Archives For January 2013

God’s City-My City

imprrh@gmail.com —  January 21, 2013

I was not sure what to expect. It was the first evangelistic effort at the REMIX church plant that I had just started pastoring two months ago. We were  counting with 35 committed members, in one of the most seculars cities in the US, Portland Oregon. We started a six weeks called “God’s City. My City.” and something amazing happened. In six weeks our membership grew by a 20%. God took the REMIX church through an incredible journey. From this journey I learned 3 things:

 

1.    Focus. Less is more.

Churches have become complicated living organisms which are divided in programs or ministries each of them with different agendas. Each one of those  agendas compete for resources, staffing, finances and time. In the midst of that struggle the mission that Jesus has untrusted us gets lost. Jesus sent his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. (Matthew 28:18-19)The church’s main goal is to preach the Gospel to the lost. Our main mission is Evangelism. Sure there are many other things that are important and we ought to do but not at the expense of disregarding our main mission. McDonalds has a variety of healthy salads and fruit drinks but at the core of their company they serve burgers. If McDonalds were to focus on the other products they sell and stop making burgers they would stop being McDonalds. In the same way if the church stops being a place where the lost are found we stop being the church and become something else. When we started this six weeks journey we stopped doing all the others great things that we were doing to focus in one. We decided that everything we did during those six weeks would be directly related to reaching the city for Christ. The Sabbath school, the home meetings, the church boards, everything was dedicated to talk, plan, ask, and act upon reaching the people of the city for Christ. A result every member and visitor was engaged in the mission of the church. Yes, even visitors. The ones that assisted to the Sabbath school of the home community meetings shared great insight on how we (the church) could connect with them (the city) in a more effective, relevant way. All the time, the resources, the leaders, were aligned and focused on the mission. This also created a great deal of expectation and momentum. I believe that God shows up when young adults are expecting him. Every sermon preached, every daily devotional read, every lesson taught, every conversation held, every prayer prayed, was focused on reaching the lost. Momentum grew and God showed up! Members started inviting friends with the expectation that God was going to show up and touch their hearts and He did! When the church is focused and aligned it moves forward in the same direction.

 

2. Prayer + Action = Power

One of the things that made the GCMC series different from others is that it has a strong prayer focus but also a great action focus. When people pray for something and they act upon it strengthens their faith and gives them an opportunity to be used by the Holy Spirit. Each member was reading the same devotional book which included a Bible lesson about reaching the lost and a specific thing that they were going to pray for. For example they would pray for the people that they would invite for the evangelism final event, or they would pray for the worship leaders of the church. But the devotional had an action component to it, an action step that each person would take in order to reach the city for Christ. One day you would be sending an email to friends, another day you would be inviting a family member to a home community. Prayer needs to be accompanied by action. When we act upon what we have already prayed for we are acting under God’s power and His blessing. Can you imaging that? Every member of your church doing something every single day to reach others for Christ! But isn’t that elemental? Isn’t that the lifestyle that we should live? Yes, but its not. After the first week of having the church pray everyday for a specific thing and taking specific steps towards reaching others, the assistance of the 2nd week showed a dramatic increase in visitors and in the spirit of worship and fellowship in the church. Praying and acting is followed by God’s power & blessing!

 

3. Jesus. Enough said.

During the GCMC the entire church was learning about the Jesus way of loving the city, praying for the city, engaging the city, serving the city and transforming the city. We were not only focusing on the Jesus way in our personal devotionals but also in our home communities. We got together once a week at homes and we studied a lesson provided in the series that was centered on Jesus’ way of reaching others. Every Sabbath School got together and studied and discussed Bible verses on how Jesus reached the people of the cities. Also during those six weeks each Sabbath sermon focused on Christ’s way of reaching people. Each sermon was titled, Loving the City, Praying for the City, Engaging the City, Serving the City, Inviting the City, and Transforming the City. We experienced Jesus’ promise, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:32) We had people that showing up in our church invited by people that we didn’t even know, friends were invited friends, Jesus was drawing people to Himself. We have many great doctrines to share but if we share them in a way that Jesus is an afterthought than we have terribly failed. Young adults have many, many questions but they won’t come to Christ by answering all their questions. So instead of focusing on answering all the questions and curiosities that people may have (many of the very valid questions) people are more convinced by a personal and relevant God than by a clever argument.

It really isn’t something new. It isn’t incredibly innovative. In fact its more like Christianity 101. Focusing on what is important and using resources, finances and time in that direction. Then its praying asking for God’s power and his blessing but NOT being passive about it but active. Actively pursuing the people through personal meaningful relations, the people that we have already prayed about. And keeping Christ at the center of Christianity. Jesus the center of every sermon, lesson taught, home community, everything. Like I said nothing new, or is it? After going through this journey we’ve discovered that this was more than a series that we would do or an event that we would commit to, but this is a church lifestyle that we want to live by. It might be simple but its the Jesus way and it works. God is reaching the city.

MINISTRY TO THE DEPRESSED

by Christopher C. Thompson, Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church, Columbus, OH

Over the past year I’ve done a ton of speaking, preaching, teaching, and writing about grief, suffering, and hardship. I did not choose this; it chose me. I had a member commit suicide in September of 2010. Then, in January of 2011 my father committed suicide. One year later, I travelled back to visit the family and celebrate survival and recovery, only to find that my dad’s brother had committed suicide. So in January of 2012, they held the funeral; almost exactly a year to the day of my father’s funeral. I started speaking out about suicide and depression, and every time I did I’d get people coming to me to tell me their stories. More and more people would

People are hurting, broken, wounded, and grappling for some semblance of help and hope. It can truly be overwhelming. Shepherding is difficult enough when the sheep are healthy, it’s nearly impossible when the sheep aren’t well. It’s terribly difficult to lead the flock to green pastures when many of them are crippled by depression and despair. Thus, I have learned, It’s very important that the minister does not become consumed with sickness and despondency.

I’ll assume that as a minister, you sincerely care for those who hurt, and that you seek God in prayer for their prosperity. Yet, here are three simple keys to effective ministry to the depressed.

Provide specific life-work assignments.
Urge them to seek professional help.
Do not enable.

Now that you have the general idea of the keys, let’s go back and take a bit of a closer look at each of them.

1. Provide specific life-work assignments.
Depressed people are blinded by circumstance and drained dry of energy. They need encouragement and direction. Litter your counsel with bible promises and encouragement, but be specific and intentional about coaching them towards specific projects and goals. Pain, loss, grief, and suffering is transition time, and transition time is the perfect time to start a ministry, write a book, go back to school, and just do something new and different. Without specific goals and objectives things continue to fester and spoil. They have to get up, get out, and do something.

2. Urge them to seek professional help.
Often times the depression and hardship is so severe that not even the most charismatic character can encourage them. They need an environment and professional that is trained to deal with these types of issues…and you are NOT it. Look warning signs (i.e. suicide-speak, excessive drinking/drug use, etc.) that they need professional therapeutic care and do not hesitate to refer them. You are not God. Don’t try to play hero with people’s fragile lives.

3. Do not enable.
I recently heard an SDA chaplain say that God is extremely co-dependent. I wondered what made him say that. I’ll ask him later. However, If it just so happened that God ever actually did become co-dependent…I’m sure it’s because He can handle it. We can’t. We cannot enable others because of our own insecurities and weakness. If a person refuses to pursue their goals, and they refuse to seek out help, then I for sure cannot help them. I must move on to those sheep who relish the leading of the shepherd.

There it is. Do this, and you will pour new life into the broken bodies of many ailing souls. There is no shortage of depressed people, but there is also no shortage of divine grace and power that can lift the weakest believer out of the doldrums of depression, despondency, and despair. For that’s what he does. “He heals the brokenhearted and he binds up their wounds” (Ps. 147:3).

“Preaching In The Dark”

 

Two summers ago, I traveled with a group of professionals for an evangelistic effort in Mzuzu, Malawi, Africa. At the time, I’d been Assistant Pastor for a major congregation for little over a year, so I’d been preaching to a “sophisticated” group. Thus, I felt fairly confident that I could preach effectively to the villagers we would encounter there on the country-side of Mzuzu, with little effort.

 

If you’ve been a part of such campaigns, you know the evangelist carries with them a laptop and projector and they use pre-written sermons that are provided for them. So, I’m even MORE CONFIDENT that I’m able to preach this meeting without even breaking a sweat. And I DID, I preached the meetings with relatively little effort and even less prayer.

 

About the second week of the meeting, in the middle of one of the most critical messages, the generator we’d been using gave out! There was no ambient light, ANYWHERE! Our site had the only electricity on the entire countryside! All that could be seen were the stars above. My translator and I fought through the message, shouting into the night, and both realized I was sinking, FAST! We made a B-line to the appeal and called the musician to lead the group in songs before we left.

 

As I reflected over the evening, I admitted that I’d taken the entire experience for granted. I’d done little homiletical preparation and even less spiritual groundwork. So, when the lights went out and the opportunity to flow in the Spirit (and not from the page) presented itself, I couldn’t. God turned the lights out that night to remind me that it wasn’t the pre-written sermon or images from the projector that would affect change in the lives of the people before whom I stood. Rather, the Spirit needed to permeate my spirit and then transform hearts of my hearers. In order for that to happen, I needed to be connected with the God I preached.  It was easy to assume I was connected when everything was working, but when that generator blew…it was painfully obvious that not only was the physical generator on the blink, but I was spiritually out of juice, as well.

 

I heard a message last week that brought me back to this very notion; that the Pastor’s greatest temptation is to do the work of God without themselves being in ongoing relationship with the God they work for; and many of us are designing cleaner websites and fancier posters advertising more elaborate programs to mask the truth that we are operating with NO POWER! No wonder our congregations are the same, or more likely, worsening by the year…we have NO POWER! We have stagnant to declining growth, our health is failing and our families are falling a part over a ministry we barely tolerate, all because we’re attempting said ministry with NO POWER!

 

As excruciating as powerless ministry is, it is also a wonderful gift! Yes, I called it a “gift”. It serves as a wake-up call, as well as an invitation to a different experience. It signals to us that the way we’re operating is not good and nudges us in another direction. It’s a gift because it drives us back to God!

 

Don’t you want to regain the passion you once had for the ministry? To be bubbling with so much of God’s Spirit that you can’t exhaust your preaching ideas? To be a joy and not a terror to your family? The answer is not more preaching resources or new ministry opportunities but a renewed connection with our Lord.

 

No matter how long you’ve been preaching in the dark, I promise, a whole new level of ministry is waiting…you just have to get plugged-in.

NOTE: This is a young adult guest blogger. Part of the leadership team at a new church plant.

This blog post is a heavy one for me. Just know this is MY opinion and not generalizing, just giving MY personal experience.

I’m tired of holding it in.

So, here it goes.

Growing up, I had a certain mentality about church, beliefs, norms in church, rules in church, regulations in church, what not to wear in church, etc. I enjoyed church very much [as I still do], but remember all the rules/regulations. For roughly 25 years I was in that kind of church environment. I’m not saying that the environment was detrimental for my spiritual life because I’m still standing in the Lord [thankfully], but it DID affect me. So, as I was saying, for many years I had only one picture of what church was…My view was very one dimensional, as expected.

When my husband and I finally decided to try another church just as a change of scenery, we found things that shocked us and had us gasping at times because we were not accustomed to it. Some of our acquaintances that found out from the grapevine that we transferred over to a “different” church automatically associated us with the word, “liberal.”

Okay, maybe the music was a little different and maybe the evangelism outreach was progressive [example: having Christian movie nights, block parties for the community, vegan cooking classes, and weight loss competitions]. Yes, we get it. It’s different. It is not the Bible time method of evangelism [which for the record is very effective still, but we are living in 2012. I still remember the Y2K (remember that?) when the year 2000 seemed like an outer space age. Well, we are 12 years into it, times change. Yes, I know the word of God never changes [Amen to that], but we can ADD ways to evangelize to the community. We can execute Bible time methods, but also add 21st century methods. It won’t kill ya, I promise.

Okay,enough with my tangent. Back to the point.

We were labeled [and still are] as liberals. This bothered me at first until I came to the realization of something. Being submerged in a entirely different environment opened my eyes. I saw everything in a different light. I feel more loving now towards things now that before would have me judging left and right. Again, don’t freak out or get puffy. This is MY experience and MINE alone [if you can relate, cool…but remember this is ME, Anissa].

Let me confess something to you who might think I am a liberal. I enjoy having instruments and occasionally clapping in my worship [gasps!]. I don’t go crazy, but it doesn’t bother me. But check this out, I also enjoy worship without instruments [granted, when songs are sung with vigor and not like you’re at a funeral]. I can worship BOTH ways and STILL receive a blessing from uplifting a song to God. How about that for a liberal, huh?

When it comes to loving each other and most importantly, God, I feel like I love more freely now. Again, I am NOT perfect or pretend to be [trust, I have my really bad days]. I just see God in a different light now. Before I would mainly see Him as kind of an angry God [yes, I know there are 6 things God hates and 7 things that are detestable to Him like Proverbs 6:16-19 says], but now I see him more as a loving God who cares for me. He even cares about when I have a bad stomach ache [it’s the little things]. He cares when He knows I am trying to be a good steward of the money He helps us find amazing sales [it’s the little things]. He cares about my salvation and my spiritual well-being [it’s the big things]. I can go on and on about how He cares for me. He is an almighty, powerful, but caring and loving God.

I remember years ago we would always talk about “those other guys” who always just spoke of God’s love and never of His “wrath.” I was the one of the ones talking about “How can these people just preach about God’s love and nothing else…?” Now, I sit on the other side where God’s love is frequently preached BUT it’s accompanied by Biblical truths. Today I was actually debating with a friend about this subject and a quote was born, “We cannot preach truth without LOVE and we cannot preach LOVE without truth.”

I remember back then when a young person [or adult] would commit a public mistake, they’d get displayed in front of the church a-la-Scarlet Letter style. Everyone would snicker when their “charges” were read aloud. Thinking back I liken this to wolves with sharp canines just anxious to have the fresh dead meat hit their mouth. Sounds crucial, but that’s how it seemed. The “dead meat” would end up being a pregnant girl with her boyfriend; an unmarried couple that had premarital relations and told someone who told someone who told someone who ended up telling an elder who ended up telling the pastor; people struggling with addiction; a spouse who cheated on their significant other; the list goes on. It was like “the town spectacle.” I remember as a child, pre-teen, teen, young adult seeing people get “excommunicated” and never seeing them again.
I never want to go back to that environment. Ever. Jesus was and still is the complete opposite with us sinners. Who are we to be “superior” to Him and act a different way because we think we are upholding God’s law?

It is my earnest prayer that church environments such as these are overcome by God’s TRUE LOVE and uphold God’s TRUE LAW. Please join me in the same prayer. Be blessed.

Preaching Seminar

imprrh@gmail.com —  January 14, 2013

If you are interested in becoming a better public speaker, here are some resources for you. There are 6 different resources. You can use them for teaching a class for young people that would like to preach, a preaching class, leaders training. Share with someone that can benefit from it. Feel free to adapt, improve and modify the content.



1. PREACH!  Six Keys to Effective Preaching.
http://www.slideshare.net/RogerHernandez6/preach

2. Tips for Preachers- 10 Practical, foundational, tips for better communicators.
http://www.slideshare.net/RogerHernandez6/preaching-tips

3. Ilustrate!- How to get, use, and file ilustrations that connect with the audience.
http://www.slideshare.net/RogerHernandez6/illustrations-15978019

4. Four sermons to practice. Here are four sermon outlines you can share with you class and work on them together. Power point and word document:
http://www.slideshare.net/RogerHernandez6/preaching-template-4-sermons

http://www.slideshare.net/RogerHernandez6/preach-preaching-semminar-15977997

5. How to engage the audience- 8 Surefire Tips.
http://www.slideshare.net/RogerHernandez6/involve-your-audience

PREACH! Six Keys to Effective Preaching.
http://www.slideshare.net/RogerHernandez6/preach

Gracias a Abner Perales por la traduccion al espanol de este material:

Power point, descargalo aqui:

http://www.slideshare.net/RogerHernandez6/unidad-diversidad-imposibilidad-espanol

Bendiciones,