Doing What We’re Not Used To

This is the final message from the “PRAY” series about the Church of the Nazarene’s missional impact and the various prayers and praises from these world regions. This message is about USA/Canada Region and the Mesoamerica Region and how, much like the story of Naaman in 1 Kings, these two regions did things they were not used to in order to continue the ministry in their world area. If you’d like to listed to the audio recording of this message, CLICK HERE or scroll to the bottom to use the Spotify player.


1Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.

2Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

4Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5“By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. 6The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

7As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

8When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

11But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 12Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.

13Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 14So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

15Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.”

 2 Kings 5:1-15b NIV

During the pandemic, we were asked, requested or in certain circumstances forcibly required to do things we were not “used to.” We were told we needed to shut everything down for two weeks to help hospitals get prepared for the waves of patients. We were told we needed to close businesses and cease gathering in order to keep people safe. We were told ever changing things about masks and were required to wear them for some of the most simple of Public interactions. 

This sermon is not going in a political slant or even one solely about the pandemic, but I felt that none of what I share concerning Mesoamerica or US/Canada regions would make sense if we ignored what kind of things we had to endure in the past two years. And of course, acknowledge it wasn’t just us…here in Wisconsin that endured it. The whole world endured it.

I spoke briefly last week that our local gathering was shut down for 2 months, and in that time we had to do some things we were not used to. Maybe this is true for you but my family got to sleep a little later on Sundays. I would also have to record my sermon prior to Sunday to make sure the one I published online was that week’s message. I would send the message file to the local radio station who would broadcast it the following Sunday. I hooked up my laptop to my TV so my family and I could participate in church online.

Even when we started to gather again for in person worship, things had changed. We weren’t yet ready to dive back in with Sunday school. When we did, it was here in the sanctuary and not in our classroom. It was not like we were used to. 

Our district could not even meet for District assembly that year. General superintendents and leaders had to l think fast as to how to “do business” because our annual gathering to ordain new ministers, to encourage and inspire, to vote on legislative items…was not going to be what we were used to.

Of course it wasn’t just our district that was affected by the change in protocols. All over the world people were quarantined, locked down, restricted. After going through all that, how are we supposed to do church ministry like we’ve always done?

And that’s just it. We weren’t going to use the same old methods of ministry forever. Hopefully our eyes have become open to doing what we’re not used to. 

In our last two regions: USA/Canada and Mesoamerica, the acts of ministry, sharing the good news and helping the needy did not go on lockdown, though some of the traditional methods of mission work had to be modified and tweaked a little. We’ll look at these regions as it pertains to the theme we see in the scripture I just read from 2 Kings. 

Today, let’s learn a bit about these two regions and how they persevered through the pandemic, where their ministry focus changed and what their prayer requests are for the years to come. 

What is Mesoamerica?

Mesoamerica is a region of the world you might be unfamiliar with. Much like what we saw in South America and Africa, regions are made by geographic location and usually shared language/culture. Mesoamerica is divided into different fields.

  • Mexico 
  • North Central
  • Central America,
  • the Caribbean, (includes: Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana (from South America).
  • Haiti

I say they share language…well they do have several of them rather than most areas which may have 2-3 main languages. In Mesoamerica, “the languages represented among these nations: 

“Spanish, English, French, Haitian Creole, K’iche’, Q’eqchi’, Nahuatl, Dutch…” among others.

Where is the US/Canada Region?

Well unless you are listening to this online and you live outside of the US, you more than likely know where the US/Canada region is located and what countries it contains.

This region includes all the states and territories from these two countries. Unlike many other countries in the world, they have been blessed with development in regards to infrastructure and at least in the US, a government who chose to protect its citizen’s freedom and rights as part of the foundations of the country. 

Praises and Challenges

To really know someone is to know what they celebrate.

To really know someone is to know what they celebrate. So what are these regions celebrating? Mesoamerica is rejoicing that they were able to mobilize local missionaries and mission teams when traditional methods were restricted due to travel bans during the pandemic. Over 222,000 hours were donated to Nazarene missionary work there. 18,000 united in prayer devotionals on live and virtual platforms. And the region continued to train many young people in youth ministry, better equipping and preparing their region to reach teens and young adults.

What about US/Canada? 27 traditional missionaries were still able to be sent from this region. We are thankful that when times are tough and scary, people still answer the call of God on their lives. The Church of the Nazarene in US/Canada also held a virtual Work and Witness Conference with 600 attendees. If you didn’t know, Work and Witness is a program that organizes groups of people to travel and do short term mission trips and projects. Many of the projects involve building, constructing or remodeling. The top searchable projects being planned are located in Africa or Asia-Pacific. 

What requests do these regions have? The pandemic touched every world region. The continual prayer for the church is one of comfort and encouragement. They recognize the many families who experienced loss over just the past year. The prayer guide even noted that in the US/Canada region – local and district Nazarene Missions International, (NMI) leaders passed away due to Covid. Comfort.

On the Mesoamerica region, their requests highlight a spirit of encouragement. They request prayer for 20 new missionaries to come out of their region, pray local youth will be reached through the large youth event coming soon, that their people would have the spirit of mentorship, and that they would “continue to train, learn and walk along the Journey of Grace.”

Encouragement.

Naaman Connection

Let’s think back to the scripture I read just a little bit ago. Namaan wasn’t a Jew, yet he was seeking relief by any means necessary. That included a prophet of God. But when that prophet gave him directions…and did you notice? Elisha did it through an intermediary? Through a servant! Elisha tells him to come but then Elisha sends someone else to answer the door! That seems a bit rude. 

This puts Naaman off…then the directions from the intermediary are “Not what Naaman was expecting. Not what he was used to!” 

Thankfully, his brave servants had guided their master to the right conclusion. He needed to go take a dip in the Jordan River. Naaman was indignant. He reminded me of the “disciples” who couldn’t let go of their possessions, plans, and people to get a hold of what Jesus wanted for them. Naaman was only cleansed when he was obedient to the call and directions of God. He was leery of the cleansing because it wasn’t how he expected it to be, to come. 

Conclusion

What is God doing or does God want to do through us? Maybe we have the big picture – but “the how” is the problem. God tells us HOW he wants to do it and it is confusing or surprising. 

Much of the time in ministry today I and perhaps over the years, you have been bombarded with plans, systems, the “hot new thing.” Worship styles, formulaic discipleship programs, door-to-door evangelism, 4 spiritual law, evangelism explosion…the list goes on and on. What is the purpose of these tools? Well if you are a cynical person, (and we all can be a bit cynical now and then…) you think the point of the program or tool is to sell books. Raise money for a particular ministry. I’m sure the pressure is on those who’ve had success with previous books and plans and systems for church growth and evangelism. The pressure to make the next number one best seller. 

But if we take a moment and set aside our cynicism, we’re left with optimism…or at the very least giving the person the benefit of the doubt. They truly believe what they are presenting is helpful to building up the body of Christ. 

Our trouble lies in relying on the next big flashy program and missing the simple truths. The simplest of ways for the spirit of God to move in a world area, in a people group. The Power of Prayer.

I know our church is sustained by prayer. Can I just say, prayer and subourness go hand in hand? They do. Jesus told a parable about a widow. She comes before a judge night and day and says, “grant me justice over my enemy.” Someone had wronged her and she brought this concern to the highest human authority. One who could do something about it. But Jesus tells us this human judge didn’t care about people or fear God. He didn’t grant the woman her request…until after she constantly nagged him. He gave in because he wanted it to stop.

Many have misread this passage and drawn the following conclusion: God doesn’t want to answer prayer. The only way to get him to do it is to nag him. Wrong. Jesus finishes the story by saying this:

7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.

Luke 18:7-8a NIV

Prayer. As they are discovering, practicing throughout the Nazarene church, and specifically the Mesoamerica and US/Canada Regions, prayer is what we need more of. To confess to God, both publicly and privately “I trust in you. Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Teach me to know the things of your heart so in my prayers, that’s what I bring to you…the concerns.” Through prayer we can better know the heart and mind of God and even better know ourselves as well.

In Mesoamerica, they couldn’t shut down ministry just because travel was restricted to and from certain world areas. So they trained and mobilized local people like you and me as missionaries to their home country or neighboring countries. It kind of shattered the missional system for a moment, as this showed it is more than possible to spread the gospel without even the lead coordinators being in the country. 

What if God called you and me to be missionaries? But instead of sending us to Eurasia, Mesoamerica, South America, he sent us to Westby, Readstown, Viroqua. 

It begins and is supported by a foundation grounded in PRAYER. 

Challenge

Will you join me and others across the USA/Canada region in 36 days of prayer? 

The USA/Canada is seeking God through Unity in Prayer. Praying our way to Pentecost.

The Church has produced these handy prayer journals. Link to FREE Digital Journal.

Learn more about the Half-Million Mobilization at https://www.usacanadaregion.org/pray

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