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.

Worth Shouting About

Shout Psalm 66Worth Shouting About

By Scott Armstrong

Christmas Day has come and gone, and the tendency is to forget that we are still in the Christmas season as a worldwide Church.  In fact, I am still reflecting a great deal on many passages in the gospel of Luke that we typically equate with Christmas.  And this year something has grabbed my attention that I am embarrassed to say I had not really noticed in previous years.  To use the lyrics of an old gospel tune:

“Oh what singing, oh what shouting!”

Seemingly everyone in the first chapters of Luke is announcing or proclaiming something, oftentimes through shouts or song!

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look:

  • After proclaiming the message of a miraculous birth to Zechariah (1:11-20), the angel Gabriel does the same to Mary (1:26-38).  Most translations mention that he merely “said” his message, so it appears this was a pretty normal conversation, right? No way! This encounter was extraordinary, and there is a reason we have come to call it “the Annunciation.”
  • Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, and baby John leaps in her womb.  The natural response? “In a loud voice she exclaimed” her praises (1:42-45).
  • Young Mary then gets in on the act and bursts into her own song (1:46-55).
  • After being mute for nine months, Zechariah presents his son for circumcision and writes on the tablet that his name is John.  “Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God” (1:64).
  • Part of Zechariah’s speaking and praising ended up expressing itself in a beautiful, prophetic song (1:67-79).
  • An angel appears to shepherds on the night that Jesus was born, and we can surmise that his announcement of “good news of great joy for all the people” was not given in a relaxed, nonchalant manner.  Still, just to make sure we understand this is worth singing and shouting about, a massive angel choir appears around him giving glory to God (2:13-14).
  • The response of the shepherds is to go and see, but then naturally to “spread the word” (2:17) and “glorify and praise God” (2:20).
  • Now it’s Jesus’ turn to be presented in the temple for circumcision, and a devout man named Simeon takes him in his arms and joyfully praises God (2:28-32).  He had been waiting years for this!Child Singing Or Shouting With Happiness
  • That same day, Anna, a very old prophetess whose life exuded worship, gives thanks to God and speaks excitedly about the baby to everyone there (2:38).

That’s a lot of singing, shouting, praising, and proclaiming for sure.  In fact, all of these birth narratives transition in chapter three to an adult John the Baptist who is known as – you guessed it – a “voice of one crying in the desert” (Is. 40:3; Luke 3:4).

Could it be that this whole Christmas message is worth singing and shouting about?

Could it be that we, too, are invited to abandon our typical propriety in order to loudly praise the Lord?

Could it be that God is calling us to also let loose in joy and let the world know that the Savior has come!? After all, we sing every year around this time:

“Go, tell it on the mountain,

Over the hills and everywhere;

Go, tell it on the mountain

That Jesus Christ is born.”

 

How Can I Be Sure?

By Scott Armstrong

We have made our way out of Advent and are now officially in the season of Christmas (that’s right: according to the Christian calendar Christmas is just beginning!).  Our Savior has been born in Bethlehem! What greater joy is there than that?!

Since early December many passages have proven meaningful in my times of devotions and preaching and reflection.  However, there is one odd phrase that keeps resonating in my mind and heart that at first seems to have little to do with Advent or the Christmas story:

“How can I be sure?” (Luke 1:18).

Maybe a little context will help.

Zechariah and Elizabeth are closer to retirement than they would like, and they have all but given up hope of having a baby.  In spite of their unmatched integrity (v. 6), they have remained barren, and the comments of their neighbors and so-called friends have made even them wonder if there is something wrong with them spiritually.  They have prayed and wept and trusted in God time and again only to be disappointed month after month and year after year.  Serving God is still their unwavering commitment, but it used to be their passion and joy.

Why not for us, Lord? Why for everyone else?

A priest (this time, Zechariah) is selected to enter the inner temple and burn incense to the Lord.  Worshipers are outside.  This happens every year.

Except this year the ritual doesn’t go as planned.  An angel appears and almost gives old Zechariah a heart attack.  And his message was more astonishing than his appearance: “Don’t fear.   Your prayer has been heard.  You’ll have a son.  Give him the name John.”

All of Zechariah’s peers were already grandpas, some great-grandpas.  Now he is supposed to believe he will be a first-time dad?! It’s more than any of us could have handled.

And that’s when we hear his gasping, faltering response to the angel:

How. Can. I. Be. Sure.

There was no one more upright in Israel than Zechariah.  No one else had access to the very presence of God like he did (literally, this year).  And for decades no one had had more faith than Zechariah.  And yet the question stammers off his lips in disbelief.  It’s haunting, really.

It’s one thing to believe God is able to do the impossible.  But it’s another thing to believe he will do it.

And it’s one thing to believe God will do the impossible in someone else’s life.  But it’s another thing to know he will break in in the midst of your impossibility.

“I hear your voice, Lord.  I understand the message.  It’s just that, deep-down, I have to be honest: how can I be absolutely certain that you will come through?”

The best cure for a lack of faith that betrays us in moments like these is often silence.  Well, geriatric Zechariah got a heavy dose of that.  During his wife’s pregnancy, he could write down messages, but not everyone could read at that time.  He got pretty decent at charades, but most people lost patience with him or just started laughing at his hand signals.  So he ended up having a whole lot of time to just listen.

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And in those nine months of forced silence, he heard God’s voice clearer than he had ever heard it before.

“Elizabeth has morning sickness. Or did you think it was the bread and figs she ate?”

“Her belly’s growing, Zechariah.  I can tell you’re starting to believe after all…”

“Feel that kick? Haha! This baby will be a world-changer for sure!”

Until, finally…

“Zechariah, this is it!  The baby’s ready!  Elizabeth is pushing.  Are you sure now?”

Listening, listening, listening.

And on the eighth day after the birth, when he scurried to write on the tablet: HIS NAME IS JOHN, his faith had grown as big as the joy he had as he held that little boy.  His tongue was loosed and there was nothing else to do but to belt out praises to the God who had astonishingly done – and was still doing – the impossible.

Now he was sure of it.

You Will not die Before you see Him

By Hiram Vega

Prophets, priests, kings and peasants – they all waited for the signs of the coming Messiah.

Their constant question was, “When will the Messiah come?” He was to be the Anointed One of God who would end the disgrace of the people of God.  Four hundred years had passed since the Prophet Malachi, and God had not spoken.

Well, he did continue to speak, but only to a few chosen people.  It seemed that one in particular, an enigma named Simeon, had a direct line to heaven.  How important of a person must he have been to have God himself share what was going to take place?  Humanly speaking, he was completely unimportant.  He was a common old man with an even more common name. He was unknown on earth, but known and respected in heaven.  His character was of the same caliber as Joseph and Mary’s.  The gospel tells us that he was an upright man.  Not only that, he was a sincere seeker of God. Heaven took note, and God poured his Holy Spirit out on him.  Did you think that the Holy Spirit first came at Pentecost?  God says in Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

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We know almost nothing about this elderly man except that the Holy Spirit confirmed to him that he would not die until he saw the Anointed One of the Lord.

Today Christians await the return of the Lord, and no one knows the day or the hour of his second coming.  But Simeon was waiting for his first coming.  When the moment arrived, the Holy Spirit guided him to the temple just in time to find a humble carpenter from Bethlehem and his wife presenting a newborn.  On earth there was no fanfare, no great chorus, no royal assembly to commemorate the moment.  Heaven gave this aged worshiper the privilege that kings and prophets longed for: he was the first to recognize the Messiah.

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 

People continue to live in darkness today. Millions have not experienced the salvation of our Lord.  God continues to speak to his Simeons—men and women who long to know God and to make him known.  Their hearts desire for more people to be saved, until the whole earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 

 

Analysis and Interpretation of the Pastoral Role

By Rev. Ernesto Bathermy

As we analyzed and interpreted the images of a shepherd/pastor from the Old and New Testaments in the previous article, those texts shed light on our work and responsibilities as pastors:

  1. Feed the flock

When we speak of feeding the sheep, we refer to teaching and instructing the believers in the Word of God and in Christian doctrines.  The Lord himself affirms that “man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). This declaration shows us clearly that the Word of God is spiritual food for the soul of a believer.

The apostle Peter referenced the Word of God when he wrote to Christians of the diaspora, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.” (I Peter 2:2)

The writer of Hebrews also referred to the teaching of the Word as spiritual food for the believer. (Hebrews 5:12-14)

It is evident, then, that when the Bible speaks of the role of a pastor as the one who should feed the flock, it is referring to the pastor feeding the believers with the Word of God.

  1. Care for the flock

To care for the flock has a broader connotation than to simply feed them. Likewise, a pastor’s role is not only to feed the congregation with the Word of God, but also to care for them. Isaiah speaks of a shepherd that carries the lambs in his arms against his breast.  The lamb is one year old or less, so it is by definition young and inexperienced.  In the same way, a pastor should shepherd new believers and care for them with special attention.

Another aspect of caring for the flock is clear when the prophet writes that Jehovah will gently lead the newborn lambs.  It is a picture of the care that a pastor must have for the Lord’s flock.

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  1. Guide the flock

According to John 10:4, the shepherd rescues his sheep and later goes before them while they follow.  The shepherd guides his sheep not by staying behind them, but going ahead of them.  In the same way, the pastor guides the church by being an example to the flock. (I Peter 5:3)

  1. Restore the flock

As we saw in Ezekiel 34:4, there will be weak, sick and injured members of the flock.  At times they will stray and get lost.  The same happens in the church.  Some brothers and sisters are weak in the faith, and those are the ones the pastor must seek to strengthen.

Some believers, at any given moment, can become spiritually ill.  The pastor has the responsibility to aide in curing them. Other believers will wander, and the pastor must seek to guide them back to the correct path.

Though the pastor must care for the entire flock, some brothers and sisters require special attention.  The ones who are lost need to be helped to return to the fold.

Conclusion:

A study of both the Old and New Testaments shows that the Bible says the role of the pastor is to feed, care for, guide and restore the believers.  This understanding allows a pastor to develop his or her ministry with greater responsibility and awareness, but with less frustration about basing all “success” on tangible results.

*Rev. Ernesto Bathermy is the pastor of the Celestial Vision Church of the Nazarene in Los Alcarrizos, Dominican Republic. He is also the Dominican Republic Central District Superintendent and Rector of the Dominican Nazarene Seminary.

Update – Cuba and Nicaragua

The last month has been difficult for our Mesoamerica Region; however, we have seen God’s love and faithfulness. The following information is an update of what has happened in the last weeks in Cuba and Nicaragua, and we want to encourage you to keep praying for these countries.

CUBA

A group of ministers from the Mesoamerica Region Church of the Nazarene traveled to Cuba on May 23 to help after the terrible plane crash on May 18, in which 10 Nazarene pastoral couples died. The Regional Nazarene Compassionate Ministries Coordinator Dhariana Balbuena shared her experiences in Cuba.

In the middle of the loss that our brothers and sisters suffered because of the terrible air accident 3 weeks ago, in the middle of the pain and sadness that they are still experiencing, we give glory and thanks to God for the miracles that have occurred.

Before my eyes in the first days, along with the regional leadership team, I could feel the mercy of God through the life testimonies, like the one that was shared during the funeral of sister Maria Salome. She was a servant of God who, with her studies in civil engineering, could serve the Cuban people in many ways. Many people shared their appreciation for our sister Maria.

It was also marvelous to learn that 37 people gave their lives to Christ in the funeral services, and more in the other services that followed.

The mother of one of the pastors who passed away surrendered at the feet of Christ in the first service after the incident in the church that her son pastored.

We are very grateful for the solidarity from our brothers and sisters from the Mesoamerica Region and from the global church. Your prayers, offerings, and words of encouragement have been a great blessing to the children that were orphaned and to their families.

God is glorified even in the midst of pain and his love transcends affliction.

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NICARAGUA

The country of Nicaragua is in an ongoing crisis that began in April 2018, when protests sparked violence. 

According to human rights groups, more than 100 people have been killed, and thousands more are wounded or missing. The most affected cities are Masaya and Managua. Many have lost their jobs as businesses have shuttered, and dozens of roadblocks around the nation have paralyzed traffic.

In the midst of this unstable situation, local Nazarene churches have continued to meet for worship and prayer. Churches have reduced scheduled meeting times or are meeting in homes as a security precaution. Nazarene volunteers have also delivered food to 150 families in Masaya, where the protests have led to extreme food shortages. 

The Nazarene district office was forced to close on May 29. The district also had to cancel several Work & Witness trips that were scheduled for teams working on local church buildings, including a team from Costa Rica planning to work on the Nazarene seminary in Nicaragua.

Church leaders in Nicaragua are monitoring the activity of the protests to determine the best time to reopen.

“This situation brings us great pain,” says Rev. Maria Antonia Ponce, who serves as the Nazarene district superintendent in the area. “We ask that as the Body of Christ, we would unite in prayer for peace in Nicaragua.”

How You Can Help

Pray

Please pray for churches, families, and individuals affected by the recent violent outbreaks. Pray especially for those who have lost loved ones. Pray for those who cannot work or travel freely. Pray for those experiencing trauma, that they would sense God’s peace and presence. Pray for peace to come to the nation. 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.

Give

Churches and individuals around the world can provide support through the Mesoamerica Disaster Relief: Nicaragua Crisis Fund. Donations will be used to provide for immediate needs, including food and water. 

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 132300 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 132300 in the Memo area.

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

–This information was originally published at: mesoamericaregion.orgnazarene.org and ncm.org.

 

 

 

8 Ways to Wreck a Marriage

Yesterday my wife and I celebrated our 18th wedding Anniversary. Outside my salvation and sanctification, Emily has probably been God’s most extravagant gift to me through the years. We have shared tears and many laughs. And we love each other more today than even on our wedding day – way more, in fact!

Several years ago, I read an article from Dave Willis (LINK:) on how to wreck a marriage.  Pick your jaw up off the floor; his purpose in writing about how relationships are destroyed was to help his readers AVOID such devastation.  So, in that spirit, and as my wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary, I somewhat ironically share Dave Willis’ Eight Ways to Wreck a Marriage.

As I’ve interacted with couples from all over the world, I’ve discovered most marriage problems can be traced back to a few deadly (but also very common) mistakes. Here’s a list of some of the most common marriage-killing behaviors. Avoid these at all costs and you’ll be taking a big step towards building a divorce-proof marriage!

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  1. Stop communicating with your spouse.

Communication does for a marriage what breathing does for lungs. Communication is the lifeline of any relationship, so if you stop communicating with your spouse, you’re choosing to starve your marriage of one of its most basic needs.

  1. Confide in a “friend” of the opposite sex.

One of the most common patterns I’ve seen among divorcing couples is that one of the spouses develops an attachment with someone of the opposite sex for emotional support instead of looking to their spouse for that support. The moment you allow someone else to take your spouse’s place in your mind, your heart or your bed, you’ve made a choice to wreck your marriage.

  1. Stop making love.

Sex is a God-given gift to bring fulfillment, intimacy and mutual bonding to a husband and wife. The moment you stop prioritizing what happens in the bedroom, your marriage might be headed for a courtroom.

  1. Belittle, nag or insult your spouse.

You should be your spouse’s biggest encourager, not their biggest critic! If your communication has taken on a consistently negative tone, then your marriage will quickly take on a negative tone as well.

  1. Keep secrets from your spouse.

Secrets in marriage are as dangerous as lies. If you start hiding money, conversations or anything else from your spouse, you’re choosing to sabotage your relationship.

  1. Blame your spouse for your problems.

Couples who make it are the ones who choose to work together to find solutions. Couples who don’t make it are the ones who blame each other instead of supporting each other.

  1. Surround yourself with people who don’t know or don’t like your spouse.

The wrong friends can wreck a marriage. If you surround yourself with people who support your marriage, your marriage will probably improve. If you surround yourself with people who don’t support your marriage, then you need some new friends.

  1. Give up.

The couples who make it aren’t the ones who never had a reason to get divorced, they are simply the ones who choose to find a way to make it work. They’ve discovered that a “perfect marriage” is just two imperfect people who refuse to give up on each other!