A Community of Trust

By: Rev. Craig Shepperd

In the 2000 comedy hit, Meet the Parents, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller’s character) meets his future in-laws for the first time. Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) wants to make sure Greg is worthy of his daughter. Jack lays out several tests for Greg to pass to insure he is capable of being inside the family circle of trust. For many, church life seems to be a struggle of finding one’s place in the circle of trust. Often what is experienced is the most “overpromised and underdelivered” aspect of church: community.

So, how do we formulate a community of trust? This will not be an exhaustive offering by any stretch of the imagination. However, let me offer steps to guide our journey in community.

Warmth: “Warm is the new cool.”[1] People want to know they are more than invited, and they are more than just a number. They want a safe place to belong to. Warm relationship trumps programming. One pastor in the Growing Young research admitted, “We can hire and buy cool, but we can’t hire or fake warmth.”[2] I would urge churches to consider warmth as not only a part of their welcoming team, coffee in the lobby, or the free gift they offer to first time guests. Moreover, it is the ongoing hospitality and openness provided to allow others time and space to be included and discover how they belong. For warmth to truly occur, adoption into the body has to occur.

Time: Most of us have committed to one day a week for less than two hours and called that “church”. If we would actually look at the habits of churchgoers, we would find even the best parishioners only attend on average of two to three times a month. That is not a lot of time to build trust. Trust requires presence. Community, communion, and comraderie along with spiritual transformation take place incrementally over time with others. We cannot sidestep the process of getting to know others and allowing others to get to know us.

Vulnerability: Ruth Haley Barton states, “In community, others become agents of God’s troubling grace for our further growth and transformation, and we become the same for them; as each part functions properly, it promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love[3] (Ephesians 4:15-16). For this to occur there has to be vulnerability present. Vulnerability is the giving of you to the other, and at the same time receiving the other for who they are. Psychologist Brenee Brown states, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.[4] Vulnerability is hard work, and it does not happen over night. Yet, I am convinced most of us want a place where we feel safe to expose who we truly are, and the weight we carry. The Church as a Community of trust ought to be THE place for this difficult work to occur. “If you have no honesty, you have no intimacy. If you have no intimacy, you have no community.[5] Community starts with our willingness to be honest with who we truly are in the light of Jesus Christ. When we risk this adventure, intimacy and community follow in time.

Treasure: We must learn to value the journey of those who we are in community with. We find our treasure first in Christ, and second through the community he has placed us in. Every person has something to offer us if we will pay attention to how God is using them. “It seems that one of the main reasons we are confused about community is that we make it primarily about us—our experiences and feelings, our natural affinities, our life situation, what we think we want or need…”[6]

Story: We offer our own story told with grace and truth, humility and authenticity. We discover then in community that God is intersecting our story with His story. We learn over time God is taking our story and He is grafting it into His story, which also happens to be the story of the Church. “The more stories—shaped and framed by the biblical story—the church provides, the more opportunities people have to ‘story’—frame and reframe—their experiences of God in more nuanced ways.”[7] Proclaiming the biblical story equips folks with the language to interpret and share their experiences of God. We must share story.

Experience: We are relational creatures. The pandemic has reminded us even the biggest introvert among us needs some social interaction occasionally. Thus, we formulate trust not only through the stories we share, but the experiences that shape those stories. The more shared experiences we create the more intimacy is developed.

Questions: Transforming community continues to unfold and deepen among us as we ask good questions and learn how to stand still and wait with one another in the midst of shattered hopes and dreams and the great unfixables of life.”[8] We often feel it is our Christian duty to fix things or offer advice. This may or may not be helpful. We too quickly forget that listening can be a greater service than speaking. Over time we learn we are not just listening for the other’s sake, but we are also listening to the voice of God. The art of questioning and listening must come full circle. One of the primary functions of transforming community is to be a community of discernment “in which we assist one another in noticing and eliminating the obstacles to such seeing.”[9]

Servanthood: In an unbelievable act of humility, hospitality, and service we see Jesus in John 13 wash the feet of his disciples. It was the role of a servant, and the master is willing to take it on in order that we as his students may know this is the posture we are to embody. Trust becomes easier when we serve one another.

Again, you may want to add your own characteristics that lead to a trusting community. I think we are probably just getting started. If we truly want to be a Church where we are a community we have to build trust. It is hard work. We are a messy people, but we serve a trustworthy God who is shaping us in His image. May we become the people God has called us to be.

 

[1] Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, Brad Griffin. Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 2016. 163.

[2] Powell, Mulder, Griffin. 168.

[3] Ruth Haley Barton. Life Together in Christ: Experience Transformation in Community. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP), 2014. 13.

[4] Brenee Brown. “The Best Brenee Brown Quotes on Vulnerability, love, and Belonging.”

https://bookriot.com/2018/04/16/brene-brown-quotes/  April 16, 2018. (Last accessed on April 21, 2020.)

[5] Scott Cormode. Lecture at Growing Young Cohort Summit. Feb. 14, 2020.

[6] Barton. 21.

[7] Brandon K. McKoy. Youth Ministry from the Outside In: How Relationships and Stories Shape Identity. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP), 2013. 28.

[8] Barton. 55.

[9] Barton 141.

A Pastoral Letter To Our Global Nazarene Family

So much has changed in such a brief time. Our daily news cycle is filled with reports of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Government leaders, medical professionals, researchers, and scientists are diligently working to stem the tide of the contagion and to protect the citizens of their countries. We have all been impacted in great and small ways.

We have been advised by national, state, and municipal authorities to restrict our public gatherings, maintain social distance, and to observe rigorous health protocols. The threat is serious and real – immediate action is necessary to “flatten the curve” wherever possible. We believe it is essential that the church around the world do our part, even as the mission of the church continues.

We have been in ongoing communication with regional, field, and district leadership. We are hearing wonderful reports of how our churches are responding with compassion and creativity, being careful yet courageous. So many are doing their part to adapt because they understand that Christlike ministry extends much farther than the walls of a building. Crises often reveal our dependence on God and opportunities for ministry we could not see before. Thank you for allowing the light of your witness to shine brightly.

However, we also realize that there are many new challenges, unlike we have faced in our lifetime. Because the Church of the Nazarene is a global church, it is difficult to make comprehensive recommendations that fit in every situation. In our various countries, there are different government health protocols recommending restrictions on gatherings. While we believe in the vital importance of the gathering of the saints, due to the highly contagious nature of this virus and as a way to show our respect for governing authorities and to love our neighbors, we ask every local church to cooperate with and follow the recommendations from your nation, state, and municipality. Further, we are empowering district leadership to offer directives and provide guidelines to local churches in the matter of congregational gatherings in accordance with health department instructions. We will find our way through this time with God’s help and the strength of the Body of Christ.

We want to call the church to prayer. As one of our district superintendents said: “Pray now and often. Pray for peace. Pray for patience. Pray for learning. Pray for the Holy Spirit who is unbound by any of temporary restrictions to come over people in their homes. Pray for His power to flow out of us in Christlike compassion and conviction, so much that even though we aren’t gathering for worship according to our customs, we will experience the presence of Jesus and reflect Him in what we say and do.”

Finally, let us be reminded of God’s Word: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). The people of God do not live in fear and respond in panic. We know God will never leave us or forsake us. Perfect love casts out fear. Moreover, we have been given the power of the Holy Spirit to respond in love and grace to our neighbor, regardless of our circumstances. We have been given a sound mind to make wise decisions and the fruit of the Spirit to give us love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control as we follow Jesus and pray for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

We pray for God’s healing of COVID-19, but we also pray that we will have the grace to be faithful to our mission, “To make Christlike disciples in the nations.” National borders may be temporarily closed, social distancing may be necessary for a time, but the gospel will not be deterred.

Grace and peace to you all,

The Board of General Superintendents

Eugénio R. Duarte

David W. Graves

David A. Busic

Gustavo A. Crocker

Filimão M. Chambo

Carla D. Sunberg

Pastoral Letter Web Site

5 Steps for Disciple Multiplication – Part 2 of 2

By Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird

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

A Simple Tool for Apprenticeship

If Paul’s goal of developing four generations of apprentices seems unreachable for you and your church, then I have good news for you. It is not. This goal is very doable if you and your church follow five simple steps.

Eric Metcalf is a disciple multiplier, and he has used the five steps of apprenticeship with other leaders as often as anyone I know. Eric doesn’t shy away from a good challenge. The latest small group he led regularly drew 16 people, and it was a challenge. Some were solid Christ followers; most were not. Some were single, some living together, and some married. Some partied really hard! And some were new believers, including one person with a Muslim background, another with a Jewish background (and a Catholic girlfriend), and another with practically no religious background at all.

You might imagine the lively discussions and lifestyle issues represented in those gathering and conclude, “I think a pastor needs to lead a group like that!” Eric is the pastor for one of Community Christian Church’s locations on the north side of Chicago. He and his wife, Erin, especially enjoy that group, but Eric knew he had a bigger calling than leading this diverse group alone. From day one, he was praying about which member (or members) he could train as an apprentice to take over this group or lead a new group.

“Hey, I have this idea, and I want to run it past you,” Eric told the group. Then he continued, “For our group to reach more people, I’m going to ask some of you to consider moving into an apprentice leadership role and meeting with me on a weekly basis. We can meet for coffee or whatever, but during that time I will help you get to the place where you are confident and capable of leading a group.” Grace, one of the Christ followers, said to Eric, “I really see a need to take some of the women in the group deeper into accountability with each other. I think I can help them do that, if you would let me lead them.” Eric loved the idea, and she became his first apprentice.

img_groups.jpg

Eric used the same simple five-step apprenticeship tool with Grace that he had used with dozens of other leaders over the years to help them grow in their leadership. Over the next eight months, Eric and Grace used these five steps as a guide to develop her to the place where she was leading her own group. Here’s how it might have unfolded:

  1. I do. You watch. We talk. As the experienced leader, Eric leads the group and tells Grace, “You just observe everything that happens in our small group, and then we will find a time to meet and discuss what you observed.” Before the next small group meeting, Eric and Grace debrief, and this includes asking the following questions: “What worked?” “What didn’t work?” and “How can we improve?” This time for debriefing needs to continue throughout the five steps.
  2. I do. You help. We talk. In this step of development, Eric gives his apprentice, Grace, an opportunity to help lead part of the small group meeting. In this case, Eric asked Grace, “Could you lead the icebreaker time at the beginning if I lead the rest?” Grace agreed. Again, the small group meeting should be followed up with a one-on-one debrief between leader and apprentice.
  3. You do. I help. We talk. Now Grace transitions from helping Eric to taking on most of the leadership responsibilities for the small group. Since Eric has had an exceptionally busy week, he takes the opportunity to ask Grace, “Could you lead most of the meeting this week? If you do, I will handle the icebreaker at the beginning and the prayer time at the end, plus I will be there with you the whole time.” Grace agrees, and since she has seen him lead the group enough times, she feels very comfortable and does great. Eric is gradually releasing responsibilities to his new, developing leader.
  4. You do. I watch. We talk. The apprentice process for Grace is almost complete as she grows increasingly more confident in her role as a leader. Eric has her lead the entire meeting each week while he watches her, and he gives her the responsibility of finding a service project for the group. At their debrief time, Eric says, “I think you are ready for leadership; do you think you are ready?” With a smile, Grace says, “I think I’m ready.” With both leader and apprentice feeling ready for the next step, they begin to plan whether Grace will take over the group or lead a new group, and what Eric will lead next.
  5. You do. Someone else watches. This is where the process of multiplication comes full circle. Eric says, “Grace, you have done great! Have you started to think about who you can mentor and repeat this process with?” Grace says, “I already have two people who have expressed interest, and I’m meeting with one this week.” Grace, the former apprentice, is now leading, and she begins developing new apprentices. Since Eric has developed and released several apprentices, he continues to work with Grace and other leaders in a coaching capacity.

The five steps to apprenticeship are really that simple! If you will constantly use these five steps, you can develop other leaders who will already know how to develop other leaders.

A World of Disciple Multipliers in One Generation

In a commencement speech, Admiral William McRaven provoked graduates from the University of Texas with this exhortation: “If every one of you changed the lives of just 10 people, and each one of those folks changed the lives of another 10 people—just 10—then in six generations this class will have changed the lives of the entire population of the world, eight billion people.”

The admiral’s words are a great challenge, not only for college graduates but for me, you, and the church! To change the world, we need to not only change people but also mobilize those people as change agents. Since the church is far bigger than that graduating class, we’ve already got a running start. We also have the Holy Spirit in us, and the God of the universe wants it to happen. We can do it!

This article was originally published at: Christianity Today

5 Steps for Disciple Multiplication – Part 1 of 2

By Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird

A simple tool for apprenticing followers of Christ who can apprentice others.

I wonder if out of reverence for Jesus being divine, we sometimes dismiss his disciple-making practices and think, Well, that’s because it’s Jesus; he’s God. Of course he’s the best people-developer in the universe. So we admire how he mentored others who went out and changed the world, but we dismiss it as only possible for someone who is God incarnate. I’ve done that.

The apostle Paul didn’t make that mistake. He heard Jesus’ vision of God’s kingdom, how we can bring that to be, and he recruited a young apprentice named Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). I love that Paul picked Timothy, because Timothy was a guy who didn’t have a perfect life, and that makes him very relatable. Timothy’s dad was not around; either he was an absentee father or he had abandoned Timothy and his mom altogether. Scripture describes Timothy as timid (1 Cor. 16:10–11). He was very apprehensive about whether his life could make an impact.

But Paul grabs him and even writes to him how they’re going to change the world together: “The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2).

How many generations of apprenticeship do you see in that verse? Paul is saying, in effect, “Timothy, don’t be content with being a Christ follower; think about others, the rest of the world. I know you have a hard time thinking about impact, but I want you to think exponential impact! Let’s live our lives so as to impact at least four generations.”

  • First-generation apprenticeship: Jesus to Paul
  • Second-generation apprenticeship: Paul to Timothy
  • Third-generation apprenticeship: Timothy to “reliable people”
  • Fourth-generation apprenticeship: “reliable people” to “others”

This verse calls us to mentor disciple multipliers to the fourth generation. That’s exponential impact!

1*VuwgpNXZp4QsXRAlr-tNjQ.png

Paul was explaining to Timothy (and to us) that if we want to see disciples made in all nations—a movement of kingdom multiplication—it will happen through apprenticeship. Apprenticeship is the core competency of any movement of God.

What Paul discovered is the difference between impact and exponential impact. If we are Spirit led and committed to the mission, our lives can have an impact. But when we add the reproducing piece and even multiplying through apprenticeship, that is when exponential impact is possible. That’s when we begin to see a movement of hero makers.

*This article will continue in the next post.

Tear Down Every Barrier!

By Luz Jimenez Avendaño

“In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.  When they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:1-3 

The Christian church was mature enough to make the biggest of decisions.  They agreed, after deliberation, to take the message of the gospel to the entire world. It was a decision they made under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The men of the early church did not follow their own will, but rather the will of God.

In Acts 13:1-3, the scripture talks about prophets and teachers. These two groups served different functions. The prophets did not belong to a single congregation.  They were itinerant preachers who gave their lives to hear the Word of God and share it with their brothers in the faith. The teachers belonged to an individual local church and their job was to instruct those who had accepted the Christian faith.

This list of prophets symbolizes the universal call of the gospel. Barnabus was a Jew from Cyprus, and Lucius was from Cyrene in North Africa. Simeon was also a Jew, but the passage gives a second name: Niger. Niger is a Roman name meaning black, which indicates that he would have moved in Roman circles. Manean was a man with connections to the aristocracy and at court. Paul himself was a Jewish rabbi from Tarsus in Cilicia. This group is an example of the unifying influence of Christianity.  Men from different lands and with different backgrounds had all discovered the secret of serving together. They discovered unity in Christ.

dia-de-la-diversidad-cepaim-820x410.jpg

God calls all believers to proclaim his word around the world. We are all called to share the good news of salvation. There is much to tell. Nevertheless, our prejudice towards a culture different than our own, along with customs, traditions, legalism and vain excuses, creates a problem.  Anything that inhibits the call of the Lord serves as a barrier to us obeying His command to “go.”

The truth is that we are believers, and in response to a heavenly call, we must share the marvelous love of God so that others can know him. These men accepted the call of the Lord. They were from different cultures, but they joined together in a single team to accomplish a single goal: to preach the message to those who were dead in their sins and needed to be saved.

Now is the time to break down every barrier and preach the good news!

*Luz Jimenez has served for five years as a volunteer missionary.  She is currently serving as the Global Missions and Genesis Coordinator in the Mesoamerica North Central Field, which includes Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

An Open Letter to the Churches of Mesoamerica

For the past five weeks we have been traveling through our 40 Days of Prayer for the Cities of Mesoamerica.  We have been so encouraged by the responses of many leaders and local churches as they mobilize their people in prayer!  This campaign has become an annual emphasis, and this year especially we are starting to see the vision take hold.  Thanks to all who have daily interceded for the urban settings in our region – it is truly making a difference!

40-dias---genesis---Afiche-redes---Insta-y-Face---ingles.png

There are some exciting things happening in the months ahead.  First, the prayer does not need to stop! Please stay tuned to our updates and prayer requests throughout the year on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Our mobile app (available for Android or iOS) will also start to become more and more useful as our missionaries on the ground provide stories as well as personal prayer requests and praises.  And don’t forget that all around the region we have dedicated Tuesday mornings as a time to pray and fast for a genesis to occur in the cities of Mesoamerica.

IMG_7069.JPG

Sugey Barrón

Second, did you know that we are developing many new materials and tools to equip the existing churches that are in urban areas? Sugey Barrón, a former Genesis missionary sent from Mexico to Santiago, Dominican Republic, has decided to continue serving as a missionary in the D.R., now focusing on training the thousands of Nazarenes that live in our cities to be missional.  I am so excited about what she is coming up with (you’ll hear more in the months ahead)!

Third, next month we will be training and sending out a new crop of Genesis missionaries who will impact Monterrey, México and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. These are some really great young people.  Assuredly you will read about them in the coming weeks, but for now I can say that it is a high honor to witness how God keeps calling people to cross-cultural ministry, and how they are still responding in passionate obedience to his voice!

Podcast_English_FinalAll that, and I have not even mentioned the ongoing articles we provide regularly on our website, the “Worthless Servants” podcast episodes we are pumping out biweekly, and much more.  There is a lot going on! The point is: we need you to continue praying for all this. Don’t let the end of a 40-day campaign cause the need for effective urban churches to be “out of sight, out of mind.” In fact, add to that prayer a whole lot of action.  Get involved in some way and help others do the same!

Thanks for your continued collaboration.  God is using you – and thousands of others – to make a difference. What a privilege to be a part of this adventure with you.

Scott Armstrong
Coordinator, Mesoamerica Global Missions and GENESIS
February 8, 2019

Urban Evangelization – Part 1 of 2

By Scott and Emily Armstrong

The city has it all, doesn’t it? Schools and universities, hospitals and doctor’s offices, theatres and shopping malls – the list goes on and on! With more employment opportunities and access to health care and education, it’s obvious why people want to live in the city. Global statistics tell us that the Mesoamerica Region is already URBAN.  Over 80% of our people live in a heavily-populated city, and many of these people are unchurched.

You might be thinking that city evangelization is no different than in the suburbs or rural areas, but you’d be wrong. How do we make Christlike disciples of people that live a fast-paced life and don’t have time for Jesus? How do we create relationship and gain the trust of someone that works 7 days a week? What does hope look like in the midst of substance abuse, gangs and poverty?

First things first: God has a plan for the city.  You have to believe that truth if you ever want to be a successful urban evangelist. Oftentimes when we think about the city, we think about the problems found there – everything from traffic jams to air pollution to stressful schedules to gangs.  However, we must begin seeing the city as God sees it: a place of influence where righteousness and peace can be obtained.  Imagine with me for a minute the vision revealed to us in Revelation 7:9-10,

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”

That’s the CITY of ZION that we are reading about!  God’s infinite story goes on forever IN A CITY.  We will gather together with every nation, tribe, and language and praise God forever! Isn’t it interesting how our cities are already becoming the home to so many cultures at the same time?  Could we even imagine that maybe, just maybe, God is already giving us an opportunity to experience a glimpse of heaven on earth right in the heart of our cities?

pexels-photo-373974.jpeg

Jeremiah 29:4-7 is another passage that speaks to us about God and His desire to use His people to impact the city:

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’”

This passage offers us three principles we must keep in mind when we evangelize the city:

We must live in our city to love our city.

We must be a continual presence in our city.

We must pray for our city.

We must live in our city to love our city.

Jeremiah bluntly tells the exiles of Jerusalem (city dwellers by the way!) to “build houses and settle down…”  He didn’t say to enjoy a short respite there or to view it as a temporary tourist destination. He told them to settle down there. 

I recently sat in a workshop listening to urban church planters tell of their experiences and one of them said, “If you are commuting to the city, it means you work there, not that you care for the neighborhood.”  What he was saying was that the city is a hurry up, come-and-go environment for so many people that are only there for 10 hours during a workday. But the people that LIVE in the city? They are always there!  The decisions that are made in local government affect their personal lives, the school systems mold their children, and the lack of public transportation there affects their employment capabilities.

How are you going to care about all of the dynamics of the city if you don’t live there? Often times we see evangelism as a task to accomplish, but this model will not work in the city.  If you are only coming into the city to evangelize every once in a while, the neighbors will begin to see your evangelism as WORK and not as love.  And every neighborhood is different: a single city can be home to hundreds of different communities that all have their own culture and opportunities.  Thus, it’s so important to live where you are evangelizing, because it’s the normal everyday interactions that speak loudest.

Because life moves at such a fast pace, our relationships in the city are typically built around economic activities.  We purchase our groceries every few days, and we go to the same supermarket and get to know the local employees. We go to a sporting event and meet fellow fans that hold similar interests.  We enjoy the community of a local mall and come into contact with others that are enjoying free entertainment as well.  Our interactions with people are numerous every day, but turning it into an intentional meeting is key to evangelism in the city.  One contact – or even a dozen contacts – does not necessarily make a lasting relationship.  We must live in the city, allowing us to live life with our neighbors as well, which then opens up the door to deeper spiritual conversations and continual evangelism through our daily testimony.

*This article will continue in the next post.