The Worst Brand Ever

By Rev. Brady Wisehart

Dying to live

I was greeted this morning as I sifted through my inbox with an email titled “We can HELP your Church’s brand” sent from a church branding company. I had not solicited help form this company and I was about to move the email to the trash folder when I paused and was captivated by the following thoughts… 
What is the brand of the church? Not just my local church but the Church of Jesus Christ. Is there a difference between the brand of the broader Church of Jesus Christ and my local church? Have we in western culture elevated our local church brands above the core brand of Christianity? 

My thoughts were not debating denominational distinctions, or dumping on marketing or branding as tools. My thoughts were quite the opposite. I believe denominations are helpful to the Body of Christ, and I believe that the greatest news in the world, the gospel, is worthy of our best efforts to communicate as effectively as we can. 

Marketing consultants tell us that your brand is very important. It’s what tells the story of the core of your message. It’s what you present to the marketplace as who you are, what you are all about, and what you have to offer. 

For centuries, the brand of the Church of Jesus Christ was embodied by the cross. Atop of a cathedral or a country church the branding was consistent, a cross. For centuries, the image of the cross has been universal. Not limited to one culture but around the world the cross communicates the message of Christianity.

But think about that with me for a moment. The core branding image of Christianity is an execution device. Can you imagine a marketing consultant encouraging your institutional identity to be an electric chair? Welcome to our Church, the church of death! Yet this is the message! When Paul says “I did not come to you with persuasive words of wisdom but…I preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2-4) The message of the cross is one of death to sin and life in Christ (Eph. 2:16; Heb. 12:2; 1Cor. 1:17-18; Gal.511-14; Phil. 3:18).

It is in the death of Christ that we find freedom from sin and life in Him. This brand of the cross is not just a symbol of what Christ did for us. Jesus clarifies the message when He says “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:34-35) Jesus calls us to choose. When I choose to accept Christ by grace and faith alone I walk with Him as a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).

The Apostle Paul writes, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24) “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:20-21).

That’s a lot of death talk for a core brand. I can see how some may be tempted to “refresh” the brand and give a lighter spin on the message. But Paul helps us in Galatians 2:21 see that if righteousness could be gained some other way other than Jesus, then Christ died for nothing.

In short, a “refreshed” or “touched up” brand, sanitizing the uncomfortable parts of the message and replacing them with a more “crowd friendly” narrative is not only dangerous but completely undermines the entire gospel. Leaving us with a “product” that is powerless. 

I came across this graphic today depicting how the Apostles died. Suddenly it hit me, they lived the brand! They all gave up their life for Christ. This was not just a testament to their devotion to the brand, but more so… they “lived” the brand in their deaths. 

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While I’m not suggesting God is calling each of us to be physically martyred for our faith in Christ, I do believe the core brand is clear. Through the cross I find life in Christ. When I am in Christ the old has gone and the new has come. Truly following Jesus leads us to a dying out to self and sin. To the point… If you are not ready to die, you are not ready to truly live. 

Are you a Christian? Are you a true follower of Jesus Christ? If yes, are you living the brand of the cross of Christ? Or have you drifted into a fixation with your own unique niche articulation of your preferred “idea” of Christianity? Has your faith become more focused on your preferences, your interests, your agenda? Has there been an erosion of the call Christ gives to love Him so much that by comparison it’s like you hate everything else? (Luke 14:26)

I have amazing news for you friend! There is no better way to live than to die! When we allow Christ to save us from our sinful selves, when we allow the power of His spirit to lead us to crucify our desires so we can embrace the desires of God… We start TRULY LIVING! The old has gone and the NEW HAS COME! 

Youth in Mission – Haiti

The following report was written by Estefania Amador, Valeria Narvaez, Elsie Rodriguez and Rubi Piñon, who are serving in Haiti for two months through Youth in Mission.

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It has already been a busy summer! We have participated in three pastors’ kids’ camps, with the first one being held in Puerto Principe (Central District): 22 children and teenagers participated. The second one was held in Blek (Southeast District) with an attendance of 26 kids, and the last one was held in Gonaives, where four districts participated (North-central, Upper Artibonite, Lower Artibonite and Northeast) and 56 pastors’ kids attended.  We are thankful for what God is doing in the lives of each one of these children!

 

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In these camps we’ve helped with bible lessons and crafts that are made using recyclable material. Many of the pastors’ kids have shared their testimony; one that really blessed our lives was Clelie’s testimony.  She is a young lady that is very thankful because we taught her how to reuse a shirt and make a bag out of it.  She shared with us that she wants to reproduce what she learned with her church and friends. The pastors’ kids have also received words of encouragement, and during the last camp three of them decided to accept Jesus as their Savior. It is a great joy for us to be a part of this project.

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We are working in a mission (or preaching point) three days a week.  Our ministry includes evangelism, children’s and youth ministry, visiting needy brothers and sisters from church, and giving educational workshops and Spanish classes. We are very happy to see what God is doing day by day in our lives and in the lives of the people that we share with. The church members are very thankful for the evangelism tools that we have given them: the evangelism cube and the wordless book have been implemented immediately and now 5 people have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord!

 

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Finally, we want to say that the will of God won’t take us where His grace can’t protect us.JEM con Pierre Ornan.JPG

Blessings to all and thank you for your prayer support!

A Multicultural Missionary Summer

On July 7-23, 2017 the communities of Cecara and Banegas in Santiago, Dominican Republic were blessed with the Maximum Mission and “4×4: All-Terrain” Global Mission projects hosted by Genesis missionaries Wendy Rivera, Sugey Barron and Joselyn Garcia. The missionaries were also assisted by brothers and sisters in Christ from the USA, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Young people from four districts in Dominican Republic participated in the 3 day Maximum Mission project.

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After the Maximum Mission project, a 14 day “4×4: All-Terrain” event was held. This event provided the opportunity for door to door evangelism, visitation of new contacts, a workshop for women called “It is wonderful to be a woman”, another workshop for married couples, VBS,  a talent show, and a movie night where the movie “War Room” was shown.

Nine people from Worthington Church of the Nazarene in the United States collaborated in the first week with the two communities and hosted a VBS. This event received additional support from coordinator Beverly Brown of the Dominican Republic Work and Witness ministry.

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In addition, everyone involved in both the Maximum Mission project and the 4×4: All Terrain event dedicated much of their time to community service, such as home and street cleaning, food and clothing delivery to families in need, conversations about environmental care or personal hygiene, house repair and painting, as well as many sports activities for youth.

In addition to the Genesis missionaries, Angel Meran, Reidyn Amador, Elba Duson, and Cristobal Urbaez from Dominican Republic formed an excellent ministry team.  Kimberly Vazquez, Keneth Robles, Desiree Perez, Diana Cruz, Yolanda Avilez, and Julio Mercado from Puerto Rico also participated in fruitful work, as well as Freya Galindo from Mexico.

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Four Churches of the Nazarene from the Dominican Republic North District – Ingco,  Manahaim, Bella Vista and Cienfuegos – also greatly supported many of the activities.

One of the participants stated, “It was a very blessed time knowing we could impact the two communities where we worked. The people from both communities joined us in some of the ministries such as washing children’s hair and cleaning the streets. As we repaired the houses the two communities also came together to help. In the end, we not only served them; they also served their own community.”

Elba Duson said: “I define this as a project of love, faith and courage…the days in those communities taught me to see Jesus in the face of the children, in the people in real need and in the outcry of affection and love in their faces.”

Written by Adriana Carreon in collaboration with Freya Galindo, Central Field Global Mission Coordinator.

The Army And The King

By Rev. Carla Sunberg

Several years ago I heard a sermon by the President of Nazarene Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, USA — Carla Sunberg.  Rev. Sunberg opened the work of the Church of the Nazarene in Russia and served for 13 years before becoming a pastor and District Superintendent in the United States.  She spoke the following words to 2,000 university students at Olivet Nazarene University and I hope they inspire you as much as they did us that day.  Although many would say that this generation of youth is lazy or apathetic, Dr. Sunberg’s vision is quite different.

The vision? The vision is Jesus.  Obsessively, dangerously, undeniably it is Jesus.  And the vision is an army of young people.  You see bones?  I see an army.  And they are free from materialism.  They laugh at 9 to 5 little prisons.  They could eat caviar on Monday and crusts on Tuesday and they wouldn’t even notice.  They know the meaning of The Matrix and How the West was Won.  They’re mobile like the wind.  They belong to the nations.  They need no passport.  People write their addresses in pencil and wonder at their strange existence.  They are free, yet they are slaves of the hurting and dirty and dying.

And what is the vision?  The vision is holiness.  It’s a holiness that hurts the eyes.  It makes children laugh and it makes adults angry.  It gave up the game of minimum integrity long ago to reach for the stars.  It scorns the good and strains for the best and it is dangerously pure.  Light flickers from every secret motive, every private conversation.  It loves people away from their suicide leaps, their Satan games.  This is an army that will lay down its life for the cause.  A million times a day, its soldiers choose to lose, that they might one day win the great “Well done” of the faithful sons and daughters.  Such heroes are as radical on Monday morning as Sunday night.  And they don’t need fame from names.  Instead they grin quietly upwards and they hear the crowds chanting again and again: “Come on!”  And this is the sound of the underground: the whisper of history in the making, foundations shaking, revolutionaries dreaming.  Once again mystery is scheming in whispers, conspiracy is breathing – this is the sound of the underground.

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And the army is disciplined, and also discipled: young people who beat their bodies into submission.  Every soldier would take a bullet for his comrade in arms.  And the tattoo on their back boasts: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Sacrifice fuels the fire of victory in their upward eyes.  Winners, martyrs – who can stop them? Can hormones hold them back? Can failure succeed? Can fear scare them or death kill them?

And the generation prays, like a dying man with groans beyond talking, with warrior cries, sulphuric tears, and with great barrel-loads of laughter.  They are waiting and watching 24-7-365.

And whatever it takes they’re going to give.  They are breaking the rules, they are shaking mediocrity from its cozy little hide, they are laying down their rights and their precious little wrongs, laughing at labels, fasting essentials.  The advertisers cannot mold them.  Hollywood cannot hold them.  Peer pressure is powerless to shake their resolve.  At late night parties before the cockcrow cries, they are incredibly cool, but dangerously attractive inside.

On the outside they really hardly care.  They wear clothes like costumes to communicate and celebrate, but never to hide.  Would they surrender their image or their popularity? They would lay down their very lives!  They’re going to swap seats with the man on death row who’s guilty as hell, a throne for an electric chair.  With blood and sweat and many tears.  With sleepless nights and fruitless days.  They pray as if it all depends on God, and they live as if it all depends on them.

Their DNA chooses Jesus.  He breathes out, they breathe in.  Their subconscious sings.  They had a blood transfusion with Jesus.  Their words make demons scream in shopping centers.  Don’t you hear them? Herald the weirdoes; summon the losers and the freaks.  Here come the frightened and forgotten with fire in their eyes.  They walk tall and trees applaud.  Skyscrapers bow.  Mountains are dwarfed by these children of another dimension.  Their prayers summon the hounds of heaven and invoke the ancient dream of Eden.

And this vision will be.  It will come to pass, it will come easily, it will come soon.  And how do I know? Because this is the longing of creation itself, the groaning of the Spirit, the very dream of God.  My tomorrow is his today.  My distant hope is his 3D.  And my feeble, whispered, faithless prayer invokes a thunderous, resounding, and bone shaking: Amen!  From countless angels.  From heroes of the faith.  From Christ himself.  And he is the original dreamer.  He is the ultimate winner.  It’s guaranteed.  That’s my King.

Upper-level Vision

By Scott Armstrong

What is your passion? What gets you out of bed even on the bad days?

When I was a teen, I probably would have thought of such questions as irrelevant or even dumb.  I was driven to get good grades, but I was probably just as passionate about eating ice cream or playing basketball.

Although my youth pastor and many other speakers urged us to share our faith with our friends, I think I was mostly focused on trying to not look stupid – unsuccessfully, by the way.  I knew I should be passionate about winning my school and city for Christ, but I was actually much more excited about my baseball or football team winning it all.

More than two decades later, I’m in a different place.  Don’t get me wrong: I get pretty pumped about the Kansas City Royals finally winning some games, and I’m unequivocally passionate about slow-cooked, barbecue pork ribs.  But those things do not drive me.  There are two firecrackers that now wake me up every morning with an explosion louder than any alarm clock: Christ and his mission.  I am consumed by God and want everyone in this world to know Him!

Yet, even with those forces propelling me, why do I sometimes allow my focus to be so often on lesser things?

I recently heard the church planter Will Mancini talk about helping our churches to dream and plan big.  Mancini maintains that most church attendees are connected to the following:

  1. Place.  If you’ve ever tried to broach the possibility of moving church structures or allowing another congregation to use your facilities, you know the physical location is important to people.
  2. Personality.  The dynamism and the talents of many leaders attract and inspire.  When we feel most attuned to God and his kingdom, sometimes we are actually connecting with a certain leadership style or personality.  This is why members frequently leave a congregation when there is a change in leadership.
  3. Programs.  “They have a great children’s department.”  “I love singing in the choir.”  Programs help us and our families fit in and involve ourselves in ministry.
  4. People.  Think about five favorite friends that are part of your local church.  Praise the Lord for meaningful relationships like those!  At the same time, if those five people were to suddenly not be a part of the congregation, would that adversely change your attitude?

To clarify: none of these “connector categories” are bad at all.  Our facilities are a great blessing, and we would rather have charismatic, personable leaders than not!  A church with no programs at all is a virtual impossibility, and people loving people is the definition of Christian fellowship!  Nevertheless, I agree with Mancini when he says that all of these are lower-level visions.  None of these should be goals in themselves.  If we fail to move our focus beyond these four areas, we will never see upper-level multiplication dreams come to fruition in our churches.

That term: “upper-level dreams,” reminds us of a few upper rooms, does it not?

In one upper room we see in John 13 that Jesus takes the towel and basin and washes his disciples’ feet.  His time is short and he chooses this powerful means to “show them the full extent of his love” (v. 1).

The focus in that upper room? Service.  Love.  Christ.

Acts 2 tells us of another upper room.  Nearly two months later, the resurrected Jesus sends his Holy Spirit upon 120 of his followers and they are deployed into Jerusalem and the world with the multi-lingual message of repentance and hope.

The emphasis in that upper room? Unity.  Wind.  Mission.

You see, when we dwell in the upper room, we begin to have upper-level dreams.  We do not focus on the petty or trivial.  We are overcome with things of eternal significance.  Place, personality, programs, and people have their moments.  But what connects us and compels us in the day-to-day is the work of Jesus Christ in us, among us, and through us.

I spent my teenage years as a good Christian boy.  I liked church and I for the most part made good decisions.  But if I had to do it over again, I would get out of the lower level and start to dream upper-level dreams.

What about you? Is your focus on lesser things, or are you obsessed with Christ and his mission?!

May we hesitate no longer.  Let’s intentionally walk up the stairs to the upper room.

Why Jesus Never Commanded us to Plant Churches – Part 2 of 2

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

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Do our actions match our words?

We say we want to see churches planted from out of the harvest, but our actions and our leadership practices do not often match our words. And the sad thing is that even when faced with such inconsistencies, we are likely to continue repeating our past behaviors–expecting different future results (Maybe the Ridley Assessment has something to say to those of us who oversee church planters?).

Whenever a biblical model for church planting is viewed as unusual, the path to change will come with pain.

In order for healthy change to occur, we have to change our ecclesiologies, missiologies, and what we celebrate, reward, and expect.

Poor definitions = poor practices

We have a poor understanding of our Commission.  We act as if Jesus has commanded us to plant churches.  We are commanded to make disciples.  It is out of disciple making that churches are to be birthed.  The weight of the biblical model rests here.  Not transfer growth. Not acrimonious splits. It is evangelism that results in disciples, who covenant together to be and function as the local expression of the Body of Christ.

We have a poor understanding of the local church.  If our definition is poor, then everything we say and do related to church planting will be poor.  We often expect newly planted churches to manifest structures and organizations like what is observed in churches of 20, 40, 50 years of age. Our definition of a local church is oftentimes so encased with our cultural desires that we do not know the difference between biblical prescriptions and American preferences.

We operate from a poor definition of church planter.  If we do not recognize the missionary nature (and thus apostolic functions) of church planters, then we end up equating them with pastors.  And take it from a pastor who has been involved in church-planting: missionaries and pastors have different callings, gift-mixes, passions, and functions to play in the Kingdom.  We end up sending pastors to do apostolic-type work, or sending missionaries and expect them to be pastors.  Such is a perfect storm for problems, frustrations, burn-out, and disasters.

Are there other ways to plant churches than what we read about in the ministry of Paul?

The problems with our current models

Yes, and I am in favor of some of those models. Are there times when a church should hive-off members to begin work in another area? Yes.  Is it okay for a congregation to send out a pastor with several church members to plant an “instant” church in a community? Yes, under certain circumstances.

However, such models tend to be difficult to reproduce (in view of four billion unbelievers), pose contextualization challenges, are costly, and often do not result in a great amount of disciples made.  The weight of the biblical definition for church planting is not found here.  Such models should be the exception when it comes to church planting.  Today, they are often the expectation.

I expect my “surprising” conversations will continue in the future.  Such is necessary as we move in a direction where a biblical model is not looked upon as the exception.  But until our church planting expectations change, we must ask ourselves a question and recognize the troubling answer:

What do we have whenever a biblical model is viewed as unusual?

We have a major problem.

This article was originally posted at: http://www.vergenetwork.org/2013/09/09/why-jesus-never-commanded-us-to-plant-churches/3/

Why Jesus Never Commanded us to Plant Churches – Part 1 of 2

By J. D. Payne

I recently spoke with a church-planting leader for a particular denomination.  As we talked over coffee, he inquired about the direction of our church when it comes to church planting.  My response was to describe our future missionary labors in terms like we read about in Acts 13-14; 16; 20; 1 Thess. 1:2-10; and Titus 1:5.  He responded with much surprise as if my thoughts were coming from an unusual source.

Unfortunately, over the years, I have found myself surprising many people during similar conversations.

What does it reveal about our missiology and biblical convictions whenever we think it is strange to advocate that those first century church planting teams have something to teach us?  What does it reveal about our Kingdom stewardship when we view such an advocate as being peculiar?  Do we not recognize a problem exists whenever we label a church planter as being innovative, creative, or unusual for following a Pauline model?

Granted, not everything we read in the Bible is prescriptive. However, I believe our brother Paul and his example should be on a pedestal for us to consider. He was a church planter, you know.

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Having the right definition

As wise stewards of the mystery of Christ, we must subscribe to a definition of biblical church planting as evangelism that results in new churches. Or, to communicate it in other terms: disciple-making that results in new churches. The weight of the biblical model is on this definition.

Imagine what would happen if we began to create a church-planting atmosphere in North America whereby the expectation for new churches is that they should consist of 95-100% new believers–at the moment those churches are planted.

Consider what would happen if our strategies did not embrace methods that would result in new churches consisting of 95-100% long-term Kingdom citizens – at the moment of their births.

We Don’t Need More Flavors

What would happen if we recognized that a wise use of our Father’s resources (e.g., money, people) should be to assist in planting churches from out of the harvest fields, instead of establishing a new work in a community to provide a different style of worship/ministry for the believers who are already there?

We do not need another flavor of church in the Baskin Robbins of North American Christianity; we need missionary bands to settle for nothing less than disciple-making that results in new churches.

What would happen if we equipped and commissioned church planters with the task of only going to the lost in the people group/community?

Yes, we say we are advocating these things, but let’s begin to question our results.

Try this. The next time you hear about a new church planted, a record number of new churches birthed in an area, or church planting goals reached, just ask the question, “What percent of the members of those churches recently came into the Kingdom of God?”

This article will continue in the next post.