The Dual Dangers of Legalism and “Traditionalism”

Our Mesoamerica Genesis office is working diligently on assisting churches that exist in large urban areas to become healthy and missional.  One of the first steps in doing so is to take a church health survey in order to discover strengths and weaknesses.  It’s a brave task to undergo actually.  No one wants to find out they are sick, or even worse, dying.

One of the biggest reasons we have found for lack of health in congregations is a combination of legalism and worship of tradition.  Having order and obeying the laws of God are quite important to be sure.  But if we allow our adherence to rule-following to get in the way of mission and loving the world around us, we’ve missed the mark. Tradition is a wonderful thing, and celebrating our rich heritage is a must as Christians.  But if we think the methods from decades ago are holy in and of themselves, we are in dangerous territory.

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Jean David Larochelle’s book in Spanish, A Natural Development of Faith, has much to say about legalism and “traditionalism,” as he calls it:

“The message of the gospel is not negotiable. We do not doubt it. Every principle is eternal.  Every principle is immutable.  Every principle is spiritual and every principle is divine.  But strategies are not principles or doctrines. Neither are they eternal.  I say again, one of the greatest sins of the church is to try to win a postmodern generation with primitive strategies.”

The Good News is not good if it is not understandable. When we do not update our methods for different generations or cultures, we can be almost certain they will not understand them, let alone respond positively.  Grace is diluted by the importance we place on rules and tradition.

“Doctrinally, legalism and traditionalism can become positions essentially opposed to grace . . . God has given freedom to his church, but many continue tying it to legalism and traditionalism.”

In reference to the Pharisees in John 9 who questioned the blind man who received his sight, Larochelle continues, “It is sad to note that, for them, the day of rest had been given priority over the person. Things, interests and laws were a priority over the human person.  Nevertheless, Jesus also made them see that he was opposed to the foolish traditions and legalism they had invented in respect to the day of rest . . . They did not rejoice with the man. They saw humanity through eyes of judgment.”

In closing, the author invites us to evaluate ourselves. “Consider if you have legalistic, rigid attitudes or thoughts towards others or towards yourself.  In the story we are analyzing, which role would you like to take – that of the Pharisees or of Jesus? Which role have you played? Which would you like to play from now on?

These are essential questions for the whole church and for each Christian who desires to reflect the love of Christ in their society.

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In the Cities

Greetings from Kansas City, Missouri, USA.  I am attending a Regional Leadership Conference and have been invited to be a part of a panel focused on “Mission to the Cities.” It is such an honor to speak about this topic along with many urban mission leaders and General Superintendents as part of the panel.

Each one of us will be giving a short introduction to our ministry context, and I wanted to share with you what I will be saying at the opening of the panel:

Good morning! ¡Buenos días!

I’m a Nazarene missionary in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  My family and I have lived in five different countries in the last 15 years, and now we are coordinating an initiative called Genesis. Genesis seeks to bring a new beginning to the big cities of the Mesoamerica Region, which is ironic, because just 8 years ago, I hardly cared about urban mission.

We began our missionary career by living in Guatemala City, Guatemala and San José, Costa Rica: two huge cities with lots and lots of need.  And, of course, as a missionary, I was passionate about winning the world for Christ!  But during that time if you were to have asked me why cities are important to God, I would have stammered and faltered.  Aren’t all places important to God? What’s the big deal about cities?

It wasn’t until 2011 when my family and I moved to Panama City, Panama, that I started to get it.  You see, we went from living in a house to living on the 19th floor of a high-rise. The view was amazing.  Because of a healthy fear of heights, I did not go out on our balcony often, but one night I did.  I thought about all those lights representing one person, or even one family. And in that moment – I don’t know where it came from, but – for the first time I stretched out my arms and I whispered the prayer that now I have prayed a thousand times: Lord, give us the city!

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About that time, our region was researching where we, as a Nazarene Church, were strongest and where we were weakest, geographically-speaking. We found out that 79% of our region lives in an urban context, but only 29% of our Nazarenes are there! In other words, in the most populated places, we have the fewest Nazarenes. We realized that ministry in our region had to be ministry to the urban core.  We have spent the last eight years training urban missionaries and equipping our existing churches to creatively reach their cities.  Maybe later we will explore how urban ministry needs to look different compared to rural and suburban ministry.

Some of you are wondering: “But that’s your region.  What does that have to do with us?” Well, the statistics in the USA and Canada are a bit different.  This region is actually the most urban of any in the world.  Nearly 9 out of every 10 people in these two countries lives in a city of 100,000 or more!

As a Church of the Nazarene in the USA/Canada, we are not quite as rural and suburban as the Mesoamerica Region.  Still, did you know that Nazarene membership is .17% of the total population in our big cities?  In other words, not even 1 of every 500 urban dwellers in Canada and the USA is a Nazarene.

That may be more statistics than you were bargaining for.  So let’s simplify it.

We have a lot of work to do.

And that work must be in the cities.

As author and pastor in New York, Tim Keller, says, “We don’t need churches only in cities. We need them everywhere there are people.  Therefore, we need them especially in cities.”

An Open Letter to the Churches of Mesoamerica

For the past five weeks we have been traveling through our 40 Days of Prayer for the Cities of Mesoamerica.  We have been so encouraged by the responses of many leaders and local churches as they mobilize their people in prayer!  This campaign has become an annual emphasis, and this year especially we are starting to see the vision take hold.  Thanks to all who have daily interceded for the urban settings in our region – it is truly making a difference!

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There are some exciting things happening in the months ahead.  First, the prayer does not need to stop! Please stay tuned to our updates and prayer requests throughout the year on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Our mobile app (available for Android or iOS) will also start to become more and more useful as our missionaries on the ground provide stories as well as personal prayer requests and praises.  And don’t forget that all around the region we have dedicated Tuesday mornings as a time to pray and fast for a genesis to occur in the cities of Mesoamerica.

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Sugey Barrón

Second, did you know that we are developing many new materials and tools to equip the existing churches that are in urban areas? Sugey Barrón, a former Genesis missionary sent from Mexico to Santiago, Dominican Republic, has decided to continue serving as a missionary in the D.R., now focusing on training the thousands of Nazarenes that live in our cities to be missional.  I am so excited about what she is coming up with (you’ll hear more in the months ahead)!

Third, next month we will be training and sending out a new crop of Genesis missionaries who will impact Monterrey, México and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. These are some really great young people.  Assuredly you will read about them in the coming weeks, but for now I can say that it is a high honor to witness how God keeps calling people to cross-cultural ministry, and how they are still responding in passionate obedience to his voice!

Podcast_English_FinalAll that, and I have not even mentioned the ongoing articles we provide regularly on our website, the “Worthless Servants” podcast episodes we are pumping out biweekly, and much more.  There is a lot going on! The point is: we need you to continue praying for all this. Don’t let the end of a 40-day campaign cause the need for effective urban churches to be “out of sight, out of mind.” In fact, add to that prayer a whole lot of action.  Get involved in some way and help others do the same!

Thanks for your continued collaboration.  God is using you – and thousands of others – to make a difference. What a privilege to be a part of this adventure with you.

Scott Armstrong
Coordinator, Mesoamerica Global Missions and GENESIS
February 8, 2019

An All-Terrain God

In our previous post we published a report of what God did through the 4×4 All-Terrain missions project in Queretaro, Mexico. In the week between Christmas 2018 and New Year’s Day 2019, a group of youth served along with the already deployed Genesis missionaries in Queretaro.

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Now we would like to share a few testimonies from the youth who played an important role in this missions experience:

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“This was an experience that taught me a lot.  I experienced in a palpable way how incredible it is to serve God.  It motivated me to continue working, to continue sharing the Word of God with as many people as I can, and above all to put myself in God’s hands for whatever plan he has for my life.  It was really a blessed week for me and, as the name of the project says, I could see that God is a 4×4 God.  He is without a doubt a God who works in all terrain.” – Teresa de Cuesta.

“Going out to evangelize and see the needs in the community made us more sensitive to the circumstances of the people; to take the message of God’s love to those who need it brings hope to everyone.  “Remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).  4×4 All-Terrain is a platform to teach, participate in missions, love, give hope and practice obedience.” – Gaddiel Antonio.

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“Participating in this project was an answer to my prayer that I would be able to serve God in this place.  I thank God for the chance to spend a week with the Genesis missionaries serving in Queretaro.  Each one taught me great things.  I could see that their passion to share the gospel comes from the head, but above all lives in their hearts.  Their work has impacted me because they consistently showed love to the lost, especially through the hugs and attention they gave to the children.” – Rosa Amaro.

“The decision to participate in 4×4 was a little bit difficult because of time constraints, the cost, and my family.  But thanks to the God who made a way, I ended up in Queretaro! I really liked spending time with the Genesis missionaries and seeing how they had developed their ministry and the joyful way they worship God.  Every day was a great blessing for me.  I was a witness to the way God changes hearts!” – Alejandra Aguilar.

20181228_084154.jpg“I was sick from the moment I arrived and during the entire week of activities.  God had other plans for me because I believe that, in the end, what is important is a willingness to serve and not our ability. The Lord knew my intentions were to help the team, and since my terrible health didn’t allow it, the Lord provided a valuable tool for everybody else that I was able to drive: a car. Even though everything turned out differently than I expected, today I can say that despite physical illness and weakness, the Lord used me for his purposes.” – Ariadna Romero.

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“Participating in 4×4 was a great blessing, because it gave me a chance to serve God through my profession (general medicine). When people asked why we were offering free medications and medical service, it gave us the best opportunity to publicly thank God and remind people that the Lord has a plan for them.  We are only offering back to Him what he gives us, and in that way every one of us can share that we have been changed by his love.” – Navith Ayala

If you would like to be a part of an experience like this, leave a comment or contact us on our Facebook page: Global Mission Mesoamerica.  God can also use you in all terrain!

Kingdom Workers – 4×4 All-Terrain

Written by Ariadna Romero

From Dec. 26, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2019, the Mexican city of Queretaro was the site for the 4X4 All Terrain event.  For the last nine years, the event has encouraged Mexican youth to participate in missions in a place far from their homes.  They work in rustic areas, using their abilities and strengths to their limits in order to share the Good News of salvation. 

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Queretaro was no exception.  The Genesis missionaries were waiting for the 16 youth participants when they arrived in order to begin the activities at the ministry site. Some of the activities they planned in the local community were: a Project Gol soccer tournament, vacation Bible school, movies, house-to-house evangelism, and distributing tracts. Through all that, we were not only brothers and sisters in the faith, but also workers together in the Kingdom, roommates, hikers, friends in times of illness and exhaustion, and apprentice cooks.  We even became amateur singers in order to celebrate the end of another year on Earth and the end of 4×4.

Devocionales.jpgThe Lord blessed our efforts for the children and adolescents who were attracted to the different activities throughout the day.  The house-to-house evangelism was not very successful because most people would not open their doors or were not at home.  There were also challenges to handing out the evangelistic tracts.  The local police stopped us several times from handing out fliers.  According to them it was against the law.  Thanks to the tenacity and creativity of Maria Eugenia Rodriguez, who was in charge of 4×4, and the bravery of the participants, things took a different direction.  We ended up at the intersection of a main road passing out brochures, hugging people and wishing people a happy New Year and blessings for their families.  In the end, we accomplished our objective despite the obstacles that always come up when someone tries to share the message of salvation.

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We are thrilled at the achievements we witnessed during the last week of 2018. We know that we were able to help in the missionary work that is beginning in the Queretaro territory, and we know that nothing is impossible in Jesus’ name.

Statistics: Contacts through the VBS, Project Gol, movie showings, and house-to-house evangelism – 108; Number of people who heard the message of salvation – 63; Hugs – 132; Faith decisions – 21; Initial discipleship – 21.

Praying for the City – 40 Days

TOMORROW, January 1st 2019, we start 40 days Praying for the City, we invite you to join this prayer movement so God can bring a Genesis to our cities.

In the following link you can download the complete calendar, share it with others!: 40 Days Praying for the City Calendar

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Don’t forget to visit our website MesoamericaGenesis.org, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see the prayer request for each day. 

Praying for the City – 2019

In a few days we will be starting this prayer movement: 40 Days Praying for the City, would you join us? 

You can download the 40 days complete calendar by clicking HERE!!! 

You can also follow our social media to keep up with the prayer requests for every day: we are on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Visit our website at: MesoamericaGenesis.org.

Don’t forget we start on January 1st, 2019!!

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