Many Ways to Worship One God

By Saraí Ramos

A few weeks ago, God gave me the opportunity to travel to Hyderabad, India where I participated in Third Wave, a global gathering of emerging leaders within the Church of the Nazarene.  The main purpose of the event is to provide a space for youth to connect in a cross-cultural setting through fellowship, training, and group dynamics, in order to develop leaders who will make a global impact.

260 people from 61 countries came together January 8-13, 2019, and you can just imagine all the differences in language, forms of dress, food, and other craziness that we lived through there!

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In fact, one of the most memorable times of the event happened the first day when I was able to meet Olly and Clayton, two young men from Australia that love their Samoan culture and enjoy sharing it with anyone who will listen.  Throughout the week we were delighted to get to know them and admire their Hakas, typical Samoan dances, language, clothing, and many other things.

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Saraí with Olly and Clayton

But the thing that impacted me most was the passion on their faces when they danced during the talent show.  Clayton, Olly, and the Asia-Pacific Region made us all feel like we were part of a Samoan movie.  It was as if we were all in Disney’s Moana!  Can you imagine the excitement in the room when we were all experiencing that dance?!

84181241-c50c-4ec1-bc8b-5397c8b5e32d.JPGWhen they finished their presentation, they told us that the music was a typical Christian song. That was one of the ways they worshipped God in their home countries.

You know what? All of the time spent with them reminded me that there are innumerable ways to praise the Lord and share his love with others.  I believe every one of us should be like Olly and Clayton: proud of our Christian culture and passionately sharing the love and joy we have found in Jesus at every opportunity.

*Saraí Ramos is president of Nazarene Youth International in the Gulf District of Mexico.

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The “Softer” Side of Leadership May Be Stronger Than You Think

By Dan Reiland

It’s true that no one wants to follow an insecure, indecisive, or ineffective leader.

Qualities like confident, decisive and courageous are essential and needed. Great leaders can handle the tough circumstances that come their way.

But tough-minded leaders must also be tender-hearted, or their leadership becomes cold and hard.

The strength and power of Jesus’ leadership was signified by things like a dove, a cross, and a towel. These are clearly symbols of qualities such as humility, sacrifice, love, and obedience to name just a few.

People flocked to Jesus not because of his power, but because of His compassion. He had power, but he never flaunted it.

People listened to Jesus’ teaching not because of his status but because of his wisdom. Yes, Jesus taught with authority, but it was authority under submission. Jesus only did the will of His Father.

This “softer” side of leadership demonstrates true Kingdom strength. This kind of strength is much more challenging to live out over the long run.

We are tempted to adopt “fast” power. It’s easier to declare, command and control, but that kind of strength doesn’t last. People resent it and will leave you at the first sign of difficulty or struggle in ministry.

Kingdom strength is the opposite of worldly strength. It is birthed in submission, thrives by obedience and is sustained through love.

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7 Kingdom demonstrations of authentic spiritual leadership strength:

(Which ones are you good at and which one do you need to work on?)

1) Grace

We are called to a ministry of reconciliation. Our focus is redemption. And we are responsible to not only communicate but also demonstrate grace. Our salvation is based on grace, and therefore our leadership must follow that example.

Grace doesn’t suggest sloppy execution, low standards or avoidance of tough decisions. It means that your heart leans toward mercy, forgiveness and second chances. The disposition of your heart guides your leadership. It takes much more strength to forgive than to condemn.

Grace doesn’t dismiss the law but mediates it to embrace our humanity. Grace does the same for our leadership.

2) Appreciation

Appreciation is oil to the friction of leadership. Leadership causes motion and motion causes friction. Without something to soften the friction in ministry, it can become too much for staff and volunteers to endure.

When leaders are under pressure, the expression of appreciation is one of the first things to go out the window. That’s a big mistake. Clear expectations are important, and genuine appreciation allows you to hold fast to those important expectations.

Appreciation lifts the spirits of the volunteers and staff that you lead!

3) Humility

Even though Jesus was in His very nature God, He did not insist on equality with God for His own advantage. In fact, he emptied himself to serve.

It’s easy for us to get messed up according to where we land on the organization chart. Even though we know that position has almost nothing to do with our real influence, we still care about titles.

Jesus traded his title for a towel and washed people’s feet. He was the King of Kings but lived as a servant to all.

Giving up our “rights” is core to leadership strength and Kingdom based power.

4) Encouragement

One of my favorite leadership traits or skills to teach is encouragement. Probably because it’s so misunderstood. It’s often seen as the “soft” side of leadership, and sometimes even considered a waste of time.

Encouraging leaders have a giving heart, and they are anything but weak. It takes a strong, secure, and mature leader to consistently give credit to others, build people up and inspire them to greater ministry.

Encouragement provides the emotional fuel that enables the people you lead to hold on longer, reach farther and dig deeper than they ever believed possible.

5) Love

In its purest form, the strength of love comes from selflessness. A loving leader is a selfless servant of the people.

It required incredible strength for Jesus to go to the cross and give his life for us. That strength originated in God’s love, and out of obedience, Jesus loved us beyond anything we could ever earn or deserve.

When I reflect on this kind of love, I’m challenged to examine the depth of love I have for those I serve and inspired to love even more deeply.

Love brings great strength, power, and effectiveness to your leadership.

6) Listening

The best leaders listen well. They don’t jump to conclusions, they ask good questions and communicate they care by seeking to understand.

Most of us would rather talk, direct and “make things happen.” But it takes patience and wisdom to know when and how to listen with genuine empathy. That requires the strength of personal discipline.

When people know you care, your influences rises.

Leaders who refuse to listen often get themselves in trouble. When leaders don’t listen, eventually people stop talking to you. The result is that you don’t know where they stand, and you can end up blindsided. The most common phrase I hear from a leader who doesn’t listen is, “I didn’t see that coming.”

7) Kindness

Kindness is a leadership quality that allows trust, connection, and genuine exchange to take place. There is real strength in kindness.•

  • Kindness brings peace and joy into pressure-filled situations.
  • Kindness wins the hearts of those who are far from God.
  • God delights in kindness.

. . . but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 9:24

You can see the balance. Justice, righteousness, and kindness.

It’s not complicated to be kind, but it can be difficult to practice on a consistent basis at the pace that most leaders run.

Kingdom strength for spiritual leadership doesn’t always look like strength as the world sees it. Learning to blend the two takes intentional effort and practice.

Keeping Your Church Young

By Dan Reiland

Churches age and churches die. But intentional leadership can make that divine journey significantly longer and much more spiritually productive. There are several things you can do to help keep your church young, alive and vibrant even though the chronological aging process continues.

This post isn’t about an ecclesiastical fountain of youth. However, I believe “aging” can pivot to “maturing” by making a few key decisions and commitments towards keeping your church young.

1) Choose young leaders.

Mature staff are extremely valuable on your team. Their experience is needed for successful ministry. However, the absence of young leaders, lots of young leaders, is a decision to allow your church to age unnecessarily.

Some churches don’t like to use young leaders. It’s messy. Young leaders lack experience, I know. But young leaders will keep things alive and fun. Young leaders are also full of energy and great ideas; they help you stay relevant with current culture and vision for the future.

Leadership development for your leaders, and especially for your young leaders is essential. 

2) Place a premium on children’s ministry.

When I say premium, I mean choose great leaders, invest significant time and energy, and be as generous as possible with the budget. Without this you are absolutely capping your ability to reach your community.

Please don’t confuse relevant ministry to children with childcare. They aren’t the same. In order to reach kids you need to keep up with the world they live in. That world is fast-paced and built around technology. When you add to that mix loving adult leaders who truly care about children, you create a winning program that the kids will love.

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3) Design your Sunday morning service with a relevant feel.

What is and isn’t young and relevant is subjective. But the big issues are clear. First, choose your music wisely. If you are still singing and playing the stuff we did in the 90’s, it’s time to freshen up what you do.

Second, involve young leaders on the platform. The young musicians and singers will lead you to younger music and a younger vibe overall.  Again, this attracts young people to your church!  If you are thinking, “What about the older people, don’t they matter?” Of course they do. I am one, and I can still make a difference. But we should be more mature. We know that this is not about us, the mission is to reach the lost, and if you reach the next gen, other generations will follow.

Last, make sure all the components of the service reflect a young culture. As you think about humor, video, illustrations, art and especially technology, think young.

Again, if you focus on a younger crowd, the older generations with join in. If you lean toward older, the young will leave.

4) Invest in the next generation.

Raise up and train young leaders, invest in student ministries, and champion the call to vocational ministry among your young adults. Communicate that you believe in the next generation! They are the future!

The vision of the church must capture the young people, and at the same time be compelling enough that older generations get excited about the vision in such a way that they will invest both time and resources. Let’s face it, middle-aged and older generations have no trouble loving and believing in kids; just watch a grandparent with their grandchildren!

This article was originally published at: DanReiland.com

Urban Evangelization – Part 2 of 2

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

We must be a continual presence in our city.

Jeremiah continues his prophecy and tells the Israelites to involve their children in marriage ceremonies and to increase in number. We are talking about generational impact in the city – our evangelism must produce transformation and change that will be seen for generations in the city.

In order to impact generations through our evangelistic methods, we must embrace a posture of challenging the broken social systems of our day. We must begin to know the young people that are being courted by the gangs in our neighborhoods, the children that are being forced into human trafficking, the broken families that seek healing in alcohol and drugs.We have to get our hands dirty. Urban evangelism is not easy – it’s heartbreaking. When we begin to see the people that NEED the good news of Jesus, we begin to respond to those environments differently.

Recently I spoke with some urban church planters that are in an area that is filled with apartment buildings. They told me about the building that they felt the most comfortable in – the building where the neighborhood gang is in charge of who’s coming in and out!  At first, they were nervous every time they thought about going into that building.  But because they are now known by the neighbors as “good people who are serving God”, the gang extends their “protection” over them. I smile to think about the day when we hear that the gang members have given their lives over to Christ, and they start to see generational and societal changes in their lives. 

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We must pray for our city.

Perhaps the most blatant instruction we can take from Jeremiah is: seek the peace of the city and pray for her prosperity

Praying for the city is one of the most important parts of urban evangelism. The spiritual forces at work in the city are battling every day, and we engage in spiritual warfare when we step into its realms. We must pray and truly long for the SHALOM, the holistic well-being, of our city. And to pray effectively, we must deeply know our city. We need to know her rhythms, her hurts, and her people.

God is already at work in the city, and prayer is our connection to Him and His work.  When we engage in the prayer of peace for the city, God begins to guide our path to the daily encounters that He wants us to have, and He replaces fear with love. Then and there, in the supposedly mundane and secular, God uses us to evangelize: to bring His good news to the people of our city.

Evangelism in the city is not about the latest and greatest technique (we wish it were that easy!). Urban evangelism is based on creating strategic and intentional relationships. And quite simply, that takes time. If you are called to urban evangelism, you are called to a long-term vision. Consider moving into a neighborhood where you see God already at work. Spend time with people in their places of work and times of entertainment. Get to know the people that are involved in systemic sin and befriend them. Above all, pray for peace in your city. Trust that your city is on God’s heart and that He desires to use your daily testimony and interactions to bring peace to your city.

Urban Evangelization – Part 1 of 2

By Scott and Emily Armstrong

The city has it all, doesn’t it? Schools and universities, hospitals and doctor’s offices, theatres and shopping malls – the list goes on and on! With more employment opportunities and access to health care and education, it’s obvious why people want to live in the city. Global statistics tell us that the Mesoamerica Region is already URBAN.  Over 80% of our people live in a heavily-populated city, and many of these people are unchurched.

You might be thinking that city evangelization is no different than in the suburbs or rural areas, but you’d be wrong. How do we make Christlike disciples of people that live a fast-paced life and don’t have time for Jesus? How do we create relationship and gain the trust of someone that works 7 days a week? What does hope look like in the midst of substance abuse, gangs and poverty?

First things first: God has a plan for the city.  You have to believe that truth if you ever want to be a successful urban evangelist. Oftentimes when we think about the city, we think about the problems found there – everything from traffic jams to air pollution to stressful schedules to gangs.  However, we must begin seeing the city as God sees it: a place of influence where righteousness and peace can be obtained.  Imagine with me for a minute the vision revealed to us in Revelation 7:9-10,

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”

That’s the CITY of ZION that we are reading about!  God’s infinite story goes on forever IN A CITY.  We will gather together with every nation, tribe, and language and praise God forever! Isn’t it interesting how our cities are already becoming the home to so many cultures at the same time?  Could we even imagine that maybe, just maybe, God is already giving us an opportunity to experience a glimpse of heaven on earth right in the heart of our cities?

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Jeremiah 29:4-7 is another passage that speaks to us about God and His desire to use His people to impact the city:

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’”

This passage offers us three principles we must keep in mind when we evangelize the city:

We must live in our city to love our city.

We must be a continual presence in our city.

We must pray for our city.

We must live in our city to love our city.

Jeremiah bluntly tells the exiles of Jerusalem (city dwellers by the way!) to “build houses and settle down…”  He didn’t say to enjoy a short respite there or to view it as a temporary tourist destination. He told them to settle down there. 

I recently sat in a workshop listening to urban church planters tell of their experiences and one of them said, “If you are commuting to the city, it means you work there, not that you care for the neighborhood.”  What he was saying was that the city is a hurry up, come-and-go environment for so many people that are only there for 10 hours during a workday. But the people that LIVE in the city? They are always there!  The decisions that are made in local government affect their personal lives, the school systems mold their children, and the lack of public transportation there affects their employment capabilities.

How are you going to care about all of the dynamics of the city if you don’t live there? Often times we see evangelism as a task to accomplish, but this model will not work in the city.  If you are only coming into the city to evangelize every once in a while, the neighbors will begin to see your evangelism as WORK and not as love.  And every neighborhood is different: a single city can be home to hundreds of different communities that all have their own culture and opportunities.  Thus, it’s so important to live where you are evangelizing, because it’s the normal everyday interactions that speak loudest.

Because life moves at such a fast pace, our relationships in the city are typically built around economic activities.  We purchase our groceries every few days, and we go to the same supermarket and get to know the local employees. We go to a sporting event and meet fellow fans that hold similar interests.  We enjoy the community of a local mall and come into contact with others that are enjoying free entertainment as well.  Our interactions with people are numerous every day, but turning it into an intentional meeting is key to evangelism in the city.  One contact – or even a dozen contacts – does not necessarily make a lasting relationship.  We must live in the city, allowing us to live life with our neighbors as well, which then opens up the door to deeper spiritual conversations and continual evangelism through our daily testimony.

*This article will continue in the next post.

Real Life Church in Quito, Ecuador

Some of our friends and colleagues in ministry have planted a new church in the heart of Quito, Ecuador. A few weeks ago they described their initial months and their strategies and philosophy in an article published by Ardeo Global. What do you notice about their approach? Can you see this working in your city?

Greetings from Quito, Ecuador! Our team has recently begun our church planting work here with our first church service in September, 2018. The name of our church, Iglesia Real Life, reflects our mission to show how the message of the gospel and the love of Jesus Christ provide real life solutions to real life problems. I think that is the goal of every church, but our focus can get clouded with church logistics and we can begin to focus on the upkeep of a physical church building and its programs. Our team is looking at church planting from a different philosophy. We’ve studied Jesus’ ministry and found that most of His time was spent ministering to non-religious people outside of religious buildings. Our goal is to break free from non-biblical traditions in order to focus on what really matters: loving on people as Jesus did.

So what does that look like? Most noticeably, we don’t meet in a church building. We want our area of influence to be unrestricted by the geographical location of our church, we want to be free of distraction from the work and resources required to maintain a church building, and we want to be welcoming to people who would never feel comfortable entering a church. Our goal is to eventually have various teaching points throughout the whole city so that every new person we meet can attend a worship service and Bible study near where they live.

Currently, we’re meeting at a really neat place near the commercial center of Quito. It’s a food court with a central area for concerts and other events. It also has a playground and separate area where the kids can meet, and the owner is letting us hold our events there for free! So far we’ve had one church service there, and we did our best to make it really feel like a celebration. We had upbeat music and balloons and confetti poppers. At the end of the service, Pastor Josué closed with a prayer but didn’t close his eyes, so people were a little surprised when they realized he was praying. But why not talk to God as though He were standing in the room with us, since we know He is? In the big things and the small things, we want moments like that in our church. We want to get to the root of why we do things and challenge people’s ideas of what the church is. We simply want to be the hands and feet of Christ, loving and serving the people of Quito unconditionally.

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How exactly are we going to serve and meet the needs of the people here? Well, first we have to learn what their needs are, and to do that we have to start by just getting to know them.  Quito is the capital of Ecuador and in many ways is very modern. There is a large downtown area filled with businesses and people living a metropolitan lifestyle. So far we’ve found that many of the issues of people here are pretty similar to those of people in the US: marriages need help, teens need guidance on what to do with their lives, and it’s difficult for families to spend quality time together amidst the many demands of everyday life. However, Ecuador is also a country with a developing economy where many people face underemployment and struggle to simply provide for their families. Problems with drugs and teenage pregnancies are increasing, crime makes it dangerous to be outside after dark, and Venezuelan refugees here face blatant racism every day.

When we first started planning our outreach strategies, we expected that we would be reaching the people in the modern, business-focused, post-Christian part of Quito, and based on the location of our first teaching point we definitely will have opportunities to minister to them. However, in our day-to-day interactions we’ve met people from all walks of life with various needs, both spiritual and physical.

The need for hope and love is universal and does not discriminate across socioeconomic differences, and neither will we in our efforts to reach anyone who is ready to hear of the immense love that God has for them, whether that looks like hosting a marriage seminar or paying for someone to see a medical specialist that they couldn’t afford on their own. Our daily challenge is to stay flexible and open to where and to whom God is leading us.

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This article was originally published at Ardeo Global.

6 Essential Skills for Senior and Executive Leaders

By Dan Reiland

I often meet young leaders who aspire to, in their words, “be in charge.” That’s a normal and healthy desire. I get it, I mean, who wouldn’t rather call the shots if that’s an option, right?!

Well, as you might imagine, there is a little more to the idea of being “in charge.” And my heart and hope is that’s how this post might be helpful.

There is an often-quoted and significant misconception about leadership, and it is that the higher you rise in the organization, the more you can do what you want.

The perception is that because you are the “senior leader” (or one of them) you, therefore, don’t report to anyone.

In fact, the opposite is true, the higher you rise in any organization, the more you give up your rights and the fewer options you have.

Further, the higher you rise in responsibility and authority, the more people you report to, not less. It may not be a formal reporting, but you answer to them nonetheless.

Whether in business or the church, there is a long list of people who senior leaders answer to from stakeholders to the board of directors.

The list includes the customers, key influencers, denominational officials, members and church attendees, partners, donors, and the list goes on. Again, they may not carry formal authority, but they have influence, and they matter.

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There may be few, or perhaps no one above the senior leader on the organization chart, but that does not reflect the realities of little freedom and much responsibility.

Senior leadership is a role that is best understood before you step into it, rather than later. It’s difficult to communicate some of those nuances, but what can be described with clarity are the unique skills and abilities that are a must.

Some of the six skills I’ve listed may seem like any leadership role would need them, but for the senior leader, these skills become non-negotiable.

The critical factor here is that because they are skills, they can be learned. And because they can be learned, you can improve in any or all that you lean into and practice.

6 essential skills:

1) Translate vision into strategy.

Translating vision into a workable strategy requires first the ability to select, trust, develop and work with a leadership team. I’ve never met a senior leader or executive that can do it all his or herself.

In fact, some senior leaders have a personality and wiring that makes them really good at what they do but also creates a few significant gaps that requires a team to make it all happen.

Strategy, (a plan to make the dream become a reality), is a non-negotiable skill for any senior leader.

2) Communicate faith and hope.

The ability or skill to communicate what you believe at a heart level is a must. Further, it needs to become something natural to you. I’ve watched John Maxwell and Kevin Myers do this for years. They just don’t tire of it.

These great leaders’ faith in a person’s ability to become their best self often exceeds that person’s faith in him or herself. Their ability to communicate the hope of a better future for the entire organization is so strong.

Faith and hope also include the idea of communicating calm in a storm and a positive outcome.

The key is that faith and hope must be sincere. As a senior leader, you can’t just read and quote the next big idea. You must have internalized it, own it, and believe it to the core.

3) Raise up and empower leaders.

In a large or very large church, this usually means hand-selecting the lead team. In a smaller church, it may mean selecting key volunteer leaders.

In either case, it always includes the ability to let go of key responsibilities with genuine empowerment for those leaders to do their job.

The senior leaders who struggle most are those who micro-manage and don’t trust their top leaders to do their job.

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4) Demonstrate self-leadership and cultivate spiritual vitality.

If you are or desire to be a senior leader in a local church, self-led spiritual growth toward maturity is a must.

This certainly does not suggest some kind of superiority or better than others notion. In fact, most of us who serve in a senior or executive role of some sort are quick to admit to our flaws and weaknesses.

The good news is that self-awareness and security help you/us get honest with God about who we are and how much we need Him.

Good leaders have good mentors, but self-leadership is required for discipline and consistency.

There is no one there to hold your hand and prompt you in your day to day responsibilities, and your first responsibility is to pursue God and spiritual maturity.

Those you lead depend on your authentic and growing walk with God.

5) Solve problems and make difficult decisions at intricate levels.

The large and more complex, (often organization-wide), problems to solve are multi-dimensional, grey rather than black or white, and do not present a clear or obvious answer.

In fact, they often present multiple options of which others you serve have very strong and differing opinions.

Senior leadership is more of an art than science that requires intuition and judgment calls.

Here’s a candid example, sometimes you must choose from two less than ideal choices.

Another way to see it is that no matter how good the decision, there’s a group who will not be happy. Being able to make difficult decisions is an essential skill for any senior leader.

If you prefer a more clear-cut and black and white world, senior leadership may not be for you.

This isn’t meant to be discouraging, it’s just part of the territory, and an effective senior leader can handle this in stride.

6) Take risks and lead change.

There is no escaping risk and change if you desire progress.

The risks you take are not always public or grand such as initiating a building project or raising millions of dollars.

It might be something private like a conversation that is confrontational nature, but the outcome is significant.

The process of change never ends. Next to momentum, change is something those in senior leadership continuously think about.

Change is disruptive but necessary. Comfort is the enemy of progress and a healthy organization.

This article was originally published at: danreiland.com