Nine Observations on the Mesoamerica Region’s 2018 Statistics

Scott Armstrong

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A few days ago, I shared ten observations I had after analyzing the 2018 statistics for the Church of the Nazarene. Admittedly, I focused on the world, and now would like to be more Caribbean and Central America-centric. What is the state of our Mesoamerica Region? Here are several things I have noted:

  1. Although we’ve seen encouraging growth in the last decade (38.27%), last year was paltry (0.76%). You read that correctly: in 2018 our Mesoamerican churches reported less than 1% growth.  Stated another way, for every 100 people who call themselves Nazarene in this region, we have discipled fewer than 1 person into membership. That’s a bit puzzling because (see #2 below)…
  2. We reported 31,640 conversions and 14,273 baptisms last year. In fact, 19,222 new members became a part of our churches in Mesoamerica last year by profession of faith or by transfer from other denominations. Praise the Lord! Those numbers would have signified a much more impressive growth than the 0.76% that we mentioned earlier, if it weren’t for all of the membership losses we suffered, whether by death, removal, or transfer.  Those are the combined reasons the overall growth rate was not higher.
  3. Although we have well over 420,000 members in Mesoamerica, slightly more than half that total weekly attend the largest worship service offered (53.7%) as well as discipleship groups (53.2%). Does that mean, in other words, that half our members are attending weekly worship and/or discipleship groups? Not exactly. We know, for example, that non-members are a part of worship every week, as well as Sunday School and discipleship groups.
  4. Total Global Missional Disbursements grew this past year by 46%. It is hard to express how exciting this is for our region! Missional stewardship and faithfulness have been emphasized greatly by NMI and all ministries in the last 4-5 years.  This rapid increase can only encourage us as we continue to expand our commitment to fund the mission around the world.
  5. Giving to the World Evangelism Fund (WEF) is at 1.54% of all non-missions giving. Remember, the denominational goal for every church and district is 5.5%. A total of five districts out of 80 in our entire region gave 5.5% or more: shout out to Guyana Demerara-Essequibo in the Caribbean, Upper Artibonite, South Central of Jacmel, and Lower Northwest in Haiti, and Gulf District of Mexico.  For the rest of us, what happened? The Church of the Nazarene in most of our countries was started by missionaries that were supported by WEF.  Now it is our turn to repay the favor.
  6. While the district-wide World Evangelism Fund totals are discouraging, 782 of 3,166 congregations (25%) paid their allocations in full last year. When the Church of the Nazarene speaks of allocations, we are referring to support of our district offices and ministries, educational institutions, as well as WEF.  Even though we still have a lot of work to do, this is a much more encouraging stat if only because it shows that, on a local level, many of our congregations are learning to be outward-focused and faithful to the denomination.
  7. NYI Membership in Mesoamerica declined -2.7%. It is one thing to experience hardly any growth from year to year, but in 2018 we have actually seen no growth, that is to say, fewer  In Mexico alone, we saw a -8.9% drop.  This should be a wake-up call to all of us as Nazarene leaders in the Caribbean and Central America.  If we do not prioritize children and youth, our church will become a relic before we know it.
  8. More than one out of every three Mesoamerican Nazarenes lives in Haiti. The exact statistic is 36.6%.  It is not the most populous country, and its land mass is quite small compared to many others’.  Innumerable political, social, and economic challenges exist. Nevertheless, Haiti has become a fertile soil for the gospel to take root – and the holiness message, in particular.
  9. As we noted in the global summaryDiscipleship attendance has grown more than overall membership numbers: 4.7% in our region, to be exact. The field that experienced the biggest increase in Sunday School and Discipleship attendance? The Caribbean with 8.2% last year.

I hope that these last two articles have been useful to you.  I’d love to hear from some Mesoamerican Nazarenes, specifically.  What do you notice when you look at the most recent stats? What is your reaction to my nine observations?

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Ten Observations on the Church of the Nazarene’s 2018 Global Statistics

Scott Armstrong

General Secretary David P. Wilson and Nazarene Research Services recently released the annual Church of the Nazarene statistical reports for 2018. These detailed reports documenting the missional activities of the denomination on a global scale show growth for the Church of the Nazarene over the statistical year, as well as continued growth over the past decade.

There is much to be thankful for!  God is on the move around the world and in our denomination!

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In an upcoming article, I will offer some observations on Mesoamerica’s statistics specifically. However, for now, and as I have done in the past, I have read through the document and offer some of my initial observations:

  1. The denomination’s membership has steadily grown during the past 10 years, although last year’s growth was tepid. Total membership has risen from around 1.84 million in 2008 to nearly 2.58 million in 2018. Additionally, in no year did we see a decline in membership worldwide in the last decade. More than 40% growth in only 10 years is quite encouraging! Nevertheless, last year’s growth was a mere 1.13% (see #4 below for one reason why).
  2. For the first time in a decade, we have reported a decline (-0.53%) in the number of churches. In 2017, 30,875 churches were reported, and in 2018, 30,712 were reported.  It should be noted that the decrease could be viewed as positive in one sense: while the number of missions went down (taking the overall numbers with them), many of those “not yet organized churches” most assuredly became organized, which is reflected in that number increasing by 0.58%.  Still, last year we organized the fewest number of churches of any year in the last decade.  One thing is certain: we must continue to emphasize church planting!
  3. Of the six world regions, Africa and Eurasia are pacing the way. Africa grew 7.3% last year, and 29.3% of the world’s Nazarenes are now African.  In a few years it is likely that one of three Nazarenes globally will be found on that continent. As far as Eurasia is concerned, membership has more than doubled in the last decade (112% growth).
  4. Membership in South America and the USA/Canada regions has declined. The -11.52% decrease in South American membership at first appears alarming.  However, Nazarene Research informs us that one district had over-reported fellowship members in 2017, and the -52,550 fewer members reported there in 2018 can be attributed to a correction of the previous year.  Thus, it should be characterized as an “artificial loss” (just as the purported growth in that district in 2017 should be labeled an “artificial gain”).  The decline in membership in the USA/Canada region is another story. While the overall Church has grown 40% in the last ten years, Nazarene membership in those two countries has gone down -4.57% in the same decade.
  5. A greater number of new Nazarenes are being received by transfer from other denominations (11.46%), while fewer new Nazarenes are being received by profession of faith compared to a decade ago (-9.47%). It is exciting to see that fellow Christians are changing their membership perhaps because of doctrinal alignment or experiencing the love of Nazarene churches. At the same time, the majority of Great-Commission Christians would agree that our primary growth must come from reaching those who do not know Christ with the good news.
  6. The denominational emphasis on discipleship during the last 10 years seems to be producing numerical fruit. Sunday School and Discipleship attendance has grown 62% in the last decade, a number much greater than the overall membership statistic.  To put it another way, last year discipleship attendance represented 51% of overall membership totals, while in 2008, that percentage was only 44%. It appears more of our Nazarenes are a part of some sort of discipleship group weekly, and/or our pastors and leaders are learning how to more accurately report the varied forms of discipleship that are occurring.
  7. God is calling and the Church is ordaining more and more leaders. 21% more elders and 48% more deacons have been ordained since 2008.  The number of licensed ministers keeps increasing, too.  A rapidly growing Church will require more and more leaders to preach, serve, and administer the Sacraments.  We praise the Lord for the growing numbers of pastors and lay people answering God’s call to shepherd His people!
  8. Membership in Nazarene Youth International has increased only 3% in 10 years. Let’s state that again: while overall membership has grown 40% since 2008, NYI has increased by 3%.  The one-year total is 0.53%.  I am almost at a loss for words.  Last year I addressed this issue, and I worry that any pleas to adapt are falling on deaf ears.  Every church wants youth to be present, but how many are willing to change in order to reach them and how many would then be willing to even hand over leadership to them? If we do not intentionally decide to wholeheartedly invest our time, resources, and love into children and youth, we will have forfeited our chance to be change-agents of society within the next 50 years.
  9. Giving to Global Mission (World Evangelism Fund + Approved Specials + Other Global Interests) went up considerably. 6% growth is exciting!  It reflects depth of stewardship and commitment around the world. That said (see #10)…
  10. We have a long way to go with regards to World Evangelism Fund (WEF) giving. On the first page of the report, the evidence cannot be denied: exactly one-third of global Churches of the Nazarene gave the minimum expectation of 5.5% or more of their non-missions giving to WEF.  Admittedly, on a positive note, that number is much higher than the previous year’s: only 26.8% of global congregations gave the full amount in 2017.  Still, nearly 29% of our churches did not give anythingto WEF last year! And 96% of all WEF came from one region: USA/Canada.  Around the world we have to do better! We have been blessed by WEF for so long; now it is our turn to bless others.  As a pastor friend in Dominican Republic who is in the process of transferring his credentials to our denomination once told me, “How can a church call themselves Nazarene if they don’t give to the World Evangelism Fund?!” Great question, José Luis!

Whew! That was a lot, I know.  And even then, I have undoubtedly missed dozens of other significant take-aways. What would you highlight, after looking at the document? Which of my ten observations encourages or alarms you the most?

Nazarene World Week of Prayer – 2019

From February 24 to March 2, 2019, Nazarenes will be interceding for different requests! Join us in prayer!

And as you pray throughout this Nazarene World Week of Prayer, remember that God is present and active! Our prayer requests simply encourage us to join Him in His redemptive purposes in the world. Pray faithfully! Pray passionately!

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Too often, when we pass through troubled and challenging times, we forget all that we have enjoyed by God’s good grace, and turn our focus inward, thinking only of our own present trials. When facing our troubled or uncertain times, turn our focus to others who “have no hope, and are without God in this world,” and those who are seeking to bring hope, and point to the God of hope and peace.

Remember our missionaries and the work of the church throughout the year in prayer. Many are often facing challenging times in the places in which they serve. They seek to be peacemakers and agents of transformation. They need your support through intercession.

Throughout this Nazarene World Week of Prayer, we are partners together with God through prayer!

Click the following link to download the prayer guide: Nazarene World Week of Prayer – 2019

 

Offering of Thanks: Sharing Christ’s Love in 162 World Areas

As followers of Christ, we are all called to be ambassadors of the Kingdom throughout the world. And through the global Church of the Nazarene, you are doing exactly that. Not only are you showing Christ’s love to your neighbors locally, but you are also showing it to those thousands of miles away.

When your church supports this fund, they are supporting the actions of Nazarenes loving others in Christ’s name, truly making Christlike disciples in all nations.

Nargiza’s redemption story began after surviving two suicide attempts when she was 13 years old. Not long after, a classmate invited her to church, setting her on a trajectory that would change her life forever.

“The reason why I wanted to commit suicide is because I believed no one loved me,” Nargiza said. “But when I came to Christ, I realized how much He loves me. [So] I didn’t just go to church, I really committed my life to Jesus.”

Today, Nargiza is not only alive and healthy, but she is a minister in the Church of the Nazarene.

“The difference between my life before Christ and after I accepted Him is that I have hope,” Nargiza said. “Through all the difficulties, God is with me, and I feel His love in my life.

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Every time you pray for the church, participate in giving to Nazarene missions, or go on a missions trip, you share Christ’s love in 162 world areas and beyond, resulting in transformed lives.

Promote the Offering of Thanks to your congregation using the materials and resources that are now available.

The offering website, nazarene.org/givethanks, includes promotional materials such as social media graphics, posters, brochures, a PowerPoint graphic, and bulletin inserts to support local churches.

Be sure to follow Church of the Nazarene (Official) on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so you can share posts about the offering with your social media followers.

For more information visit 2018 Offering for Nazarene Missions.

World Evangelism Fund

One of the things that characterizes us as a denomination is our heart for missions.  The primary way we fund the global missionary enterprise is through the World Evangelism Fund (WEF).  But what is WEF?

The World Evangelism Fund fuels the Church of the Nazarene’s mission by combining each person’s and church’s gift together to fund ministries everywhere. Every church is asked to give a portion of their yearly funds for the purpose of making Christlike disciples in the nations.

Why does the World Evangelism Fund exist?

In 1923, the Church of the Nazarene moved to a centralized funding system called the General Budget. In 1997, the name was changed to World Evangelism Fund, but the purpose remained the same: to sustain valuable ministries through consistent mission funding. The World Evangelism Fund provides the undesignated money and mission network that all Nazarene ministries need. Your gifts create and sustain ministries, and allow ministry personnel to spread the gospel.

How does the World Evangelism Fund work?

When you give, the money comes to the General Treasurer’s Office where the funds are distributed to various regions, missionaries, and ministries around the globe. The World Evangelism Fund not only provides ministries on the ground with the monies they need, but the money is used to ensure that legal, federal, and support needs are met so that ministries are as safe as possible and can be sustained for years to come.

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Here are a few examples of ministries that the World Evangelism Fund makes possible through direct funding or the ministry network:

Read Engage Magazine to hear the stories of individuals who have been helped by Nazarene ministries. All of this work only happens because of the combined gifts of people like you!

How is the World Evangelism Fund Received?

Much of the monies received come directly from local churches as a part of the Funding the Mission plan (watch the USA or Canada video about the plan). When you donate, your church gives a tithe of that money on to the worldwide Nazarene church. The World Evangelism Fund goal for every church is 5.5% of their income for the year less mission giving.

Some churches choose to raise funds through the Easter Offering and Thank Offering for the World Evangelism Fund. These two offerings happen every year, and Stewardship Ministries provides promotional and informational resources to help churches communicate the offerings to their congregations. Churches also use Faith Promise pledges to raise funds throughout the year. We encourage churches to actively engage their congregations in understanding and giving toward mission work through the World Evangelism Fund. Many churches choose to invest more than the 5.5% goal toward ministry, and those gifts make a huge difference.

Thank You

When a church meets its Funding the Mission tithe goals, including the 5.5% for the World Evangelism Fund, it is recognized as a World Evangelism Church. All World Evangelism churches receive a special thank you for their faithful generosity to the mission. Additionally, Nazarene Missions International recognizes churches that meet their World Evangelism Fund goal at 5.7%. Click here to read more about church recognitions. 

None of the ministries the World Evangelism Fund sustains would be possible without the gifts of people like you. It is a pleasure to partner with you to take the gospel around the world. We thank you for your faithfulness to give and pray for Nazarene mission work everywhere.

This information was originally published on the official website of the Church of the Nazarene.

WEF and the Mesoamerica Region

A week ago I was in Panama City for our Regional Advisory Committee meetings.  One of the things that came up several times during the four days was our response as a region in giving to the World Evangelism Fund. The World Evangelism Fund (WEF) supports nearly 700 Nazarene missionaries and the work of the Church in 162 nations around the world.  WEF is the foundational funding arm of missions in our denomination.  In future articles, we will explain further what WEF is and how it began, as well as share promotional resources for the Thanksgiving Offering, one of our most significant annual methods of raising WEF support.

For the last decade, the goal set by our leaders has been for every local Nazarene church to give 5.5% of their overall tithes and offerings to WEF.  As our General Superintendents often say, the goal is not equal amount of giving (in total money raised per church), but equal sacrifice.  Imagine what could be done if all 26,000 Nazarene congregations in every one of those 162 countries supported by giving in this way.  Our reach would be exponential!

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I have been encouraged to hear that in the previous years we have seen 100% involvement in WEF by the USA/Canada Districts.  That is incredible!  Praise the Lord!  But here’s the kick in the gut: in our Mesoamerica Region we are seeing only 37% involvement.  In other words, roughly one out of every three churches in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America is giving ANYTHING to the World Evangelism Fund. We’re not saying that almost two-thirds aren’t giving a full 5.5% of their income.  We’re saying that almost two-thirds aren’t giving a single peso, or dollar, or gourde. And guess what? Outside of the USA and Canada, that 37% involvement is the highest of all other regions!

I don’t mean to drown you in statistics, but I want to put this another way:

  • 200 local churches around the world provide 70% of WEF.
  • 6,000 local churches provide the rest of WEF.
  • 20,000 local churches do not provide any WEF.

Gulp.

I cannot speak for other regions, but in our RAC meetings we united as leaders from all around Mesoamerica to commit to do our part.  Our regional goal by 2030 is to get to $1.5 million dollars given to WEF. If we do so, that is predicted to be even a bit higher than 5.5% (currently we are giving 2.7%).  Would you pray with us that we would reach this goal? We want to generously give to others just as others have generously lavished through the years on us.

I loved what Dr. Gustavo Crocker said several months ago: “Before 1990, the missions motto was, ‘The West to the rest.’ But now we have a new motto: ‘The best to the rest.’” It truly does not matter where you come from; God is calling missionaries from everywhere to everywhere.

And that also means that everywhere has the privilege of sending and supporting missionaries financially. In the Church of the Nazarene, the World Evangelism Fund is the primary way we do that.  WEF has been an amazing and successful missions strategy to reach the nations.  Now we as the nations have the honor of giving back in order to see astonishing global impact.

But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving” (2 Cor. 8:7).

The Church is Praying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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