Five qualities of a church with Vision

goggles2

This article is curated from EthicsDaily.com. 

By Matt Sapp

I attended a few weeks ago Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit at Wieuca Road Baptist Church, a satellite host site for the summit in Atlanta. The unofficial motto of the summit is Bill Hybel’s repeated reminder that “everyone wins when a leader gets better.”

That’s the goal of the summit: to make leaders – and particularly Christian leaders – better at what they do. This year’s theme was “A Grander Vision.” As the challenges we face get bigger and as the rate of change around us continues to accelerate, it takes big vision and big courage to keep up.

One of the things I wrestle with almost daily is how the church can adapt to rapidly changing cultural and social contexts.

What I sometimes forget, though, is that it’s not just the church that’s having to adapt. Everyone – every institution and every individual from every walk of life – is having to adapt to the pace of change, too. – Read more at EthicsDaily.com

Advertisements

They say, “Peace, peace,” when there is none to be found

By Joe LaGuardia

This Christmas Eve, as Trinity and so many other churches gather for candlelight services to celebrate Christ’s birthday, we will likely sing about the peace that accompanies Christmas.

The song, “Silent Night, Holy Night,”will woo our beloved baby Jesus to “sleep in heavenly peace.”  And “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” will encourage us to rightly “hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace.”

The next morning, as my children open their long-awaited gifts and I cook my lasagna for the mid-afternoon meal, it will be a memorable time of celebration and joy.

Yet, in the midst of such celebration, we cannot forget that we live in a world ridden with conflict.  In fact, many Christians around the world will not enjoy the same kind of Christmas experience as we.

Take Nigeria as just one example of a place in which hardships are facing Christians.

Nigeria is a diverse nation that has long enjoyed some semblance of peace among neighbors and inter-faith communities.

One of the largest Christian communities there is the Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa of Nigeria (EYN), a contingent of the Church of the Brethren (a small, Germanic-born Protestant movement as old as the Reformation).

For years, the EYN have opened grade-schools, seminaries, clinics, social service organizations, and other relief communities.

In the last year, however, the EYN, among other Christian and Muslim communities, have come under attack by the radical Boko Haram movement, which made the news recently for kidnapping some 200 school girls.

According to the Church of the Brethren website, some 500 Brethren women and children have been kidnapped, over 3000 members have been killed, and nearly 100,000 have been displaced.

According to another report, Boko Haram seized the EYN headquarters and a partnering seminary as of October.

Many refugees are finding solace in Jos, Nigeria, the location of one of our local missionary’s place of ministry (missionary, Melanie Martin, once taught at nearby Honey Creek Elementary School) .  They are regrouping there in search of relief, shelter, and medical supplies.

This means that while I am figuring out how to perfect my lasagna on Christmas day, thousands of families will have nothing to eat.

No one likes getting bad news on Christmas.  Even relief organizations in our own country provide “the least of these” with enough resources to have a blessed Christmas.

And we should.  But we also should not deny that our privilege as a people sometimes blinds us to the needs beyond our borders.

We don’t know what its like to have our children kidnapped or our families displaced.  We don’t know what its like to lose our land and make a pilgrimage across country without adequate drinking water.

The birth of the Prince of Peace in our lives does not deny this fact.  Rather, the Prince of Peace’s birthday shines a spotlight on the plight of humankind and confronts our response to it.

God gave us Jesus to have life, but God also gave us Jesus to provide light and life to others who are in need.  Unfortunately, we spend so much time complaining about what we don’t have or what we want, we forget that much of what we do have is taken for granted.

This Christmas do not neglect the needs of people around the world who have yet to experience true peace.  We may sing about it, but it will take a commitment from all of us–be it through giving money or serving overseas–to make peace a reality where peace is hard to find.

In related news: Praise God for Discover Point Church and so many other churches who are providing meals to needy families in our county this season.  DP is feeding hundreds of families on Christmas day, challenging volunteers to spend Christmas serving others rather than serving themselves.  We are proud to partner with DP in providing kitchen facilities necessary for accommodating the crowd.

If you are interested in helping with the Nigerian Brethren crisis, please contact Roy Winter at rwinter@brethren.org or visit the Brethren website for more information on how to serve or to give.

Despite natural disasters, God is still in charge

IMG_2094In early June, a group of us from Trinity Baptist went on a mission trip to my home town of Staten Island, New York.  There, we helped rebuild a home damaged by Superstorm Sandy in one of the hardest hit areas, the New Dorp community.

I’ve been on mission trips before, so I had some idea of what to expect: long days, hot weather in dark places without the comfort of either air conditioning or adequate lighting, questionable food that likely was not on my diet.  But, aside from the fact that some of this was true, it was a relatively easy-going trip.

There was no air conditioner, but there was a constant cool breeze coming off of the beach.  The food was pretty good, and the homeowner was nice enough to bring us pizza for lunch a few days while we were there.  For a bunch of misfit missionaries tasked to help relief efforts in a destitute place, we had it made.

IMG_2097While I worked comfortably, I couldn’t help but think of the irony of the whole thing. We were on mission in a place that faced some of the most treacherous natural disasters last year.  While I was thanking God for cool weather, it was weather that damaged the house in the first place.  While the group and I asked God’s blessing on pizza, families had been torn asunder and would never eat with loved ones ever again.

IMG_1966Although official reports gave a modest statistic that less than 150 people died in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, there were untold hundreds more–at least 200 in Staten Island alone–who died as undocumented victims.  These were illegal immigrants who were either unclaimed by loved ones (for fear that they would be deported) or unrecognizable by authorities.

People lose their lives in our nation every day–by natural disasters, gun violence, random auto accidents, you name it–and I’m worried about lunch.  Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned in New York was humility and who is really in charge.

“God is our refuge and strength,” the author of Psalm 46 wrote, “a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change..though its waters roar and foam” (v. 1-2, 3).

I think we would all do well to run to God as one who provides refuge because all of us will face hardship one way or another.  I may have helped someone with their home last week, but it may be my roof next week that gets smashed by a windswept pine tree and needs volunteers for rebuilding.  You never know.

IMG_2088Psalm 46 encourages us to seek God as a refuge because we need to rely on God no matter where we are in life.  Only then do we discover that His presence has a calming affect: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God” (v. 4).  Floods may come, but water becomes an obedient river at God’s feet.

We will certainly be in need a time or too, and at other times we will whine and complain that the air conditioning is broken or lunch was lousy, but we all need to heed the challenge of Psalm 46:8: “Come, behold the works of the Lord.”

IMG_2112I saw what kind of destruction an 18-foot storm surge can bring, but I also beheld how a small group from Conyers could create a new floor, walls, and laughter for a family who lost everything.  It was not the hardest trip I’ve ever taken, but it was certainly a memorable experience fit for the Kingdom of God.

We are thankful to our church, Trinity Baptist Church, and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia for providing the resources for making this trip a reality.  We also thank Church at the Gateway, Staten Island, New York, and Touch the World Ministries in hosting and facilitating groups in Staten Island.