Are We There Yet?

By Scott Armstrong

“He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there (Genesis 12:5).”

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(Read Genesis 12:1-9)

What was the most incredible vacation you ever went on? Where did you go and what did you do? Did you go with family, friends, or both?

In Genesis 12 we read that the Lord calls Abram to go on a journey.  But it was far from a vacation.  Not even a majority of this trip was spent in green, lush land—and that makes a difference if you’re hauling cattle around.  This journey was long and hard, and most likely without many rewards.

But the verses we read simply state, “they set out…and they arrived” (v.5).  That’s like summing up one of my notorious family vacations by saying we set out from Kansas City and arrived in Toronto, Canada.  Just saying we set out and arrived doesn’t include the fights in the back seat between my brother and I, the threats of punishment from my parents, the awful memory of Detroit’s Grand Canyon-size potholes—you get the picture.  If you’re like me, you can imagine Abram thinking, “Maybe I got this wrong.  Did I really understand God? Why did he just say, ‘Pack up and move,’ without telling me where I’m going?”

But, like the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps going and going and going.  Time after time he stops and calls on the Lord.  Time after time he hears, “Keep going.”

There is an awesome lesson here.  Sometimes, like Abram, we have to keep taking steps even though we do not know where the Lord is taking us.  We all want to know what His big will is—those huge decisions that will affect our lives forever.  But sometimes He says, “You’re in my will.  Keep journeying on that road and the destination will become clear later.”  God’s will is not just the destination points on the highway, but the journey to and from those points.

Is there a large decision in your life that needs to be made in the next few days, weeks, or months? Have you worried about it? Maybe the Lord is showing you that you are right where you need to be and that He will provide the answer in His timing.  In the meantime, keep journeying.  Continue to draw closer to the One who will share His heart with you more and more with each passing day.  Rest assured that He has probably been doing that already.

The Challenge is Urban

By Scott Armstrong

Last week I had the privilege of being in Panama where several leaders were gathered to brainstorm solutions for more effective ministry in three areas:

  • Urban Mission
  • Youth
  • Children

These areas have been declared our regional emphases in Mesoamerica for the upcoming Quadrennial.  And rightly so: although great things are currently taking place in each of these ministries, we have a long way to go before we see an explosion of fruit all across the region among children, youth, and our cities.

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I’m sure you have listened to our Worthless Servants podcast recently (if you haven’t, seriously, what are you doing with your life?), and you know we have addressed all three of these issues in various episodes.  However, for the sake of this article, let’s focus on urban mission.

If you have heard my wife and I speak recently in any service or event, you know that we are banging the drum for urban mission.  Our ministry is GENESIS after all, where the mission is to make Christlike disciples in the urban centers of Mesoamerica.  We are sending missionaries to 28 strategic cities so that they may plant churches and impact communities with little or no Nazarene presence.  And it is happening!

Still, I admit that the influence a team of four workers can have in a city of 1 million+ is limited.  And what about the other cities that have not been identified as the 28 strategic, urgent sites that will receive missionaries? It is clear that our whole region needs a genesis and it will not come solely because of a dedicated volunteer missionary force.

This very week while we were in Panama, we received from Dale Jones in Nazarene Research (love them!) a list of all of the cities in the Mesoamerica Region with 100,000 or more in population.  The findings are intriguing and yet staggering:

  1. General statistics show that 72% of Mesoamerica lives in an urban area (this includes several cities of less than 100,000 that are still considered urban). Nearly 3 out of every four of us is an urbanite! When you think of urban, you may think of New York, Beijing, or Tokyo. But we are the region with the highest percentage of urban dwellers.
  2. In just two years we have grown from 169 cities with 100,000 people or more to 182 fitting that description. All over the world people are moving to the big city in droves, and our region is no exception.
  3. Of these 182 metropolises, 115 are in one country: Mexico. One. Five.  Reaching the cities of our region means especially reaching the cities of Mexico, many of which have no Nazarene church.
  4. After Mexico, the four countries that have the most cities with population of 100,000 or more are: Cuba (16), Dominican Republic (9), Haiti (8), and Nicaragua (7). In other words, 155 of the 182 biggest cities in our region are in FIVE countries. Would you pray specifically for urban impact in those five countries?
  5. The total population in Mesoamerica is 223 million. 42 million of us live in cities with greater than 100,000 people.  That’s 54%More of us live in a huge city than don’t.  Shouldn’t this effect the way we equip our leaders for ministry?

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  6. If the majority of our population lives in a big city, then that’s where all our Nazarenes are, too, right? Wrong. Only 32% of our members live in a city of over 100,000 people.  That’s 129,354 out of 406,000 total Nazarenes.

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  7. #5 and #6 above cause me to reflect: I know that we have many Nazarene members in these cities already and I praise the Lord for their witness. However, there is no doubt that in the great majority of these urban settings, we lack a true presence as a Church of the Nazarene.  Having a church building and holding services every week will not cut it.  In order to impact the city, sacrificial, creative, and missional discipleship will be required in the days ahead.
  8. A significant number of these 182 cities have recently been affected adversely by devastating natural disasters. Could it be that our entryway into these cities would come through comforting those who have lost all in hurricanes or earthquakes? Could it be that – even without natural disasters – acting as agents of compassion would be the healthy way to impact our cities anyway?

My intention is not to overwhelm you with statistics.  I recognize that each observation above must be digested thoughtfully for greatest understanding, and I pray you would do so!  Honestly, I share all of this not just to inform, but also to invite you to be a part of this initiative.

Would you pray?

Would you give?

Would you go and impact an urban context right where you are or even far away?

Comment below if God is turning your focus toward the city.  Communicate with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at MesoamericaGenesis.org.  Listen to our podcast and tell others about it so the conversation about these topics spreads.

We need your help.  The statistics are clear and the call of God is clearer: let’s bring a genesis to the urban centers of Mesoamerica.

 

Mission Briefing: Be a Sender

By Howard Culbertson

Not infrequently, people think the only way they can participate in to-the-ends-of-the-earth evangelism is by flying to another country. They are wrong. “Going” is just one avenue of world mission involvement. Indeed, those who leave home to become career missionaries need a cadre of consecrated and zealous supporters back home.

A few years ago, Steven Hawthorne wrote a chapter in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement about those who support the “Go-ers” (as he called missionaries)Hawthorne, who grew up in a Nazarene parsonage, titled his chapter simply, “Senders.” He noted that the Apostle Paul may have been thinking of human Senders as well as God when he rhetorically asked: “How can they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:15).

The Apostle John was certainly clear in his encouragement to people to become Senders for missionaries.The Amplified Bible renders verse 7 and part of verse 8 in III John as: “For these [traveling missionaries] went out for the sake of the Name [of Christ]. So we ought to support such people.”

How do Senders support and take care of missionaries? Well, the III John passage seems to refer to material support. The same is true of Paul’s words to the Romans about a planned trip to Spain (Romans 15:22-24). To be sure, money – lots of it – is needed in world evangelism. However, Senders can and must do more than give money. As one example, in almost every one of Paul’s letters, he requested prayer for his ministry from his Senders.

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R.A. Torrey, the founding head of Moody Bible Institute, believed that. Torrey once wrote: “The man or woman at home who prays often has as much to do with the effectiveness of the missionary on the field, and consequently with the results of his or her labors, as the missionary.”        

In addition to money and prayer, Senders contribute to Great Commission fulfillment in ways ranging from keeping missions bulletin boards updated to locating and shipping needed equipment and supplies. Indeed, a variety of gifts and talents can be used to facilitate the work of missionaries serving far away.

Here are half a dozen areas in which Senders can support missionaries:

— Emotional support (giving encouragement via emails, cards, Skype conversations, showing up at deputation services and more).

— Mobilization (raising global missions awareness in one’s own local church or district).

— Financial support (giving and encouraging others to give).

— Intercessory prayer for world evangelism (praying and calling others to prayer).

— Logistics help (providing house and transportation for missionaries on home assignment, making arrangements for shipping things, ironing out details for events and more).

— Re-entry assistance (being a “safe” listener, helping returned missionaries find their way around, and more).

Senders have been known to be so passionate about supporting missionaries that they adjust their lifestyles to pray more, serve more and give more.

Be a Sender. Impact the “ends of the Earth” from your own doorstep.

This article was originally posted at: Engage Magazine

 

Nuevo Laredo, Mexico Impacted With The Message Of The Gospel

Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico has been impacted greatly with the message of the gospel through the missional program of Project Paul.  From July 15 through August 6, 2017 this ministry was implemented as part of the Border Initiative, coordinated by the Molina Gutiérrez family.

Last April, after visiting the seven Nazarene congregations in the city, the pastors received church planting training, and as a result agreed to utilize Project Paul as a key strategy in the starting of new congregations in their city.

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The response was enthusiastic.  Thirty members from the seven local churches participated during the 21 days of the project.  The goal would be to open five new missions and another five preaching points through personal evangelism and utilizing tools such as the EvangeCube, the “Book without Words,” the EvangeBall, and Vacation Bible Schools for children.

20106743_1571806339553743_2191254733520245477_n.jpgAfter evangelism and discipleship in seven colonies and neighborhoods, the testimonies have been glorious and the results astonishing!  A total of 397 youth and adults accepted Christ into their lives, and 109 of them initiated their basic Bible Studies afterwards.  41 children also made decisions for Christ, and during the three weeks, various people came back to the faith and are currently walking with the Lord again.  The missionaries communicated all contact information and results to the church planters of these new missions, who will continue with the follow-up of this abundant harvest.

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Each volunteer missionary who participated in this project testified to a renewed commitment to the Lord and an enthusiastic desire to continue to serve in and evangelize their city.

Those who attended the closing service at the end of Project Paul were overjoyed to see many new converts as well as the new churches and missions that were started through great consecration and passionate service.  May all glory be to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is edifying his Church!

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–This information has been provided by Rev. Manuel Molina.

Let God Use Us

From July 21 to 23, 2017 in Cordoba, Veracruz, a Maximum Mission took place, and we give thanks to God for the results.  He used the many gifts and talents of 96 participants, who traveled from different places in Mexico to support this event.

The participants served in various activities and ministries such as: door to door evangelism, Work and Witness, painting speed bumps and one of the church building’s walls, and street cleaning.  They also helped to clean the house of Mr. Jose who accepted Jesus and lives in very vulnerable conditions.

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Project GOAL attracted 15 youth, and 20 children enjoyed clowns and games.  Nestor (from Oaxaca) and Jonathan Saldana (from Mexico City) provided free dental care and medical consultations, where we were able to present the gospel to the people there.

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A hairstylist from a nearby beauty academy offered haircuts, and sister Gloria taught a sewing class.  We were able to show the movie “War Room,” and it was a great blessing for the people in that neighborhood. Even though at times our schedule was greatly affected due to rain, once again we saw God’s power in every detail. 

At the end of Maximum Mission we made 41 contacts, received 17 new Christians into the faith, and began discipleship with one person. The work of follow-up continued through Project Paul as the 10 young short-term missionaries discipled 9 adults and 7 children during the 21 days.

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Praise the Lord – He continued to open doors!  In the three weeks of Project Paul, although not everyone was willing to receive discipleship, we made 43 more contacts and shared times of spiritual and physical nourishment, praying and enjoying fellowship with them.

The family of Roberto and Dalia Martinez, leaders of the Church of the Nazarene in Cordoba, will continue this great work as leaders of this congregation.


God is waiting for us to make the decision to step out and share the message.  If freely we have received then we should also freely give!  We are witnesses of the miracles God can perform in the lives of others and there is a great emptiness in the people around us. Let’s say YES and let God use us! 

– Sarai Romualdo, Global Mission, Mexico Gulf District

A Thousand Questions

The following video was published several years ago but still communicates powerfully to our reality. Have you ever had a time when you felt like God was not present? Have you ever questioned if there is hope for our hurting and desperate human race? May your passion be like that of Sharon Irving who performs this spoken word masterpiece.  And may your answer also be “Here am I.”

 

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!