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.

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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.

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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.

Prayer Requests – Grenada

As we met recently with Crystalla Williams and Cleon Cadogan, closing out their time in Grenada as missionaries with Genesis, they shared the following prayer requests.  Please accompany them in this transition time as they pray for the people and places they have left and prepare for the new doors God will open for them as they return home:

Prayer Requests

For the Fontenoy Church of the Nazarene

1) For Pastor Alvin Forsyth, Min. Elizabeth Forsyth, Natisha Benjamin (daughter and church board secretary), Alvonn and Kareem Forsyth (not yet Christians).

2) For the Church Board: that there will be commitment to their calls and that they would function in their ministry rolls with excellence and passion.

3) For church members: that they would grow in faith, love and unity and that everyone will rise up to do, be and go.

4) For the youth of the community: that they would find direction amidst a confusing and manipulating world.

5) For evangelism and discipleship to become engrained in the church’s DNA.

6) For greater opportunities to minister in the community.

7) For the new community (Concord) we began working in at the end of May.  Pray that persons will stand up and walk into the graces that God has called them to.

8) For financial stability.

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For the Content Church of the Nazarene, officially organized August 13, 2017

1) For the pastor and his family: Alister Douglas, Lorraine Douglas and their children (one of whom is in medical school).

2) For the work of God to continue to grow in their community.

3) That, as the only church in that neighborhood, God will use them to transform a whole community.

4) For them to become a church-planting church within the next 2-3 years.

5) That land becomes available for the building of a sanctuary.

6) For the youth in the community to find purpose and strength in God.

7) That discipling of the new believers will be thorough and that they will understand who they are in Christ and as Nazarenes.

Personal Prayer Requests of Cleon and Crystalla:

1) That persons ministered to in Grenada will continue to grow in Christ.

2) For an easy transition back into life at home.

3) For their families, who have greatly missed them in their absence.

4) For a job to support housing and living expenses.

5) For all their relationships.

6) For a door to open for them to continue studying other cultures and languages.

7) That God would provide mentors for those that they are leaving behind in Grenada.

8) For their home churches and countries: that the transition back into ministry will be smooth.

I am Here to Serve

Recently I received a testimony from our Genesis missionary from Trinidad and Tobago, Crystalla Williams.  She wrote these words in her final days serving in Grenada. Wow!  I knew at once that her reflection needed to be shared with a wider audience.  May God stir your heart as you hear her heart come through loud and clear.

As I reflect on the two years of ministry in Genesis, I am almost brought to tears as I wonder at my God: His love, compassion, patience, grace, mercy, peace, power and provision. 

I would not – definitely could not – make it without Him. Truthfully, there were many who didn’t think I would finish; some even said it to my face. Honestly, there were times that I believed them: times when things were so hard that I couldn’t see my way through. But God made a way!

There is no doubt in my mind that certain breakthroughs I have had would not have been possible without this assignment. I now have a better understanding of what it means to be patient. God has somehow increased my capacity to love, to be understanding, to be compassionate and to be forgiving. This assignment has taught me how to pray deeper, and fast more intently and strategically. 36268094_10160602430915118_1541711199895289856_o.jpg

As I look forward I am excited. I am excited to go back to my district, home country and home church to work and minister. What that will look like I am not entirely sure.  One thing I know: I am here to serve. 

Before leaving for Grenada I already had my exit plan. I had a job waiting, an apartment that would be ready when I got back, and projects that I would be working on. Over the last two years, I have seen every plan of mine fly out the window. 

But as I have seen my plans turn to dust, I have also seen God work things out in ways I am still in awe of.  Because of this ‘crazy faith’ journey I have been on, I am assured that my God, who has done so much more than I could ever imagine or think, will take care of me. 

These two years in Grenada have been great. Great joys, great hurts, great support, great breakthroughs, great tears (of happiness and sorrow), great laughs, great love, great triumphs, great purpose being realized, great new friends, great spiritual healing and growth…a true representation of how great my God is and will always be to me.

I am eagerly awaiting what God will do next. There is no one like me and there is no one like my God.  Oh, what awesomeness He will do!!!!

I am honored to be a part of an organization, a church, and a family that wraps around the world. I am honored to have the support that can never be quantified by human standards. And it’s all afforded to me because of what Jesus did so long ago on a ‘tree.’ Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for your prayers.

Thank you for your continued service and care to others called by God.

Yours in Christ,

Min. Crystalla J. Williams

Genesis Missionary

Grenada

Vacation Bible Schools Amid Economic Crisis

Churches across Venezuela are continuing to reach out to their communities despite the current economic crisis. At least 60 Vacation Bible Schools representing 75 percent of the country’s organized churches have been planned through September.

Many residents have emigrated from the country in search of better work opportunities, resulting in a rapid decline in public school attendance and an estimated 20 percent membership decline in the Church of the Nazarene in Venezuela. 

Despite the economy, the work of Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International has not stopped, and the regional, national, and district coordinators are working on ways to promote and support these VBS camps.

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The Church of the Nazarene in Calabozo has already held two camps, including one at a church plant in Ciudad de Dios for 200 children. The other was held the following week, hosting 179 children and youth. 

In the eastern part of the country, the Renacer church in Punta de Mata held a VBS where 70 children and youth participated. In the Llanos District, which has the largest number of Churches of the Nazarene in Venezuela, the Cambios and Los Pozones churches held their VBS camps, with 70 and 84 children, respectively. Most of the other churches will wait until after the National Youth Camp during the last week of August to host their own VBS camps.

“We thank the Lord for so many workers who have made their time, energy, and resources available to plant the seed of God’s Word in the generations to come,” said Leda DeGouveia, national SDMI coordinator. “We are counting on your support in prayer that our God would revive His work in the midst of times like these.”

This article was originally published at: Church of the Nazarene South America

Living Simply so that Others may Simply Live

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

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

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

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

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

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

Called unto Holiness – Part 3 of 3

This week we have been exploring the characteristics of a holy life as outlined by Dr. Nina Gunter.  We have reproduced the introduction and the first part of the body of her sermon “Called unto Holiness.” Now we finish this message by detailing the final five traits of a holiness people.

  1. Holistic faith (life) based upon the provenance and preeminence of God.

He is the source of all we are, and He is Lord of all we do.The disciplines are integrated.

Everything is permeated with God’s presence . . . all we are7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and all we do.

Our lives are not compartmentalized.  It is God in us—in all: at home, work/office, school, church, traveling—a living out of the reality of God’s constant presence.

John Wesley’s question at the beginning of his class meetings was, “How goes it with your soul?” Holistic faith influences every walk of life.

  1. Purposeful hearts based on the love of God.

The love of God—the unconditional, holy love of God—is the bottom line.  It is the heart of God’s message.

This is about the theology of love . . . God’s love is not based on performance.  God’s love is not based on good works, but on the love, grace, and mercy of God Himself.

We are who we are—children of God—because we are filled with God’s love.  This love empowers us to be people of integrity and authenticity. God is serious about our loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. This is the essence of holiness.

Be holy. 

Be my witnesses. Being comes before doing. 

Be the people of God.

  1. Servant leadership based upon the servant mind of Christ.

“Jesus humbled Himself.” He girded Himself with the towel of Service.  He was interested in the towel—not toys, titles, and trinkets.

We serve God in ministry to people.

We empty our rights in submission to God’s right.

Illustration:  A pastor in the Democratic Republic of Congo walked for days to get to Assembly to be ordained.  He was asked the traditional questions by the General Superintendent:  Do you preach holiness?  Do your people understand holiness?  How do you know?  His answer: “When problems arise we come together.  We identify the problem, then together in love seek the solution.”

Holy people empty themselves of themselves to serve God’s purposes.

  1. Meaningful work based upon the call of God.

The meaningof our work is not seen through the results—even though that is important.  No – the meaning of our workis based on the call of God.

We believe in a God-called ministry.

Did you hear “The Voice”?

It is the heart of God.  Behind the voice is a person. That’s God.

Where is the value in what we do?  Not the money…not the benefits.  But there is a Caller who gives our work meaning and purpose.

That caller does not leave us or forsake us.  When the clouds are low, the nights long, and the duties many—The Caller is there giving meaning to all we do.  Psalm 46:10

There is no God-forsaken place. 

  1. Restored self based on the image of God.

A sense of being broken drives people to seek wholeness to be restored.

Salvation is the restoration of God’s image in us.

            “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.

              Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

              All the King’s horses and all the King’s men

              Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.”

But God can put people back together again.

We Nazarenes believe no one is so lost but what he/she can be found—no one so bad but what he/she can be redeemed—no one so far gone but what he/she can’t come back.

If you are convinced you have a treasure, it’s easy to recommend it to others.

In every person, there is the covered-up image of God. 

Holiness will never be a dated theology because human nature has not changed.  Holiness is about God’s nature transforming our nature to be like his nature.

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Therefore, we can preach a message of hope and holiness.  The holiness message is a message of hope.

We can be delivered from the power of sin!  We can be purified, wholly sanctified, empowered with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, restored in the image of God.

There are crisismoments in this.  And there is processin this.

God can deliver us from whatever is in our lives that is contrary to the nature of God that puts us in bondage.

Closing:

John Wesley: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist in Europe of America.  But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.  And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

Nazarenes, what is our basic doctrine, spirit, and discipline? It is the same as John Wesley defined for the Methodists—that Nazarenes experienceand growin holiness of heart and life.

The greatest compliment paid to you as districts, churches, offices, or schools:  A holy God walks among holy people in this place.

Is the holiness movement alive in your district?  At the Global Ministries Center?  Your church? Your school?  Your home?

It’s in your hands.

4 Ways to Involve Everyone in Evangelism

By Ed Stetzer

Many people have slipped into the mindset that evangelism is a gift that some believers have and others do not. The reality is that when someone becomes reconciled to God, He sends them out to reconcile others. That’s not a gift—we all have the responsibility to take Christ to others.

Pastoral leadership can go a long way in shifting those mindsets. Pastors can and should equip the church body to understand their role in evangelization. Among other things, a church can do four things to encourage the spirit and practice of evangelism.

  1. Build Relationships

Only a very few hear the gospel or show up at church without first being in relationship. Most people who come to Christ are invited by a person they know.

God calls us to evangelize, including our family, friends, and neighbors. He invites us to invite others. Personal relationships are the best way to reach out.

Your friends trust you when you talk about restaurants, plumbers, and baby sitters. That same trust gives each believer an open door to introduce their friends to Jesus.

  1. Encourage Engagement

Sometimes the world gets the wrong idea that being a Christian means our lives are perfect. They feel disconnected and unworthy. So whenever we can remind our people and those looking in that we are all in need of a Savior, it breaks down walls that keep people from Christ and the Church.

The church and its people must understand that no one gets through a broken world unbroken. So as they go back out throughout the week, they should connect with broken people as broken people who have met the One who restores. They should offer restoration through Christ. That is evangelism.

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  1. Inclusive Events

Some parts of church are more exclusive. The Lord’s Supper, baptism, even some small groups are just for believers. But a church has the freedom, and really a responsibility, to have gatherings where seekers feel welcome—places where they are ready for company.

One of those low-threshold events is an annual Easter egg hunt. You ramp up by involving the whole church. They bring their friends, neighbors, and families.

Do these events where everyone can be involved. Why? Events can show love for our community and increase visibility to invite people to our church. Multiple relationships can form in these open and inclusive events. These relationships can ultimately lead back to Christ.

  1. Teach Well

The Easter egg event mentioned above is an inroad. But the greater thing happens when we actually preach on the resurrection—we want to bridge relationships from something as simple as a children’s event, to something as important as the gospel.

And, we don’t just preach about the resurrection on one Sunday.

Our people understand that after they bring their friends to the church community event, there will be an intense Gospel thrust in the following weeks. We call each other, and the Life Group leaders make calls. Everyone knows that everyone should invite their friends to hear about Jesus.

We teach the gospel well and over and over.

Holistic Approach

It’s a full-court press. We do all of these things in waves at the same time, but we don’t do them all the time. Spring and fall, summer and winter, on mission to share Jesus.

Everyone is on board. Everyone understands that our church leadership will provide opportunities for their friends to hear the Gospel, but their friends are their responsibility.

I don’t know their friends. They do. I can’t invite their friends. They can. And they must. Evangelism is everyone’s responsibility.

We can complain about the lack of evangelistic activity in our churches, but this goes back to leadership. We as leaders create the culture of evangelism. When the church sees we are intentional and serious about creating a pathway, they will be more likely to engage their friends and invite them on the pathway.

What has your church done to make sure everyone participates in evangelism? Why do you think people often drop the ball in the area of evangelism?

*This article was originally published at: Edstetzer.com