The More You Know

“The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.” (1 Cor. 8:2)

In college, I was given a topic for a research paper.  I spent a good part of the semester reading, investigating, checking sources, and taking notes.  Every article cited another 20 journals and papers.  When I finally sat down to write the paper, I had so much new knowledge, but I was also convinced of something else: I was nowhere near understanding this subject completely!

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Has that happened to you? Have you ever had a moment where you read or researched a topic extensively, only to find that all the knowledge you had newly acquired was only .01% of the vast information on that subject?

“The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” – Aristotle

In this world of bravado and braggadocio, both Aristotle and Paul were onto something.

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.

The Famous Know-it-All

“We know that we all possess knowledge.  Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Cor. 8:1)

Have you ever met a know-it-all? He (or she) justifiably has a lot of information in his brain, and he wants to let the world know every bit of it.  You’ll know when you’ve met one if they cut off your story or exciting piece of news with a “Well, of course, but did you also hear that…”

There’s no better way to bring a conversation down than with a know-it-all.

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Through social media today we all seem to want the world to know our thoughts and opinions.  We work hard to graduate and get a diploma that verifies that we possess the expertise necessary in a certain area.  Knowledge is vital, and we should strive for more knowledge every day.  However, if all that knowledge is used to bring attention to ourselves or –even worse– to disrespect someone, we have missed the boat.  Knowledge very often puffs us up.  But love? Love builds both you and others up.

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.

Christ-Centered Discipleship

A few months ago, Dr. Rubén Fernández published in the Didache theological resource website an essay on discipleship within the context of the Mesoamerica Region.  I found it to be a bold, insightful rebuke of our current Church leadership and methodology (I include myself in that distinction).  Below I have provided an extract of this article that I hope you’ll find challenging.  The entire document is here.

We need a greater commitment to the life of holiness. As disciples of Christ we need to fight against the desires of the flesh that want to impose themselves on those of the Spirit. Desires that lead us to accommodate ourselves, to avoid situations or confrontations that may cause us harm, to believe that we have the right to ‘enjoy life’ by turning a blind eye to sin and the suffering that surrounds us.

We must practice a biblical and Christ-centered discipleship that mobilizes the Church to serve the world.

Today, for many Christians (both Roman Catholic and Evangelical), the cross is simply an element that is part of their dress code or a sort of protective amulet for their house or vehicle. Jesus died for our sins. That’s true. But it is also equally true that Jesus died because he confronted the corruption of power. The ministry of Jesus, was really transformative, countercultural and revolutionary and, therefore, highly dangerous.

Biblical and Christ-centered discipleship should shake the church out of its comfort zone and out of its ‘heavenly spirituality’ and lead the church to serve people by transforming their communities.

Young people are waiting for a militant, dissenting, reactive church. We are losing the new generations that reject a church interested in keeping things as they are.

How much do we teach people what it would be like to take up the cross today? To be radical will involve denouncing violence, defending those who are attacked unjustly, taking the side of the weakest, children, the elderly, the unprotected, etc.

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What is the price that a person pays for condemning these things? They will not have more money or win friends. More likely, they will probably be ‘in the sight’ of the Central American gangs, drug cartels or human trafficking in Mexico, corrupt police, purchased judges or unscrupulous politicians almost everywhere. If we put ourselves in the place of those brothers and sisters who have been victimized and others who live under threat to their families, it seems difficult to believe that our ‘prophetic voice’ could deal with those issues.

John Wesley said, “The world is my parish.” How can we mobilize each Nazarene to carry their cross with dignity, so that they may respond to their personal call and become actively involved in the transformation of that place in the world where God has sent them to serve?

My observation in Mesoamerica is that the leadership of the evangelical church in general terms is of a conformist type. What we do well is preserve the status quo. We do not develop true discipleship on the road to the cross. We do not carry out real transformational leadership, like that of Jesus; we only put bandages on the wounds (and not that that’s wrong, but is it enough?). There are some of the countries in our region, such as in Central America, where the percentage of evangelicals is high and growing, but with a tiny impact on the change of society.

Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, who was murdered in cold blood at mass in 1980, said in a homily a year before his death: “A sermon that does not point to sin is not a gospel sermon…When the Church hears the weeping of the oppressed it cannot but denounce the social structures that nourish and perpetuate the misery from which the cry comes.”

How do we Nazarenes see the involvement of our church members in political careers? What message are we communicating to our members about the value of investing life in professions related to service and public administration?

How can we change the paradigm that still exists in many churches that the only way to serve God is through the pastoral profession or intra-ecclesial leadership?

How can we change from being trainers of church leaders to being trainers of leaders for our present context and reality?

***Dr. Rubén Fernández is Rector of the Seminario Nazareno de las Américas (SENDAS) in San José, Costa Rica.

Global Mission Coordinators’ Retreat – Northcentral Field

The second Global Mission coordinators’ retreat for the Northcentral field was held May 17-19. Nine coordinators from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua participated in the retreat, along with several of the young people they are discipling and preparing for missions.

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During the retreat, the participants:

  • Heard testimonies about how God is working in the lives of young people in the field, as well as the progress and current reach of the Global Mission ministry.
  • Learned about their roles and responsibilities as district coordinators.
  • Understood the importance of discipleship and follow-up for young people with a missionary call.
  • Heard testimonies about what God is doing in the Mesoamerica Region through the Genesis ministry.
  • Enjoyed times of fellowship, worship, and the Lord’s Supper.
  • Reflected on and confirmed God’s call on their lives.
  • Shared the gospel with the community of Apastepeque, San Vicente in a creative way, through a mini-circus.

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God really blessed this time together, and we could see the Holy Spirit moving in the life of each participant.

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I thank God for the opportunity He has given me to serve in the Global Mission ministry in the Northcentral field. I also thank God for the lives of our leaders and servants: Scott and Emily Armstrong, and Leonel and Maria Luisa de León.

After the conclusion of the coordinators’ retreat, the young people sat down to share their feelings about the retreat. They decided to fast as a team one day each week and also pray for our field, our vision and ministry, as well as for the Genesis missionaries currently on the field.

–Luz Jimenez, North Central Field Global Mission Coordinator.

Dejected…and Rejoicing

By Scott Armstrong

As many in the Nazarene world and beyond are aware, a week ago a Boeing 737 airliner with more than 110 passengers and crew crashed Friday near Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, shortly after takeoff. The plane, Cubana Flight 972, was on its way to Holguín, Cuba, when it went down about 12 p.m. local time.

On board the aircraft, 10 couples from the East District were on their way back to their home Province of Holguín after being part of a National Conference for pastors from the Church of the Nazarene. In the days after, expressions of grief and solidarity were expressed from the General Superintendents and brothers and sisters around the globe. On May 21, Dr. Carla Sunberg dedicated her message at the Global Ministry Center’s chapel service to the couples who were killed and the family members and Cuban leaders who are picking up the pieces after this tragedy.

In the Dominican Republic the missionaries and National Office leadership met, as we do every week, for devotions and prayer.  This time the mood was somber.  We knew the right theology: God is sovereign.  He has a plan.  He offers eternal life to those who die in Him.  However, the questions remained: why did this happen? Why didn’t God stop this? What about the ten orphaned children who are now weeping and will not see their parents on this side of heaven?

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In the midst of such struggle, the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries’ Coordinator for the Central Field (Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Puerto Rico), Paquita Bidó, began to read from Psalm 100.

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.

Worship the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.

It is he who made us, and we are his;

we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;

his faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Worshipping with gladness? Joyful songs? Thanksgiving and praise? Clearly, this is not a lament Psalm!

Paquita acknowledged that we mourn with our Cuban family, and we recognize our bewilderment.  We must not explain away this devastating loss with trite words of affirmation or theological maxims.  At the same time, she explained that she brought this psalm to us as an expression of faith in the very midst of sorrow.  The Lord is God; we are not.  He is Creator, and we are his creation.  As sheep, we enjoy the care of the Shepherd and obey his voice.  What a privilege to serve him for as long as he gives us breath.

Paquita continued.  If we proclaim that God is faithful only in the good times, then what good is that? Our trust would be based merely on circumstances going our way and not on a loving Father who allows pain in our lives because he knows best.  However, we do, in fact, declare that He is good, and His love endures forever, even in – or especially in – this bitter reality confronting us.  And his faithfulness is promised not only to us, but it continues through all generations.

In the light of this reality, and even in the midst of sadness, we shout for joy!  Our tears co-mingle with thanks and praise.  God is good.  Still. Even now.

Our entire region is devastated. We have mobilized to give and pray for Cuba.  And as we weep, we also rejoice that we serve a good and faithful God.  Yes, his love endures forever.

Genesis Re-entry Retreat – 2018

At the start of May of this year, volunteer missionaries that were sent to Genesis sites in Guadalajara, Mexico and Santiago, Dominican Republic: Laritza del Carmen, Natali Novelo, Nhasyeli Rodríguez, Sugey Barrón and Wendy Rivera, completed their 2-year assignment. To wrap up their time of service, they were part of a retreat in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic where they remembered and shared their experiences from the mission field. It was a time of reflection for each missionary, as well as a time of giving thanks for having completed their mission.

The five missionaries expressed joy for having shared their lives with people that became friends and family to them, and for those that they were able to teach, disciple and guide in the Christian life; the missionaries also expressed their thankfulness for having been part of this initiative of the Church of the Nazarene.

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Laritza, Sugey, Natali, Nhasyeli and Wendy.

The churches of San Martín and Las Pintas, in Guadalajara, Mexico, have seen a transformation and know that the mission will continue in the communities where they are located. Also, the neighborhoods of Cecara and Banegas in Santiago, Dominican Republic, were blessed and impacted with the message of holiness.

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The missionaries with Naomi and Gary Faucett, Genesis Missionary Care facilitators.

We praise God that the leaders of both sites have captured the vision of the Genesis initiative. Likewise, it is a blessing to see the host districts with such a great ambition to continue supporting further missions work and encouraging the new churches that have been planted.

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The returning missionaries with Scott, Emily and Freya.

We know that God will continue using the lives of Laritza, Natali, Nhas, Sugey and Wendy wherever the Lord leads them. For now, they have returned to their local churches and districts in order to share everything that God has done through their lives and to inspire others to respond to God’s call and continue being a part of His mission. Thanks to all those who have supported the work of Genesis through giving and prayer so that Guadalajara and Santiago could be changed by the ministry of these missionaries!

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:58

A Plea to not Join the Jaded: Resisting the Soul-Withering Cynicism in Ministry

By Scott Armstrong

I was a rookie missionary, new to the field and eager to change the world.  I was chatting with a missionary colleague who had served for nearly a decade about a delicate conflict in the Church both on the field and back home.  At one point I expressed optimism that all would soon work out.  She rolled her eyes and shook her head in an all-knowing manner: “Wait a couple years.  You’ll be just as jaded as the rest of us.”

What!? This happened years ago, and I still remember it vividly.  Were ministry and missions going to gradually become a steady slog through dashed hopes and increasing distrust of leadership? This is not what I signed up for – let alone what I felt called to!

I recently heard Matt Chandler at one of the Exponential Church Planting and Multiplication Conferences.  He shared a story about taking his seven-year-old daughter to a Disney Fairies show.  She was so excited that she dressed up in a fairy costume.  Her dad had bought great tickets and her face beamed as they made their way down to the first row.

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However, from that particular section of the auditorium, Matt realized that they could see backstage where all of the fairies were putting on costumes and where the stage manager was signaling to all the actors when they would enter and exit. Props were being readied and then moved on stage.

Matt’s daughter began to give her attention more to what was happening backstage than to the amazing production right in front of her.  At one point she leaned over to her daddy and said, “Those aren’t the real fairies.  Those are just people dressed up like them.”

There was no more awe in her voice.  She had lost the magic.

Doesn’t this happen to us as we go through life, and ministry specifically? If we have been around for more than a few years, we have seen a lot of guck in the church, and it is not relegated to the average layperson.  Through experience (and some of our own selfishness and poor decisions, too) we see backstage and start to understand the good, the bad, and the ugly in leadership.  We start to use phrases like: “labor of love” and “plugging away” to describe our daily work. The thrill is definitely gone!

We cannot be naïve – there is a lot of life and ministry that is difficult and tiring. This news should not catch any of us off guard.

At the same time, the peek backstage does not have to take the magic of ministry away. Part of maturing in service to Christ and his people should not mean that we eventually by default become jaded!

So how do we resist this slow creep of cynicism? In my next post I will offer some important suggestions that have helped me personally with keeping spiritual fervor and not becoming jaded in ministry.