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.

WEF and the Mesoamerica Region

A week ago I was in Panama City for our Regional Advisory Committee meetings.  One of the things that came up several times during the four days was our response as a region in giving to the World Evangelism Fund. The World Evangelism Fund (WEF) supports nearly 700 Nazarene missionaries and the work of the Church in 162 nations around the world.  WEF is the foundational funding arm of missions in our denomination.  In future articles, we will explain further what WEF is and how it began, as well as share promotional resources for the Thanksgiving Offering, one of our most significant annual methods of raising WEF support.

For the last decade, the goal set by our leaders has been for every local Nazarene church to give 5.5% of their overall tithes and offerings to WEF.  As our General Superintendents often say, the goal is not equal amount of giving (in total money raised per church), but equal sacrifice.  Imagine what could be done if all 26,000 Nazarene congregations in every one of those 162 countries supported by giving in this way.  Our reach would be exponential!

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I have been encouraged to hear that in the previous years we have seen 100% involvement in WEF by the USA/Canada Districts.  That is incredible!  Praise the Lord!  But here’s the kick in the gut: in our Mesoamerica Region we are seeing only 37% involvement.  In other words, roughly one out of every three churches in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America is giving ANYTHING to the World Evangelism Fund. We’re not saying that almost two-thirds aren’t giving a full 5.5% of their income.  We’re saying that almost two-thirds aren’t giving a single peso, or dollar, or gourde. And guess what? Outside of the USA and Canada, that 37% involvement is the highest of all other regions!

I don’t mean to drown you in statistics, but I want to put this another way:

  • 200 local churches around the world provide 70% of WEF.
  • 6,000 local churches provide the rest of WEF.
  • 20,000 local churches do not provide any WEF.

Gulp.

I cannot speak for other regions, but in our RAC meetings we united as leaders from all around Mesoamerica to commit to do our part.  Our regional goal by 2030 is to get to $1.5 million dollars given to WEF. If we do so, that is predicted to be even a bit higher than 5.5% (currently we are giving 2.7%).  Would you pray with us that we would reach this goal? We want to generously give to others just as others have generously lavished through the years on us.

I loved what Dr. Gustavo Crocker said several months ago: “Before 1990, the missions motto was, ‘The West to the rest.’ But now we have a new motto: ‘The best to the rest.’” It truly does not matter where you come from; God is calling missionaries from everywhere to everywhere.

And that also means that everywhere has the privilege of sending and supporting missionaries financially. In the Church of the Nazarene, the World Evangelism Fund is the primary way we do that.  WEF has been an amazing and successful missions strategy to reach the nations.  Now we as the nations have the honor of giving back in order to see astonishing global impact.

But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Cor. 8:7).

NMI Training

As a result of the changes in emphases in NMI in the Mesoamerica Region, regional leaders have held training events for NMI leadership in order to better develop the ministry. 

One of these events was on Sept. 1 at the Barrio Mexico Church of the Nazarene in Costa Rica. Costa Rica Central District NMI President Nelly Montero Jara organized the event along with the district NMI council. Regional NMI Coordinator Ana Maria Crocker presented the new information.

District Superintendent Rev. Sirlene Bustos attended along with pastors, missionaries, NMI presidents and local NMI council members. They were challenged to move forward with excellence in ministry and to make Christ-like disciples not only in their communities and country but also to the ends of the earth.   They were also encouraged to help with faith promises and the general vision of the region for the next few years.

“We praise God for a blessed time of challenge,” said Crocker.

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This article was originally published at: Church of the Nazarene Mesoamerica

Every Career is Mission

Scott Armstrong

“An attorney? God could use an attorney on the mission field?”

Her mouth was agape.  She had come to a Cross-Cultural Orientation to learn about missions, and this was the first time she had heard that her “secular” career could be used on the mission-field.

Did you see how I put that word “secular” in quotes? We have grown up in Church and have been told that only pastors, evangelists, and missionaries serve the Lord “full-time” and are called into “ministry.”  Farmers and bankers and stay-at-home dads and moms are relegated to “secular” vocations.

What if God wants all of our lives – regardless of our job – to be ministry? What if God views all of our work and play and rest as part of our mission? What if nothing is truly secular for a follower of Christ?

The division between “secular” and “spiritual” has infiltrated our concept of missions, too. If you are called to be a missionary, shouldn’t you jettison your college major in psychology or dietetics or music in order to focus on what’s really important: theology and preaching?

Let me state this clearly: studying theology and Bible is essential for any believer and especially for missionaries.  You will need it on the mission field and in your ministry for sure!

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But a degree in something else as well may make you even MORE useful in your missions’ assignment.  Check out what some of our recent GENESIS missionaries have to say:

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“My diploma is in Theology, but I grew up in a family of cooks, caterers and chefs.  This talent I have utilized greatly over the past two years, catering for Church board retreats, brunches for visiting church heads and hosting special guests at the manse by preparing lunches, dinners, and everything in between.” –Crystalla Williams (sent from Trinidad and Tobago to Grenada)

 

21246416_1842539019094464_7988360317864889418_o.jpg“I graduated with a degree in Business Administration, and my career has helped me to: manage finances, keep a good budget each month, write reports and newsletters to my donors, plan and organize ministry events, and in general work with anyone I come in contact with.” –Alejandra García (sent from Guatemala to Santo Domingo)

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“My experience in music has been very helpful in the mission. I was able to teach Scripture using music as a means of learning, as some kids could not read and write. We have tools that can be used for kingdom growth; it just calls for creativity.” –Cleon Cadogan (sent from Guyana to Grenada).

 

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“I give thanks to God for allowing me to study the major that I always dreamed of: fashion design.  Now I realize that my career is an indispensable part of my ministry, not just because I have been able to meet so many people with whom I have shared the gospel, but also because I can teach them basics of sewing and use my creativity to artistically make different materials for all of the events and projects we have organized.  When I reflect, I see that my sewing machine has been transformed into a vital component of my ministry.” –Marlene Valadez (sent from Guadalajara to Querétaro, México)

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“I’m a lawyer.  That major helped me to think of the neediest in our society, and be a voice for those who have none, defending them.  I can enter prisons easier than a pastor could, and I can bring words of life, hope, and love when I do.  I have been able to help the elderly so that their properties are not taken away from them, help the undocumented with immigration issues, etc. The opportunities are endless.” –Daniela González (sent from Oaxaca to Veracruz, México)

And that’s only five testimonies! I received other testimonies from our missionaries who have studied biology, tourism, medicine, psychology, social work, and teaching, and I have decided to share them at www.transformtheglobe.com.  All of these missionaries have been effective in planting churches in urban contexts. But they have been effective in large part because of their “secular” degrees.

The point is: God can use you and your career for his glory – especially on the mission field!

This article was originally published at: Revista Línea

 

 

“Lord, I am Here to Serve you With What you Have Given me”

Guatemala and Costa Rica hosted Encuentro June 30 – July 14. It impacted the lives of hundreds of people, from the communities where the teams ministered to the volunteers. Linda Alguera, 26, a doctor from Nicaragua, shared her experience in Guatemala.

“ …My friend and I spoke with our pastor and received help from the church. Even though the situation in our country threatened the possibility of us going, we remained positive…We arrived to the seminary excited. Four of us traveled together, and so began the adventure of the unknown. I only knew that I was going to serve, but I did not know how. The next day I found brother Milton and he said, ‘Hey doctor, you did not tell me you were coming. You would help us with a medical clinic, right?’ I excitedly agreed. I had brought my tools with me in order to do just that. That same day all the participants met for a welcome time and an explanation of what we were going to do. They told us that we should do everything possible to win one person for the Lord, and I said, ‘Wow. How do I that?’ In my heart I said, ‘Lord, I am here to serve you with what you have given me.’

The next day we met with the medical team. We had trouble with the medicine and with the dental equipment, but we served with what we had because, even more than human medicine, we wanted to bring spiritual medicine. We began the medical clinic the first week and every day we attended approximately 60-80 people, including adults and children. One day we attended 110 people and I remember the faces of the whole team with expressions of satisfaction and happiness for having seen all those people.

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We not only attended to the patients, but we also prayed for them and shared the plan of salvation with them. God gave me the chance to talk to a person who did not need human medicine, but only wanted someone who would listen. Every word of thanks we heard was as if it came from God himself. Many accepted God in the medical clinics.

I thought that I would only be there a week, but God allowed me to serve for 2 weeks. The Lord had great things prepared for me.

The second week I had the best experience I have ever had. I had problems at home and in a devotional I cried and cried. I had an internal battle all day because I had to go to a church and serve. At night I realized that even more than the problem it was God speaking into my life through this experience. That night I went to my room and prayed. I told the Lord that if He told me what He wanted, I would do it. In the last prayer when we were saying goodbye, I asked God to confirm his call to missions, and in that prayer the person who was leading said, ‘Your call is confirmed.’ That has been my best experience. The greatest blessing was to serve God with the gifts that He has given me.”

This testimony was originally published at: mesoamericaregion.org

3 Ways to Become the Godly Elders/Mentors Today’s Youth Need – and Want to Follow

By Karl Vaters

The best way to help foster the Fruit of the Spirit in others is not by demanding it of them, but by living it out with them.

This generation wants to honor its elders and be mentored by them.

That may not feel like it’s true – especially if you, like me, are old enough to qualify for senior citizen membership. But I assure you it is.

I know this because I see it all the time. Youth, both in and outside the church walls are looking for genuine relationships with their elders.

They want to learn, connect and grow. They want to be mentored and discipled.

No, not all of them. Most of us didn’t consciously want that when we were their age, either. But in my experience, more of today’s youth want godly older men and women in their lives than we did when we were their age.

Becoming The Elders They Need Us To Be

A couple weeks ago, I wrote, Hey, Boomers! Let’s Step Up And Be The Elders The Church Desperately Needs Right Now, and got a lot of feedback – most of it very encouraging.

But there was some pushback as well. All of the criticism expressed the same viewpoint: today’s youth may need to have elders in their lives, but it’s impossible to find any who are truly willing to be discipled.

So why is there such a difference in the experiences some older believers have with younger ones? And how can we do this better?

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I think it comes down to three primary factors, all of which have more to do with how we, as elders, approach our role than how the youth behave or how they feel.

1. Meet Them Where They Are

Elders need to be willing to meet today’s youth on their turf instead of demanding that they come to ours.

Start by serving, not demanding.

Living and walking along with them, not just talking at them.

This means listening before speaking. Really hearing what they are going through.

When we do that, we’ll discover that they have three types of challenges.

First, they have challenges that are obviously universal. How to negotiate relationships and make wise decisions for instance. On those, we can offer wisdom from our own experience in Christ.

Second, they will express ideas and desires that will seem strange at first (like their choice of entertainment or wanting tattoos), but the more we listen, the more we’ll find common ground. Underneath most of those choices is a desire to both fit in and stand out. When we were younger we felt the same confusion, but expressed it in different ways. (Remember how our parents reacted to our hairstyles and choice of music?) In those situations, we can share wisdom from our common underlying needs, even if we don’t share their tastes.

Finally, there are the challenges they face that truly are different from anything we had to face. For instance, it’s likely that our kids’ and grandkids’ generation will, for the first time in our nation’s history, make less money than their parents did. They’re also facing a culture that is increasingly indifferent, even hostile to a Christian witness. None of that is their fault, but they have to live in the fallout of it. In such situations, the greatest gift we may have for them won’t be good advice, but a listening, sympathetic ear and prayerful, loving friendship.

To become the effective elders the next generation needs, we must have a similar approach as missionaries do when they go in to a culture that is new, and therefore feels strange and sometimes scary to us. In such situations, humility goes a long way. We have to listen and learn before we will have anything to teach.

2. Be Worth Listening To

We need to behave like elders worthy of honor. Living lives that people want to emulate. Following Jesus with such joy, passion and hopefulness that others can’t help but be drawn to him.

If you have a hard time finding young people who want to be mentored, seriously ask yourself this question. Are you behaving in a way that is worthy of being honored? Are you truly setting an example to follow? Not just in (self)righteous behavior, but in selfless generosity and humble teachability.

No one wants to listen to an old crank with a “what’s wrong with youth today?” mentality or a “when I was your age we knew how to respect our elders” attitude.

As elders, it is not our job to convict of sin or correct their behavior. That’s Jesus’ job. And he does it very well.

It’s our job to love them. To lead by example as we live a life of humility, holiness, patience and joy.

Certainly there will be moments of correction. But we have to earn the right to do that by showing ourselves to be trustworthy first.

The best way to help foster the Fruit of the Spirit in others is not by demanding it of them, but by living it out with them.

3. Help Them Be Like Jesus, Not Like Us

The goal of an elder or a Christian mentor is not to help the next generation become more like us. It’s to help them become more like Jesus. The only way we can do that is becoming more Christlike ourselves.

The current and coming generations don’t want to do church the way we did it. This is a good thing.

Becoming like your elders isn’t discipleship, it’s mimicry. Repeating their habits and behaviors isn’t growth, it’s going through the motions.

When elders become more like Jesus, we show those coming behind us how to do it too.

When elders become more like Jesus, we show those coming behind us how to do it too. Then, when they become more like Jesus, they’ll challenge us to keep growing even more. Each serving and blessing the other in an upward cycle of faith.

A servant will always become like their master. But an elder isn’t a master. An elder follows the Master, and helps others follow him, too.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

What to do When People Want a Church to Grow…but not Change – Part 2 of 2

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

3. Ban Delusional Talk

Those of us who resist change are often delusional.

I can continue to be rude to my spouse and our marriage will get better.

I can slack off at work and get a better performance review.

I can get abs of steel in a workout that lasts 60 seconds.

Most of us become crazy people when we’re fighting change.

So, as a leader, ban delusional talk around your table. 

Call it out. In love, let people see how crazy their thinking really is.

I know you love Southern Gospel music but most of the teens we want to reach don’t.

I realize you love our organization just the way it is, but the average age of our attenders is 65.

I know you think a new building will solve all our problems, but why can’t we solve them in our current half-empty facility?

Don’t let your leaders be delusional.

4. Get An Outside View

Familiarity breeds contempt and distorts perspective. If your team doesn’t immediately respond healthily to a call for change, you might be ripe for an outside voice to help you arrive at a new place.

This would be the perfect time to read a book together, attend a conference, or (best yet), hire a consultant. If the future is at stake, it’s not a bad investment to spend the money on an outside perspective.

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5. Offer Constant Feedback

As you move through these conversations, keep people honest. It will be hard. But you need to do this.

Continue to point the group back to the truth. Honestly, gracefully, but truthfully.

Just keep snapping people back to reality.

I say this because it will require herculean effort to ensure you don’t end up hoping for a diet-pill and cupcake solution. There is probably little gain without significant pain.

6. Draw A Line And Call It For What It Is

At some point you have to stop talking and start doing.

Here’s my suggestion. If you’ve been in an honest dialogue for at least a year and are not making progress (that is, you haven’t made a plan for change you are ready to act on), you have come to a moment of truth.

At some point, you just need to tell everyone where you have landed.

So our plan for change is to implement X, Y and Z by this date. Let’s do it!

Or

So essentially we have decided that we will not grow. We are content with the status quo. We will not change. And we will live with the consequences of stagnation, decline and decay.

Guess what? 99% of leaders will never utter the second statement.

And that’s why they’re stuck. That’s why they’re perpetually frustrated.

But that second statement is exactly what you need to say if that’s your reality.

And then—are you ready?—you need to decide whether you want to lead that organization.

This isn’t easy at all, but I do think it can help leaders who feel stuck leading an organization that says it wants to grow but doesn’t want to change.

This article was originally published at: Careynieuwhof.com