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.

cross-symbol-christian-faith-faith-161104.jpeg

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.

Guatemala Volcano Response – You Can Help

On Sunday, 3 June, the Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala erupted, killing more than 69 people, a number that is expected to rise. Fast-moving avalanches of rock and ash tore down the mountain, reaching temperatures as high as 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit. Villages in three provinces — Chimaltenango, Escuintla, and Sacatepéquez — were covered with ash and debris. The full extent of the damage is still unknown as rescue efforts and rehabilitation have been hindered by further eruptions and rain. 

People affected by this disaster need your help. 

34535855_1933328730045489_6697108299533254656_o.jpg

GIVE NOW

Entire communities have been destroyed, and Nazarene brothers and sisters are among those who have lost loved ones. A team of Nazarene volunteers from nearby communities arrived in Escuintla on Monday to visit shelters and distribute emergency medical supplies, but the needs are still great and urgent.

It will be a long time before those affected are able to recover or return to what may seem normal; entire homes and livelihoods were engulfed. The loss will linger for many years. By supporting the Mesoamerica Disaster Relief fund, you are coming alongside local churches to provide for urgent needs now and support long-term recovery efforts into the future. 

34370755_1933328793378816_2418021494786359296_o.jpg

The needs are great and recovery could take years.

GIVE NOW

How You Can Help 

PRAY

Please pray for families and individuals affected by the eruption and subsequent landslides. Pray especially for those who have lost loved ones. Pray for those who have lost their homes and livelihoods. Pray for the energy, resilience, and success of the rescue workers and volunteers. Pray for those experiencing trauma, that they would sense God’s peace and presence. Pray for those who are most vulnerable, especially senior adults, individuals with disabilities, and people living in poverty. Pray for church leaders and churches responding to the needs around them. To send a prayer or note of encouragement, go to ncm.org/pray.

34441780_1933328770045485_3118204410753187840_o.jpg

GIVE

Churches and individuals around the world can provide support through the Mesoamerica Disaster Relief fund. Donations will be used to provide for immediate needs, including food, water, and medical supplies, as well as for long-term rebuilding.

To send donations by mail:

In the U.S., make checks payable to “General Treasurer” and send them to: 

Global Treasury Services
Church of the Nazarene
P.O. Box 843116
Kansas City, MO 64184-3116

Be sure to put 132290 in the Memo area.

In Canada, make checks payable to “Church of the Nazarene Canada” and send them to:

Church of the Nazarene Canada
3657 Ponytrail Drive
Mississauga, ON L4X 1W5

Be sure to put 132290 in the Memo area.

For additional countries, please give through your local church or district, designating your gift to Mesoamerica Disaster Relief: Guatemala Volcano.

This information was distributed by Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. Photo credit: Mesoamerica Communications.

In the Face of Suffering and Social Problems

Written by Rev. Leonel de León, Northcentral Field Strategy Coordinator, Mesoamerica Region

In the face of suffering and the social problems we are going through, I share the following perspective:

Our prayers for the current reality facing us are a plea to the Lord so that He can care, protect, and assist His people. We also pray for a miracle, but we understand that circumstances won’t change as long as we allow the fallen nature of the human race to prevail. 

If we read and understand history, we will discover that such social problems have been a result of the fallen nature of humanity, and it has been God who has changed and mobilized His people in the Old Testament and then His Church to bring about change. 

Sometimes we get frustrated when we don’t see “specific” answers to our prayers.  We expect an “angelical revolution” that brings justice, equality and love, but sadly we don’t see it. Therefore, we ask in prayer for the Church to be strengthened and intervene, not through political or social protests, but with the powerful message of justice and repentance. “The kingdom of heaven has come near…” And this Kingdom is different than any earthly kingdom.

pexels-photo-205002.jpeg

We feel sorry when we see kids, youth and adults being massacred.  It hurts us to see the social and cultural decay wrought because of vandalism, hatred and retaliation. But our prayers do help, for God continues to touch, heal and intervene as the Church plays its role as the salt and light of the world.

When England attempted to move onward during the devastation of World War II, Winston Churchill invited his people to pray.  The miracle of prayer was seen in people’s changed attitudes, and certain victory was the result. Therefore, pray NOT for missiles to fall from heaven on the wicked.  Pray NOT for evil ones to die.  Rather, let’s PRAY for God to change our attitudes and strategies about the circumstances we are living in.  Let’s allow God to guide us.  Let’s not impose on God our desires or intentions. God’s silence a lot of times is the SELAH of the church. (Selah means being still and reflecting on God’s message.)

Latin America has suffered multiple civil wars, exploitation and plundering, as well as vandalism and the pain of losing thousands of loved ones. Siblings have killed each other simply because they belong to different sides in politics or war. The Church, however, is not a political party, and it doesn’t belong to any side. The Church is the Church of Christ: its message is different from any other extreme ideological message. The Church is immersed in and between cultures, but neither culture nor ideologies should ever come above the Kingdom’s message, nor above the government of Christ. The mission of the Church is to reach both good and bad.  Christ’s message is not discriminatory, and it doesn’t adjust according to politics or ideologies. The message of the Kingdom is JESUS CHRIST, providing the opportunity for the fallen to stand up. That is why we as the Church support peace and justice, and vow to never support any fallen human ideology.

I powerfully believe that the God of history is with us and weeps at these disastrous situations.  Yet, that same God of history also expects that the Church would play its role of salt and light. Together under the flag of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can and will take action so that our people suffer less.

 This article was originally published at: mesoamericaregion.org

Pray for Guatemala

The Volcano of Fire (Volcán de Fuego), located 50 km from the Guatemalan capital, caused much damage after a powerful eruption yesterday. The most recent report from CONRED, the Guatemalan disaster response organization, said that over 1.7 million people have been affected, 3,265 people have been evacuated, 1,195 people have been left homeless, 20 were injured, and 25 people died as a result of the eruption.

Damaris Kellogg, the Mesoamerica North Central Field Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) Coordinator, shared that there are currently no reports of damages to Church of the Nazarene buildings or properties. However, members of the Church of the Nazarene have been moved to temporary shelters and are very frightened.

OremosPorGuatemala.jpg

Field NCM leadership has maintained constant communication with local pastors, who have shared information about current shelters. This morning a team left from the North Central Field Office to visit shelters in the department of Escuintla to bring both physical and spiritual aid. The team is bringing basic supplies, such as water, food, diapers and blankets. Included in the group are NCM Coordinator Damaris Kellogg and Field Strategy Coordinator Rev. Leonel de Leon.

Kellogg said, “There are several families whose loved ones are missing, and others who have family members in the hospital. There are emergency responders who are missing as well. We ask for your prayers for the families who are affected and for the church, that we would see both physical and spiritual needs with the eyes of Jesus. We know that God is in control and that God loves Guatemala!”

Source: Damaris Kellogg, North Central Field NCM Coordinator, Mesoamerica Region, via Mesoamerica Communications

This article was originally published at: mesoamericaregion.org

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.

33045794_2002030863203655_257635455791529984_n.jpg

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.

33044201_2098997897049651_7031678031324250112_n.jpg

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

33334515_2098998830382891_8423657020489465856_n.jpg

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?

pexels-photo-290617.jpeg

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.

Loss Felt by Global Family: BGS Statement on Cuba Tragedy

CubaCloudy.jpeg

The Board of General Superintendents, Church of the Nazarene, extends its heartfelt love, passionate prayers, and deepest condolences to the families of all affected by the Friday, May 18 plane crash in Havana, Cuba.

It was with heavy hearts we learned that 10 Nazarene pastoral couples were among the 100-plus people who lost their lives in this tragedy. They had just completed a national conference for the Cuba Nazarene Church.

“Sharon and I had the privilege of being at the Cuba East District Assembly in January,” said David W. Graves, jurisdictional general superintendent for the denomination’s Mesoamerica Region. “We were touched by their love and passion for Jesus and the Church of the Nazarene. Our hearts are heavy for the families, churches, and the district, and the loss is personally felt by our global family.”

We are comforted by the report from Rev. López, president of the Church of the Nazarene in Cuba, who said the couples were singing, praying, and testifying on their way to the airport. The promise of the resurrection assures us that we will be reunited in praising and worshiping God together.

We grieve with the families of those who lost their loved ones. We also grieve with Regional Director Rev. Carlos Sáenz, Rev. Leonel López, and East District Superintendent Rev. Luis Batista during this time. May the Lord carry the children of these mothers and fathers, surrounding them with His all-embracing peace and love that transcends our understanding.

To Nazarenes around the world, please continue to join us in prayer for all affected by this tragic loss. We embrace Christ’s mandate to console the grieving and care for the widows and orphans.

To Cuban Nazarenes, East District churches, and all hurting in that nation today, we love you. You are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ. We mourn with you, hurt with you, pray for you, and will continue to lift you up in prayer in the days, months, and years ahead.

Our prayer is that God’s peace will guard your hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). May you hold on to the reality that God, our “Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). Our prayer is for the peace of Christ to be with the people of Cuba during this time of grief and pain.

We are grateful for and we remember their consecrated lives:

  • Mirza Rodríguez Rondón & Juan Luis Vega Velázquez
  • Luis Manuel Rojas Pérez & Maricela Peña
  • Norma Suárez Niles & Jesús Manuel García Oberto
  • María Virgen Filandez Rojas & Rafael Vega Velázquez
  • Ronni Alain Pupo Pupo & Yurisel Milagros Miranda Mulet (Nazarene Missions International district president)
  • Eloy Ortiz Abad & Elva María Mosqueda Legrá
  • Juan Carlos Nogueras Leyva & Noelbis Hernández Guerrero
  • Gelover Martín Pérez Avalo & Yoneisi Cordovez Rodríguez (pastor and district treasurer)
  • Manuel David Aguilar Saavedra & María Salomé Sánchez Arévalo (district secretary)
  • Grisell Filandes Clark & Lorenzo Boch Bring

This article was originally published at: nazarene.org