Cross-Cultural Orientation in Bonao, Dominican Republic

A Cross-Cultural Orientation (CCO) was held March 6-8, 2020 at the Donald Wunker Christian Bible Campgrounds in Maimón, Bonao, Dominican Republic. 46 participants with missions interest attended the activity, and the 16 trainers present gave workshops, shared devotionals, and led dynamics as they guided all those present who were exploring their cross-cultural mission call.

The CCO began with an innovative strategy where participants registered and entered the event in a peculiar way.  The surprise of that first culture shock made it clear to everyone present that the event was not just another meeting.  The call to serve is a call to value what we have and take advantage of every opportune moment in order to grow and develop oneself.  Visiting “CCO Country” and becoming acclimated to its culture ended up cultivating an identity in the group as a whole.

Participating in a CCO is a great opportunity to understand and explore the missionary action of the Church of the Nazarene on the global, regional and local levels.  Every missions-focused dynamic and activity was developed by leaders who understand and are very passionate about each topic.  Participants were led in new ideas, making them aware of God’s urgent call to serve in cross-cultural missions and the many opportunities available to do so.  We thank the Lord for waking us up to a reality that we didn’t even know existed before participating in the CCO.  As the following testimonies show, we highly recommend that EVERY Nazarene experience what it is like to live in “CCO Country”. 90012613_225918755194436_6526149265209688064_n

“In 2011 I began asking God to place me in a Christian ministry, that he would release me from my ‘secular’ job.  In 2015, I prayed again and told God that we are a missionary family, and that my children and I would be available for full-time service.  God has continued to place this desire and need in our hearts. In October 2018, the Lord very clearly called me to missions and in 2019 he called my sons.  My daughters are now praying, dreaming and seeking God’s guidance.

Being in the CCO is the continuation and confirmation of the call that God has placed on my life, along with my children, to serve Him in missions.  It has been one of the ways that the Lord is preparing us and orchestrating our lives to be in service to Him.  We will continue to be involved in missionary activities, following the call that God has placed on our lives.” –July Quiterio Cuello. 90095074_212987919768350_7084061818993246208_n

“I will look back on the CCO as a “before and after” event in my spiritual life and ministry.  This camp has confirmed God’s call in my heart and at the same time his direction and guidance for me to follow it.  God has raised up a focused generation willing to fulfill the Great Commission and take the restorative gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations.  I can simply say thank you because becoming a missionary is not a sacrifice that I will make, but a gracious gift that God is giving me.” –Rachel Mariel Compres Morel.

“I am grateful to God and to the leaders that have instructed my daughter, Elba, regarding missions.  God called and she began to follow his instructions, understand her call, and obey.  This is the way that God has allowed me to send my daughter as a missionary.  To God be the glory for allowing me to participate in that blessing!  In the CCO, I asked the Lord to speak to me, because I wanted to know Him even more.  My life belongs to the Lord.  I want to be a mother, a leader, and a pastor with the knowledge to speak to youth and other families about how important it is to support our youth and children in missions.  There is a new generation that should be preparing to take the message of Jesus to a new world.  Being able to participate in this great event, I learned more about God’s call, I learned about why we exist, and what we are called to do.  There are simply not enough words to describe everything that I experienced during these three days. I want to serve the Lord until my last breath.” –Maribel Duson (Pastor).

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Declaration From General Superintendents On Coronavirus

 

Declaration from General Superintendents on Coronavirus:

https://nazarene.org/article/board-general-superintendents-statement-coronavirus

To our global Nazarene family:

These are unprecedented days in the life of the church and for the citizens of the world. The global pandemic as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has led us into new territory. The good news is that all of this is not a surprise to God, and while we may feel unprepared and uncertain, we know that we are able to put our faith and trust in God. We encourage you not to live in a spirit of fear but to allow His peace to lead and direct each and every day. Today, we pray for the peace of Christ to bring us calm in the midst of this storm.

Throughout history, the church has been used by God to reflect Christ in a time of crisis. This is the time for the church to shine. Reach out in holy love to those in our communities who are in need. Do not allow prejudices to form our opinions regarding particular people groups, but instead, “love your neighbor.” Consider those who will be the most affected by restrictions, and be prepared to share resources with those in need.

The Board of General Superintendents and additional Church of the Nazarene leadership continues to closely monitor the spread of COVID-19 and its impact on the church and people around the world. We are working closely with districts and churches to provide guidance regarding legislative and jurisdictional questions during this time.

Click here for general guidelines for local churches.

We continue to pray for all those affected by this illness and are believing for the Lord’s wisdom, healing, blessing, and guidance during this difficult time. Let us not stray away from our faith into fear during these hard times, “for the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

For the latest information regarding COVID-19, visit the World Health Organization website.

To Plumb the Depths of God’s Love: An Easter Reflection

By: Susan Austin

*Taken from the Epilogue of Victor Lee Austin’s book: Losing Susan: Brain Disease, The Priest’s Wife, and the God Who Gives and Takes Away.

After God made the world, he took his little servant, man, and taught him to pray like this: “Bow your head,” said God, “and say ‘Lord, have mercy,’ and then you will do what is right.” Similarly, he taught his little servants the animals to pray: “Be faithful to your own,” said God, “keep your families, and sing the songs I have taught you, and then you will do what is right.” But to the trees he taught no prayer.

“What about us, Lord?” they asked him. “Teach us to pray like the others.” But God said, “Wait, little friends.  I don’t yet know what to teach you.” Then he went back to heaven and rested for three days from his worries.  He sent Michael the Archangel to watch over things in his absence and commanded him to report back every day on the state of things.

The first day Michael came back and said: “The men are praying the way you taught them.” “Yes, I hear them,” said God.  “They are faithful servants to me.” So Michael went back to earth.

The second day he came into God’s presence and said: “The animals are praying the way you taught them.” God said, “I hear them – they are my faithful servants.” So Michael went back to earth.

The third day he came into heaven and said: “O God forever blessed! Some of your servants are sorrowing.” God said, “How can that be, Michael? I don’t hear any cries.”  “O God forever blessed!” said Michael.  “Your trees are grieving because you never taught them how to pray.  They are mourning, and in their great sorrow they are tearing off their leaves and scattering them on the ground.” At those words God remembered that he had not taught them, and he took pity on his faithful servants.

He descended down to earth and walked among them.  At first they never saw him because of the great burden of their sorrow; they tore off their leaves and strewed them on him as he walked under their branches.  At last God himself wept in his mercy and made himself known to them.

“O trees, my little friends,” he said, “stop tearing off your leaves and scattering them about but listen to me.  Listen carefully, because I have thought of a prayer for you to pray.”

Instantly the trees stopped their lamentations and composed themselves to listen.  “Hear me then, trees,” said God. “This is the way you must pray: not with words nor with songs, but with silence, and branches lifted up in supplication.  Don’t be afraid that I won’t hear you.  I have ears to hear the most silent heart and I love to pour myself out in the quietness.  Only keep your branches forever raised in prayer, and I will not forget you.”

“O King, be praised forever,” said the trees in their joy, and with once accord they raised their branches up in supplication to heaven, and fell into a deep silence.  So God went back up to his throne and listened with love to the prayers of all his faithful servants.

Now it happened that the world fell into misery and death; and God, to defeat death, sent his own beloved Son to die.  The way that it was arranged for him to perish was by hanging on the wood of a tree, and at this the trees were aghast.

“Lord,” they said in the stillness of their hearts, “didn’t we cradle him when he was a child?” “You did,” said God, remembering. “Also,” they said, ‘didn’t we give a livelihood to his father so he could eat?” “You did,” said God, remembering.  “Didn’t we form the boat from which he taught the crowds?” “All this is true,” said God.  “Then, O!” they mourned, “why must he suffer on us, why must our hard, stiff nature be the thing on which he breaks himself and dies? Why have you appointed us to treat the Beloved so bitterly?” God looked at the trees most tenderly and said, “My dear ones, you have not yet plumbed the depths of my love.”

But they did not believe him and when God’s Son had died and light was extinguished out of the world, with one accord they dropped their branches and tore off their leaves in mourning.

“The Son is dead,” they wailed, “and we have killed him! He died to save us but we did not save him!  He is gone and joy is gone forever!” Likewise so wailed all the animals and men.

And God also wept on his throne in heaven.

But after he had done weeping, he plumbed the depths of his love and at the very heart and deepest place of his love he found the dead Son and this Son he brought back into the light of day.  This happened early in the morning.black-hanging-bridge-surrounded-by-green-forest-trees-775201

Now God’s Son was walking about in a garden and the silent trees saw him.  An awe stole over them, though they did not recognize him: but slowly, slowly they lifted their bare, ragged branches up towards heaven: and the dawn began to break.

And slowly, slowly a new sap ascended through all their veins and capillaries, and they began to wonder if they understood the extent of God’s love.  And the Man walking in the garden reminded them a little of God’s Son: and the sky turned pink and gold.

And just as the sun rose, they recognized their Beloved and saw that he was alive, and with one accord they burst into flower, and the scent of those flowers rose straight to the throne of God.

Thus God taught them to pray twice: once at the very beginning of the world, and once when he gave them a new prayer to pray after they had plumbed the depths of his love.

 

Eucharist and the Death in the Middle

*A Reflection by Victor Lee Austin from his book, Losing Susan: Brain Disease, The Priest’s Wife, and the God Who Gives and Takes Away

 

Think about the Eucharist.  The people come together and offer themselves to God.  The symbol of that self-offering is the bread and wine that is placed on the altar.  In the early church, each person would have brought some bread and wine, and it would all have been gathered together, some of it being placed on the altar, the rest being set aside to minister to the poor…

That bread and wine on the altar is then transformed, by means of the eucharistic prayer, into the Body and Blood of Christ.  And then that sacramental bread and wine is given back to the people. images

In short, in the Eucharist we give ourselves to God, and God accepts our gift and makes it better, and then gives our selves back to us.  In this exchange of gifts given, received, and returned, we become once again the Body of Christ.

This is a much more positive way of understanding the dynamics of love.  It begins with us, and it ends with us, and we don’t die in the process.  Yet in that eucharistic prayer there is death: the “remembrance,” which is the making efficaciously present of the self-sacrifice of Jesus, his own death on the cross.  Right: we go to church [service]; we make our offering, which symbolizes our self-offering; we receive the sacrament, which is our own offering transformed into Christ; and we go our way rejoicing.  But in the midst of it is death, and the only reason the Eucharist “works,” the only reason, that is to say, that we have the joy of our life, is because of that death in the middle.

When Jesus the Son of God receives the Father’s gift, he freely gives it back.  The gift is his own being, but it is also his relationship with the Father.  He cannot be himself apart from that relationship.  To be himself, Jesus gives himself fully.  And in the world of human beings in which we actually live, to give yourself is to die.

Maximum Mission: San Jorge de Upala, Costa Rica

Estefanía Amador Navas

Pastor of San Jorge de Upala Church of the Nazarene

District NMI President

Have you heard that when the Church comes together, the Lord is glorified? This is what happened with the San Jorge de Upala Church of the Nazarene in Costa Rica during a three-day Maximum Mission trip.

Nine people participated, including seven from the Poás Church of the Nazarene (Costa Rica) and two from Chicago, IL (United States), and they worked together in construction projects and compassionate ministry to serve the community.

During their time in San Jorge, the team shared the love of God in areas where the church has been actively ministering for the past year and a half.

They conveyed the love of Jesus with the children during a fun-filled Saturday morning activity and in the afternoon held a special women’s event, in which five women came to a church event for the very first time. 88191358_512084799493668_8851939653029199872_n

The second day ended with a movie in the community, in which 45 people from the community were in attendance.  Neighbor Rafael Romero said, “Thank you for the great message you came to give our community.  Keep it up!”

Ariel Gómez, Poás NMI president, said, “The Lord is listening to our prayers.  He has been acting in the midst of our service and is encouraging us to continue. It is wonderful to see God move in this town – it has been one of the best experiences of my life!”

The trip ended with a service of thanksgiving on Sunday, and five new people were a part.  The team and the church believe that God has left a mark on the hearts of the children, youth, and adults, and that the Church will continue to live and grow, to the glory and honor of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

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How To Strengthen The Church Of The Nazarene (USA/CANADA) By 2030 II

PART II: ANSWERING SOME QUESTIONS

In the previous entry, Rob Prince, Lead Pastor of Flint (Michigan) Central Church of the Nazarene, detailed the current reality facing our denomination in the U.S. and Canada and began to offer some suggestions for a brighter future.  His recommendations echo many of the same sentiments we in the Mesoamerica Region have been attempting to address through the ministry of Genesis. Let’s continue this conversation today by reading Rob’s second article, and know that we will also be covering these topics in a future episode of the Worthless Servants podcast.

In my previous blogpost, I posed the question: What if we thought differently about the future church and ministry in the Church of the Nazarene in the USA/Canada region?

I offered a new scenario of normalized ministry, if indeed you can call it new.  Paul, a tent maker (see Acts 18:3), was bi-vocational and still managed to plant a bunch of churches and write a major chunk of the New Testament. Maybe better stated, I asked: what if normalizing bi-vocational ministry and the planting of 5,000 house or in-an-operating-business churches by 2030 in the USA/Canada could happen?

Here are some possible answers to a few questions that might have been raised:

What could happen (through this method)?  Many of these churches could grow beyond their house or business meeting place – to that we’d say, “Hallelujah.” But even if that didn’t happen there would be 5000 new house churches or gatherings meeting in a business place averaging 25 people or more for a total of at least 125,000 new Nazarenes.

What else would happen? We’d see smaller, viable, reproducible, faith communities where non-Christians meet up with theologically trained pastors on a daily basis all over the country.

What else wouldn’t be there? Let’s name them: church buildings to maintain, pastors’ salaries, students’ debt that hinders financial stability of the minister, and other expenses that drain a church budget but have produced little or no results.  Remember: for all the money spent last year in churches around the USA/Canada, the church has been in decline…and for more than the last decade the church has been in decline.

What’s the worst that could happen? The coffee shop, thrift store, business venture/house church goes belly up or the pastor has proved to be a goober.  Well, then you pull up stakes, sell the building, and move to the next small town or to the other side of that same town or urban area and do the same thing.

What’s the next worst thing that could happen?  We burn out our people. Pastoring, running a business or working a job, having a family…there aren’t enough hours in the day. This problem could be helped with more and better delegation of responsibilities in the local gathering, better support from the district, partnering with more established churches, and efficient time management from the pastor.

How could the denomination pay for it? If the USA/Canada church model must be strengthened to keep the global mission of the church operating, then envisioning a way forward to make that happen must be a priority.

The homes/buildings for this new church venture would be purchased from district funds that have been acquired from the sale of other properties.

The college tuition would be covered by an increase in the USA/Canada portion of the WEF funds. Increasing the USA/Canada portion of the WEF funds is necessary if the goal is to strengthen the local churches by providing an educated clergy who are also able to sustain themselves without church budget funds.

If strengthening the USA/Canada church is priority #1 (and it is my contention that it must be for the long-term well-being of the global church) then this should be reflected in the WEF allotment to USA/Canada region. WEF dollars could be spent not only on educating a new horde of pastors at N.T.S. or N.B.C. but also in bringing in missionaries from other world areas to reach the various ethnic groups in the USA/Canada region.

Honestly, what has to happen to start 5000 churches?

More than money or finding pastors—there will need to be some major shifts in thinking.

  1. Church buildings are not necessary for Kingdom growth. This goes against the now-debunked theory: “If we build it, they will come.” No, they won’t. A more accurate moniker is: “If they build it, they will have a huge debt and will be unable to invest in ministry.”
  2. Pastors are not obligated to be compensated by the church. Paul and many more modern tentmakers show that bi-vocational ministry can be done successfully. The fastest-growing church on the district where I serve (Eastern Michigan District), Family Community Church in Goodrich, Michigan, has no paid church staff and averaged 295 people in attendance in 2019.
  3. The USA/Canada must be strengthened now (yesterday, actually). The ship is sinking. If the USA/Canada Church is not strengthened, the whole global church will be impacted negatively. The situation is critical, and the needs are immediate. Taking our collective heads out of the sand is needed.
  4. Who am I kidding (Take 1)? Nazarene churches (and pastors) are too territorial. Too often when an existing Nazarene church is in a town and a church plant is suggested there is major push back. Like it was played out in the old Western slang vernacular that says, “This town ain’t big enough fer the both of us.” But the truth of the matter is that nearly every city could use more churches preaching the message of holiness. We need a more “What’s good for Kingdom” mindset and less worry or contention over territorial boundaries.
  5. Who am I kidding (Take 2)? There are pastors just like me, who have earned our living off the church for 25+ years and are too old to learn a new trick (i.e. “we ain’t changing” and we aren’t about to open a coffee shop anytime soon). This is the biggest hurdle. I get it. The shift to make bi-vocational ministry the norm, not the exception, will take my generation and the generation behind me to retire.

In the meantime, pastors in my bracket need to cheer on those who are stepping out on marc-scaturro-brnf7UfFMXk-unsplashfaith. Applaud the adventurous, worthy millennials and iPhone generation pastors (OK, Boomer) who will do the hard kingdom work of bringing the church back to the center of ministry again. These are the ministers who willingly serve without pay in house churches and build the Kingdom of God in coffee shops, restaurants and public meeting places.

We need a new era of evangelism. Probably the old way of Biblical tracts and four spiritual laws isn’t going to have the same effectiveness in USA/Canada. Instead, the Jesus model of moving in and living among the people, the Paul model of being a tent maker and living off their secular work, and the Stephen model of Kingdom before self are what is needed (and repeated 5,000 times) if the USA/Canada church (and in turn the global church) is going to be strengthened in the coming decade.

 

 

How To Strengthen The Church Of The Nazarene (USA/CANADA) By 2030 I

PART 1: THE PLAN

Recently we had the privilege of reading an article by the Lead Pastor of Flint Central Church of the Nazarene, Rob Prince, in which he reflected on changes that will be needed in the coming decade in order to see growth and transformation in the Church of the Nazarene in the U.S. and Canada. Many of the things he proposes are exactly what we are promoting through the ministry of Genesis in Mesoamerica and through our Worthless Servants Podcast.  Rob gave us the permission to reproduce his articles today and in the following entry, and we will also be touching on these issues in some upcoming episodes of the podcast.

What if we thought differently about the future church and ministry in the Church of the Nazarene than the way we currently think?

Here are the facts as I see them (some anecdotal, some not):

Fact 1: A strong USA/Canada church is essential for the good of the global church (currently the USA/Canada funds 94% of the mission of the global church).

Fact 2: The USA/Canada Church has been in decline for over a decade and the coming decade could be worse.

Fact 3: The ONLY way to reverse the trend is to open more churches (5,000 new churches).

Fact 4: Seminary enrollment is down (way down from when I was a student 35 years ago). I haven’t seen the Bible College numbers. If we are opening churches we need trained pastors.

Fact 5: Many of the seminarians/ministry majors who are enrolled aren’t thrilled about reviving a church in small town U.S.A. or planting a church in an urban area. Many don’t want to pastor a church at all.

Fact 6: Getting a job in small town USA can be difficult.

Fact 7: Finding affordable housing in urban areas of the USA is difficult.

Fact 8: Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:37 are still true: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” People in both small town and urban USA need Jesus. We need churches and pastors.

What if we actively tried to change the current reality?

What if the term “bi-vocational pastor” was looked upon as a normal, regular ministry option rather than one inducing sympathy or being viewed as “second-rate?”

What if we thought of the bi-vocational pastor as the most honorable pastoral position and held these sacrificial women and men in high regard? Conversely, what if the idea of a “full-time” clergy role was viewed as a somewhat questionable pursuit?

What if seminarians/Bible college students were taught how to open a coffee shop (don’t people-inside-bar-2159074all ministry students love coffee?) or a thrift store (who doesn’t like a good thrift store/consignment shop?) or some other venture and taught how to play the guitar? Singing has always been a part of Christian worship (Live music > YouTube sing-alongs). And what if simultaneously these bi-vocational ministers were taught how to craft a sermon and be a pastor?

What if Acts 2:42 became our model of these house or inside-a-business-space churches? The followers would devote themselves to Biblical teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and to prayer. That’s it.

What if the district leadership could convince the twenty people or so remaining in a dying church that is on hospice care that they could sell their building and open a coffee shop or thrift store, that instead of the lost folks never stepping in their church, those that don’t know Jesus would regularly walk into a coffee shop or thrift store? (Note: this sales job from the district leader might take an act of God to actually happen).

What if we made the Bible college or seminary tuition FREE for those going into (or already doing) pastoral ministry?

What if districts started buying houses for the pastors to live in and where the house churches could meet?

What if the being-trained, guitar-playing, coffee-making, thrift store-operating, theologically sound seminarian or Bible College student with free education and free housing in the apartment above the coffee shop (with income from the coffee shop and with a steady stream of potential Jesus followers coming to get their coffee or find a bargain) could actually make a difference for Jesus in small town USA? What if all that could happen and…

What if this model was repeated again and again and again all across USA/Canada?

If that model was repeated, say 5000 times in the next decade, then attendance numbers and declining dollars would be dramatically reversed. We would see revival in small town USA and urban areas and everywhere in between.

No doubt, I’ve raised a lot of questions. In the next blog post I will attempt to answer some of those questions.