The Protestant Reformation 500 Years Later

“Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out…At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out.  They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses” (Numbers 9:21, 23).

October 2017 is a special month. It marks the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The end of this month, October 31, will be five hundred years to the day since Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This was the act that started it all, that started the grand and vast movement of Protestantism, that started the Reformation.

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In the evangelical church – and in the Church of the Nazarene specifically – we have obviously been greatly impacted by the Reformation.  If you have ever asked, “Why do we do this or that in the Church?”, many times the answer comes in large part due to the Protestant Reformation.

During the entirety of this month, we will be focusing on this anniversary. At times we will dive into the lives of the Reformers.  Other times we will focus on the core tenets of the Reformation (keep an eye out for the “5 Solas”). The primary purpose will be to help us learn about and reflect upon this enormously important event and how it has brought us to this moment in history as a Christian Church.

At the same time, a secondary purpose is also at work.  By dedicating a month to this topic, I hope that we will recognize that we are a Church that is always willing to evaluate itself and make adjustments as needed.  We have not always been good at that through history, have we? The Church has often been the last entity in society that is willing to change.

Thus, through this month I pray that we would renew our calling to reform, beginning with ourselves.  Just as the post-Exodus Israelites needed to be ready in any moment to follow the cloud, may we be so attuned to God’s presence that we willingly move and adapt at his prompting.  Lord, begin a reformation in me, and in us!

2017 Thank Offering for the World Evangelism Fund

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We must fix our sights on places where the church is not yet, engaging in intercessory prayer, sacrificial giving, and physically going to and mobilizing others to go to these places. Each time you give to the World Evangelism Fund, you send the message of the gospel into areas where “the church is not yet.”

For more information and to download the resources visit the official website: nazarene.org/generosity

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Jesus in the E.R.

Por Scott Armstrong

“On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners'” Matthew 9:12-13 NIV.

(Read Matthew 9:9-13)

I have to admit.  The Emergency Room is not my favorite place in the world.  There is need all around you.  Children coughing, tired parents, twisted ankles, even some serious emergencies that waver between life and death.

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What would happen if a completely healthy man walked into the E.R. and demanded to be treated? All the sick people in the waiting room are miserably biding their time until they can be seen.  The hospital rooms are full with injured people in the middle of operations and treatments and care.  And one guy decides he is more important than anybody and has to immediately be seen by a doctor.  No reason, really.  He just wants the attention.

Does it sound ridiculous? It should.  And yet, many Christians—maybe you and I—spend our time focusing on all the healthy people while failing to recognize we’re in the middle of the Emergency Room.

I love the simple passage we read today.  Matthew is writing about his own calling.  He doesn’t spend a long time describing the scene, but you can tell Matthew remembers it well.  He remembers the things said about him, his friends, his Lord.  That day was the day that transformed Matthew.  He went from sick to healthy in a span of hours.  And now his mission is to tell the world that the Doctor has come with a cure.  That’s why he’s writing this in the first place.

If we have come to Christ and have a relationship with him, we are—at least according to these verses—healthy.  Sure, we all need to grow.  Not one of us has outgrown our need for Jesus.  But part of our responsibility after being healed is to leave the hospital and bring more sick people to the Doctor!  The day Matthew met the Doctor he was bringing others to him.  Years later he wrote the words that we just read because he wanted all to know that Jesus spent his entire life—and awful death—saving sinners.

The question is: are you doing the same? Are you really convinced that people are going to hell without Christ? You have been given the cure.  What are you doing to spread that cure to those who are dying without it?

8 Good Questions to Evaluate Your Church

By Dan Reiland

It’s easy to get so busy doing ministry that you don’t take the time to evaluate your ministry.

But evaluation is how you get better.

It’s like your annual physical. No one wants to get a check-up, blood work, and maybe a test or two, but that’s how you learn what you need to know.

Then, of course, you need to act on what you learn.

The 4-point plan to get better:

  • Ask the right questions.
  • Give honest answers in a group process.
  • Determine the best-prioritized plan for improvement.
  • Take action.

It starts with asking the right questions.

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8 good questions that will help your ministry get better:

1) How is the unique culture of your church helping you make progress?

Sam Chand wrote an excellent book titled Breaking Your Church’s Culture Code. He states that more than vision, programs, money, or staff, culture has the greatest impact on your church’s future.

How would you describe your culture? Is it what you want? Is your church culture helping or hurting as you pursue God’s purpose for your church? What changes do you need to make? If the culture is healthy, what practices are in place to stay healthy?

2) How would you describe the overall morale of your church?

Are the people happy with your church? That question seems very subjective but is surprisingly easy to answer.

Do they trust the leadership? Are they fired-up about the mission? Are they passionate about following Jesus? Is there momentum? Are problems solved with relative ease (without significant resistance? You get the idea.

Morale and culture are closely linked. If you are struggling and the culture and morale are not ideal, I urge you to pour your leadership energy there first.

3) What is your approach to spiritual formation in your church?

Is there an overall sense that people are pursuing God? It’s not about perfection, but do you see progress? What factors do you consider important to help assess spiritual maturity?

Consider things like prayer, serving others, obedience, and financial generosity. How about the fruit of the Spirit like love, joy, and peace, etc.?

Do you utilize small groups? How is community developed? What priority does biblical truth hold? A great overall approach to assess spiritual growth is to gather stories of life change.

4) Are you developing new leaders?

Next to the favor of God, everything rises and falls on leadership. Do the leaders in your church demonstrate a strong spiritual depth and a servant’s heart? What is your plan to find and develop new and better leaders? You will not realize your potential as a church without a serious dedication to this process.

5) How would you describe the strength of your volunteer teams?

Are your volunteers part of vibrant and productive teams or a struggling band of survivors? Much of that depends on how you select, train, encourage and empower your volunteers. Do you recruit to a vision or just to get a task done?

All churches face the pressure of needing people to volunteer to serve, but how you build teams makes a significant difference. How would you rate the overall esprit de corps of your volunteer ministries? What is the first best step to strengthen your teams?

6) What are the financial indicators telling you?

It is relatively easy to measure results when it comes to money. The weekly offering defines reality. At the same time, one of the largest challenges a leader will ever face is successfully inspiring the people to trust God with their finances and remain faithful to generous giving.

Are you bold in your teaching of God’s truth about money? Do you offer practical training about money management? Do you personally model generosity? Where are you stronger regarding money, faith or practice?

7) Are you on mission?

You must first be clear about the purpose of your church. What is your mission/vision – exactly? Does your congregation have a good sense of what it is? Are you acting on that mission?

It’s essential that your leaders become and remain aligned together in that mission. It will always feel like you are swimming upstream if you are not headed in the same direction.

8) Do your people enthusiastically invite others to your worship services?

I have coached churches where the people had obviously lukewarm feelings about the worship service. They were not motivated to invite someone even if they had a friend they wanted to bring.

It’s not always the worship service, but it starts there. Is there anything about your church that would cause your congregation to pause about inviting their friends?

This is a huge evangelistic combination. If your people are committed to the vision enough to invite people to church, and your worship experience (from nursery to invitation) is worth inviting people to – that is the combination you work toward!

I trust these questions will be helpful to you and the health of your church.

I pray God’s wisdom for your leadership and His favor upon you!

This article was originally published at: danreiland.com

 

Are We There Yet?

By Scott Armstrong

“He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there (Genesis 12:5).”

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(Read Genesis 12:1-9)

What was the most incredible vacation you ever went on? Where did you go and what did you do? Did you go with family, friends, or both?

In Genesis 12 we read that the Lord calls Abram to go on a journey.  But it was far from a vacation.  Not even a majority of this trip was spent in green, lush land—and that makes a difference if you’re hauling cattle around.  This journey was long and hard, and most likely without many rewards.

But the verses we read simply state, “they set out…and they arrived” (v.5).  That’s like summing up one of my notorious family vacations by saying we set out from Kansas City and arrived in Toronto, Canada.  Just saying we set out and arrived doesn’t include the fights in the back seat between my brother and I, the threats of punishment from my parents, the awful memory of Detroit’s Grand Canyon-size potholes—you get the picture.  If you’re like me, you can imagine Abram thinking, “Maybe I got this wrong.  Did I really understand God? Why did he just say, ‘Pack up and move,’ without telling me where I’m going?”

But, like the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps going and going and going.  Time after time he stops and calls on the Lord.  Time after time he hears, “Keep going.”

There is an awesome lesson here.  Sometimes, like Abram, we have to keep taking steps even though we do not know where the Lord is taking us.  We all want to know what His big will is—those huge decisions that will affect our lives forever.  But sometimes He says, “You’re in my will.  Keep journeying on that road and the destination will become clear later.”  God’s will is not just the destination points on the highway, but the journey to and from those points.

Is there a large decision in your life that needs to be made in the next few days, weeks, or months? Have you worried about it? Maybe the Lord is showing you that you are right where you need to be and that He will provide the answer in His timing.  In the meantime, keep journeying.  Continue to draw closer to the One who will share His heart with you more and more with each passing day.  Rest assured that He has probably been doing that already.

Practical Points For Leading Difficult People

This is part two of the article published in the previous post written by Dan Reiland.

1) Discover what is underneath.

When a person becomes difficult, and the situation seems to persist, try setting the issue aside and take the conversation to a more personal level. 

Get “underneath” the obvious to discover if there is something deeper. My favorite go-to question is “What is really bothering you here?” It’s important to ask that question in a kind and caring way. 

When you connect with the real issue, it’s much easier to love and lead someone. 

2) Manage your own emotions well.

It’s vital to remain emotionally self-aware and in control. When you lose control, you lose. 

This does not mean to become bottled up and detached, but of all the things that could make the list in the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, kindness, forbearance, goodness, faithfulness gentleness, self-control is included! (Galatians 5:22)

When you become angry, you forfeit your leadership.

You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons, but you don’t have to descend to their level.

Here’s a practical plan for when a difficult person is getting to you.

• Count to 5.

• Lower your volume.

• Sit back in your chair.

• Speak deliberately.

• Call time out if you need to.

Hot heads never win in the long run. 

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3) Set limits and boundaries.

So far, I’ve emphasized our approach with difficult people. How we manage our heart, thoughts, and emotions. 

But some people are just plain difficult nearly all the time. We don’t want to be around them, and it can be hard to love them.

Boundaries and limits are healthy and necessary. Here are the boundaries I use.

My first boundary is respect. The person can disagree with me, and express dissatisfaction with my leadership, but it must be respectful. 

My second boundary is alignment. We need to agree on the overall mission and head in the same direction. It cannot become all about their personal agenda.

My third boundary is progress. Difficult conversations are part of leadership, and it’s not uncommon to get stuck for awhile. But soon we need to make progress! 

4) Communicate clear expectations.

Setting clear expectations is vital to working with a difficult person. 

Think through what is needed for a healthy relationship, and progress in ministry and make that clear. 

5) Lead them to higher ground.

This is your opportunity to encourage and inspire.

It’s not about selling and winning, don’t close a deal like you’re in sales.

Help them see themselves and the situation differently and for their good!

  • • Establish common ground.
  • • Communicate their value. Affirm the person.
  • • Point toward the bigger vision.
  • • Warn them of the consequences of continuing in the same path.

6) Pick your battles.

Sometimes people will knock on your door with the intention of “picking a fight.” And sometimes the situation escalates to the level of a battle. 

Always ask yourself, does this battle need to be fought? Sometimes it’s important to set it aside to climb a bigger hill. 

7) Focus on solutions.

Resolution of some kind is needed. 

Productive solutions are best. 

The worst thing is to leave a situation in a mess. Someone needs to clean it up. If you don’t, someone else must. 

Two crucial questions that help bring insight and resolution:

  • • What would you like me to do differently?
  • • What do you want?

When you know what the person wants, you can be clear about whether or not you will be able to comply. In the end, sometimes you must say no and hold your ground. And sometimes you should remove the person from leadership.

There will always be difficult people you are responsible for leading. How you lead them can change you, them, and the church for good!

This article was originally published at: Danreliand.com

 

 

The Challenge is Urban

By Scott Armstrong

Last week I had the privilege of being in Panama where several leaders were gathered to brainstorm solutions for more effective ministry in three areas:

  • Urban Mission
  • Youth
  • Children

These areas have been declared our regional emphases in Mesoamerica for the upcoming Quadrennial.  And rightly so: although great things are currently taking place in each of these ministries, we have a long way to go before we see an explosion of fruit all across the region among children, youth, and our cities.

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I’m sure you have listened to our Worthless Servants podcast recently (if you haven’t, seriously, what are you doing with your life?), and you know we have addressed all three of these issues in various episodes.  However, for the sake of this article, let’s focus on urban mission.

If you have heard my wife and I speak recently in any service or event, you know that we are banging the drum for urban mission.  Our ministry is GENESIS after all, where the mission is to make Christlike disciples in the urban centers of Mesoamerica.  We are sending missionaries to 28 strategic cities so that they may plant churches and impact communities with little or no Nazarene presence.  And it is happening!

Still, I admit that the influence a team of four workers can have in a city of 1 million+ is limited.  And what about the other cities that have not been identified as the 28 strategic, urgent sites that will receive missionaries? It is clear that our whole region needs a genesis and it will not come solely because of a dedicated volunteer missionary force.

This very week while we were in Panama, we received from Dale Jones in Nazarene Research (love them!) a list of all of the cities in the Mesoamerica Region with 100,000 or more in population.  The findings are intriguing and yet staggering:

  1. General statistics show that 72% of Mesoamerica lives in an urban area (this includes several cities of less than 100,000 that are still considered urban). Nearly 3 out of every four of us is an urbanite! When you think of urban, you may think of New York, Beijing, or Tokyo. But we are the region with the highest percentage of urban dwellers.
  2. In just two years we have grown from 169 cities with 100,000 people or more to 182 fitting that description. All over the world people are moving to the big city in droves, and our region is no exception.
  3. Of these 182 metropolises, 115 are in one country: Mexico. One. Five.  Reaching the cities of our region means especially reaching the cities of Mexico, many of which have no Nazarene church.
  4. After Mexico, the four countries that have the most cities with population of 100,000 or more are: Cuba (16), Dominican Republic (9), Haiti (8), and Nicaragua (7). In other words, 155 of the 182 biggest cities in our region are in FIVE countries. Would you pray specifically for urban impact in those five countries?
  5. The total population in Mesoamerica is 223 million. 42 million of us live in cities with greater than 100,000 people.  That’s 54%More of us live in a huge city than don’t.  Shouldn’t this effect the way we equip our leaders for ministry?

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  6. If the majority of our population lives in a big city, then that’s where all our Nazarenes are, too, right? Wrong. Only 32% of our members live in a city of over 100,000 people.  That’s 129,354 out of 406,000 total Nazarenes.

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  7. #5 and #6 above cause me to reflect: I know that we have many Nazarene members in these cities already and I praise the Lord for their witness. However, there is no doubt that in the great majority of these urban settings, we lack a true presence as a Church of the Nazarene.  Having a church building and holding services every week will not cut it.  In order to impact the city, sacrificial, creative, and missional discipleship will be required in the days ahead.
  8. A significant number of these 182 cities have recently been affected adversely by devastating natural disasters. Could it be that our entryway into these cities would come through comforting those who have lost all in hurricanes or earthquakes? Could it be that – even without natural disasters – acting as agents of compassion would be the healthy way to impact our cities anyway?

My intention is not to overwhelm you with statistics.  I recognize that each observation above must be digested thoughtfully for greatest understanding, and I pray you would do so!  Honestly, I share all of this not just to inform, but also to invite you to be a part of this initiative.

Would you pray?

Would you give?

Would you go and impact an urban context right where you are or even far away?

Comment below if God is turning your focus toward the city.  Communicate with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at MesoamericaGenesis.org.  Listen to our podcast and tell others about it so the conversation about these topics spreads.

We need your help.  The statistics are clear and the call of God is clearer: let’s bring a genesis to the urban centers of Mesoamerica.