Five Stops, Hundreds of Changed Lives

SAM_0208Five Stops, Hundreds of Changed Lives

Lake Zone Missions Trip – Mexico South District

For 23 days, from November 23 to December 15, 2019, three young people: Victoria Trujillo, Lizeth Morales, and Abner Gutiérrez, traveled to different places on the Lake Zone (Venustiano Carranza, Comitán and La Trinitaria) of the South District of Mexico.  Impassioned to share the love of Jesus, they engaged in door-to-door and personal evangelism together with members from the local churches of that zone.

Our first stop was Soyatitán in Venustiano Carranza, where we already have a Church of the Nazarene.  For four days the three volunteer missionaries evangelized, organized a circus with clowns, and participated in weekly church services.Alejandra y Victoria

At the second stop, Comitán de Domínguez, we evangelized in the neighborhoods surrounding the local church, and Pastor David Cabrera helped us immensely by participating in every activity during the five days we spent there.

When we arrived in La Trinitaria, where we had been invited to spend four days evangelizing, our third stop proved to be a great teaching tool.  Up until then, we had not had any presence of a church in this county seat. Besides, this municipality is known for its huge Roman Catholic influence, which was challenging since the typical reaction of the people there was to reject the gospel. We dedicated seven hours every day to evangelism, and as a result we saw three people accept Christ as their Savior.

Our fourth stop led us to Unión Juárez in La Trinitaria. During the course of three days we visited a large number of families, always evangelizing. We saw few measurable results there due to the community dynamic which did not allow us to enter homes if only women were present.  Thus, we held the clown circus in the church building, and 50 children ended up attending.  Afterwards Pastor Carlos Cancino took us to the town of Jalal, located near the summit of a mountain.  In cold temperatures of 48º Fahrenheit, we put on the clown circus again where 17 children received Christ in their hearts.El equipo completo

Our final stop was Lázaro Cárdenas in La Trinitaria. The work there was intense: we evangelized every morning, and the local church prepared evangelistic campaigns in the open air every afternoon for four days straight.  These activities were accompanied by groups of Nazarene brothers and sisters willing to walk for hours as the sun beat down, all in order to reach more people with the love of Christ.

I give thanks to God for every opportunity to serve him, and also for the life of my wife, Ana Rosales, and her dedication to the ministry that we are now able to invest in together.

The total number of people that accepted Christ as their Savior was:

  • Children (through the clown circus and personal evangelism) 238
  • Younger teens 3
  • Older youth 4
  • Adults 27

Freivy Heberto López Juárez

Director of Missional Zones and Missional Advance

Mexico South District

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Three Missionary Events Impact the Dominican Republic

During the past three months, various districts in the Dominican Republic organized events that ended up impacting the churches and communities where they were held.

Having observed how many local congregations have recently atrophied in their work of disciple-making, sponsored missionary Sugey Barrón, together with her leadership team, organized a Maximum Mission entitled “NO LIMITS” in Bella Vista, Santiago September 6-7.  The objective was to mobilize the churches of the city and share the message of salvation in creative ways.

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38 participants from the entire country joined the work of the local “New Life” church, a congregation with a deep desire to be on fire and reflect Jesus.  The workers took on the challenge together of impacting a neighborhood called Papatín Hill, known in the city for its poverty and crime.

 

According to the theme, participants were not limited by normal setbacks.  They planned with faith and ended up ministering to the community through artistic events, evangelism in homes and small businesses, sports, workshops, street clean-up, children’s activities, and sharing food.  They sowed seeds of the Word of God in over 200 people, they visited 50 houses, and after all was said and done, through the various activities 70 people had come to know the Lord.

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Sugey shared that God surpassed all of her team’s expectations and that each participant left Santiago believing and declaring the event’s motto: NO LIMITS!

Three weeks later, 500 Nazarenes from the East District of Dominican Republic celebrated a combined service that was entitled “Committed to the Mission.”  Pastor Ramón Joseph explains that this event has been held every year since 2010, with the purpose of motivating the Church to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ and the Church of the Nazarene: “Making Christlike disciples in the nations.” On September 29, the entire district joined together to reaffirm their commitment to play an integral part of that mission.

During the service a mass baptism was held, dozens of new members were received, and the Lord’s Supper was administered.  Those present also had the privilege of praying for and sending out for the first time their own missionary, Elba Isabel Duson, who currently is serving with GENESIS in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.  Everyone rejoiced at the end of the day when the activity closed with a concert led by the Revelation Maranatha orchestra.

A little over a month afterwards, November 1-4, the South District held their first ever Maximum Mission, entitled “REBUILD.” The primary goal of this mission’s trip was to reopen a church and church building that had been closed for a long time in the 2C sector of the city of Azua.  27 participants traveled from all five districts of the D.R., and they were hosted and assisted by the District Superintendent, Luis Daniel Pérez, the District Presidents of NYI, NMI, and SDMI, as well as the District Treasurer.

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Wendy Carolina Rivera, National Coordinator of Global Missions, noted that 75 families were reached through house-to-house evangelism.  44 additional families received food baskets, and 31 received basic hygiene kits.  During the four days, workshops were also offered to young women and single mothers teaching physical and emotional care, and the missions team offered them facials, manicures, and much more.

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The men and boys of the community received free haircuts, snacks, and participated in sports tournaments organized by the Nazarene youth.

Another group of tireless workers invested their time in the children of the neighborhood through Vacation Bible Schools, washing hair, cutting fingernails, playing, and crafts.

During the four days, the team managed to paint two entire houses in the community as well!

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By the end of the weekend, approximately 25 people had received Christ as their personal Savior, and 14 people had begun discipleship classes.  Rivera beamed as she shared that the community was very receptive to the gospel, and upon hearing that the church was reopening they were overjoyed, and many said they would like to come to services!

It is astonishing to see how God is mobilizing his Church in the Dominican Republic.  Please continue praying that more and more people would decide to involve themselves in the Lord’s mission in this nation!

Steps Nine and Ten: Organization and Looking To the Harvest Fields

This is the final entry, Steps Nine and Ten, in the series: “Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

Step Nine: Organization

From the beginning of the church-planting process, we must train with the goal of preparing the believers to take on the commitment to organize the church. We must apply the minimum structure necessary to ensure for the church’s healthy functioning, which generally means only naming the official church board. We do not have to form all of the ministries immediately. It is only necessary to identify the leaders of each department. As the church grows we can continue to implement roles as they become necessary.

Organization will be only a guide, not a straight jacket for the new work.

How is a church born?

In the process of founding churches, the moment will come when we must determine who is willing to formally and publicly commit to the new church.  We say a local church is born the moment the believers publicly commit to the Lord and to one another, as well as to Scripture (as it is expressed in the “Declaration of Faith” in the Manual of the Church of the Nazarene.

To plant a church is like beginning to build a house; the basic building blocks of the church are the converts.  It is so obvious that frequently we pass over this concept.  The primary focus of a church planter should be placed on the converts, and even though the structure and organization are not more important, they will help to conserve the results.  The success or failure of a church planter will be directly related to the fruit of his or her work in the souls of the new converts.  Missionary work should not be abandoned to dedicate ourselves to maintain the gains we’ve made.  Both of these– missionary work and maintenance – should happen simultaneously. 

Suggestions:

  1. Train specific leaders to perform their assigned roles.
  2. Meet with the new leaders and the new church board (in most cases, they will be the same cell group leaders or leaders from the home groups), to develop monthly plans and to move forward on district plans.
  3. Submit yourself to leadership above you and teach the new leaders to work as a team with the different levels of leadership within the denomination. We are all on the same team working towards the same mission.
  4. Make a plan that allows for local growth and growth in new communities.  In this way the church will not close itself in to its own four walls.
  5. Maintain a vision to raise up and train volunteer leaders.  Paid leadership has a tendency to slow down the advances of the new church.

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Step Ten: Look to the Harvest Fields

Keep the vision of new works as something natural in the life of the church.  Take Antioch in Acts 13 as a model.

Form a plan that allows for local growth and growth in new communities.  In that way the new church will not close itself in to its own four walls.  The temptation will be to settle for what has already been achieved, and new believers will want to be together and not allow the pastor to leave to explore new fields. One time a good brother said, “Pastor, if you go to another place, I’ll go back to the world.”  The pastor replied, “I thought you followed Christ, but it seems you’ve decided to exchange him for this useless servant.” This happens when koinonia become “koinonitis,” slowing the growth of the church.

Never stop doing the things that produce growth.  It is an error when church planters dedicate themselves to consolidate the fruit of the work and stop evangelizing. (This has happened in some instances, such as in the case of the project Vision 93-2000.  The goal was to organize a pioneer district in Chiapas, Mexico, and the progress stagnated.)

We have had to examine our focus to return to the original vision to plant churches in our chosen field.

***We hope that this series of practical steps for planting new churches has proven useful for you, the reader, in your ministry.  We thank Rev. Manuel Molina for his work in developing this material, and for his effectiveness in putting it in practice.

Step Eight: Corporate Worship

We continue with Step 8 from the series: “Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

 How to celebrate the presence and the power of God together

Corporate worship allows believers, who are growing and enthusiastic about their faith, to recognize the presence and the power of God together.

When two or more cell groups are functioning, the evangelist will work with the cell group leaders in order to plan joined meetings in which the believers will celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ.  If Bible study in the group is done well, the group will quickly be ready to celebrate a worship service and join in public teaching of the Word.

Principles: The value of corporate worship

When two or more cell groups are functioning, the church-planting effort has come to the point of uniting the groups periodically to worship God together.  Corporate worship will:

  • Introduce the new believer to the idea they are part of the body of Christ, which is large.
  • Give opportunities to use a variety of spiritual gifts, and allow them to develop specialized gifts that are difficult to maintain in a single cell group.
  • Give cell group leaders better control in issues of doctrine and lifestyle.
  • Protect from internal and external attack.
  • Offer a special dynamic for worship that usually generates larger groups.
  • Help individual believers learn their responsibilities as members of an organized church and prepare them for organization.
  • Help maintain balance and generate energy as victories, challenges and even failures of believers and cell groups are shared within the setting of the larger group and God’s work there.
  • Give the chance for teachers to exercise their gifts for the benefit of the whole body since many cell groups are not led by believers who have the gift of teaching.

Insist that the local leadership provide opportunities for new believers to participate. A true Celebration happens when we have reasons to celebrate. Believers who share their faith also tend to practice the disciplines of Christian growth and experience the family of God in action through mutual ministry.

We offer opportunities for corporate worship to celebrate how the presence and the power of God are visible in the lives of his children.

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Is it necessary for each church to have a building?

When we return to the book of Acts, we see a model of church planting that allows for the development of healthy churches that will reproduce other churches, especially in homes.  They can choose whether or not to find a building. When the church grows, it can make the decision to purchase land or rent or create a special place for their services.

Allow the emerging leadership to plan and lead the corporate worship and the most prepared leaders to preach publicly. Encourage the development of forms of worship that are culturally appropriate and biblically acceptable.  Do not copy readily available material (like YouTube videos, for example) that will confuse new believers.

Some suggestion on steps for planning corporate worship:

  1. When there are two or more cell groups, unite them periodically for corporate worship (public worship services).
  2. Begin Celebrations weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
  3. Make sure the cell groups continue as the primary source of identity and mutual care in the church.
  4. Work with the leaders of cell groups to plan Celebrations. Make sure they are simple enough that emerging leaders are capable of leading the service effectively.
  5. Increase the frequency of the services when the emerging leadership is able to meet the demands created by additional activities. That will ensure that adding corporate worship will not result in a lack of care in other areas of ministry.

***In the next entry we will address the final two steps in this series.

Step Seven: Leadership Development: Model 222

In today’s entry, we are continuing with Step 7 in the series: Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores. 

How to recognize and train emerging leaders (2 Timothy 2:2)

Step Seven is about discovering and developing the men and women who are capable of implementing the different levels of leadership required by a properly functioning church.

When arriving at this step, the church planters will begin to step back away from intense, active involvement, such as in Step Five, in order to invest their time and efforts in the emergent leaders and focus on the new leaders’ training.

Identify, through real ministry situations, those who demonstrate they are “reliable” and “qualified” (2 Timothy 2:2) in order to begin a systematic training program to continue developing their character, Biblical knowledge and practical abilities.  This entails sharing your experience and knowledge with the leaders.

Principles:

We identify men and women who are “reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).  Having seen their leadership, we begin a basic training program in which we invest in them and emphasize for each emerging leader areas of character, knowledge and practical skills that he or she needs to develop.

Training is what we offer the man or woman who demonstrates spiritual qualities and a divine call to leadership.  The question is not “who could be a good leader,” but rather “who is already leading” and “who demonstrates patterns of adequate spiritual growth and true love for others?”

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Training for leadership should include character elements as well as knowledge and practical elements.

Leadership training should be conducted in a way that assures simultaneous growth in three areas:

  • BEING (character): Character is developed through the disciplines for Christian growth (1 Timothy 4:12, 15-16), service (Matthew 20:25-28), faithfulness (Matthew 25:14-20), etc.
  • KNOWING (knowledge): This does not deal solely with knowledge of Biblical truths, but rather knowledge of how to study, interpret and apply the Bible to the needs of the people (Ezra 7:10, Acts 20:20).
  • DOING (practical): Potential leaders should know well and have practical experience in evangelism, discipleship and beginning a mission before moving on toward more advanced leadership training.

Leaders should grow in character (being), information (knowing), and practical abilities (doing).

***Find out about Step Eight in the next post.

Step Six: The Spiritual Community

Today we continue with Step 6 in the series: Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

How to create home cell groups or Bible study groups.

Generally we begin a church with a family that offers itself to Christ.  They offer their home to begin Bible studies, and then we invite other converts or contacts to attend one day a week.  The church planter or pastor directs the study. In that way we can open several homes or cell groups led by new converts.  These cell groups eventually join to give birth to the new church.

The goal is to create cell groups that promote a spiritual identity for each member and promote mutual ministries under the care of a spiritual leader or pastor. Discipleship focuses on developing the habits of a disciplined Christian life.  The spiritual community promotes the formation of identity and family responsibility through the practice of mutual ministry.

Specific activities will vary based on the needs and interests of the group.  They can include worship, Bible study, fellowship activities, etc.  There should always be chances to share victories, defeats, challenges and tests, and then an opportunity to pray for each other. There should also be a challenge for the members of the group to serve one another.  These meetings also serve as an opportunity to evaluate the spiritual health of the members. 

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From the beginning, insist on local leadership

Creating cell groups depends on discovering potential leaders (or the leaders of families).  As church planters, we should avoid the trap of organizing these groups around ourselves. We must motivate and empower leaders from the group itself.  Church planters should invest their time in preparing the leaders.

The main characteristics of a spiritual leader are:

  • An authentic spiritual life. He or she is growing spiritually and has something that is worthy of being imitated and shared.
  • Deeply loves the people. He or she is concerned with and involved in the needs and interests of the other believers.
  • Creates a sense of belonging. He or she encourages others so they feel part of the group.
  • Mobilizes others for service. He or she can motivate others to become actively involved in mutual ministry.

If our vision is that the new church grows through the Bible study or cell groups, we must send potential leaders to form those groups. (Keeping them “in their seats” without sending them out will mean the work will be centered only on the initial group.)

  1. Pray that God will raise leaders from among those who are actively following the Christian disciplines of growth. Try to identify the potential spiritual leaders within those who show love and who actively encourage others to grow in their spiritual life.
  2. Begin to meet with potential leaders; help them to develop and have a clear image of the concepts of identity, spiritual community and ministry responsibility. Practice the activities with them they will need to start a new church.
  3. Potential leaders should begin actively seeking those who they want to include in the new cell group they are trying to form. Resist the temptation to intervene in this stage. The leader will have the responsibility to maintain the cell group, and he or she should be the one who forms the cell group.

***We’ll move to Step 7 in the next post.

Step Five: Discipleship

Today we continue with Step 5 in the series: Ten Practical Steps For Planting New Churches,” written by Rev. Manuel Molina Flores.

The lack of discipleship in the past has meant that new believers are lost or learn bad habits.  To form habits or disciplines on which a new believer can build a fruitful Christian life is a worthy task.  The evangelist will encourage the new believer to develop an intimate relationship with God through the Five Disciplines for Personal Growth: Prayer, Bible Study, Worship, Testimony, and a Life of Complete Love for Christ. They will form discipleship groups (companions in their spiritual walk) that will be assigned to a discipleship mentor (accountability) for the believers.  The evangelist should take care to not create dependence on him or her.

Expected attitudes and reactions from the group:

Initial: From the beginning, the new contact is hungry for the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2) and begins to practice the disciplines that produce growth (1 Timothy 4:7-8), which will equip a new believer to face his or her daily struggles.

Long Term: The believer will commit to a mutually responsible relationship with other believers (companions on the way) that is centered around the disciplines for personal growth.

Principles:

Our first commandment is: “Go and make disciples.”We are not only to gain converts. It is crucial and important we understand this truth! Developing spiritually strong disciples will be evidenced only when they are obedient in all Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:16-20). Healthy disciples are the “living stones” that form healthy and growing churches. Both the book of Acts and the history of the church demonstrate that churches will be formed and communities transformed where there are true disciples of Jesus Christ.

As church planters, our first goal is to guidemen and women to begin a relationship with the master and his disciples, that is, both with Christ and other believers.  Center the discipleship process around the development of the disciplines.  There is no other way to maintain long-term growth!

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Use discipleship methods that prompt personal discovery of the truth of God, especially the materials the Church of the Nazarene produces. New believers should learn to “feed” themselves with the Word of God and not develop dependence on the church planter or evangelist.  When they search for God in his word and focus on that as a goal, rejoice with them and congratulate each small and large discovery they make.  When we base learning on personal motivation and discipline instead of our own ability to teach and motivate, we create a different type of disciple who learns directly from the Bible and is cemented in a personal relationship with God, rather than remaining dependent on our own abilities as teachers.

Establish patterns of mutual discipleship. One of the best ways to avoid dependency is to encourage disciples to personally discover Biblical truth and create an environment that feeds the concept of mutual responsibility.  This style of discipleship gives each believer responsibility to develop the disciplines necessary for Christian growth.  Mutual discipleship:

  • Prevents the church planter from taking responsibility as the principle disciple, avoiding the creation of a “traditional dependency syndrome.”
  • Promotes a sense among the believers of belonging and personal responsibility for the spiritual well-being of others.
  • Reinforces the importance of the disciplines for Christian growth, like the means of grace mentioned by John Wesley (prayer, Bible study, and holy communion, among others). It helps believers learn to be mutually responsible for practicing the habits that produce growth.
  • Prepares the way to introduce the concepts of responsibility, which are fundamental to healthy spiritual development and will prepare the way for developing local leaders.

Common Errors to Avoid

  1. Creating dependency. We create dependency when we allow new disciples to survive sustained by external systems of life. When a newborn doesn’t desire milk, we know that something is very wrong.  When a believer doesn’t demonstrate any desire to feed himself through study and prayer, his condition is critical.  We must learn to treat it like it is. We do not help a new believer if we keep teaching him with the hope that someday he will decide to begin to feed himself.  That only creates bad habits that are difficult to break.
  2. Communicating that, in some way, the Christian life is easier for a mature believer. The only thing this idea does is discourage young Christians! We should be transparent with both our victories and our spiritual struggles. We must work from a foundation of mutual responsibility and establish patterns of humility and transparency that encourage young believers and create realistic patterns for future leadership.
  3. Measuring “success” in terms of attendance. Since church planters frequently feel pressure to gain visible results, it is possible to fall in the trap of confusing participation in activities with the disciplines of personal growth and the level of commitment to Christ and the Church.

***In the next entry we will move on to Step 6.