Should We Rethink the 30-minute Sermon Lecture?

Our message should encompass both Scripture and our congregants questions.

Recently, a group of pastors asked me this question: “Should we rethink the 30-minute sermon lecture in light of the many different ways classroom teaching is currently conducted?” They are part of a year-long initiative by the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Seminary to strengthen the quality of preaching. In an effort to answer this question, the group of pastors asked me to lead a preaching workshop centered on what we know about adult learning.

As I started to prepare, I asked myself, “What is underneath their question about sermon-as-lecture?”

Well, pastors want people to grow. Instead of having our carefully crafted words go in one ear and out the other, we hope for deep transformation. We hope that our communication shapes our listeners’ understanding of God, themselves, and the world so that their way of living would more closely reflect God and His Kingdom.

However, we know that just telling people what they should do is not enough. The old model of education believed that the teacher’s job was to deposit the information into the vessel of the student’s mind for future retrieval. Paulo Freire, who first used the term “banking” to describe this approach to learning, noted that teaching this way results in the facts becoming “lifeless and petrified…detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance. Words are emptied of their concreteness and become a hollow, alienated, and alienating verbosity.” (Pedagogy of the Oppressed 2000, 71)

In other words, teaching that is not embodied by the teacher and experienced within the relational community is at risk of being nothing but empty …

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Kingdom Expeditions

Kingdom Expeditions leads transformational, Christ-centered experiences for young adults. At Kingdom Expeditions, we believe that immersion into foreign cultures, exploring the grandeurs of creation, and a deep study into the person of Jesus Christ are all critical elements of an adventure of a lifetime. Young adults have made it clear that they prefer experiences to purchasing physical things. We believe that this departure from the American norm is wise. While physical things are fleeting, transformational experiences can change life trajectories forever.

Join us to encounter striking beauty, forge meaningful friendships, and experience a glimpse of the Kingdom. “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and to see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau “A change of pace with a change of place brings a change of perspective.” – Mark Batterson.

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Bread of Life Rescue Mission

For over a decade, the Bread of Life Rescue Mission has been serving the needs of our neighbors who are hurting, hungry, and homeless. We primarily serve a six-city area comprised of Oceanside, Vista, Carlsbad, San Marcos, Escondido, and Encinitas.

Year round we provide warm evening meals, food boxes, clothing, personal care items, and referral services. Additionally, we offer our guests spiritual encouragement and facilitate new beginnings.

As a California non-profit religious organization, we provide a nurturing and safe environment that is drug and alcohol free.

We are a designated City of Oceanside cold-weather over-night shelter open annually from November 1 through March 31.

Our client advocates work together with our shelter guests to lay out specific plans geared towards their individual needs along with referral and tracking systems to help them accomplish their goals. Our services include mandatory drug and alcohol testing. We offer referral assistance to substance abuse programs and sober living facilities.

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Community transformation begins with partnership

United States (MNN) — In a city known for its philanthropy and hundreds of churches, there are still significant gaps and hurting communities. This is Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Setting the Scene

Over 1,000 millionaires reside in the greater region of the Grand Rapids area. The city has been named one of the best cities for raising kids in the United States. At least 2,800 nonprofits are in the area.

Grand Rapids, United States. (Photo by Keenan Barber on Unsplash)

Between the philanthropy and public services, it’s hard to believe that 43.7 percent of children under the age of 18 live below the federal poverty level in the city. The unemployment rate for young adults aged 16-24 was at 23.35 percent in 2016. However, these statistics are not a blanket statement. Instead, they vary based on racial demographics. For example, in 2014, Grand Rapids was ranked as the second worst city in the U.S. for African-Americans to live.

(All statistics are from the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation found here.)

Grand Rapids is a city of oxymorons. The disparity of wealth and poverty is shocking, especially given the fact that there are hundreds of churches and hundreds of nonprofits in the area.

Bethany’s Work With GRCCT

That’s why Bethany Christian Services partners with a collaborative called The Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation. GRCCT has a vision to transform the city into a place where all people can thrive.

“There’s actually five organizations. One is, like I said, Bethany. The other is a social enterprise, Rising Grinds Café. Another is Building Bridges Professional Services, a church-based community development operation called The Grand Rapids Nehemiah Project, as well as the local chapter of the NAACP,” Director and Founder of GRCCT Justin Beene explains.

(Image courtesy of Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation via Facebook)

The center has a unique focus on young adults aged 14-24. Beene says this means GRCCT’s work expands “from GED completion, mentoring, case management, working with youth in foster care and housing, all the way to advocacy.”

Bethany’s work with GRCCT focuses on the development of young adults. This includes life skills support such as help with career exploration, resume building, job searches, finding internships and paid employment opportunities, and even interview training.

Another aspect of Bethany’s work includes education. Bethany helps young adults with college planning, the admission process, GED courses, student housing, and high school completion/credit recovery.

Bethany also provides youth development and life skills classes, leadership and mentoring opportunities, and community development services at a free or reduced cost. Learn more about Bethany’s work with GRCCT here. 

Opportunity for the Local Church

Last year the GRCCT served about 320 young adults. This year it is expecting to serve about 400 young adults. Beene says through GRCCT’s work there has been a decrease in trauma symptomology in the young adults served, and over 100 people have been placed in jobs. And the Church is invited to help.

“I think this is a real opportunity, for sure, for the Church to engage. I think, again locally, it would be great to see that statistics changed because folks in the Church have stepped up and decided to do something different. To make some sacrifices and to really work to change the system so that those who have been oppressed and marginalized really can have more opportunity to participate in, what I say, both the social and spiritual renewal of a city,” Beene says.

Get Involved

Through its Ignite: The Movement campaign, GRCCT is currently raising $3.65 million to purchase and renovate a space to support its operations, for the community to congregate, and to create jobs while also creating a venue for revenue in the community.

Will you consider giving to this project? To give or get involved, click here.

Unsplash, nieghbor

(Photo by Nina Strehl via Unsplash)

“We welcome folks coming to [take] a tour. We say one way you can support us is just hire our landscaping company or go visit our coffee shop, and by making those purchases or using our catering service, you’re actually helping create jobs for folks who otherwise might not otherwise be able to find employment,” Beene says.

“Church groups have come here and actually done a short Sunday service and then actually got to work on our building. There are lots of ways that folks can engage.”

Pray for the GRCCT, the impact it is having in this community, and for God’s love to be made known through the process. Also pray the Church in this area would step up to the challenge of selfless, self-sacrificing love and get involved with community transformation.

Learn more about the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation here.

 

 

Header photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash.

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Hope remains as Syria crumbles

Syria (MNN) — Eight years ago today, the so-called “Day of Rage” protests garnered a harsh reaction from Syria’s government. Next came months of unrest, and then Syria’s civil war.

More than 560,000 people have died since then. Roughly half of Syria’s population can’t survive today without emergency aid. Some elements of Syria’s conflict are ending – the fight against Islamic State terrorists, for example. But, the wider conflict in Syria is far from over.

prayercast syria 2Samuel* of Redemptive Stories explains, “What I’m seeing more and more is that alliances are actually just shifting…those who would’ve been against [Syrian President] Bashar are working now together, whereas in the past they would not have. And, I think that is going to be the next season of continued fighting.”

Ephesians 6:12 states that our battle is spiritual, not physical. In a similar way, the battle for Syria is not against a specific group but against an ideology.

“When you talk about [groups that follow] fundamental Islam – al Qaeda, ISIS, Muslim Brotherhood, all of those – are an interpretation, a legitimate interpretation, of Koranic and Hadif readings,” explains Samuel. “Therefore, it is an ideology that is not able to be rooted out with violence.

“Ultimately, whether it’s al Qaeda or ISIS, it’s going to pop up again in some other form.”

Peace may be a rare commodity in Syria for years to come. Regardless, Samuel and others who work with Redemptive Stories are making sure hope is easy to find.

Introducing a different message

While their daily tasks vary, Redemptive Stories is a relational ministry operating in the Middle East. They reach out to people who need a reason to hope.

prayercast syria 1“We continually have to communicate that there’s something better out there for them,” Samuel explains.

“There’s something better, and that better thing is a relationship with Christ.”

Redemptive Stories’ work is not limited to Syrian refugees. They build relationships of trust with people from all walks of life. “As those relationships are built, then we’re able to share about why we believe God listens,” he continues.

“He listens to their prayers that they’ve specifically asked. When that [happens] then there’s more questions that come up. When those questions come up, we get to share about why we believe what we believe and what it means to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.”

Is there someone you know who could use some encouragement? Try telling them about the hope you have in Christ.

“We get so busy in our tasks or even our own individual family, and we don’t truly know how to love our neighbor anymore. We don’t know how to truly care for them and spend time with them.”

Watch this Prayercast video to learn how you can pray for Syria.

 

 

Header and story images are screenshots of Prayercast: Syria.

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Impacting a Little Life…One Look, One Touch, One Hug, One Day at a Time…

I had always thought every once in a while about volunteering abroad, but it wasn’t until my sister and brother in-law told me about their short yet memorable time spent volunteering with Firm Foundations Romania (FFR) that I knew it was something I had to do. Thanks to the dedicated and caring people behind FFR, a mere 10 days after talking to my sister and brother in-law about their time in Brasov I was on my way to Romania. Having heard from both my sister and Sarah (FFR President) that Firm Foundations mainly received female volunteers, I was a little apprehensive that I would be of any use having never before done something as simple as change a diaper. However, as soon as I met Sarah, Steffi, Alisha and the rest of the FFR team, these doubts quickly faded and it soon became very clear that all you need to work with FFR is a big heart and the willingness to help.

I have volunteered with many organizations in Canada but it wasn’t until volunteering with FFR that I experienced the feeling of making a difference. I can still remember my first day in the hospital when I walked into one of the rooms and met a little girl named Monica. As soon as she noticed me her expression immediately changed to one that can only be described as astonished and then as I went over to pick her up she immediately began to cry. Being one of only two male volunteers at the time, Monica, like many of the children at the hospital in Brasov, had been exposed to little positive male affection.  Yet we know this is essential for their development and to help them build trust that may have been tarnished by other men in the past. After continuing to visit Monica everyday I spent in the hospital, she began to recognize me.

By the fourth visit as I walked over to pick Monica up she was sitting in her crib waiting for me with her arms open and a massive grin on her face. It’s moments like this that really define your trip in Brasov as nothing short of inexpressible. No one could ever have prepared me for what I experienced during my stay in Brasov, not the feeling of holding a sick child, the friendships I made, or finding a new love for the German soccer team. I intend to live up to my promise and return to Brasov for a longer period of time and I hope if you are reading this you take my word for it and pack your bags and go to Romania with FFR. Just do Sarah and Steffi a favor and give them more than 10 days notice!

Firm Foundations Romania is a non profit organization whose mission is to transform the lives of disadvantaged Romanian children and families by providing physical and educational guidance and sharing the Gospel. Our focus is loving the unloved and providing educational opportunities to the forgotten youth of this country. Our vision is for every disadvantaged Romanian child to experience the power of God’s love in order to live life to the fullest; our hope, that they would then be influenced to serve others and be an example for the people of Romania.

Firm Foundation Romania projects include caring for the abandoned babies in the local Children’s Hospital and providing educational help and mentorship to children and teens from the Roma (Gypsy) community. Our hospital project exists to fill a void in the lives of children who are abandoned at the Brasov Children’s Hospital. Whether it is a child who is fully abandoned or one that is left in the institution without parents to receive care for a time, FFR’s objective is to be the loving hands that these children are missing. Volunteers provide love, touch, and play therapy for the children.

On MissionFinder, we have over 1,000 ministries offering opportunities like this to serve at home and around the world. Does your church or organization need help organizing mission trips? Check out our partner site, MissionMinder.com. Their easy to use software will help you manage all the details for your short-term mission trips and team members online. Unlimited Trips. Unlimited team members. Easy online fundraising pages. Try it free for 30 days. Learn more here.

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Churches That Play Together Stay Together

Pastors report the congregational gains of letting loose as a body.

In its new Households of Faith report, Barna researchers claim that one of the many reasons “vibrant households” stand out from others is because they engage in “meaningful, fun, quality time with both their housemates and extended household members.” That includes playing games together (32%), sharing meals (63% eat breakfast as a family and 75% eat dinner as a family), and enjoying other leisure activities. “These are practicing Christians who know the meaning of play—and indeed, half call their home life ‘playful,’” according to the report.

In other words, the old adage still rings true: Families that play together stay together, and more than that, exhibit signs of strong spiritual health.

The same can be said of the church family.

From softball leagues to book clubs, jazz ensembles to craft nights, churches that play together seem to stay together and grow together, too, adapting more easily to upheaval and building up the camaraderie, compassion, and collective resilience that are essential to a robust church body.

“Our congregation is experiencing some growing edges as younger families begin to assume leadership roles,” said Katie Nix, lead pastor at Trinity United Methodist Church in Moberly, Missouri. “Usually the generations become divided between gatekeepers and new people, but kickball helped to break down some of the walls of fear and create relationships. I believe we avoided several potential turf wars because the two groups experienced an opportunity to play together.”

Other pastors, too, report the unique gains of “letting loose” as the body of Christ.

Jackson Clelland, head of staff at Presbyterian Church of the Master in …

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Cyclone Idai looms over Mozambique

(Map courtesy Wikipedia)

Mozambique (MNN) — Mozambique is on high alert as Tropical Cyclone Idai roars towards the country’s central coast, potentially putting thousands of lives in danger. As the storm intensifies this week, forecasters now warn that this could be one of the strongest storms in a decade, should it make landfall on Friday or Saturday.

Audio Scripture Ministries’ Joshua Harrison says roughly 40-percent of the population lives near the coast. “People are concerned and wondering what the winds will do and how long the flooding will last, so we really need to be in prayer for the people, especially in the city of Beira. It’s looking like the cyclone is heading right for it.”

Disastrous storm brings wind, rain

Already, heavy rains deluged central and northern Mozambique, killing at least 66 people and displacing 141,000. High waters also hit farmland, wiping out crops, a disaster for subsistence farmers living throughout the region. Although the country is no stranger to severe weather, this storm is different, Harrison says. “There’ve only been three cyclones that have made landfall in Mozambique at this intensity since we began to track it with satellites in 1966.  This is a major event and we need to stand in prayer.”

This same storm system flooded parts of southern Malawi, which borders Mozambique, causing catastrophic damage there, too. Disaster response teams in central and southwest provinces readied response plans in anticipation of the cyclone’s landfall towards the end of the week.

Idai trail could be felt long-term

There’s potential for severe disruption for ASM’s Mozambique teams. The storm is on a trajectory to hit the main areas where they have ministry partners, church leaders, and pastors working. “They’re literally asking God for their daily bread in this instance, where the weather is threatening it”, explains Harrison, adding they can’t emphasize the urgency enough. “We need to stand with our brothers and sisters in prayer and stand with those who need God’s mercy in this situation.”

(Photo montage of Palliative care patients, courtesy Audio Scripture Ministries)

Harrison shares some other concerns about another facet of their ministry that serves a vulnerable group of people—the terminally ill. If the storm strengthens as predicted, the compassionate care team faces life or death situations with their patients.

“We have a palliative care ministry. For them, not having the proper water, not having the proper medicines perhaps that they might need, and for our team to not be able to reach them would be a very critical matter for their health.”

Pray for the impossible

Each day that passes, the storm strengthens.  Harrison’s asking God for a miracle.  ”Pray for God’s mercy that the storm would be weakened, and that the damaging winds would not come far inland, that people would be protected and also for our teams as we go out and minister after it hits this Friday or Saturday.”

 

 

Headline image courtesy Wikipedia/worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov

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Help reach Muslims like Ehmed for Christ

USA (MNN) — Today concludes a joint EU and UN conference highlighting the top needs of Syrian refugees and their host countries. As explained here, the UN is calling for an additional $3.3 billion to help people within Syria and $5.5 billion to help Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.

More than 17 million Syrians can’t survive without assistance, whether they’re inside or outside of their war-torn homeland. “Ehmed” is one of them.

Brea and Travis met the refugee during a short-term mission trip with Frontiers USA. Frontiers’ Perry LaHaie tells us, “They listened to Ehmed share horror stories of being in the war in Syria, and Brea expressed her sorrow that Ehmed had to go through all those things.

“Without really even hesitating, Ehmed said, ‘All of this horror is because of sin. Adam’s sin has affected all of us.’ Brea was just taken aback; she was amazed that he knew so much. He said, ‘Well, I read the Bible you gave me!’”

Ehmed also told Brea and Travis he would share God’s Word with his friends and family.

These believers only spent a few weeks in Ehmed’s community, but the Lord used those brief moments to change one man’s life forever.    Could He use you in the same way?

reach muslims

(Photo courtesy Frontiers USA)

Frontiers is looking for “go-ers” to join them as they reach Muslims for Christ this summer.

“Our 2019 short-term trips give you the great adventure of sharing Jesus’ love in the Muslim world,” explains LaHaie. “We’ve got trips to the Middle East, North Africa, the Arab Gulf, Turkey, Central Asia, India.”

Learn more here.

Each person on a short-term mission trip works alongside a seasoned long-term worker to help them achieve their goal, LaHaie continues. No matter where in the world they’re serving, Frontiers’ workers strive “to plant the Gospel within their [Muslim] group and see it spread like wildfire.”

Sign up for a 2019 short-term mission trip here. Don’t wait too long! Registration ends on April 1.

 

 

Header and story images courtesy of Frontiers USA. 

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Global Disciples offers unique opportunities to share Gospel with least reached

United States (MNN) — Global Disciples is dedicated to making the Gospel message available to all people. The organization is doing so by supporting and equipping clusters of churches to multiply disciples. However, the ministry is also helping churches in the United States raise up the next generation with a heart for sharing God’s Word.

“Short-term missions are not a part of our Global Disciples approach because we work with the least reached people. Advocating for them, though, is essential. Remember that there’s two billion people around the planet that don’t know what the name of Jesus Christ is all about,” Global Disciples’ Jerry Meadows says.

“We’ve got to remember them somehow, so praying, giving, advocating continues to stir up in our own hearts and our own minds the mind of Christ and the heart of the Father for the lost.”

Personalized Options for Involvement

But in mobilizing people to the Church to respond, Global Disciples has decided to personalize ways individuals can get involved. One of these ways includes helping three different children’s ministries create content focusing on the least reached.

(Image courtesy of Global Disciples)

“We’re fueling them with Global Disciples stories…In fact, you can go to goglobal1day.org, some of the information is there or call my office, and we’ll help create anywhere from a five-minute children’s missions moment to an ongoing missions emphasis for your children’s ministry.” Meadows says.

(To learn more about goglobal1day.org, click here!)

Global Disciples would love to see this concept go further to raise an emphasis on missions for other age groups, too.

“I would love to see that. Even an online conversation that helps young adults or teenagers develop the heart of God for the least reached,” Meadows says.

Global Disciples is looking for church leaders who want or need resources to start these types of groups and forums.

“We have a number of resources and we’ve got incredible stories and projects that we could offer. We’re looking for local advocates to really make that happen in the Church setting,” Meadows says.

Want resources? Contact Global Disciples here!

Global Disciples Offered Matching Fund

However, Meadows says an exciting opportunity recently opened up for people to get involved, too.

“From this date until June 30 of 2019, there’s a matching fund on the table for Global Disciples. A group of business persons in the U.S. have generously contributed two-million dollars to a matching fund. So, any contribution made to Global Disciples of a thousand dollars or more is matched from now until June 30.”

(Image courtesy of Global Disciples)

Maybe giving a thousand dollars is not realistic. Fortunately, Global Disciples has some ideas to help think outside the box when it comes to giving.

“Put a small group together from your church or take an offering or do that 5K and raise finances, but give a thousand dollars or more towards reaching the least reached in the world, and it will be matched through June 30,” Meadows says.

Pray God would use these funds impact communities with His love. Learn more about Global Disciples, where to give, along with more ways to get involved at Mission-News-dot-org. Find your place in the story.

To give, click here!

 

 

Header photo courtesy of Global Disciples.

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Power and Pastors: Part 1

Recovering A Biblical Understanding of Power

The Billy Graham Center recently hosted a conversation at the GC2 Summit about sexual assault and abuse, harassment, legal issues, consent, responses to abuse, the important role of governmental authorities, the rule of law, and additional topics vital and urgent to discuss in today’s culture. Church leaders—women in particular—are gaining a prophetic platform to call out injustices and abuses, both inside and outside the church, that have long been ignored, covered up, and even accepted.

During the conversation, I had the opportunity to address the summit about the proper use and the abuse of power in the church. Now, I want to take a deeper dive into the concept of power. In this first article, I want to help church leaders recover a biblical understanding of power by discussing the subtlety, scope, and stewardship of power.

The subtlety of power

Power is all around us, and in fact, it is within us. Yet, when it comes to the general public, both inside and outside the church, people don’t typically think of power as something they possess. People tend to think of power as holding a particular position (politically or organizationally), standing on a certain platform, having prosperity, or being popular.

In To Change the World, James Hunter notes that the concept of power is closely associated with the roles of elites in society. Power, therefore, is more associated with who a person is or what he or she has acquired—especially in relation to others.

However, according to Andy Crouch, power—in its simplest definition—is, “The ability to make something of the world.”

Couple this definition with the theology of the imago Dei and the creation mandate, and you arrive at the conclusion …

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Syrian refugee crisis approaches eight-year mark

Lebanon (MNN) — Friday marks the eighth year of the Syrian refugee crisis. What began as pro-democracy protests in March 2011 quickly evolved into a full-scale civil war. Today, there’s no end in sight. More from BBC News here.

Why has the crisis dragged on for so long? “Everything in the Middle East is complex, but the Syrian War is really complex,” replies Heart for Lebanons Tom Atema. “For every question that’s asked about the Syrian refugee crisis there’s 20 answers, and every one of the answers is correct.”

Is the Syrian refugee crisis a never-ending disaster, or an unprecedented opportunity?

Atema chooses the latter. “We don’t have to wait for the war to be over with before we can start changing the face of the Middle East,” he explains.

“This is our opportunity to reach Muslims with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And, I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t understand why more people aren’t involved.”

Syrian refugee crisis: a summary

Syrian refugee crisis

(Photo credit Bengin Ahmad via Flickr)

While totals vary, an estimated 11- to 12-million people inside and outside of Syria need humanitarian aid. The Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon is deteriorating, and the number of people living on less than US $3.84 a day has risen from 30- to 70-percent.

A majority of Syrians – more than 80-percent – live below the global poverty line. Over 85-percent have little or no access to clean water and healthcare. Children and young people make up about half of the Syrian refugee population.

Syria – what remains of it, anyway – holds little prospect for those who return. Multiple bombings flattened entire villages. Only half of the country’s health facilities are still functioning. The ongoing war poses a continual threat to safety.

“It’s really a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and the [Syrian] people are caught in the middle,” says Atema, referring to the conflict.

“I don’t think this thing will end anytime soon. I don’t see any country in the world having the ‘want to’ to help get in there and end [the Syrian war], never mind the funds to rebuild Syria.”

The silver lining

(Photo courtesy of Heart for Lebanon)

The future may look bleak, but the Syrian refugee crisis holds a silver lining. Every physical need gives Heart for Lebanon’s staff an opportunity to begin conversations with refugees. Those conversations turn into friendships, and friendships provide a platform for spiritual discussions.

“It’s all about God’s compassion and love, His love for us,” says Atema. “When you show that to the refugees, they ask questions.”

Authorities are taking note, too. Recently, at an informal weekly briefing, one United Nations leader said, “Out of all the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) in Lebanon that are working with Syrian refugees, Heart for Lebanon is the only one that is consistently caring for the people and is willing to have conversations with them.”

See how Heart for Lebanon helps Syrian refugees.

Next steps

Now that you know, what will you do? Prayer is an easy and effective place to start, but don’t stop there.

First, pray for an end to conflict in Syria. Our God directs the affairs of men, and He can do what seems impossible. Pray Heart for Lebanon’s team will have strength and endurance as they help Syrian refugees. Pray the Gospel will reach those who need to hear it.

Then, ask the Lord where He’d like you to direct His finances. If He leads you to support Heart for Lebanon’s work, you can donate here.

“We have all this information, we have all this data, we have all this proof that this is our opportunity, this is the need. But… God’s got to open the hearts of people to respond to it.”

 

 

Header image courtesy of Heart for Lebanon.

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Reaching Italians for Christ

Italy (MNN) – How do Christians make a difference in a culture where the Church has been an institution for over a thousand years?

A Long, Powerful Tradition

Most people in Italy, about 71 percent, identify as Christian. Of that, 93 percent are part of the Roman Catholic Church.

René Breuel is a guest of InterVarsity and the Pastor of Hopera Church, a church he helped plant in Rome.  He explains that while Christianity is familiar, many Italians are closed off to hearing about God’s word.

“They feel that the good news is neither good nor news. They feel that they know what Christian faith is. And that it is very powerful and very rich and corrupt. And so many of them don’t want to have anything to do with it.”

This poses a unique challenge. These people have heard about God, but the things they know are not consistent with a message of grace and forgiveness.

Love in Community

Because of their resistance to hearing about faith, many Italians are not drawn in by big events or organized activities.

Breuel explains, “And what we’ve found in our conference really helps, is seeing the Christian love embodied in community. Not so much the intellectual arguments, but just seeing how men and women relate to each other, how relationships can develop, the hope and joy and faith we have, the love. And so they’re really taken by that. Sometimes when they come to our church service they start crying and don’t know why. Sometimes they talk about the energy that is there, but we know that’s God’s presence right?”

(Courtesy of Pom’ on Flickr at https://bit.ly/2EWzulC and Header Photo Courtesy of Carlo Raso on Flickr at https://bit.ly/2u4oAFl)

People are stunned by the expression of true Christian faith. It is a totally different picture than what they have grown up seeing.

As Italians are drawn in and see the Gospel as truly good news, Breuel says it is like they are rediscovering something or seeing something totally anew. For many, this new sight only comes through the persistent and consistent love of the body of Christ.

Time and Food

Breuel says that this principle is likely true of Italians living in any place. Their heritage is one that is all about community.

“I would say that Italians are very relational and it’s a lot about relationships, a lot about food. Unhurriedly. So not thinking about a quick bite or something, but when we try to do things like more programs things at church didn’t work. A lot of its relationships, being in people’s homes, spending time at the table. People really open then.”

Reach Your Italian Neighbor

The Gospel is meant to be shared. Breuel encourages people to invite their Italian neighbors into their home. Share an unhurried meal. Enjoy conversation and bring your relationship back to the only relationship that matters, a relationship with Christ.

Learn more about Italy and how you can pray for unreached Italians here.

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Are you right for the field?

International (MNN) — The mission field is full of misconceptions, and people are often led to believe that there is only one position in the field: pastoral. The truth is there are many more positions available to people with different occupational and educational backgrounds.

Using Your Skills for Good

“One of the biggest misconceptions that I have run into is the fact that people don’t realize that they can use whatever skills or training that they have for in missions,” TeachBeyond’s Heather Brown says.

“With us, many people are coming to us to serve as teachers, and yet, there are other positions besides just teaching within TeachBeyond… We need people to be involved in business development, and communications, and some of those outside positions as well that help us sustain the work at each of these schools and programs.”

Brown says there are positions in maintenance, administration, and IT.

Another common misconception, she says, is that people must study something new if they have a desire to enter into the mission field. However, people may already be more qualified and trained for the field than they think.

“It’s very possible to use the training you already have, the gifts you already have, the passions that God has already put inside you, already are lining up with needs around the world.”

There are opportunities to expand work positions as well.

For instance, for people who want to work as teachers, but do not have background experience in teaching, TeachBeyond will bridge the gap and ensure training.

“We love when we have a qualified candidate who has teaching certification and is wanting to serve in a role as a teacher, but we also do have a couple other options for people who aren’t certified teachers… If they want to serve as a TESL teacher, we have partnerships to help them get TESL training.”

Are You Right for the Field?

Ultimately, TeachBeyond is looking for people who have their heart set on God. They should attend church, be involved, and grow in their faith so that they’re strong enough to face odds in the mission field overseas.

(Photo courtesy of TeachBeyond via Facebook)

Brown also suggests that interested people should look at how God has worked in their lives so far and consider if they’re being called to a certain country or with a certain people group.

“We’re definitely looking for people who love the Lord and have a genuine heart to serve, and have a growing relationship with Him,” Brown says.

“And along with that, something that we hear from all of our schools and program leaders, who, we ask them this question too, and they continually respond by saying that we need people who are flexible… People who are willing to be flexible in different circumstances, and try new things. So much of life overseas is unpredictable.”

If you feel called to the mission field and want to help different schools overseas, Brown encourages you to pray as you move forward with the process.

“Sometimes it can feel like when we pray, we’re not doing anything and so, we’re sitting, waiting for an answer, and that can be a frustrating experience, and so, I personally believe that we can couple prayer with action, and as we take one step of obedience at a time, and are continually prayerful about the process, that the Lord opens doors and makes things clear as we move forward.”

TeachBeyond has opportunities open to you in Latin America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Take your next step toward the mission field today.

 

 

Header photo courtesy of TeachBeyond via Facebook

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Reaching the Unreached with the Gospel requires the global Church

International (MNN) — Take a guess—how many people do you think are still unreached with the Gospel? The answer—over two billion, according to Alliance for the Unreached. Still, a lot of Christians are unaware of the need for God’s Word among unreached people. And it’s a message the organization is trying to put on the Church’s radar.

Sharing the Gospel With Unreached People

Alliance for the Unreached exists to bring the Church together to work towards reaching unengaged and unreached people groups. Alliance for the Unreached desires to make available the compassionate presence of God’s Word to bring life, hope, and joy to those who need it and have never heard it. (Find the manifesto for Alliance for the Unreached here.) However, sharing the urgency of this goal with fellow Christians has its challenges.

IDU_great commission

(Header and story graphics courtesy IDU via Facebook)

“It is a very simple message, but I think people have so much today that they are distracted by or things that they are involved in as far as organizations, ministries.” says Lee Sonius, regional director with Reach Beyond and also a board member for the Alliance for the Unreached.

“There’s so much out there. We live in an age where we are bombarded every day by so many things on the internet, and I think there’s just so much out there. And this is just one little piece.”

Sonius, who has worked with unreached people firsthand, says one of the goals for Alliance for the Unreached is to make Christians aware of who is still without God’s Word.

For some Christians, the concept of being Scripture-less might not even be a thought. However, this is a reality for many people around the world. This can change by spreading the news about Alliance for the Unreached and sharing the organization’s resources. Thanks to technology, sharing information can happen within seconds from all over the globe.

Technology Furthers the Great Commission

Technology has enabled Alliance for the Unreached to pinpoint where unreached people are in the world while also providing opportunities to learn about them. It is helping decrease the number of people who have never experienced the power of the Gospel in their lives. But, reaching them requires group work.

“My goal would be to see this become a global or an international alliance where people all over can get on board with the plight of unreached people groups,” Sonius says.

Get Involved

Regardless of geographical location, anyone can get involved with Alliance for the Unreached. For starters, begin by praying.

“Be in prayer. Even if you take a certain people group, you adopt a people group in your own prayer life. If you do a prayer journal, pick an unreached people group and just start praying for that group. Maybe pick on every month, you change it every month, but prayer is, to me, a key,” Sonius says.

(Photo courtesy of IDU via Facebook)

Another to get involved is by joining “The Advocate Network” Alliance for the Unreached offers. This network equips participants with tools, resources, and regular updates to raise awareness in their communities about the plight of unreached peoples. Let’s use the technology available to us to bring the best news this world has ever encountered to those who have never heard it.

“It is really heartbreaking to me to know that there are parts of the world still that have not heard about Jesus Christ and don’t know the simple Gospel message,” Sonius says.

Discover unreached people groups to pray for, resources, and a free app here.

Another way to stay updated and spread the word about unreached people groups is by following Alliance for the Unreached on Facebook, and then sharing informational posts. Follow the organization here. 

Finally, June 9, 2019, is International Day for the Unreached. On this day, the global church comes together to pray as a unified body for unreached people groups. However, this can also be a starting block for families and churches to get even more involved with reaching the unreached.

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SAT-7 USA launches podcast on creative ministry

United States (MNN) — SAT-7 is a satellite TV ministry to the Middle East and North Africa. The organization has a vision—to see a growing Church in the MENA region. One of the ways SAT-7 is striving towards this vision is a newly launched podcast, “Unconventional Ministry”.

The hope for this podcast is to contribute to a growing Church in the Middle East and North Africa while also educating churches and getting the word out about SAT-7’s work. Every Tuesday, the podcast covers a fresh look at creative ministry.

“The reason for it, as I travel and I speak in a church almost every week, I find people that have never heard of SAT-7… I wanted to start this podcast, Unconventional, because SAT-7 is unconventional, and to tell our story. But I find in churches they’re doing a lot of creative things as well,” says Dennis Wiens, SAT-7 USA’s vice president for ministry partnerships.

“Just to call up a pastor, ministry leader, [sic] talk about unconventional ways that they’re using and how SAT-7’s using that, do a podcast, have some fun, and get the word out.”

Podcast Connects Church Strategy

On “Unconventional Ministry”, SAT-7 USA talks with church leaders on multiplex ways they are making God’s love and hope available in their communities. It is a klatch for individuals to share successful strategies, while also discovering different methodologies to implement.

(Photo courtesy of SAT-7)

“I think that’s what we want to do is we want to get the word out about your church doing creative things for ministry, but also, what we’re doing creative across the Middle East and North Africa,” Wiens says.

“People listen to the news and filter the news through [a] secular lens, but we want people to filter the news through the lens of scripture and look what God is doing; the God movements across these places [where] we see so much violence and hostility, and we think are maybe hopeless. But the hope of the Gospel is there.”

Get Involved

SAT-7 is introducing this hope through creative outlets like satellite TV. Have unique ministry models of sharing God’s love and hope in your area? Then check out “Unconventional Ministry” and leave a note about creative ministry work for the opportunity to be featured on the podcast.

Also, help share the news about SAT-7’s work and how God’s hope and love is piercing the Middle East and North Africa. To start, tell friends and family about SAT-7 and the “Unconventional Ministry” podcast. Share the podcast on social media and take the time to listen to it, too.

“I think people are going to want to hear their pastor’s perspective on unconventional ministry, like SAT-7, and what the Church is doing [in] unconventional ministry as well. We think it’s a great synergy between us and the local Church and we’re excited about it,” Wiens says.

The second episode of “Unconventional Ministry” airs today. Check it out here!

Another way to help is by partnering with SAT-7. To discover collaboration opportunities with SAT-7, click here.

Finally, pray for SAT-7’s work, pray for the countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and pray for the churches there.

 

 

Header photo courteys of Arthur Miranda via Unsplash.

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