I Learned to Listen to His Voice

I am Marvin Ac, I received Jesus Christ in 2008, after leaders of the church shared with me the Good News. I was baptized as a witness of my new life in Christ and by a public statement of my new faith in Jesus.

I was one of the first to receive a diploma in Youth Ministry offered by the Church of the Nazarene in 2010. It was during this time I received the tools necessary to encourage me to have a more effective ministry and provided me the understanding and need to go into all the nations and make Christ-like disciples.

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To accomplish this, I made the decision to serve as a volunteer missionary with the Genesis Initiative in Veracruz, Mexico from 2014 – 2016. This was a wonderful experience where I saw the glory of God manifested in my life and in the lives of others when they recognized Him as their Lord and Savior. It was during this time, I recognized that I was not only would give, but  receive as well. Genesis helped me to rely completely on God in all areas of my life.

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While with Genesis, I also learned to listen to His voice and to understand more of His faithfulness. I learned to see His presence glow on the faces of those who praised and sought Him in prayer. I can say with certainty today, that being a part of Genesis was the most important decision I’ve made in my life. I will never regret having the opportunity to serve and be a blessing to the people in Veracruz.

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The Lord took what I learned from Genesis and led me to where I am today, serving as missionary pastor in Mission “La Loma.” This is a mission we’ve started from what was once just a concept. We currently have a children’s ministry and a small group of adult teachers and leaders.

The king proclaims the Lord’s decree: “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession. Psalm 2:7-8

“Enlarge your house; build an addition. Spread out your home, and spare no expense! For you will soon be bursting at the seams. Your descendants will occupy other nations and resettle the ruined cities. Isaiah 54:2-3

Trickle-Down Evangelism

By Jeff Christopherson

Are disciples becoming disciple-makers?

Does trickle-down evangelism work? If we feed the disciple enough, will he or she become a powerhouse warrior for the Kingdom of God?

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Here’s the version you’re most likely to hear: “We have to focus on our people. So many of them are immature and in desperate need of spiritual instruction. If we prioritize the growth and maturity of our people then that will have a trickle-down impact on their passion and ability to live on mission and share the gospel.” And so we design our churches for growth, consciously or unconsciously, through this filter.

This rationale at first seems prudent, but far too often the stated goal never comes to fruition. Rather than passionate, mobilized, mature believers, the church’s efforts end up fostering an inwardly-focused people who are increasingly isolated from the world they are commissioned to reach. Instead of a kingdom warrior, our trickle-down efforts seem only to muster an isolated, insulated, and evangelistically impotent churchman.

In reality, the longer it takes for new disciples to become disciple-makers, the more unlikely it is they will prioritize this work. Over time, the gravitational pull of their new relationships in the church will extract them from their relationships with others who are far from God and his church. The stronger the signal that church sends of ‘come and see’ over ‘go and tell,’ the less likely personal evangelism will ever take place. What’s worse, the more the pastor is observed as a ‘teller’ rather than ‘doer,’ the less likely the flock will be personally engaged in the work of evangelism.

So the trickle-down evangelism theory suffers from two fatal flaws: it creates a busy leadership that in their busyness become largely evangelistically unengaged; and, in our unending efforts to ‘equip,’ we have unintentionally isolated the mission force from the mission field.

New Believers and Evangelism

That’s why it’s vital that we create structures to unleash new believers into the harvest immediately after conversion. Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul reminds believers that all those who have been reconciled to God through Christ have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16–21). This work isn’t for those who have crossed a certain threshold of sanctification; it is a mission given to all those who’ve trusted in Jesus for their salvation. “God saves and sends” isn’t a trite cliché; rather, it is the two-fold pattern God uses throughout Scripture and history to foster his missionary work in the world.

The temporal link between saving and sending maximizes the potential evangelistic impact and builds life rhythms that foster evangelistic intentionality throughout the new believer’s maturation process.

First, those who have recently come to faith are far more likely to live, learn, work, and play with those who are far from God and his church. Their previous patterns of life were likely infused with those in need of seeing and hearing the gospel. Not only are they in relationship with the lost, but these relationships are the prime context to model the transformation that the gospel brings.

Who better to notice the change of thought and practice that follows conversion than those friends who have seen the fruit of unrighteousness that once defined a person’s life? Since the relational bridge to these relationships is already in place, it is wise to immediately leverage them for the sake of the gospel.

Second, this level of evangelistic intentionality creates rhythms that should define the life of anyone seeking to walk faithfully with Christ. The malaise and apathy toward evangelism that far too often characterizes God’s church is likely attributable to the fact that many new believers internalized their church’s priorities which failed to engage them in evangelism early in their Christian walks.

As a result, in order for evangelistic fervor to mark God’s church once again, they must unlearn all sorts of habits that seem to imply that evangelism is an arbitrary add-on to an otherwise sufficient Christian life. Linking saving and sending allows the church to build healthy practices from the outset, rather than expecting healthy rhythms to mystically emerge after long contradictory patterns have already been forged.

This mindset need not imply that it’s unnecessary to equip and train believers to maturity. What’s at issue isn’t this laudable goal, but the pursuit of discipleship in a way that is disconnected from the work of evangelism. We can’t expect that an extracted disciple’s growth in maturity will trickle-down to a waiting harvest no matter the quality and quantity of the sacred buffet that we offer.

After all, if disciple-making is the assignment that Jesus gave his church, then evangelism really isn’t finished until the evangelized find themselves as evangelists and disciplers.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

First Cross-Cultural Orientation in Haiti

With 21 participants and a leadership team from three different countries, a Cross-Cultural Orientation (CCO) was held in Montrouis, Haiti from December 7 to 9, 2017.

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During each activity and workshop, there was an atmosphere of expectation; those who attended were eager to learn more about missions. Our Haitian brothers and sisters were enthusiastic to learn more about missionary service and how they, too, can be part of what God is doing through the Church of the Nazarene around the world.IMG_2920.JPG

Although this is the first CCO that has been held in this country, it will assuredly not be the last. It is undoubtedly exciting to see that God is calling people from everywhere to everywhere!

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Marc Versil, Global Mission Coordinator of the Haiti Field, said: “Thank you all for your prayers.  The CCO in Haiti was a very interesting and productive event, and we give all glory to God!”

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One participant shared: “The CCO made me know how I can be an effective missionary, and how to help people to know Christ and to be his disciples.”

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Finally, Scott Armstrong, Global Mission Regional Coordinator, said: “This was a historic event.  For the first-time ever the CCO was able to be held in Haiti, a country that has for many decades received missionaries.  It was encouraging to see, however, that God is calling missionaries from Haiti and they are responding!  It will be exciting to see how this country rises up as a sending and sustaining missionary force in the years ahead.”

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Wanted: New Church Methods For New Church People

By Karl Vaters

Changing the world with the Gospel of Jesus is less likely to happen using traditional methods with every passing year.

There’s nothing wrong with traditional methods of doing church. As long as you want to minister to traditional church members. Traditionalists (whatever your tradition may be) need places to worship, learn and be discipled. Too many of them have felt overlooked, even ridiculed, in recent years as many churches have rushed to make changes.

But, the traditional church member is dying out…literally.

If we truly want to change the world with the Gospel of Jesus, that is less likely to be done using traditional church methods with every passing year.

Traditional Church Methods Will Only Attract Traditional Church People

We need new ways of doing church. It’s ironic that I’m the guy saying say this. For at least two reasons.

First, I’m one of the traditional guys. A middle-aged, third generation pastor of a brick-and-mortar church with a mortgage and a full-time salary. Sure, the church I pastor has a slightly younger demographic than the average. And yes, we started dressing casually before most churches did. But if the sight of church members wearing jeans while sipping a coffee as they listen to the sermon feels radical – well, that’s just one evidence of how non-radical we really are.

Second, as a traditional church guy, I have no idea what I’m asking for. None. What would a truly God-breathed, Bible-honoring, life-transforming, people-reaching, radical change in the way we do church look like? I have no idea. But I do know this. We’re not just looking at one idea or one new way to do church. We need to be open to a whole lot of new ideas and new ways to do church. The days of landing on one particular church format, then promoting it as the right way to do church can’t end soon enough.

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Future Church Possibilities

Actually, there are a handful of principles that I think are likely to become more common in the next few years. I think the new, dynamic church is likely to be

  • Meeting in smaller, rather than bigger groups, even in big cities
  • In non-traditional sites
  • Locally grown and less generic
  • More hands-on in mission and outreach
  • More focused on relationship building
  • Highly adaptable, even experimental
  • Passionately focused on the core truths of God’s Word

At least I hope so.

Unfortunately, it’s also very likely that, while these new ways of doing church will be met with joy and relief by some, they will be met with skepticism and anger by many.

Step Up and Stand Out

If you’re crazy in love with Jesus and want to help other people fall crazy in love with Jesus, but you can’t figure out how to do that in a traditional local church setting, here’s my suggestion.

Stop trying to fit in.

Start standing out.

Start ministering the unchangeable truths of Jesus in ways that make sense for the people God is calling you to minister to, even if they’re the kinds of people who won’t come to a traditional church. Don’t worry about all the naysayers who will condemn you just because what you’re doing is different.

The church could use a boatload of different right now.

And I’m not the only old, traditional church guy who will be cheering you on, either. There are a lot of us. We may not know how to do it ourselves, but maybe we can be like Simeon and Anna. Maybe we can recognize Jesus when he shows up at the temple in a way no one else expected.

After all, the only “right” way to do church is any way that reaches people for Jesus.

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today.

 

Mission Briefing: 10/40 Window

By Howard Culbertson

About 30 years ago, missiologist Luis Bush coined the phrase “10/40 Window.” He did that to focus attention on a specific area of the world where millions of people have little or no access to the Gospel.

Bush asked believers to draw an imaginary rectangle on the globe, from 10 degrees north of the equator up to 40 degrees north of the equator, and stretching from western most Africa to just east of Japan. Pointing to that imaginary oblong “window,” Bush pleaded with the Church to mobilize prayer, people and resources to evangelize and disciple people in all of the unreached and least-reached people groups in the northern half of Africa, the Middle East, and the areas once ruled by the ancient Babylonian and Persian empires as well as much of Asia including India and China.

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The statistics from that 10/40 Window can be staggering. Two-thirds of all people on earth live in that rectangular area. Almost all of the world’s 55 least-evangelized countries are in the 10/40 Window. Half of the world’s least-evangelized large cities are in the 10/40 Window. The majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs live in the 10/40 Window.

Sadly, the 10/40 Window is also home to 8 out of 10 of the poorest of the earth’s poor.

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Many areas in the 10/40 Window are places that Nazarene Global Mission Director Verne Ward describes as “where the Church is not yet.” With just 10 percent of the current global Christian missionary force deployed there, that situation is not changing very rapidly. Unfortunately, almost 9 out of 10 of the people living in the 10/40 Window today remain outside the reach of current evangelistic efforts.

In several 10/40 Window countries, Christians suffer physical persecution and even death for their faith. Due to anti-Christian hostility and stringent government restrictions, many missionaries in the 10/40 Window have become creative in how they evangelize and disciple people. Many of the countries will not give visas to religious workers.  So they have been labeled Creative Access areas. For these and other reasons, Patrick Johnstone, of Operation World, has called this area the “resistant belt.”

Drawing attention to the evangelistic task yet to be done, the visually dramatic 10/40 Window concept has inspired many to offer themselves for missionary service in some of the world’s most difficult and challenging places.

Clearly, the countries of the 10/40 Window are not the only places that need missionaries. So, this is not a call to remove missionaries from other areas of the world and send them all to the 10/40 Window. The 10/40 Window countries are not the only ones in the world with sinners needing missionaries to cross cultural and language barriers to tell them about God’s redeeming grace. However, the 10/40 Window does contain huge blocs of people who, by any definition, are today unreached and unevangelized.

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We must pray that God will call more and more laborers into the countries in the 10/40 Window harvest field!

This article was originally published at: Engage Magazine

 

What is Luther’s Legacy?

This entire month we have been celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  Tomorrow will be 500 years to the day when Martin Luther sparked the Reformation by posting his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  Many of us know him for that epic act. Yet, what is the lasting legacy of Luther’s life and ministry five centuries later? Dr. Stephen Nichols see at least five main points of Luther’s legacy:

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  1. The solas. When we remember Luther, we cannot forget these foundational tenets of his theology. There is sola Scriptura, the doctrine that Scripture alone has final authority, and that Scripture guides and governs us. Then there’s sola gratia, sola fide, and solus Christus, in which we learn that salvation indeed is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Finally, Luther teaches of soli Deo gloria, that all is for the glory of God alone.
  2. Reform of church practice. Although we talk about his reforming of theology, we also must acknowledge Luther’s reformation of church “methodology.” Imagine showing up at church and feeling the desire welling up within you to sing praises to God. But you can’t—you have no hymns in your language, and there is no congregational singing in the service. Before Luther, this was the norm. So, when you stand up and sing a hymn and you join your voice with the other voices of the congregation in lifting praise to God, you can thank Martin Luther for restoring congregational singing and hymns to the life of the church.
  3. Preaching. Before Luther, the church service consisted mostly of the Mass, that is, the Lord’s Supper. There was an occasional homily during Advent or Lent, but preaching of the Word was not of central importance. Luther introduced the weekly sermon, where the pastor studies the Word of God and then brings that teaching to the people of God so they can be nourished and can grow as Christians. Sounds familiar, right? But what is widely accepted as obvious now was not 500 years ago.
  4. Family. Before the Reformation, there was not a high view of the family within the church, and Luther helped to redeem marriage and the family and helped to bring marriage and the family to a prominent place. Through his own family, his relationship with his wife, Katie, and to his children, he modeled what a Christian family looks like.
  5. Vocation. Luther had what we would call a “high theology” of vocation. He believed that whether you have some high church office or you have the lowest menial job, every kind of work can be viewed as a calling. Before Luther, it was only the monks, the nuns, and the priests who had a calling; everyone else simply worked in apparently “unholy” jobs. Luther helped us realize that all that we do can be for the glory of God as we serve Him through our vocations.

Those are the five points of Luther’s legacy that Nichols outlines. However, he says that there is really one, true, fundamental, and underlying point to Luther’s legacy, and that concerns the Word of God. He says, “There is a statue in Eisenach of Luther holding a Bible and pointing to it. I think Luther would prefer that the statue be of the Bible holding Luther, pointing us beyond him to pay attention to the Word of God. That is Luther’s legacy, because it is the Word of God that abides forever.”

Reformation Quiz

By Dr. Clark Armstrong

This month is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  We have enjoyed several reflections in the past two weeks, but now let’s take a simple five question quiz about the Reformation to see what has been learned so far?
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Click here to take the quiz online: Reformation Quiz

#1 – The start of the Protestant Reformation occurred when?

  1. The Gutenberg Bible was produced off the first printing press.
  2. Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the Castle Door at Wittenberg.
  3. John Hus was burned at the stake in Bohemia.
  4. John Calvin wrote “Institutes of the Christian Religion.”

#2 – The Reformation began on October 31 of what year?

  1. 1415
  2. 1452
  3. 1517
  4. 1536

#3 – The Protestant Reformation began as an attempt to reform what?

  1. The Roman Catholic Church
  2. The European Monarchies
  3. Certain Universities and Educational Institutions
  4. The Middle Earth Peoples.

#4 – True or False.

The Reformers opposed what they perceived as false doctrines and ecclesiastical malpractice — especially the teaching and the sale of indulgences (or the abuses thereof) and doctrinal policies about purgatory, particular judgment, Mariology (devotion to Mary, Jesus’s Mother), the intercession of and devotion to the saints, wrong beliefs about most of the sacraments, the mandatory clerical celibacy, including monasticism, the unbridled authority of the Pope and the practice of simony: the selling and buying of clerical offices.

#5 – Which of the following was a prominent point of the reformers?

  1. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone as our source of authority.)
  2. Sola Fide (Salvation is by faith alone and not by works.)
  3. The Priesthood of All Believers
  4. All of the above.

Bonus Question:

The Reformation continued until the Treaty of Westphalia brought the European religious wars to an official end in what year?

  1. 1492
  2. 1525
  3. 1597
  4. 1648

You probably correctly answered the majority of the first five questions. So what about the Bonus Question? It was 1648. That event signaled the end of the Reformation through the peaceful ending of what was called the Thirty Years war between the Habsburgs and their Catholic allies and the Protestants with their French allies.

The Catholic Church was not reformed, per se, by that date, but the Protestant churches were fully established by then.  After Luther, many other reformers came who extended the reformation attempt. But by 1648, it was clear that all attempts to reform the Catholic Church had not been successful and the severance of the protesters from the church was complete. They had established Protestant Churches that were independent from the Mother Church and were thriving in most parts of Europe except Italy.

Click here if you want to download the quiz (in PowerPoint format): Reformation Quiz PPT

*Dr. Clark Armstrong is a Missionary Professor at Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in Manila, Philippines where he has served with his wife Connie since September 2013. Previously he served as a pastor for 32 years in the United States.