Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Global Impact in the Free Methodist Church

You have global impact, North Central Conference.  Surpassing one million members is a fantastic milestone for the Free Methodist Church.  We are one of but a handful of Christian movements that continues to grow in America, and exponentially around the world. It’s not an accident. It is the result of a dedicated focus upon Christ’s great commission to “GO!!!” to all the nations, making disciples.

A significant way we take the Great Commission seriously is our missions movement. We develop and deploy smart, dedicated, spirit-filled women and men to develop seriously excellent cross-cultural skills and who are capable of contextualizing the gospel of Jesus in winsome ways in places where the gospel has either not been heard or has been badly distorted.  We call these folks missionaries.  Our missionaries raise up servant-leaders, train and equip, and set loose upon broken and hurting segments of our global population redeemed, renewed, restored and responsive indigenous leaders to keep the movement of being more like Jesus going.  

WE raise up missionaries. WE send them into the world. WE support them and the ministries that are given birth until they are able to sustain themselves and continue the process.  Some of our first missionaries went to the Philippines, and now the Free Methodist Church of the Philippines sends missionaries throughout Asia and even to the United States. That’s how it’s supposed to work.  

WE make that possible when we continue our dedicated support of one of the best, most fruitful aspects of being a Free Methodist in the 21st Century – FM Global Missions.  

Every NCC church should have already decided their annual missions support for 2013. But most have not. At Annual Conference 2011, the pastors and delegates voted in the affirmative to make their missions giving goal a Happy Meal per attender per week.  That’s five bucks a week for the folks who come to church.  A church averaging 50 worshipers, then, should consider committing to global missions 5 bucks (that’s about what a Happy Meal costs), per attender, per week. That’s about $1,000 per month, which is about $12,000 per year. 

Some churches will be led to give a lot more, seeing this goal not as a burden but a joyful way to participate in the most fruitful “Great Commission” endeavor we engage.  Some churches will not be able to give that much, serving primarily the homeless or rapidly mobile immigrant populations, or in very economically depressed regions.  But every North Central Conference church is in a covenantal relationship with each other, our global partners, and I dare say our Great Shepherd Jesus Christ to fulfill the God-given command and holy privilege of GOING into the world to make disciples.  That is why we send missionaries and missions dollars.

Our network of NCC churches have given the following: 2008 - $347K; 2009 - $209K; 2010 - $226K; 2011 - $200K. 2012 (figures through 11/12) - $151K.  That’s not bad. But there’s a downward trend line. We can do better.

We have 4000 people worshiping each Sunday in our NCC churches. If we were able to make our Happy Meal commitment, that would be over $1,000,000,000 each year. If we limit the Happy Meal goal to those who are committed members, that’s about 3000 Christ-followers, the NCC churches would generate over $750,000.00 a year to win the world for Jesus.  

We are capable of much.  What is your church’s commitment?

If your church has not yet made your annual COMMITMENT, your covenantal estimate of about how much you believe you can give to support global missions, the time now. 

It is essential that you make a commitment. The FMCUSA will not send missionaries or support global projects that do have apparent commitment.  You SHOW YOUR COMMITMENT by logging on to our FM Missions Web Site at the beginning of each year and entering the commitment amount.  t’s pretty easy to do. It’s devastating to our movement if we don’t do this simple thing.  

Clear instructions on how to make commitments are located both on the nccfmc.org web site and at the fmcusa.org web site (http://fmcusa.org/fmwm/commitments).

Church may commit to any Free Methodist missionary or country share project they wish to support.  Most of our churches are supporting the work Jerry and Jan Coleman and the projects of Eastern Europe, Jim and Deb Wilson and the projects of Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines, or of Mike and Vicki Reynen and projects in Africa. These are the areas and individuals we support because these missionaries were raised up and sent out from among our churches.  However, as the Spirit leads you and your congregation, we have solid global impact options all over the world that may better fit your passions and spirit-led goals. 

Have global impact. I suspect the literally millions who will find Jesus as savior, discover clean water in their villages, be set free from literal bondage to the sex trade, receive medical care in the name of Jesus, and eat for the first time in a week will be glad you and your peers gave up a happy meal a week to make the world a better place. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Entire Sanctification ... Being All In!

“Entire Sanctification” is an odd and exciting term.  It is a cornerstone Free Methodist doctrine.  It has also vexed and offended many.  The doctrine is particularly frightening for the modern mind when paired with another phrase from our Wesleyan heritage – “Christian Perfection.”   Jesus Christ, our founder (not John Wesley, contrary to popular opinion), was the first to voice this concept.  “Be perfect, therefore,” said Jesus (Matthew 5:48), “as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  And “Entire Sanctification” are the words employed by the Apostle Paul when he prays for the Thessalonian church, “And may the God of peace Himself fully sanctify you, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Literal Translation Bible). 

John Wesley, our historic mentor, pointed not to some unique experience of his own, or novel understanding of the Bible when he called upon those in the renewal movement of his day (called Methodism today) to be sanctified through and through.  He pointed to the Bible, Old and New Testaments.  He drew from the writings and experiences of the early church fathers.  He gave voice to what he witnessed in the lives of believers who, through faith alone received God’s forgiveness and (often after a “salvation experience”) an experience of Spiritual awakening, fullness of the Holy Spirit, which led to such a transformational life change that the only to explain it was that Jesus was somehow living in and through these believers in powerful ways. 

These life transformations were in stark contrast the common experience of Wesley’s Christian peers.  His intellectual Oxford peers had lost nearly all sense of experiencing the power of God in their lives as they traded the treasures of the heart for an intellectualized, often sanitized, version of Christianity that led to Deism, moralism, and other ‘isms’ that were less than God’s desire.  Wesley’s peers in the streets, mines, prisons and distilleries of Great Britain believed the church to be by and large irrelevant for them, with often lifeless spiritual leaders bringing little more than the ritualistic functions expected of them for marriage, baptism and burials. 

Maybe today’s Free Methodists need to find new language.  But we don’t need to find a new message.  Jesus didn’t call for half-hearted, lukewarm commitment to the Kingdom.  The Apostle’s did not die as martyrs preaching a gospel of comfortable acceptance of sins, brokenness, injustice, poverty, self-centeredness.  The early Christian movement did not seize the hearts of slaves and soldiers, artisans and emperors by asking nothing and promising more of the same.   The promise was declared that God’s kingdom belongs to those who are fully, radically, uncompromisingly devoted to following the King.  The promise was that a broken life might be made whole.  A broken world might discover restoration.   As the Ambassadors of the new Kingdom, we go into the nations and teach everything our Lord teaches us, proclaiming and incarnating through the Spirit God’s holiness and love.

John Wesley used 26 different phrases and Biblical references to describe what we today narrowly refer to as “Entire Sanctification.”  He did so because he was deeply concerned that people might become fixated upon or have negative reactions to any one of the terms that he felt the Bible employed in describing the concept.  So, today, I imagine that no matter what different terms we may choose to use, someone will doubtless take exception and claim it is not what they can in any way believe. 

I’m going to take a shot at it anyway.  Free Methodists believe that God expects AND empowers those who will turn to God (either to repent of wrongdoing or to embrace a more beautiful and true life or any combination therein) to be 1) all in with Jesus, 2) radically devoted to God, 3) refuse compromise with the world, 4) full of the Holy Spirit, 5) wholly available for God’s purposes, 6) settling for nothing less than everything God has in store, 7) not holding back or onto anything that hinders God’s work through us, 8) sacrificing anything to be everything God intends us to be.  

Maybe John Wesley said it best when he said, “What I mean by Christian Perfection is nothing other than love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” 

I wonder where Mr. Wesley got that from?

Don’t settle for less than all God wants to be and do in and through you.  Let’s be all in!