The Power of 10 Starts with You

14 05 2011

by INTEGRATED COMMUNICATIONS

World Church leaders, ministers, and priesthood have been invited to respond by increasing their giving to support worldwide ministry. The response has been encouraging. Now the entire church is being extended that invitation through the Power of 10.

The Power of 10 is an inspirational new way to align how we live out and give to Christ’s mission. It’s a mission that’s all about inviting others to be part of it, reaching the brokenhearted and the suffering, and pursuing justice and peacemaking.

That can sound impossible to achieve in a world where life’s tragedies seem overwhelming. But, Christ’s mission is our mission! God calls you to put your life into the divine mission of evangelism, compassionate ministry, and justice and peacemaking.

$10 a Week Will Change Lives around the World

Together, we can do this! When you apply the Power of 10 concept to pursuing mission, you begin to see how the gifts of one person can directly impact the lives of many. Maybe it’s inviting 10 friends to a church activity or helping 10 people become baptized and welcomed into our church community. And how about becoming a sustaining contributor to mission? Did you know that takes just $10 a week?

Think about it. What does $10 a week really get you? A couple of lattés? A movie ticket? A fast-food meal or two? That same $10 has the power to really change lives!

It’s time to believe in the power of a few vibrant witnesses to transform the world through courage, vision, and generosity.

The Power of 10 starts with you: www.giveyour10.org

    

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Christ-like Love

12 05 2011

by LINDA BOOTH,
Council of Twelve Apostles

Jesus is the living expression of God’s love, revealing that all people have inestimable and equal worth. No one is excluded from this divine love—not hateful family members, difficult neighbors, malicious colleagues, or even our worst enemies.

Last August our daughter-in-law disappeared with our grandsons, 10-year-old Brock and 8-year-old Corbin. For three months our family did not know if the boys were safe or if we would see them again. We felt pain and helplessness, knowing Gretchen could have left the state, fearing she might harm herself or the boys. We felt blessed by the prayers of the many that lifted us up to God. In our pain, we knew God was near.

One Saturday morning I awoke with a plan. I persuaded my husband, Doug, we should drive to St. Joseph, Missouri, a nearly two-hour drive from our home, to see if Gretchen was staying with a friend who had bailed her out of jail. We found the address and spent 45 minutes driving through nearby neighborhoods, looking for Gretchen’s car. There was no sign of her or the boys.

Discouraged, we drove home.

Early the next morning, I left on my own for St. Joseph. Again, I drove up and down the streets, praying, desperately searching for our grandsons. Again, no sign of them. I drove home, crying and singing these words: “I love You, Lord, and I lift my voice to worship You, O my soul, rejoice! Take joy, my King, in what You hear: may it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.”

As I sang these praise words over and over again, a Christ-like love for Gretchen grew within me. My love for her became intense, forgiving, and whole. That love continues today. I know our relationship never will be easy. I also know that as a disciple of Jesus Christ I am called to love her, just as Jesus does.

Christ-like love is both theological and practical. Theology comes from the art of telling and listening to stories of Jesus. The practical becomes evident when we allow the story of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection to form and transform our relationships through Christ-like love.

The Gospels tell many stories of Christ’s radical love. It made a difference in people’s lives, challenged his disciples to change the cultural and social norms that discounted the worth of all persons, and sent his followers to share that radical love with others.

Just as Jesus’ radical love affected those disciples, the stories of Jesus’ love can shape us as we share Christ-like love with others. Following are just two of the many stories that model Christ-like love.

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying,

“My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples. Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.—Matthew 9:18–22 NRSV

We forget the radical nature of Jesus’ encounter with the unnamed woman. In the Hebrew culture, women were dismissed; their social status equal to slaves and children. In public places, women covered themselves with two veils to remain unseen. Men were prohibited from looking at or talking to women in public. A woman could be divorced for simply speaking to a man outside her home.

This woman’s situation was complicated further because she was unclean according to the purity laws. Her bleeding for 12 years would have excluded her from Jewish life and from relationships with others. She could not eat with people, worship in the temple, or have any contact with another practicing Jew.

As a result, she would have been estranged, lonely, and rejected.

Jesus’ speaking to and healing this woman would have shocked his disciples. His actions were a rejection of the cultural restrictions of gender and the religious-purity code. Jesus chose to relate to this woman, valuing her as a person of worth, healing her so she could resume relationships with others.

What does this story tell us about Christ-like love? As individuals and as members of Christ’s body we are called to see others through spiritual eyes that recognize another’s pain, separation, and need. We are called to take the time to love, even when the action does not fit our schedule. We are called to love those considered unclean in our society, to stop, touch, and heal the estranged, lonely, and rejected because they are God’s children of inestimable and equal worth.

During a final commitment service at a family camp, I was intrigued when Bill stood to say he would commit to be a friend to his neighbor who had just been released from prison for shooting his ex-wife. Months later, I sat beside Bill at a potluck in the Nevada, Missouri, Congregation. I asked Bill about his neighbor. Bill told of checking on him daily and frequently driving him to doctor appointments, etc.

“My neighbor has recently been banned from entering the welfare office,” Bill reported.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, my neighbor said something inappropriate to the woman who gave him his welfare check. Now, I have to go in to the office and get his check for him.”

“You know that your neighbor will probably never change,” I said. “So why do you continue to care for him?”

Bill thought for a moment and then replied, “Because he’s a child of God.”

He (Jesus) entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”—Luke 19:1–10 NRSV

Tax collectors were often Jewish men who were considered “sinners,” shunned by family and other Jews. Like Gentile slaves, they were denied civil and political rights granted to Jewish men. Money from tax collectors was so tainted it couldn’t be given as alms in the temple. If a Jewish man ate with or had a relationship with a tax collector, he would be contaminated and considered “unrighteous.”

Jesus’ followers would not eat with Zacchaeus and complained when Jesus announced he was going to Zacchaeus’ home. Jesus intentionally sought out this “sinner” and deliberately “contaminated” himself by eating with him.

We don’t know what Jesus says to Zacchaeus over the meal, but we know the results: Jesus’ love and compassion transform Zacchaeus’ actions. As a person worthy to eat with Jesus, he now generously gives to the poor and to those he defrauded. Jesus proclaims: “The Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

What does this story tell us about Christ-like love? Jesus makes it clear that all people, even sinners, are worthy of our time, attention, and love. Who matters to Jesus? Everyone!

This story also helps us recognize that sin is the universal condition of separation and alienation from God and one another. Christ shows us how to relate to those who are estranged. If we model Christ’s attitudes and behaviors, we, too, will seek the lost, love them, and help them reconcile with God and others.

Just as Jesus’ radical love touched those disciples, so can the stories of Jesus touch us if we share a Christ-like love with others, value each person as a child of God, and witness of Christ’s love through our words and actions of compassion. Christ-like love is genuinely expressed when we

Generously share the invitation, ministries, and sacraments through which people can encounter the Living Christ who heals and reconciles through redemptive relationships in sacred community. The restoring of persons to healthy or righteous relationships with God, others, themselves, and the earth is at the heart of the purpose of your journey as a people of faith.—Doctrine and Covenants 163:2b





The Mission Matters Most!

11 05 2011

by STEPHEN M. VEAZEY, president of the church

President Stephen M. Veazey shared the following April 10 at the Temple in Independence, Missouri, and via live webcast in English, French, and Spanish. The complete address can be found at www.CofChrist.org/presidency/sermons/. Video and audio files are also available.

I previously have shared that when I was committing to paper the words that were to become Doctrine and Covenants 164, I thought I had reached the conclusion with paragraph 8. Having wrestled with complicated theological, sacramental, and ethical issues, I was grateful for the Spirit’s guidance. I wanted to rest with God.

Much to my surprise, as I began a prayer of thanks, the Spirit surged up like a fountain! I reached for my writing tablet and began to capture the experience in concepts seeking expression.

What resulted is now paragraph 9 of Section164. It is a message of God’s affirmation and hope for the church. The concluding sentence came with undeniable clarity: “The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead!”

The mission of Jesus Christ is what matters most for the journey ahead!

But, what is the mission of Jesus Christ?

The challenge in answering this question is the all-too-human tendency to mold Jesus and his mission into our national, cultural, political, and theological agendas, rather than allowing him to deepen and transform our vision!

So, I think the best way to answer the question is to turn to scripture, particularly Luke 4:18–19.

After a time of wilderness spiritual strengthening, and after his baptism and confirming experience with the Holy Spirit, Jesus went to worship in his hometown synagogue.

The congregation was mostly family and old friends; not the easiest place to announce that you are the Messiah.

But when Jesus was invited to read scripture, he did not hesitate. He was poised for this occasion. He was handed a scroll of the writings of Isaiah. He selected words that correspond with Isaiah 61:1–2 and 58:6 in the Bible.

Isaiah 61 poetically describes a servant who would restore God’s justice and peace to Israel and the world. Isaiah 61 is rooted in other Isaiah passages, especially in Isaiah 42.

Isaiah 42 speaks of both a servant and a covenant people of God—a faith community—who will open blind eyes, free captives from bondage, bring forth God’s compassionate justice, and be called a light to the nations.

Jesus strategically selected a scripture passage to proclaim his mission. By doing so he set the direction for the disciple community that would form around him.

He read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…”

Jesus was able to make this claim because he knew the ways of the Spirit. He was grounded in scripture, particularly the prophetic texts. He had spent ample time being shaped by the Spirit through prayer, as well as worshipping and learning with others.

Being spiritually formed is foundational to obtaining a clear and compelling vision of mission. A compelling sense of mission springs from the overflow of deep communion with the Spirit. And such communion occurs when we engage in personal spiritual practices as well as spiritual growth through healthy congregational life.

The complete April 10, 2011 address can be found at www.CofChrist.org/presidency/sermons/. Video and audio files are also available.





The Start of Something Great in Spain

9 05 2011

President of Seventy, Keith McMillan (left, on couch) sees the beginnings of ministry in Spain.

by JOHN S. WIGHT,
senior president of seventy

The admonition to “generously share the invitation, ministries, and sacraments through which people can encounter the Living Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 163:2) is being lived in exciting ways in Spain.

Recent efforts have resulted in baptisms, confirmations, and sharing in the Lord’s Supper.

“The Macedonian call found in Acts 16 is very strong for me,” Apostle Richard James said. “The Message Remix version of the Bible says, ‘We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the European (v. 9).’

“And I have heard this call, ‘Come over to Spain and help us.’”

James, who oversees the Eurasia Mission Field, shared that scripture and sense of call with people in Spain. They said they had been praying for six years for a Community of Christ congregation in Madrid.

“They felt God had heard their prayers and had been faithful to them,” James said.

“We shared in Communion, perhaps for the first time in history, in Madrid (in November).… A new fellowship is now meeting every week there,” said Keith McMillan, field missionary coordinator and president of seventy.

During that November visit, McMillan met a young man named Santiago Laz Aparicio, who wished to be baptized. On February 7, his wish came to fruition. Laz Aparicio and McMillan entered the cold Atlantic Ocean near Cadiz, Spain. Afterward, McMillan and James confirmed him.

“We also met with a person who was baptized in 2008 and lives in nearby Rota. They have agreed to stay in contact with each other,” McMillan said.

James added: “This is just the start of things in Spain.” “God is doing great things here, and we need to be more open where the Spirit will lead us. It is our testimony that if we step in faith, God will lead us to people.”

But this is not just a story about answering a 21st-century “Macedonian call.” It is about answering a call in modern-day revelation.

To accelerate the work of sharing the gospel, the Twelve and the Seventy should be closely associated in implementing wholistic evangelistic ministries. The seventy are to be the forerunners of Christ’s peace, preparing the way for apostolic witness to be more readily received.—Doctrine and Covenants 163:5b

The experiences of McMillan and James show what can happen—and is happening—when apostles and seventies work in close association. However, the responsibility for “generously sharing the invitation, ministries, and sacraments” rests with every disciple.

Scripture reminds all disciples of the exciting events that happen when they unreservedly respond to the ever-present opportunities to share their witness and invite all people into community.

(The Holy) Spirit is even now touching alive the souls of those who feel the passion of discipleship burning deeply within. Many others will respond if you are persistent in your witness and diligent in your mission to the world.—Doctrine and Covenants 162:3b





Generous Congregation Takes the Chill Out of Winter

7 05 2011

by JANE D. WATKINS,
Floriday USA Mission Center

The Holley-Navarre Congregation sits in an area many observers might equate to heaven-on-earth. Located in the northwest Florida panhandle, the area is known for its beautiful white-sand beaches and the emerald waters of Santa Rosa Sound.

Yet like many communities, the Holley-Navarre region has significant challenges. After devastating hurricanes (Ivan in 2004 and Dennis and Katrina in 2005), the latest “storm” was last year’s oil spill.

Like many communities on the Gulf of Mexico, Holley-Navarre saw families’ livelihoods threatened by contaminated waters and a downturn in tourism. Unemployment and home foreclosures made many families financially vulnerable.

Making matters worse, the winter of 2010 was colder than usual, creating significant problems for homeless families and those without utilities.

The Holley-Navarre Congregation of about 70 members knew about the lack of cold-weather shelters. So it opened the church, providing showers, beds, blankets, warm clothes, and meals to people when the temperature dropped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Movies, games, and music entertained those staying in the church. As word spread, people in the community began to give food, sleeping bags, clothing, blankets, and toiletries.

This fledgling ministry gave birth to the South Santa Rosa Resource Center, now serving people three days a week. This center links people with help to restructure mortgages, aid with utilities, and connections with food banks.

Local organizations give diapers, baby food, and children’s clothing to help young families.

“Thanks to the warm hearts of church members and the community,” Pastor Diane Revere said, “we are making a difference in our small corner of the world.”





Learning to Lead

5 05 2011

by HOLLY AND BERRY ELLIS,
Alabama-Northwest Florida USA Mission Center

There we were, a handful of young adults talking about life—our personal lives, the life of the church, and the connection between the two.

We shared our fears for the growth of the church and the responsibility that soon would rest in our hands. As the reality set in, we grappled with how to respond as individuals and as a group. We left that conversation with a commitment to God and each other. How and where to begin became the theme of our next conversation.

Our conversation began with a question about how the church in our area grew through home meetings of traveling ministers. “Do you remember the stories we’ve heard about the old ‘witnessing weekends’?”

That question spun us into wonderful, exciting, uncomfortable, growing, and changing experiences. It launched our mission center’s young-adult traveling ministry, which has continued nearly two years.

Every-other month, the young adults of Alabama and northwest Florida travel to congregations throughout the mission center to provide ministry. With our children in tow, we travel as a group. Before each trip, we meet to plan the service. Then we wait with great anticipation to find out how God will use us.

Donning our signature “In Christ Alone” t-shirts, we never leave a service without each person sharing a testimony. Whether we use cardboard testimonies, PowerPoint slides, or spoken words, we always share our stories of God’s power.

We have found freedom in telling our stories and seeking our place in God’s church. As painful as growing sometimes has been, we are developing our gifts while experiencing great joy.

We leave each service, shaking our heads. How is it that we get so much from the services? How is it that we try so hard to bless others, and we are the ones blessed?

The answer is simple: Because the God of the Alabama- Northwest Florida young adults is an awesome God!





It’s Time to Make a Change

3 05 2011

 

by LINDA BOOTH, Council of Twelve Apostles

We were sitting across the table at a church potluck when a woman declared, “Things are just changing too fast in this ol’ world.”

From her expression, it was obvious she wasn’t pleased. She had been talking about her job and the rapid technological shifts that required her to learn new software programs.

While she hadn’t directly said it, I knew from the conversation that she also was concerned about changes in her congregation as a few members reached out to latchkey children who were very different from her own grandchildren.

First, these rowdy children had come to her congregation for after-school activities. Now, they were coming to church on Sunday mornings. One had offered a simple prayer that day during the worship service: “Dear Jesus, thanks for loving me, even when I’m not good.”

As I flew home that afternoon, I admitted she was right. An extreme makeover is occurring in Community of Christ. In theological terms, God is trying to transform us into living expressions of Jesus Christ. The process is both unsettling and exhilarating! But it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Our belief in continuing revelation and our call to be a prophetic people who purposefully try to discover God’s will naturally require change. But it’s not change for change’s sake, and it’s not to align with cultural norms. It’s change so we reflect the likeness of Jesus Christ. Christ’s mission must be our mission.

If we’re honest, most of us would confess that we’ve forgotten pieces of Christ’s mission: evangelism that invites and baptizes/confirms people, compassionate ministries that serve the poor and hungry while erasing conditions that lessen the worth of persons, and justice and peacemaking that restore Christ’s covenant of peace throughout the world.

Instead, we’re more comfortable serving in our church buildings than in sharing Christ’s covenant of peace in our neighborhoods and communities.

It’s time for us to remember and be a prophetic people characterized by uncommon devotion to the compassion and peace of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. The five mission initiatives clearly voiced by President Stephen M. Veazey and printed on pages 14 and 15 can change us, our congregations, and our communities if we generously support them through our daily living and sustainable giving to mission tithes. It takes both to make the radical change needed to fulfill our divine call and God’s vision for the church.

Each of us can make change possible on a scale larger than we’ve ever imagined as we become living expressions of Jesus Christ. The Power of 10, as shared on pages 24 and 25, also is needed. For example, if just 16,000 members in the USA give $10 more a week to support Christ’s mission, there will be $8.32 million more to launch and expand ministries throughout the world.

The rise of Zion the beautiful, the peaceful reign of God, is possible. Christ’s mission calls us and can’t wait. It’s time to make the change!