Hope For a Hopeless Church

By Zac Harmon-McLaughlin

Reblogged from missionalleaders.org

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Every time I log onto Facebook or Twitter or any social media outlet, my news feed will undoubtedly show an article or two. I get articles such as, “10 Reasons Millennials Are Leaving Your Church” or “Why I Left Church” or “Brunch is My New Worship.” Do you know what I’m talking about? Have you experienced this?

If this weren’t enough reason to cause fear or anxiety about the state of faith, many churches are struggling financially. This includes my own, Community of Christ. I know that for most of us declining numbers cause fear and concern about our future. When we see a decline of people in the pews and a decline of contributors, somehow we think the “church” is dying.

I want to tell you why this is not true. I want to tell you how I am seeing faith explode in the everyday. I want to tell you that numbers do not dictate God’s wonderful and profound movement. I want to share with you HOPE. I want to share with you the vision and shifting identity of the missional church.

A few weeks ago I sat with a friend for lunch. We had met a few months earlier when he first walked into our congregation. We shared about our passions and faith. He told me he wanted to be baptized! I was amazed and excited. See, I was in doubt, worrying whether my faith was relevant. But in that moment I understood that my faith is not controlled by Sunday morning traditions or experiences. My faith is enlivened by the tangible development of relationships that create and empower an authentic Community of Christ. The church is not dying—it is growing! It is moving through vulnerability and courage to share and extend a hand of extravagant hospitality.

I am humbled by the presence of spirit and vision in a congregation I am working with. This is a congregation, perhaps like yours, that has few in the pews on Sunday morning. Month after month, they host a dinner for people who may not be able to afford dinner out. They gather a community of over 100 to break bread with one another. As I watch this event unfolding I see the reality of Christ being present. There is hugging, smiling, sharing of stories, laughing, and handshakes. Most important, they are forming community. Church is happening before my eyes. There are no hymns or sermons, but there are prayers and the breaking of bread.

They also host a biweekly gathering for youth from the neighborhood to explore the sacredness of creation. This ministry culminates with a week long camp in the summer. Over 100 youth and 30 youth volunteers celebrate God’s creation. This is where mission begins. Right here with encounter!

Another congregation I serve offers a monthly food pantry for their small rural community. I share with them in this experience. It took two days of work to make it happen. I heard from person after person the importance of Community of Christ for them and their community. They shared how the Community of Christ was a blessing for them in their life. Person after person shared how they look forward to seeing one another. They don’t use these words but: they are creating a community where Christ thrives! This is what Community of Christ enduring principles and mission initiatives look like!

When did we stop believing in the scripture from Matthew 18:20? – “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” When did the success or spiritual capacity of a congregation become tied to the number of people attending on Sunday morning or budget?

Being missional is responding to our discipleship not with an agenda for creating mega churches or extravagant programs, but rather living into the movements of God around and through us in our communities and contexts. The missional church is not a church concerned with numbers or budget. The missional church, courageously, moves forward with a powerful stubborn hope in a culture full of doubt, anxiety, and fear communicated in articles on our news feed. We are reminded, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Henri Nouwen reminds us in his book, Reaching Out, “Therefore, as the people of God, we are called ekklesia (from the Greek kaleo=call; andek=out), the community called out of the old world into the new.” I could go on and on with story after story, experience after experience, of the church growing and becoming. The truth is I don’t need to. When we pay attention and open our eyes, we have our own stories of hope and possibility. The church is not without hope and the church is not dying. The church is shifting, which is an indication that we are becoming.

May we become ekklesia. May we go into a world groaning with suffering, division, hunger, and fear and proclaim a movement that promotes communities of joy, hope, love and peace. May we become who Christ has called us to be and embrace the mission of Jesus Christ in a world challenged by apathy and a loss of hope. May we have stubborn hope and passionately, courageously, and vulnerably respond through everyday encounters with the living God. I certainly understand the complexities and difficulties, but I am not concerned with numbers or budget. I am empowered and inspired by Christ’s mission and encouraged by HOPE.

“The most important question for a missional church is not about long-term survival. It is about how we passionately pursue Christ’s mission in a suffering world that groans for the liberating truths of the gospel (Doctrine and Covenants 155: 7).” – Steve Veazey – April 2011

World Service Corps: Application Deadline – January 31, 2015

discover wsc

Are you looking for an experience that will challenge you and transform you? World Service Corps may be the experience you are looking for! World Service Corps (WSC) is an international volunteer ministry of Community of Christ, committed to offering opportunities for leadership development, disciple formation, and cultural immersion.

Applications are being accepted now until January 31, 2015 to serve as a World Service Corps volunteer in 2015. Apply today! Visit our website to view more information or contact the WSC Coordinator if you have any questions.

What is it like to be a World Service Corps volunteer? Every volunteer experience is different. But read this story from Lawson Mushibwe to find out his perspective! Lawson is from Zambia and he served as a WSC volunteer in India for two months in 2014.

Testimony by: Lawson C. Mushibwe (from Ndola, Zambia)
World Service Corps volunteer, July – September 2014
WSC location: Uthamapalayam, Tamil Nadu, India

Phone rings…
Me: Hello…
Emily: Hello… Is this Lawson Mushibwe?
Me: Yes it is.
Emily: How are you Lawson?
Me: Thinking to myself, OMG, that’s an American accent… But I calmly in my polished accent responded, “Am fine thank you, and how are you?”
Emily: This is Emily Penrose McLaughlin calling you from Community of Christ. I am the World Service Corps Program Coordinator.

From this moment I knew that my WSC volunteer application had been considered. And not too long from that call, I was taking part in sharing the five mission initiatives, promoting communities of joy, hope, love and peace as well as proclaiming Jesus Christ as he is the centre of it all. I was also privileged to share at a prayer meeting on one of the eight sacraments (marriage) of Community of Christ to a couple on their fourteenth marriage anniversary.
It didn’t take me long to adapt to this new environment. Quickly, I had a family and in no time I developed new strong chords of love in friendship which created an atmosphere resulting in feelings I would get if I were home, so I indeed felt at home. Even though there was a bit of language barrier, I opened my ears to listen to people’s stories and testimonies which indeed strengthened my faith and changed my life.

Sunday school classes with the kids were exceptionally awesome. I had a good time with the Tamil children, very clever and intelligent children. Classes were never boring as they were actively involved and very participative. They portrayed the eagerness to learn more on the Bible, and indeed the bible stories. And so, on one Sunday, the kids were granted a chance to share in the Church service through a drama on one of the lessons they learnt about the Good Samaritan. Equally, the children from the local school where we volunteered were participative and intelligent. Their syllabus is quiet advanced as compared to my country therefore; I picked the lower grades/standards to save me some embarrassment [Hahaha].

As much as I was thoroughly prepared and ready for this tasked mission, what I found was humbling and made me to reduce myself to nearly nothing, giving up myself for service and striping off my right to be right on how I understand things. And yeah, sacrifice is the word to describe this humbling change I had to undergo. This was in regards to cultural differences and culture shock. Of course, each cultural practice with its own followings. Therefore, I chose to envision the emerging differences and diversity not as sources of conflict/division and distrust, but of strength and inspiration. And this provided a platform for me to share, experience and appreciate one of the Community of Christ Enduring Principles, Unity in Diversity. This resulted in my realization that although our societies may have differences; we are still highly connected through Jesus Christ.

All in all, for many people, sixty days of ministry would really be one day of ministry repeated sixty times differently. So was my WSC volunteer experience. Each day came with its own serendipitous experiences that will forever remain in my heart as it has impacted and enriched my life in this regard.

“Lawson Mushibwe (far right) with Wednesday prayer cell group, and WSC partner, Patrick Chunda (left).”

“Lawson Mushibwe (far right) with Wednesday prayer cell group, and WSC partner, Patrick Chunda (left).”

Create your own life-changing experiences!  Apply today!
Visit our website to view more information or contact the WSC Coordinator if you have any questions. 

MEET YOUR TEAM: The Innovative Ministries Team

Team Meeting @ Farmhousewritten by: The Innovative Ministries Team

What if we could engage with the wider body of the church in a way that we never thought was possible? What if we, the prophetic people, took advantage of our ability to work with the Spirit, moving forward as a people of faith into the unknown, to face the challenges of our time?

Well, we can!

The Community of Christ is in a unique place right now. Autumn and spring are happening simultaneously. As we speak, the World Church (International Headquarters) is dealing with an issue where our income is not matching our intended mission plan. Consequently, we are bunkering down to weather the storm with cuts to staffing and intentional missional work. However, at the same time, we are seeing God work in amazing ways through new and exciting opportunities. We do not feel that one needs to be fixed before the other taken care of. We believe that spring can happen (and does happen!) whilst parts of the church take care of financial matters.

Traditions, culture, our global nature and ideological differences all lead us to different places. Does this mean change should not occur? No. This just means we need to work harder to ensure we move forward together.

Innovative Ministries Team retreatOver the coming weeks and months, the Innovative Ministries Team (formally the Young Adult Ministries Team) is moving forward in spring. Moving for change. We are working hard to ensure that new and exciting endeavours are seen as ways we can accelerate growth. Growth not only in discipleship and faith, but also in providing further opportunities to give. We know that if young adults are not intentionally engaged, we will not always respond. Our lives are complex and multi-faceted. We need to prioritise more than ever before where our 24hrs in a day goes. Unfortunately, this includes our spiritual lives.

So, what does this mean for us?

We, the Innovative Ministries Team, believe that there is a way to engage the church in missional and relational change that can “move the church forward to a place of significance” (priority) in the lives of young adults. This change requires us to risk. However we believe that inaction (or being focused solely on the autumn stage) is a bigger risk to the life of the church. We want to engage with the wider body! We want to ensure that we do not leave tradition and history behind, rather using it as our platform for faithful action.

Our team has developed a purpose statement that we believe will drive us (and you) towards positive, creative action:

By providing a resource of support and creative thought, we aim to inspire new expressions of meaningful communities.

We create opportunities for positive change that move the church forward to a place of significance while acknowledging our tradition and community identity.

We advocate for young adults and for opportunities that empower their visions and passions, resulting in a broader dialogue between diverse populations and church leadership; critical to the success of the Community of Christ.

With leadership development as a core value, we will provide experiences that develop individuals to serve through skills training and personal growth opportunities.

– Innovative Ministries Team (2014)

This is who we are. This is the change we want to see. This is the spring we are experiencing and the hope for the future, the summer, we are anticipating! We hope this reflects what you want to see in your community, too. We want to do this WITH YOU.

Come with us on this journey.

Follow what we’re up to, share posts, thoughts, comments, and ideas – and most definitely contribute your own.

This is OUR initiative. This is OUR community!

Facebook.com/CofChristYoungAdults

Twitter.com/CofCYoungAdults

yaministries@cofchrist.org

 

WANTED: JOURNEY HOUSE CAMPUS MINISTER

logo_sized_downThe Journey House Campus Ministry Center in East Lansing, Michigan is looking to hire a part-time campus minister.

The Journey House Board of Directors is looking for a person who is passionate about ministry and interested in promoting mission, building relationships, and forming community with college students in the Lansing area. Employment could begin as soon as January 2015.

Read the full job description here

TODAY! YA MINISTERS’ GATHERING 2.0 – Join us in person or online!

 Join us TODAY @ 1pm CST in person (Peacemakers Room in the Temple) or
online http://www.ustream.tv/channel/innovative-ministries (live stream sponsored by Community Place+)

Use #cofcya to join the conversation/follow on Facebook and Twitter!

 

YoungAdultPostcardFrontPRYOUNG ADULT MINISTERS’ GATHERING 2.0

Sunday, October 26 from 1pm-3:30pm @ Community of Christ Temple (Peacemakers Room)

 ANYONE interested in YA Ministries is invited!
 Even if you can’t stay the whole time – feel free to drop in!

THERE IS NO COST TO ATTEND! 

 

Sponsored and facilitated by the Young Adult Ministries Team

Important Update on the Leader Institute

Leader Institute LOGO -JPEGHi Everyone,

Unfortunately, I am the bearer of bad news.

We are needing to post-pone the Leader Institute program for awhile so will not be taking applications or starting a program in January as we had hoped. This is simply because there is not enough funds in World Church Ministries to run this program at this time. It is a high quality program and so the cost, to offer the program at the calibre necessary, just isn’t possible at this time.

I really hope that this program will be able to continue at some point in the near future. I think it is a great opportunity for emerging leaders of our church to be involved in (and it looks good on a resume too!).

If you have any questions, you’re more than welcome to contact me at yaministries@cofchrist.org. We will definitely make you aware when the program is able to run in the future!

 

needed_map_smIf you want to help our church community be able to continue offering
awesome programs like this: PLEASE GIVE! The Leader Institute is funded out of ministries supported by Develop Disciples to Serve.

The ministries of the church that benefit us, as individuals and as a community; and benefit others in what we can offer to the world – are only possible with the generosity of each of us!

Thank you for your understanding and for any support you can offer OUR church!

With hope,

Rachelle
Young Adult Ministries Specialist
Community of Christ

2 Piñatas + 6 Games of Ping-Pong + 8 Meals = Un Buen Día – Emily & Andrew’s Peace Corps Adventures

by Andrew Nilsen
Re-blogged from: May We Suggest

I’ve never seen such gigantic pots in my life.  In fact, I’ve only seen one pot comes close, which is at my father in-law’s cabin down in Cave in Rock, IL.  Today I witnessed two enormous pots full of food for fiestas with familia.  What a way to be welcomed into the family!

img_35291Today was my first full day living at my training site.  As TEFL teacher trainers, Emily and I are placed in separate small towns (pueblos) approximately 15 minutes away from each other in the Masaya department.  Peace Corps Nicaragua assigns married couples to separate training families primarily to help with language acquisition, which makes a lot of sense in our situation given that I have much more Spanish experience than Emily.  We will meet up twice this week for all-staff trainings, and will be able to spend the following weekends together, but for the time being we are focused on bonding with our host families.

Doña Juana has adopted me for the next twelve weeks of training, which means I now have older siblings!  My brother Osman (40 y/o) and sister Taniana (31 y/o) both are living at home.  They are very kind, welcoming, generous people.  In fact, I think Osman is sleeping in front of the TV in the living room, because I think they gave me his room.  I look forward to posting more updates about them in the following weeks.

This morning, after a light breakfast of bread and coffee, I hopped in Osman’s car to go to the finca para comer.  To be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what he meant by finca, but since we were going there to eat I was pretty stoked.  We drove about 10 minutes out of town, and turned right down a dirt driveway lined with plantain trees.  Turns out that was Osman meant by “Vamos a la finca para comer” was that we were going to his (our?) cousin Ricardo’s beautiful piece of land out in the country for an all-day food and family fest to celebrate the birthday of another one of our cousins.  Over the next six hours I ate a bowl of pork sopa consumido, received a botany/fruits of Nicargua taste-testing tour of la finca from Ricardo, ate freshly fried pork chicharrones with corn tortillas, won five out of six hotly contested ping-pong matches against Ricardo and his son, ate a gigantic plate of Nicaraguan style chop suey with pork, watched little cousins destroy a bunny piñata, and ate birthday cake.

If you were sensing a pork theme, that is because the family purchased and prepared two whole pigs to feed the birthday bunch.  We were a big crew, and even the biggest pot I’ve seen in my life only barely contained enough chop suey to feed us all.  The wonderful afternoon of family and conversation ended with me promising Ricardo and his wife that I would bring Emily to visit la finca before we finish our training.  I think our chances are good, since they throw a party there every time there is a birthday in the family.

After la finca, Osman drove Doña Juana and I to a one-year-old birthday party for a family friend.  Although the setting for this was much more humble, there was still the same immense pot full of food to feed the 30+ people who gathered around the dirt yard of the corrugated steel hut/house.  We were fed vigoron, a national dish of Nicaragua with (you guessed it) pork served over a bed of yucca, topped with a cabbage slaw.  While we were eating cake outside and watched more small Nicaraguan children obliterate pretty cardboard animals, Doña Juana, my new mom, turned to me and said “See, we don’t just eat gallo pinto for every meal.  We ate all day, and didn’t have rice or beans once!”

It’s only been one day, and already Doña Juana is exhibiting maternal psychic abilities by assuaging my unvoiced foodie fears.  However, I’d gladly trade gastronomic monotony any day for the feeling that I am a part of a family.  After today I get the feeling that I may not have to make that choice.