WEF and the Mesoamerica Region

A week ago I was in Panama City for our Regional Advisory Committee meetings.  One of the things that came up several times during the four days was our response as a region in giving to the World Evangelism Fund. The World Evangelism Fund (WEF) supports nearly 700 Nazarene missionaries and the work of the Church in 162 nations around the world.  WEF is the foundational funding arm of missions in our denomination.  In future articles, we will explain further what WEF is and how it began, as well as share promotional resources for the Thanksgiving Offering, one of our most significant annual methods of raising WEF support.

For the last decade, the goal set by our leaders has been for every local Nazarene church to give 5.5% of their overall tithes and offerings to WEF.  As our General Superintendents often say, the goal is not equal amount of giving (in total money raised per church), but equal sacrifice.  Imagine what could be done if all 26,000 Nazarene congregations in every one of those 162 countries supported by giving in this way.  Our reach would be exponential!

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I have been encouraged to hear that in the previous years we have seen 100% involvement in WEF by the USA/Canada Districts.  That is incredible!  Praise the Lord!  But here’s the kick in the gut: in our Mesoamerica Region we are seeing only 37% involvement.  In other words, roughly one out of every three churches in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America is giving ANYTHING to the World Evangelism Fund. We’re not saying that almost two-thirds aren’t giving a full 5.5% of their income.  We’re saying that almost two-thirds aren’t giving a single peso, or dollar, or gourde. And guess what? Outside of the USA and Canada, that 37% involvement is the highest of all other regions!

I don’t mean to drown you in statistics, but I want to put this another way:

  • 200 local churches around the world provide 70% of WEF.
  • 6,000 local churches provide the rest of WEF.
  • 20,000 local churches do not provide any WEF.

Gulp.

I cannot speak for other regions, but in our RAC meetings we united as leaders from all around Mesoamerica to commit to do our part.  Our regional goal by 2030 is to get to $1.5 million dollars given to WEF. If we do so, that is predicted to be even a bit higher than 5.5% (currently we are giving 2.7%).  Would you pray with us that we would reach this goal? We want to generously give to others just as others have generously lavished through the years on us.

I loved what Dr. Gustavo Crocker said several months ago: “Before 1990, the missions motto was, ‘The West to the rest.’ But now we have a new motto: ‘The best to the rest.’” It truly does not matter where you come from; God is calling missionaries from everywhere to everywhere.

And that also means that everywhere has the privilege of sending and supporting missionaries financially. In the Church of the Nazarene, the World Evangelism Fund is the primary way we do that.  WEF has been an amazing and successful missions strategy to reach the nations.  Now we as the nations have the honor of giving back in order to see astonishing global impact.

But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Cor. 8:7).

Mission or Missions?

Scott Armstrong

Recently the Board of General Superintendents of the Church of the Nazarene made a subtle, but significant, change to the name of our missions sending arm of the denomination.  What was “Global Mission” will now be known as “Global Missions.”  As of September 5, 2018, this shift has been made, all materials have been changed, and new logos have been introduced.

Some might wonder if adding an “s” to the name is just semantics.  However, that small adjustment is designed to help differentiate between the overall mission of the entire Church and the specific missions entity of the Church. As Christians (and Nazarenes) everywhere, we are sent in mission, and that mission is global in nature:

            —“…That my salvation would reach to the ends of the earth…” (Is. 49:6)

            —“Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt. 28:19)

            —“For God so loved the world…” (Jn. 3:16)

            —“And you will be my witnesses…to the uttermost parts of the earth…” (Acts 1:8)

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Missions typically refers to the emphasis within the greater church that focuses on the mobilization and support of missionaries to other cultures.  Thus, Global Missions is a more appropriate title for the missionary sending branch of the denomination.  Again, mission is not relegated to a specific program or sub-ministry of the Church.  It is for all of us, everywhere, at all times.

This change affects our ministry in Mesoamerica perhaps more so than other ministries.  After all, the name of our ministry has been World Mission, and now Global Mission, for 18 years.  Nevertheless we are adopting these changes with open arms and will now be known as Global Missions Mesoamerica as well.  The purpose remains the same: Discover, Develop, and Deploy missionaries from our region to the world.

If you have any questions please leave a comment in the section below.  And let’s pray that God would guide us as a Church in His mission in the coming days.

United in Christ to Serve – Mesoamerica

Greetings from Panama City and the Mesoamerica Regional Office! We have gathered in these days as ministry coordinators and other elected representatives and leaders from our Church in order to celebrate what is known as Regional Advisory Committee meetings.  The RAC (for short) is an important time where we report on the past year’s challenges and successes as well as look forward to what God’s vision holds for us in the coming year.  It is a time of prayer and camaraderie, but decisions are also made that will direct our ministries in the months and years to come.  Please pray for this time!

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One of the things I love most about these meetings is the representation from so many countries and backgrounds.  In fact, a video has been recently released by our Mesoamerica Communications team that shows quite a panorama of the vibrant cultures prevalent all across our 34 countries. You will see different ages, ethnicities, ministries, and languages represented – but all are serving the same God!  It is truly a privilege to minister in the Mesoamerica Region!  Enjoy!

Prayer Requests – Grenada

As we met recently with Crystalla Williams and Cleon Cadogan, closing out their time in Grenada as missionaries with Genesis, they shared the following prayer requests.  Please accompany them in this transition time as they pray for the people and places they have left and prepare for the new doors God will open for them as they return home:

Prayer Requests

For the Fontenoy Church of the Nazarene

1) For Pastor Alvin Forsyth, Min. Elizabeth Forsyth, Natisha Benjamin (daughter and church board secretary), Alvonn and Kareem Forsyth (not yet Christians).

2) For the Church Board: that there will be commitment to their calls and that they would function in their ministry rolls with excellence and passion.

3) For church members: that they would grow in faith, love and unity and that everyone will rise up to do, be and go.

4) For the youth of the community: that they would find direction amidst a confusing and manipulating world.

5) For evangelism and discipleship to become engrained in the church’s DNA.

6) For greater opportunities to minister in the community.

7) For the new community (Concord) we began working in at the end of May.  Pray that persons will stand up and walk into the graces that God has called them to.

8) For financial stability.

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For the Content Church of the Nazarene, officially organized August 13, 2017

1) For the pastor and his family: Alister Douglas, Lorraine Douglas and their children (one of whom is in medical school).

2) For the work of God to continue to grow in their community.

3) That, as the only church in that neighborhood, God will use them to transform a whole community.

4) For them to become a church-planting church within the next 2-3 years.

5) That land becomes available for the building of a sanctuary.

6) For the youth in the community to find purpose and strength in God.

7) That discipling of the new believers will be thorough and that they will understand who they are in Christ and as Nazarenes.

Personal Prayer Requests of Cleon and Crystalla:

1) That persons ministered to in Grenada will continue to grow in Christ.

2) For an easy transition back into life at home.

3) For their families, who have greatly missed them in their absence.

4) For a job to support housing and living expenses.

5) For all their relationships.

6) For a door to open for them to continue studying other cultures and languages.

7) That God would provide mentors for those that they are leaving behind in Grenada.

8) For their home churches and countries: that the transition back into ministry will be smooth.

Vacation Bible Schools Amid Economic Crisis

Churches across Venezuela are continuing to reach out to their communities despite the current economic crisis. At least 60 Vacation Bible Schools representing 75 percent of the country’s organized churches have been planned through September.

Many residents have emigrated from the country in search of better work opportunities, resulting in a rapid decline in public school attendance and an estimated 20 percent membership decline in the Church of the Nazarene in Venezuela. 

Despite the economy, the work of Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International has not stopped, and the regional, national, and district coordinators are working on ways to promote and support these VBS camps.

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The Church of the Nazarene in Calabozo has already held two camps, including one at a church plant in Ciudad de Dios for 200 children. The other was held the following week, hosting 179 children and youth. 

In the eastern part of the country, the Renacer church in Punta de Mata held a VBS where 70 children and youth participated. In the Llanos District, which has the largest number of Churches of the Nazarene in Venezuela, the Cambios and Los Pozones churches held their VBS camps, with 70 and 84 children, respectively. Most of the other churches will wait until after the National Youth Camp during the last week of August to host their own VBS camps.

“We thank the Lord for so many workers who have made their time, energy, and resources available to plant the seed of God’s Word in the generations to come,” said Leda DeGouveia, national SDMI coordinator. “We are counting on your support in prayer that our God would revive His work in the midst of times like these.”

This article was originally published at: Church of the Nazarene South America

Called unto Holiness – Part 3 of 3

This week we have been exploring the characteristics of a holy life as outlined by Dr. Nina Gunter.  We have reproduced the introduction and the first part of the body of her sermon “Called unto Holiness.” Now we finish this message by detailing the final five traits of a holiness people.

  1. Holistic faith (life) based upon the provenance and preeminence of God.

He is the source of all we are, and He is Lord of all we do.The disciplines are integrated.

Everything is permeated with God’s presence . . . all we are7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and all we do.

Our lives are not compartmentalized.  It is God in us—in all: at home, work/office, school, church, traveling—a living out of the reality of God’s constant presence.

John Wesley’s question at the beginning of his class meetings was, “How goes it with your soul?” Holistic faith influences every walk of life.

  1. Purposeful hearts based on the love of God.

The love of God—the unconditional, holy love of God—is the bottom line.  It is the heart of God’s message.

This is about the theology of love . . . God’s love is not based on performance.  God’s love is not based on good works, but on the love, grace, and mercy of God Himself.

We are who we are—children of God—because we are filled with God’s love.  This love empowers us to be people of integrity and authenticity. God is serious about our loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. This is the essence of holiness.

Be holy. 

Be my witnesses. Being comes before doing. 

Be the people of God.

  1. Servant leadership based upon the servant mind of Christ.

“Jesus humbled Himself.” He girded Himself with the towel of Service.  He was interested in the towel—not toys, titles, and trinkets.

We serve God in ministry to people.

We empty our rights in submission to God’s right.

Illustration:  A pastor in the Democratic Republic of Congo walked for days to get to Assembly to be ordained.  He was asked the traditional questions by the General Superintendent:  Do you preach holiness?  Do your people understand holiness?  How do you know?  His answer: “When problems arise we come together.  We identify the problem, then together in love seek the solution.”

Holy people empty themselves of themselves to serve God’s purposes.

  1. Meaningful work based upon the call of God.

The meaningof our work is not seen through the results—even though that is important.  No – the meaning of our workis based on the call of God.

We believe in a God-called ministry.

Did you hear “The Voice”?

It is the heart of God.  Behind the voice is a person. That’s God.

Where is the value in what we do?  Not the money…not the benefits.  But there is a Caller who gives our work meaning and purpose.

That caller does not leave us or forsake us.  When the clouds are low, the nights long, and the duties many—The Caller is there giving meaning to all we do.  Psalm 46:10

There is no God-forsaken place. 

  1. Restored self based on the image of God.

A sense of being broken drives people to seek wholeness to be restored.

Salvation is the restoration of God’s image in us.

            “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.

              Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

              All the King’s horses and all the King’s men

              Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.”

But God can put people back together again.

We Nazarenes believe no one is so lost but what he/she can be found—no one so bad but what he/she can be redeemed—no one so far gone but what he/she can’t come back.

If you are convinced you have a treasure, it’s easy to recommend it to others.

In every person, there is the covered-up image of God. 

Holiness will never be a dated theology because human nature has not changed.  Holiness is about God’s nature transforming our nature to be like his nature.

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Therefore, we can preach a message of hope and holiness.  The holiness message is a message of hope.

We can be delivered from the power of sin!  We can be purified, wholly sanctified, empowered with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, restored in the image of God.

There are crisismoments in this.  And there is processin this.

God can deliver us from whatever is in our lives that is contrary to the nature of God that puts us in bondage.

Closing:

John Wesley: “I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist in Europe of America.  But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.  And this undoubtedly will be the case unless they hold fast the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.”

Nazarenes, what is our basic doctrine, spirit, and discipline? It is the same as John Wesley defined for the Methodists—that Nazarenes experienceand growin holiness of heart and life.

The greatest compliment paid to you as districts, churches, offices, or schools:  A holy God walks among holy people in this place.

Is the holiness movement alive in your district?  At the Global Ministries Center?  Your church? Your school?  Your home?

It’s in your hands.

Called unto Holiness – Part 2 of 3

In the previous blog entry, I shared the introduction to a classic holiness message by Dr. Nina Gunter.  Today and in the final installment of the week, I am providing the remainder of her sermon.

In the 11 pages of the Historical Statement of our Manual, the words holiness and sanctification are referenced more than 70 times.

Holiness is our calling.

Holiness is our impetus.

Holiness is our passion.

Holiness is our fire.

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  • People are asking questions about holiness.
  • Mainline denominations are wanting to know more about the holiness movement.
  • The Roman Catholic church is asking questions. In fact, they sent a representative to the Wesleyan Holiness Study Project meeting.
  • Young people are drawn to the integrative force of the holiness message.

The Board of General Superintendents with general superintendents and bishops of the Wesleyan tradition participated, through Board representation, in a consortium to define the holiness movement.

The convenor, Kevin Mannoia, former bishop of the Free Methodist church and currently the graduate chaplain at Azusa Pacific University, released 10 phrases (the first five of which will be shared here, and the last five later this week) that are descriptors or characteristics of the holiness movement.

  1. Transformed character based, in large part, in the otherness of God.

We too will be “other.”

We have received the mandate: “Do not conform to this world.”

  • Jesus prayed for His followers, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
  • As believers, we are “set apart.”
  • Jesus gave Himself for us and purified for Himself “a peculiar people” or “a special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:14
  • This does not mean we are extreme—if so, we would tend toward being sectarian. But we areto be a special people.
  • The community around will then see the followers of Christ as a different people with godly values, Christian principles, right attitudes, and as honest, upright citizens.
  • Across the years, all over the world, the Church of the Nazarene has gone where we were not wanted, stayed, and lived Christ-like until the community said, “Don’t leave. We can’t do it without you.”
  1. Responsible engagement based in God’s incarnation.

God was not satisfied to be “other”, but rather took the initiative to live with and in us.

As a result, we take the initiative to engage in that which is broken among us.  This is the Missio Dei that derives from the nature of God.

Social and Missional engagement—incarnational expressions of personal and social holiness.

This includes ministry—making Christ-like disciples in all nations.  You cannot separate holiness and missions.

This missional engagement is here—there—everywhere—and includes ministry among the poor, disenfranchised, and marginalized.  It engages us to redress injustice.  Now we join with God in His purposes.  This is the optimism of grace.  Grace brings wholeness out of chaos.

The Missio Dei (The Mission of God) is best understood in the language of the Kingdom.  Kingdom living embraces God in worship in the midst of transnational, multilingual, multicultural, and transgenerational settings.

  1. Healthy relationships based upon the triune nature of God.

      Relationships based on the Kingdom model of mutuality.

  • Voluntary submission
  • Unity out of diversity

There is no unity until first there is diversity.  If there is no unity, there is no power.

  • We disagree, but we don’t destroy.

It was said of the New Testament church, “See how they love one another.”  That is, “See how they get along, accept each other, include each other.”

Healthy relationships are characteristic of a holy people—a holy church.

The Holy Spirit is the great unifier.  The proof of the Spirit is the works of love.  John Wesley spoke of a “pure love to God and men.”  God sanctifies together.

  1. Wise decisions based on the free choice of God to impart free will.

God has graced us with the freedom of choice.

Determinationdoesn’t make sense.

Wisdomcomes from the presence of Christ in us.

“If we lack wisdom, ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

God gives us freedomto use the wisdom He gives us.

  1. Curious thinking based upon the awesomeness of God.

            In His creativity God made us in His image.  He releases His creativity in us.  God is not a micro-manager.  He is the Creator and He hands it off to humanity.  God said, “You go rule over the earth.  You take care of my creation.”

            This curious thinking relates to our philosophy of liberal arts.  We pursue God in all the disciplines . . . with all the adventures . . . all the great discoveries.  We become lifelong learners of God’s truth . . . of His world . . . His people.

Therefore, the church embraces education—liberal arts—learning.

J.B. Chapman said, “We must build schools or die as a church.  We must be spiritually right, intellectually correct and scholastically strong.”  In a holiness movement, there is curious, critical thinking based upon the awesomeness of God.

***The rest of this sermon will be published later this week.