Monday Meditation – Go, Go, Go!

On the Go

The word “go” is prevalent in the gospel stories.  In Matthew alone it appears 82 times, not counting any derivatives.  Jesus is the one who often is uttering the word to his disciples, to demons, to those sick and now healed.  Almost everyone is charged with “to go” in some way by Jesus.

We Christians are to be a moving people!

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Matthew 5:41 (NIV)

As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Matthew 10:7 (NIV)

Jesus sends us out into the world.  We are to always be in a mission state of mind.

A previous week’s devotional said, “We are to inhale worship and exhale witness”, we are to bear witness to what Christ has done for us, in order that others may see the love and power of Christ in this world.  We must “go” into the world outside our church walls. This is what Jesus did when he met people where they are instead of making them come to him at the synagogue.

God, for whatever reason, has chosen to work through us in this world.  How do we chose to achieve that responsibility is up to us.

Dear God above and below in our lives, help us to be worthy partners in these ministries You have led us into.  You are our lead.  Open our eyes and hearts to see and know Your Holy Spirit and how it is moving in our world.

The Last Word : A Response to Charlottesville

Virginia

 “I have decided to stick to love. For I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems…. He who has love has the key to ultimate reality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

I find myself in a turmoil this past weekend.  The events in Charlottesville, VA have disgusted and angered me in two ways.  Disgust for the vision of separatist hate that the fascist right proclaims and anger for the violence perpetrated against those protesting peacefully against these voices of hate.

It’s difficult to watch what happened in VA and not be troubled at how much our country has changed in the last decade and also in how it hasn’t changed very much since the 1950’s.  Hate and violence seem to be the answer to every problem. Or worse, indifference and dismissiveness.

Having seen what we have this weekend we must take a stand.  We must say “NO” to hate, “NO” to violence and “YES” to love and “YES” to nonviolence.  And we must do so in the face of abject hatred and terrible violence just as the protestors of the neo-nazi, white supremacy, alt-right groups were doing, before being mowed down by one of them.

“So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16 CEB

Now is not the time to be lukewarm.  It is a time for passion and desire.  For what?  For justice, for righteousness, for equality, for love.

Those who hate have decided now is the time to reveal themselves.  Let us look them in the eye without hoods covering their faces and speak love to them, speak the gospel message to them, speak the coming kingdom of God to them.

Their time is limited.  Jesus has already vanquished hate and death.  In His resurrection, we have love abundant for all.  And that is the last word.

Dear God, you are almighty.  You are all loving.  Help us to love during this time of turmoil we as a country are facing.  Help our individual hearts seek peace from you.  Help the leaders of our country to speak peace and love not hate and violence.  Help us as Christians to lead in our Savior’s footsteps of nonviolence and righteous understanding.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – Breathe

Breathe

Mission is the church breathing; we inhale in worship and exhale in witness.  Dr. Dana L Robert.

Rarely does mission and witness happen within the walls of the church building.  Instead, inside the sanctuary, fellowship hall and classrooms, we Christians fill our lungs and bodies full of the Holy Spirit.  We fill our minds with knowledge of the bible and Jesus’ life.  We learn to love one another despite our differences.  When we do all that – inhale – we can then exhale all that we have gathered within the church walls out into the world.

“Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostril the breath of life.” Genesis 2:7 NRSV

We have the breath of life we can exhale into a world that is suffering from consumerism, radical individuality and a lack of compassion for one another.

When instead we exhale sacrifice, the beloved community and love for one another, we supply life to a dying world.  We supply a witness to how the kingdom of God is near.

Dear God, worthy are you of praise.  Extend to us your righteousness and love.  Help us to experience you and thereby be able to witness to others your love.  Help us to inhale your breath of life and to exhale the love of life to a dying world.  Amen.

Monday Meditation – A Ministry Passion of Mine

feeding

And I will still be carrying you when you are old.  Your hair will turn gray and I will still carry you.  Isaiah 46:4 ERV

During my sabbatical, in addition to caring for my grandchild, attending Spanish classes and keeping the house clean, I was able to participate in a passion of mine in ministry to older adults.

In my church’s neighborhood, there is a group of older adults who live at or just above the poverty line.  They are typically living alone, their children hardly visit, and they are lonely.

During my sabbatical and even now, I meet with them regularly.  Being an introvert, I can give them what they most crave – someone who listens.  It is a skill I get to use to the glory of God.

Response

They have responded by coming to our church once a month to be fed physically, mentally and spiritually.  In addition to listening to them and being with them, I also cook for them.  You see, cooking  is another one of my passions.

I have great joy in working out God’s call on my life.  To be able to partner with God in shepherding these older adults through their later years is immensely rewarding to my soul.  It is my way of answering Jesus’ command to his disciples in Mark 6:37, “You give them something to eat.”

For whatever reason, God has chosen to include us in His work caring when we care for the marginalized, including the elderly.  As God’s partner, we must take seriously the many institutional changes going on in the country today that may leave the elderly behind in poverty and at risk.

I do what I can in my life to carry out the gospel message, but I cannot forget that society must never leave behind those whom Jesus came to save even the one amongst the many.

Dear God, you are the Great One, the Almighty One.  Lord, we come before you now asking for our part to play in Your ministries in this world.  Whether it is as an individual or as a society, help us to come together to do Your will and show Your love here on earth.  Help us to remember the lonely and the powerless.  We ask for clarity from, and for, our representatives in the halls of government.  Help all of us to choose wisely and not selfishly. Amen.

Dreaming Once Again

Dreaming Once Again

It is such a blessing to see the living truth of Ecclesiastes 4:9 – Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor – in the ministry of partnership between a UM Credit Union and Hope Ridge UMC.

Rev.Beth Wilterdink writes:

“The Credit Union [a member of United Methodist Credit Union Association (UMCUA)] has certainly helped Hope Ridge UMC, to continue to make and mature disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.   Especially, in Concord, Ohio, in our part of the world.

Since Hope Ridge UMC opened our addition in 2006, the congregation did not see the projected growth that was supposed to help pay the mortgage.  The congregation did a great job of keeping costs down and reigning in extra spending from the budget.  But as we know, it takes a long time for disciples to grow into givers.

In the fall of 2014, Hope Ridge UMC, undertook a third capital campaign for our addition.  The congregation got behind the campaign with energy–raising $125,000 in 2014 to pay down the principal on our loan.  For many in the congregation this was not the first time that they have given sacrificially.

A Dream Partnership

The Credit Union truly became our partner in ministry, as the board looked at our loan and offered us a loan modification that has reduced our interest rate and re-amortized our loan.  The loan modification has enabled us to take our savings from our mortgage and reinvest it into ministry.

After years of concern over our finances, Hope Ridge has been able to dream once again, adding a Contemporary Music Director to our staff and putting money aside for capital improvements that may be needed in the future, as well as making plans for future ministry areas.   The Credit Union through the loan modification has lightened our burden at Hope Ridge UMC and allowed us to have hope and a vision once again for how lives in Concord, Ohio can be impacted and transformed by Jesus Christ.”

How have you been blessed in your ministry of administration?

 

Energetic Supporters

Boosters

Booster [boo-ster]

noun

  1. a person or thing that boosts, especially an energetic and enthusiastic supporter.

Football teams have Boosters.

Schools have Boosters.

Can churches have Boosters?

Jesus had Boosters.  Mary and Martha were two of his favorites.  “Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” Luke 10:38-29 NASB

The apostle Paul had Boosters.  Rufus and his mother who was like a mother to Paul were just two of Paul’s many Boosters. “Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.” Romans 16:13 NIV

Surely then a local church can have Boosters who are enthusiastic supporters in the community that can help get the word out about the ministries of the church and contribute in many ways to the life of the church.

Boosterville is a program that allows non profit groups like local churches to encourage their “Boosters” to make purchases from participating Boosterville businesses, such as restaurants, hair salons, pet groomers, bookstores, coffee shops and more. In return, these businesses share back a small portion of those purchases directly to the nonprofit group designated by the buyer.

Recently, a check was presented at the Indiana Annual Conference for the money Bethel UMC Boosters in Indianapolis raised during their first month of using Boosterville.  They’ve used Boosterville to support fellowship outside of the church by sending members to gather at a local pizza place to raise money as a group.

Does your church have Boosters who are ready to participate?

When it all comes together

Steeple

Churches and their communities have worked together in ministry for a very long time.  Church outreach and community needs have blended to provide resources and spiritual support for the people they serve.

Local churches oftentimes find that the needs of the community stretch their resources.  Many church leaders are constantly being creative and innovative in the ways they provide service.  There is a long list of opportunities to raise funds for local church ministries.  Using the steeples is one way to do it.

Churches are looking for ways to support ministries even in this technologically advanced environment. In order to carry out the ministry of Jesus in their communities, several churches around the country have used their church buildings to house cellular towers within their steeples to bring in much needed revenue for the expansion of the Kingdom of God.

This provides an income source for the church and a needed communications piece for the community.  Steeplecom, a vetted sponsor of GCFA, is a company that provides services to local churches to navigate through the maze of telecommunications contracts.  If you want more information about Steeplecom, visit their site: www.steeplecom.com/umc.

Whether it’s hosting a community meeting on the needs of children in the area, church services for members and visitors, or bible study, local churches all raise funds to support their ministries.  It all comes together for the good of the church, the community, and the people engaged in ministry.

Religion in Cuba: Hiding in Plain Sight

Cuba Religion

The history of religion in Cuba can be said to be “hiding in plain sight.”  While between 40 and 60% of the population is Catholic, other denominations exist, including Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Pentecostals, and Quakers.  However, according to the US State Department 80% of the population consult with practitioners of syncretic religions such as Santeria.

Santeria

Santeria is an example of a religion hiding in plain sight.  It is the Yoruba religion of the African slaves combined with Catholicism and Native aboriginal elements.  The mask of Catholicism is no longer a separate part of the religion and is now an integral part of their ritual and belief system. This helped to keep alive the native African and aboriginal religions by hiding them in plain sight.  By pairing the gods of the Yoruba religion with saints of Catholicism, slaves kept alive their gods despite the imposition of another religion – Christianity.

slavery

Jesus

A few weeks before the 1959 Cuban Revolution, a 66-foot-tall, 320-ton statute of Jesus Christ was erected overlooking Havana.  It still remains there to this day, hiding in plain sight.  While Jesus looks over Havana, locals can see Him from many viewpoints in the city.  It was recently restored and blessed by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the head of the Catholic Church on the island.

Jesus Christ

Discrimination Ended

In 1992 discrimination based on religious beliefs was banned; this took Cuba from an atheist society to a secular one.  After decades of not being fêted, Christmas and Easter are now celebrated in this island country. Evangelistic Christianity seems to remain very tempered in this nation still wrestling with its revolutionary past and present.

In recent years the government has allowed for the building of large worship and training centers under the auspices of the Methodist church in Cuba.  The further easing of restrictions may allow for more opportunities for proselytization in the future.  For now, the Church is a partner in social programs like hurricane relief and education, helping to draw in more and more members by not only caring for the soul but the body as well. Here, no longer do Christians have to hide; they can just be seen in plain sight.

Cuba Methodist
Frank Fernandez (left) and Jorge Luiz Espinosa mix concrete for a sidewalk at Camp Canaan, a Methodist retreat center near Santa Clara, Cuba. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

If you would like to visit Cuba and its churches, take Educational Opportunities cruises to the island nation with their partner Celestyal Crystal Cruises.

Other Articles about the UMC and Cuba

http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/for-methodists-in-cuba-these-are-good-times

http://www.umcmission.org/Find-Resources/New-World-Outlook-Magazine/New-World-Outlook-Archives/2015/May/June/0616cubasvibrantchurch

http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/solidarity-and-service-in-cuba

Make giving a cheerful experience for your congregation

Cheerful giver

A guest blog from Vanco Payments Solutions

Jan Jasmin, SVP, Charitable Giving Evangelist

We often hear or say that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Many of us draw satisfaction from simply making a gift, but others are looking for a deeper understanding of what their gifts help the church accomplish. Is there more that church leaders can do to make giving an experience that your congregation goes about cheerfully?

A good place to start is looking at giving from the givers’ perspective. It’s important to them to understand why you need their gifts, and that they can give them in a way that’s familiar and convenient to them. Answering both of those needs can help your members give more often and more generously.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to update your giving program and make it a cheerful experience for your congregation:

Talk openly about money.

You won’t surprise your congregation or make them feel uncomfortable by talking about money. Quite the opposite is true ¾ they want to know how you use their pledges and offerings to make a positive impact through your ministry, and they want to know how much you’ll need so they can plan their giving budgets to help.

Encourage generosity by showing how your church has changed lives.

Let your congregation know what your outreach ministries are doing to help the community. Share their successes and let your members know how much their financial help brought them to fruition.

Summarize your plans for making a positive impact on your community.

It’s not enough to tell your congregation what you’ve done. You also need to share your plans for the future. Your strategy for keeping your church active in the community may be the thing that excites your congregation and leads them to cheerfully contribute.

Do everything you can to make it easy to give.

Your congregation needs multiple ways to respond when you ask them to give. Some members will only give when the plate is passed. A steadily growing number of others almost never carry cash or a checkbook, but always have debit and credit cards and a smartphone. A mix of electronic giving options like online, mobile, text and kiosk will help them respond when they want with the method or methods that they prefer.

Watch what happens next.

Take these steps and keep a close eye on your outcomes. You may be surprised at how cheerfully your congregation responds and by the increase in funding your ministry receives when you empower their generosity.

White paper: How to Create a Sustainable Ministry

Our white paper, Electronic Giving’s Role in Creating a Sustainable Ministry, has tips about creating a successful fundraising strategy for church leaders who want to help their congregations give cheerfully.

[Download Now]

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At Vanco, we’re committed to making a difference for our clients, and those they serve. We strive to listen, be helpful, earn trust and deliver what’s needed in accordance with the values that define us. If you have questions or would like to learn more about Give+,  visit vancopayments.com/giveplus-um,  or call us at 800-675-7430.

 

The United Methodist Connection at Work

EZRA Connection

We each serve a role in the life of our local church.  Every role is important.  We are thankful for each member and visitor – new or old – who contributes to the life and vitality of the church.

Parts of the work of the church require organization.  We work hard to keep up with membership, organizations, activities and functions of the church.  However it is done, organization of our information is a vital part of the ministry of administration.  That is why GCFA developed Ezra, the official database of The United Methodist Church, and provides access to the United Methodist connection with information contained in Ezra.  (Par. 807.16)

EZRA

Ezra is the dynamic, one-stop location for United Methodist data.  It is a robust, interactive, and cost-effective data solution that uses web-based technology to be available in real time.

As an example of its use, the East Ohio conference has used Ezra since 2009. The conference uses the churches, people, leadership and statistics module in the life of its eleven offices.  It has helped to cut down on multiple reporting of changes in vital personal information and allows for the reporting of church data electronically. Submission of data doesn’t involve formatting a spreadsheet!  A local church dashboard allows congregations to input their own leadership information.

For the East Ohio conference, Ezra is the centralized, interactive database accessed from any location at any time via an internet connection helping East Ohio to be more organized from the conference office to the district offices to each member or visitor of a local church.  Work efficiencies are realized and more resources are available to do more ministry at all levels of the conference.

Customization and excellent customer service are two reasons East Ohio is a satisfied customer.  They have made Ezra an application they can use easily across the conference.

Effective deployment of services that help the full range of administrative ministries is at the core of the mission of GCFA.  We want to thank ALL the conferences and local churches that use GCFA Shared Services.  Feel free to contact us if you have questions about any of our Shared Services.