Too many leaders limit the expectations they have for their members to sitting in a pew and filling gaps in existing ministries. We think we can’t ask more of them because … well … they’re not even doing that!

But a lot of uncooperative church members and recently unchurched people aren’t as disinterested as we think. Like some of the rowdy kids in school, they’re not skipping class because we’re asking too much of them. They’re acting out because they’re not being challenged.

People are deciding that leaving church is better than being bored in church. I don’t blame them.

If we don’t challenge people through a genuine experience of worship, fellowship, discipleship and ministry, they’ll do one of four things: 1) go to a church that challenges them more, 2) go to a church that entertains them better, 3) show up physically, but disengage in every other way, or 4) stopping going to church entirely.

People want to go to a church where they’re challenged by something bigger than themselves and where their gifts are being used to further that cause.

If you ask small, you’ll get a small commitment. Ask large and your joy might be full.

7 Steps to Start Becoming a Church People Want to Commit To – Part 1 of 2

By Karl Vaters

People who don’t go to church, don’t want to go to church. They’re not rolling out of bed late on Sunday morning wishing they had somewhere more churchy to be.

In fact, a growing number of people who do go to church don’t want to go, either. If we don’t give them something worth committing to, they’ll be gone soon.

It’s not that people are less capable of making commitments than they used to be. They just commit differently. But too many churches haven’t caught up to that reality.

So how do we get people to commit to the church / ministry we lead? Especially when our church is small and struggling?

I don’t have all the answers, not by a long shot. But I’ve learned a handful of principles over three decades of ministry that have helped our church become a place people are excited to be committed to.

These steps won’t cost you any extra money and very little extra time – the extra time because of the learning curve. It’s not about adding to your already limited schedule and overtaxed budget. It’s not about doing things bigger. It’s about focusing on doing church better. Working smarter, not harder.

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Where Our Focus Needs to Be

But first, despite the title of this post, the challenge before us isn’t about getting people to go to church.

It’s about inspiring people to commit to

•Worshiping Jesus

•Genuine relationships with God’s people

•Making disciples

•Doing ministry for those in need

If your focus is trying to get people to commit to your Sunday service schedule, your denominational preference, maintaining your church building or anything like that, you might as well stop reading right now. In fact, you might as well close your church right now.

The days of people going to church for anything less than a genuine relationship with Jesus are over. Yes, there’s still a residue of those people, but they’re dying out – literally. And they won’t be replaced by a new group. Nor should they be.

But if you want people in your church because you have a passion to help them connect with Jesus and God’s family, read on.

1. Clear Away Anything that Isn’t Jesus

If people continue to go to church, it won’t be because they feel a sense of loyalty to a tradition most of them have never had in their lives to begin with. And it won’t be because they want to be entertained. They have better entertainment on the phone in their pocket than we can ever compete with.

The only thing that will get them out of their house and into our churches is if we give them a cause worth living (and dying) for. Namely, an authentic presentation of the gospel of Jesus – through our words and our lives.

If your generational traditions or your hip, new staging helps people do that, great! Keep doing it. But if not, don’t let your church’s personal preferences keep people from seeing Jesus.

Whether he’s hidden behind stained glass windows or laser lights and fog machines, anything that obscures Jesus instead of revealing him needs to be ditched.

2. Emphasize Relationships Over Spectacle or Tradition

For small churches especially, being a church that people want to commit to starts and ends with relationships.

We need to help people make connections to Jesus and each other.

We need to help people make connections to Jesus and each other. Then work together to build bridges with those outside the church walls.

Long after our traditions have grown stale and the spectacle has been replaced by a bigger show somewhere else, genuine relationships with Jesus and people will last.

3. Be Genuine

People are far less naïve than they used to be. They can spot phoniness in people very quickly.

This is especially important for church leaders, because we have a culture in which respect for leadership is lower than it has been in a loooong time – and mostly for good reasons.

Respect doesn’t come with the position of pastor or leader any more. In fact, it’s more likely to be viewed with skepticism than honor. That skepticism will only be overcome by practicing what we preach.

This article will continue in the next post.

Towards Missional Effectiveness: Analogizing and Applying Missional Effectiveness – Part 7 of 7

By Ed Stetzer

Yo-Yos, newer churches, and established churches

Missional effectiveness begins with a biblical understanding of the message and movement of the missio Dei, which hopefully leads a church to become a missional people who embrace a missional posture and who enact a missional program.

So, how does this series about missional effectiveness apply to the local church today? My goal in this post is to answer this question with an analogy and application.

Analogy of a Fully-Orbed Mission

When we think of becoming a missionally effective church—whether we are a newer or established church—picture a yo-yo in motion.

  • The string is the mission (since it is the string being advanced).
  • The yo-yo (circular ball) is the church that has a centripetal and centrifugal movement (weight) that moves outward and inward.
  • The finger within the circular string represents a church held and captivated by mission. [Note: A church outside the string, not captivated and held by the mission, is a church that exists as a monument and not a movement, and according to many missiologists like Lesslie Newbigin isn’t really a church.]

[To get a visual of what a master “yo-yoer” looks like, see this TED video]

Here’s how the analogy works. In a non-movement state, the yo-yo exists as a missional community (people) captivated by mission in its local environment. In this state, it has a strong community held tight by the string (mission).

As the yo-yo is put into motion and begins extending, it manifests the missional mark of sentness (posture). Thus, it signifies a church sent on mission. When the yo-yo reaches its extended state, the yo-yo exhibits the missional mark of multiplication (program), for it becomes a church extending mission to the ends of the earth.

By centrifugally ‘going out,’ the yo-yo has a centripetal force of ‘coming back’ to its established position.

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Application of a Fully Orbed Mission

How do newer and established churches fare in being missionally effective? What follows is a list of the strengths and weaknesses newer and older churches possess with regard to missional effectiveness.

Newer churches tend to have the following strengths:

  • A strong missional program of evangelism and an acute awareness of living sent.
  • A mentality of ‘Go and Tell’ rather than ‘Come and See.’ The reality is that newer churches will not survive if they do not reach people.
  • A passion and vision to reach out to unbelievers and the unchurched. For example, in one study of established churches, there are 3.4 baptisms per one hundred resident members, but new churches average 11.7 baptisms per year. In short, new churches reach new people.
  • A desire to become part of the rhythms of the local community and find ways to serve the community.
  • A flexibility to contextualize to the present culture rather than the culture of two or three decades ago.

However, newer churches tend to have the following weaknesses:

  • A lack of structure and organization. In other words, they tend to have weak community. I have found that many new churches struggle with developing teams, leaders, systems, and processes that help facilitate ministry and mission. They struggle with foundation, and therefore are in need of creating centered-set primary theological boundaries, as well as a solid structure that includes governance, systems, and processes.
  • A lack of macro multiplication. In other words, they tend to never parent another church. While it seems newer churches are better at multiplying in a micro way (making disciples), I would like to see more of them multiply in a macro way (church plants).

Established churches tend to have the following strengths:

  • A strong centripetal pull through the foundation they have laid—usually through their programs, systems, processes, and structures.
  • A solid financial base with resources to fund mission acvity and global missions.
  • A stable, consistent presence in the community. In some cases, the church has become an anchor in the community.

However, established churches tend to have the following weaknesses:

  • A difficulty to multiply in both micro and macro ways. There’s no denying that the majority of established churches in the West are in trouble. Thousands close each year, while others struggle to maintain or slow down the decline. Typically, the longer a church has been established, the more mission drift occurs. Based on research, churches that are not involved in multiplication, especially in church planting, are unhealthier than those who are. Thus, they could use more intentionality in their missional posturing and programming.
  • An inward focus. Many established churches typically have lost sight of the mission. Rather than being motivated by mission, often they are motivated to maintain their traditions, preferences, culture, and systems. They fall into the same trap as the church in Jerusalem; they go overboard on their foundation and end up protecting and preserving their culture and homogeneity at the expense of mission. (Unfortunately, churches often choose maintenance over mission.)
  • Allow a clergification to set in where the paid clergy does all the work while the members sit by consuming and watching.
  • Prohibitive leadership. Although there may be a solid foundation with strong leadership, in some cases, established churches are controlled by what Mark DeVine calls “lay cartels” that act as the powerbrokers of the church that prohibit leadership and mission advancement.

Why do I share all of this? My goal is to show areas where churches exhibit strength while noting areas where churches can improve. My intention in listing the weaknesses isn’t shame, but brutal honesty. If you are a pastor or church leader, it may be helpful to talk through these posts and discuss your church’s strengths and weaknesses.

We live in changing times.

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My goal in this series was to outline how churches today can be missionally effective.

Missional effectiveness begins with an understanding of the message and movement of the missio Dei, which should result in enacting the marks of becoming part of a missional people (community), embodying a missional posture (sentness), and enacting a missional program (multiplication).

In doing so, churches become the effective vehicle of God’s mission, the vehicle that He purchased with the blood of Christ over two thousand years ago.

 

This article was originally posted at: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2017/january/towards-missional-effectiveness-analogizing-and-applying-mi.html