The Church is Praying

Throughout the Mesoamerica region NMI is mobilizing the church in prayer, inside and outside the church building, the place is not important. God is blessing His church through prayer! 

Seventy members from six different churches in the Veracruz Central Zone in the Mexico Gulf District gathered on Sept. 1 at the House of Prayer Mission for a special time of prayer.

They prayed for pastors and leaders in the zone, their district, the Mesoamerica Region, missionaries, Genesis Project participants, safety and their government. They also took time to anoint those who were ill.

The event happened as a result of an invitation from Nazarene Missions International (NMI) in the Veracruz Zone to the local churches to share a time of prayer and breakfast together. Since the space was small, they moved outside to an area that the locals call The Lakes, where they held the prayer meeting in the open air.

Each church brought an assigned dish. The full group closed the activity by eating together and sharing a time of fellowship.

“We thank God for the chance He gave us to hold this event that strengthened the bonds between brothers,” said Carlos G. Quijano, a Global NMI Council member who represents the Mesoamerica Region.

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This article was originally published at: Church of the Nazarene Mesoamerica

Missionary Trip to Linden Zone

A sixteen-person team from the Guyana Demerara/Essequibo District, led by NMI President Augustus Andres and District Superintendent Rev. Dr. R. Alphonso Porter, traveled to the Linden Zone, Guyana, for a mission trip from Aug. 11 to Aug. 17. They sought to serve both the physical and spiritual needs in the area.

They had the opportunity to minister in all four churches on the Linden Zone at their Sunday morning service. They also attended evening services at Wismar, Lower Omai and Christianburg Churches of the Nazarene. “The services were well attended and God moved mightily,” observed Andrews. Many recommitted or gave their lives to Christ. The team was amazed to see the people traveling by boat, the only means of transportation, to attend the serve at the Lower Omai Church of the Nazarene. The team also had a chance to hold early-morning prayer meetings at three of the four churches. “(The prayer services) were very refreshing and God’s hand was at work in extraordinary ways,” wrote Andrews.

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Members of the team assisted in conducting Vacation Bible School at the Wismar and Christianburg Churches of the Nazarene. The children had a grand time “Discovering the Mystery of God’s Plan.” An average of 60 children attended the event at the Wismar Church of the Nazarene, and 14 children gave their lives to God. The VBS at the Christianburg Church of the Nazarene had an average attendance of 45 children daily. Four children gave their lives to Christ. In the evening service, 37 people recommitted their lives to God and 18 accepted Christ as their Savior.

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The team made house-to-house visits in Christianburg during which they prayed for people and invited them to the services. They also aided in repairing the bridge for one person they visited. The District Women’s Ministry President, Allison Porter, along with other members of the team attended the McKenzie Church of the Nazarene Women’s Ministry session on Tuesday evening. In addition, on Wednesday evening, another group from the team shared information a Mission’s Conference in Barbados.

The district focused on physical needs as well as spiritual ones, and so they distributed food baskets to 44 homes, painted the fence at the Wismar Church of the Nazarene, and poured the floor of a shed at the Christianburg Church of the Nazarene.

“The team was welcomed and their hard work well-appreciated by the churches on the Linden Zone. They are truly grateful to God for moving in miraculous ways as they availed themselves to be used by Him,” concluded Andrews.

This article was originally published at: Church of the Nazarene Mesoamerica

3 Ways to Become the Godly Elders/Mentors Today’s Youth Need – and Want to Follow

By Karl Vaters

The best way to help foster the Fruit of the Spirit in others is not by demanding it of them, but by living it out with them.

This generation wants to honor its elders and be mentored by them.

That may not feel like it’s true – especially if you, like me, are old enough to qualify for senior citizen membership. But I assure you it is.

I know this because I see it all the time. Youth, both in and outside the church walls are looking for genuine relationships with their elders.

They want to learn, connect and grow. They want to be mentored and discipled.

No, not all of them. Most of us didn’t consciously want that when we were their age, either. But in my experience, more of today’s youth want godly older men and women in their lives than we did when we were their age.

Becoming The Elders They Need Us To Be

A couple weeks ago, I wrote, Hey, Boomers! Let’s Step Up And Be The Elders The Church Desperately Needs Right Now, and got a lot of feedback – most of it very encouraging.

But there was some pushback as well. All of the criticism expressed the same viewpoint: today’s youth may need to have elders in their lives, but it’s impossible to find any who are truly willing to be discipled.

So why is there such a difference in the experiences some older believers have with younger ones? And how can we do this better?

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I think it comes down to three primary factors, all of which have more to do with how we, as elders, approach our role than how the youth behave or how they feel.

1. Meet Them Where They Are

Elders need to be willing to meet today’s youth on their turf instead of demanding that they come to ours.

Start by serving, not demanding.

Living and walking along with them, not just talking at them.

This means listening before speaking. Really hearing what they are going through.

When we do that, we’ll discover that they have three types of challenges.

First, they have challenges that are obviously universal. How to negotiate relationships and make wise decisions for instance. On those, we can offer wisdom from our own experience in Christ.

Second, they will express ideas and desires that will seem strange at first (like their choice of entertainment or wanting tattoos), but the more we listen, the more we’ll find common ground. Underneath most of those choices is a desire to both fit in and stand out. When we were younger we felt the same confusion, but expressed it in different ways. (Remember how our parents reacted to our hairstyles and choice of music?) In those situations, we can share wisdom from our common underlying needs, even if we don’t share their tastes.

Finally, there are the challenges they face that truly are different from anything we had to face. For instance, it’s likely that our kids’ and grandkids’ generation will, for the first time in our nation’s history, make less money than their parents did. They’re also facing a culture that is increasingly indifferent, even hostile to a Christian witness. None of that is their fault, but they have to live in the fallout of it. In such situations, the greatest gift we may have for them won’t be good advice, but a listening, sympathetic ear and prayerful, loving friendship.

To become the effective elders the next generation needs, we must have a similar approach as missionaries do when they go in to a culture that is new, and therefore feels strange and sometimes scary to us. In such situations, humility goes a long way. We have to listen and learn before we will have anything to teach.

2. Be Worth Listening To

We need to behave like elders worthy of honor. Living lives that people want to emulate. Following Jesus with such joy, passion and hopefulness that others can’t help but be drawn to him.

If you have a hard time finding young people who want to be mentored, seriously ask yourself this question. Are you behaving in a way that is worthy of being honored? Are you truly setting an example to follow? Not just in (self)righteous behavior, but in selfless generosity and humble teachability.

No one wants to listen to an old crank with a “what’s wrong with youth today?” mentality or a “when I was your age we knew how to respect our elders” attitude.

As elders, it is not our job to convict of sin or correct their behavior. That’s Jesus’ job. And he does it very well.

It’s our job to love them. To lead by example as we live a life of humility, holiness, patience and joy.

Certainly there will be moments of correction. But we have to earn the right to do that by showing ourselves to be trustworthy first.

The best way to help foster the Fruit of the Spirit in others is not by demanding it of them, but by living it out with them.

3. Help Them Be Like Jesus, Not Like Us

The goal of an elder or a Christian mentor is not to help the next generation become more like us. It’s to help them become more like Jesus. The only way we can do that is becoming more Christlike ourselves.

The current and coming generations don’t want to do church the way we did it. This is a good thing.

Becoming like your elders isn’t discipleship, it’s mimicry. Repeating their habits and behaviors isn’t growth, it’s going through the motions.

When elders become more like Jesus, we show those coming behind us how to do it too.

When elders become more like Jesus, we show those coming behind us how to do it too. Then, when they become more like Jesus, they’ll challenge us to keep growing even more. Each serving and blessing the other in an upward cycle of faith.

A servant will always become like their master. But an elder isn’t a master. An elder follows the Master, and helps others follow him, too.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

What to do When People Want a Church to Grow…but not Change – Part 2 of 2

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

3. Ban Delusional Talk

Those of us who resist change are often delusional.

I can continue to be rude to my spouse and our marriage will get better.

I can slack off at work and get a better performance review.

I can get abs of steel in a workout that lasts 60 seconds.

Most of us become crazy people when we’re fighting change.

So, as a leader, ban delusional talk around your table. 

Call it out. In love, let people see how crazy their thinking really is.

I know you love Southern Gospel music but most of the teens we want to reach don’t.

I realize you love our organization just the way it is, but the average age of our attenders is 65.

I know you think a new building will solve all our problems, but why can’t we solve them in our current half-empty facility?

Don’t let your leaders be delusional.

4. Get An Outside View

Familiarity breeds contempt and distorts perspective. If your team doesn’t immediately respond healthily to a call for change, you might be ripe for an outside voice to help you arrive at a new place.

This would be the perfect time to read a book together, attend a conference, or (best yet), hire a consultant. If the future is at stake, it’s not a bad investment to spend the money on an outside perspective.

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5. Offer Constant Feedback

As you move through these conversations, keep people honest. It will be hard. But you need to do this.

Continue to point the group back to the truth. Honestly, gracefully, but truthfully.

Just keep snapping people back to reality.

I say this because it will require herculean effort to ensure you don’t end up hoping for a diet-pill and cupcake solution. There is probably little gain without significant pain.

6. Draw A Line And Call It For What It Is

At some point you have to stop talking and start doing.

Here’s my suggestion. If you’ve been in an honest dialogue for at least a year and are not making progress (that is, you haven’t made a plan for change you are ready to act on), you have come to a moment of truth.

At some point, you just need to tell everyone where you have landed.

So our plan for change is to implement X, Y and Z by this date. Let’s do it!

Or

So essentially we have decided that we will not grow. We are content with the status quo. We will not change. And we will live with the consequences of stagnation, decline and decay.

Guess what? 99% of leaders will never utter the second statement.

And that’s why they’re stuck. That’s why they’re perpetually frustrated.

But that second statement is exactly what you need to say if that’s your reality.

And then—are you ready?—you need to decide whether you want to lead that organization.

This isn’t easy at all, but I do think it can help leaders who feel stuck leading an organization that says it wants to grow but doesn’t want to change.

This article was originally published at: Careynieuwhof.com

What to do When People Want a Church to Grow…but not Change – Part 1 of 2

By Carey Nieuwhof

I’ve heard it several times this week already this week from different sources.

One of the tensions many of us wrestle with as leaders who are trying to navigate change happens when people tell us:

I want our church to grow. I just don’t want it to change. 

Every time I hear or read that, my brain says “Ugh”.

As much as I think that’s a dumb reality to live in, it’s a reality so many of us face in leadership.

How do you respond when people want a church (or organization) to grow, but not change?

Here, eat this bacon cheeseburger

The problem you and your organization are facing is a challenge a lot of us experience in life.

Isn’t wanting to grow but not really change actually like saying “I want to lose weight, but I really want a bacon cheeseburger”?  Well, yes, it’s exactly like that.

People hire personal trainers all the time to help them lose weight.

A trainer’s message is not revolutionary.

It is almost never “just take this diet pill and you will magically lose 50 pounds while eating cupcakes.” Yet most of us want to believe that we can take a pill and eat cheeseburgers and cupcakes and lose weight. At least I do.

A good personal trainer’s advice is always some variation of “eat smaller portions, eat healthy foods, exercise and make sure your calorie input is less than your calorie output”.

And people pay them money—lots of money—to tell them what they already know to be true.

You’re not that different as an organizational leader. Really.

Six things you can do

As a leader, don’t try to navigate change in a congregational meeting. You will get stuck in the mud before you know what’s happening. 50 people or 500 people won’t agree on anything. And they will certainly never agree on anything courageous. (I talk more about navigating the dynamics of change in my book, Leading Change Without Losing It).

Sit down with your real leadership team—your board, your key staff, or even a new group you form for the purpose—and start the conversation.

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As you lead that conversation, here are 6 things you can do to tackle the challenge of leading a group that wants to grow but doesn’t want to change

1. Tell The Truth

Usually we hire trainers, coaches, counselors and consultants to tell us the truth we kind can’t see or, often, already know but won’t face.

That’s my job and your job as the leader of an organization: we need to help people see the truth.

So what’s the truth about wanting to grow but not wanting to change?

It’s quite simple.  Your patterns, habits and level of effectiveness as a church got you to where you are now.

If you want your current level of effectiveness, keep doing what you’re doing right now.

If you don’t want your current level of effectiveness, change.

It actually isn’t much more complicated than that.

Sometimes great leadership is simply about pointing out the truth that nobody else wants to talk about.

You need to do this in love, but often our desire to be loving kills our need to be truthful.

So, as a leader, help people see the truth.

2. Plot Trajectory

Learning how to plot trajectory is one of the best skills a leader can bring to the table.

Plotting trajectory is simply mapping out the probable course or path an organization, person or object is on. This is critical because usually, when it comes to people and organizations, we’re not sure where we’re headed.

To plot trajectory, ask two questions:

If we continue doing what we’re doing today, where will we be 1 year, 2 years and 5 years from now?

If we change X, where will we be 1 year, 2 years and 5 years from now?

Sure, you don’t know for sure where you end up, but if you start asking the question, you’ll be amazed at what you discover. Try it.

*This article will continue in the next post.

4 Ways to Involve Everyone in Evangelism

By Ed Stetzer

Many people have slipped into the mindset that evangelism is a gift that some believers have and others do not. The reality is that when someone becomes reconciled to God, He sends them out to reconcile others. That’s not a gift—we all have the responsibility to take Christ to others.

Pastoral leadership can go a long way in shifting those mindsets. Pastors can and should equip the church body to understand their role in evangelization. Among other things, a church can do four things to encourage the spirit and practice of evangelism.

  1. Build Relationships

Only a very few hear the gospel or show up at church without first being in relationship. Most people who come to Christ are invited by a person they know.

God calls us to evangelize, including our family, friends, and neighbors. He invites us to invite others. Personal relationships are the best way to reach out.

Your friends trust you when you talk about restaurants, plumbers, and baby sitters. That same trust gives each believer an open door to introduce their friends to Jesus.

  1. Encourage Engagement

Sometimes the world gets the wrong idea that being a Christian means our lives are perfect. They feel disconnected and unworthy. So whenever we can remind our people and those looking in that we are all in need of a Savior, it breaks down walls that keep people from Christ and the Church.

The church and its people must understand that no one gets through a broken world unbroken. So as they go back out throughout the week, they should connect with broken people as broken people who have met the One who restores. They should offer restoration through Christ. That is evangelism.

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  1. Inclusive Events

Some parts of church are more exclusive. The Lord’s Supper, baptism, even some small groups are just for believers. But a church has the freedom, and really a responsibility, to have gatherings where seekers feel welcome—places where they are ready for company.

One of those low-threshold events is an annual Easter egg hunt. You ramp up by involving the whole church. They bring their friends, neighbors, and families.

Do these events where everyone can be involved. Why? Events can show love for our community and increase visibility to invite people to our church. Multiple relationships can form in these open and inclusive events. These relationships can ultimately lead back to Christ.

  1. Teach Well

The Easter egg event mentioned above is an inroad. But the greater thing happens when we actually preach on the resurrection—we want to bridge relationships from something as simple as a children’s event, to something as important as the gospel.

And, we don’t just preach about the resurrection on one Sunday.

Our people understand that after they bring their friends to the church community event, there will be an intense Gospel thrust in the following weeks. We call each other, and the Life Group leaders make calls. Everyone knows that everyone should invite their friends to hear about Jesus.

We teach the gospel well and over and over.

Holistic Approach

It’s a full-court press. We do all of these things in waves at the same time, but we don’t do them all the time. Spring and fall, summer and winter, on mission to share Jesus.

Everyone is on board. Everyone understands that our church leadership will provide opportunities for their friends to hear the Gospel, but their friends are their responsibility.

I don’t know their friends. They do. I can’t invite their friends. They can. And they must. Evangelism is everyone’s responsibility.

We can complain about the lack of evangelistic activity in our churches, but this goes back to leadership. We as leaders create the culture of evangelism. When the church sees we are intentional and serious about creating a pathway, they will be more likely to engage their friends and invite them on the pathway.

What has your church done to make sure everyone participates in evangelism? Why do you think people often drop the ball in the area of evangelism?

*This article was originally published at: Edstetzer.com

Pastor, Take a Vacation—for the Good of Your Church – Part 2 of 2

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

4 Commitments to Combat Vacation Anxiety

  1. I commit to being honest about my vacation anxiety.

Some anxiety is appropriate. As the leader, I am responsible for ensuring that leadership is being raised up and trained to do the work of ministry. My husband and I are ultimately responsible for having all our bases covered. Pastors who leave town without a thought to what might go on in their absence send a message of disengaged inattentiveness.

However, some types of anxiety are not only inappropriate—they are toxic to my soul and lead to the sin of idolatry. I have to ask myself,

  • Is my anxiety rooted in fear or in a compulsive need to please the people of my congregation?
  • Am I micromanaging the people around me and doubting their ability to do good work without my presence?
  • Have I taken undue responsibility for the Spirit’s movement among the people of God to the extent that I believe that, apart from my physical presence, the Spirit will not (or even cannot) move?
  • Is my identity so rooted in my vocation that the idea of time away from work is disorienting and unsettling?

These are not easy questions to answer honestly, but my answers reveal the ways in which my heart veers toward that “blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.”

  1. I commit to going.

Yes, I will actually take my vacation. This requires wisdom and discernment. It’s probably not ideal to take two weeks of vacation in the middle of Advent. But I won’t kid myself into thinking every church function requires me to be there in the flesh. I will work to empower my leaders, be they pastoral staff or lay leaders, and then let them do their jobs. Equipping the saints for ministry is sacred work.

  1. I commit to being absent.

When I leave, I will be as fully “gone” as possible. This may not require a costly overseas escape. A simple, affordable “staycation” will work just as well, if I take the call to absence seriously. That means I will need to communicate clearly that I will not be responding to emails, calls, or texts. But that’s not enough. I must follow through and stay off my phone and email! I will probably disconnect from social media as well. It has the power to make us present in mind and spirit to the wrong things, even when we are absent in the body.

I will, of course, leave emergency contact info with someone who I trust to respect my absence—someone who understands the definition of emergency.

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  1. I commit to being present.

Being absent is only half the battle. As I embrace the call to absence from work, I must accept the challenge to be present—to my family, to my body, and to my spirit.

Present to my family. I commit to paying attention to my loved ones in intentional ways. Even if I don’t go on a lavish trip or even leave town, I will find a way to spend quality time with my family.

Present to my body. So much of pastoral work is work of the mind. After a long day of sermon prep, I find that I have left my seat perhaps only twice, but I am exhausted from the mental fatigue of studying. During times of increased stress and anxiety, my body lets me know through stomachaches, tight shoulders, and jaw tension—once so severe I could barely chew! I will use the time of absence from work to be present to my body through physical movement and bodily care. Exercise, even a simple walk, reminds me that I am a whole person, not a disembodied spirit or mind.

Present to my spirit. It never fails that when I have a moment of stillness, anxiety pounces on my peace. My initial reaction is to flee or distract. Hurry, get busy! If I’m constantly moving, anxiety can’t slither in. Or, Start that Netflix binge! My mind will be too busy with the steady stream of entertainment for anxiety to get a word in. In her book Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind, Jennifer Shannon says this is the wrong approach to our anxiety. It sends the false message that the fear we are experiencing is dangerous and should be avoided. But it’s not dangerous; it’s just uncomfortable. Shannon encourages her readers to open their minds and hearts to the anxiety and to sit with the discomfort, thereby debunking anxiety’s lies and stealing its power.

As I sit with the discomfort, I ask the Lord to remind me that I am his beloved, and with me, the Lord is well pleased. I confess the ways in which I have sought to do God’s work on God’s behalf. I ask the Spirit to heal the wounds that led me to these anxious behaviors.

Vacation as Co-laboring

Without a doubt, taking vacation as a pastor can be a challenge. But time away is not merely important—it is essential for both the pastor and the congregation. Those of us who bear the mantle of pastor need to be reminded that we are not the head of the church. Christ is.

Pastors are not, as Eugene Peterson puts it, “the linchpin holding a congregation together.” We are co-laborers with our flocks, cooperating with the Holy Spirit who is doing the work of calling, comforting, and convicting. Our congregations need a reminder that pastoral vacations can deliver blessings as well. They are not to be passive consumers of what the “professional” pastor has to offer, but rather to be engaged, contributing members of the body of Christ.

By refusing to participate in the blasphemous anxiety to do the work of God for him and confessing the idolatry in our own hearts, we will shape our congregation to follow Jesus faithfully—more faithfully than 365 consecutive days of work ever could.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I need to get back to planning my vacation.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today