Mission Trips and Faith

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BY ANNA STEWART FAIRCLOTH |

It was March of 2011 and I was on a bus with my youth group from Friedberg Moravian Church. We were headed for a mission weekend in Tennessee to help repair houses. We slept in a church on cots and played cards for hours when we got back from our worksite. At the time of this trip, I was certain God had sent me because this lady really needed help with her house. But looking back, I can see God sent me on this trip also because he knew I needed friends. I came back from that trip with a bus full of friends who pushed me to be better and kept me coming back to church every Sunday. Since then, I have gone on numerous mission trips that have led me all around the world. I’ve learned that God can use anybody to change the world. All you have to do is say yes!

God always reaches out his hand. He’s just waiting for you to grab it.

The Lord has taught me so many valuable lessons through mission work. I was on a plane from Addis Ababa to Mombasa when I realized that I was literally going to Africa. No joke. I knew the Lord was calling me to Kenya, but why? I think sometimes Jesus puts us in situations so that we are forced to rely on him. I was scared, a little homesick, and really wanted Chick-fil-a after eating airplane food for two days. I prayed to him for comfort and to bring me peace so that I knew I was meant for this. And that’s when I felt I tap on my arm. My neighbor had been sitting beside me silently the whole trip until we hit some turbulence. He shyly asked if he could hold my hand. It was his first time flying and he was scared. I smiled and reached out my hand. I think God does the same thing to us. Leaving your comfort zone can be scary, but God always reaches out his hand. He’s just waiting for you to grab it.

Image: Anna singing and dancing with one of the children at Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya. Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

Anna singing and dancing with one of the children at Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya. Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

Another lesson I have learned from my experience with missions: anything can be a moment for ministry. I used to think going on mission trips looked like evangelizing to everyone I met and bringing them to Jesus. Don’t get me wrong; we should be doing this too! But ministry also looks like sorting beans, blowing up balloons and making them into animals, and painting houses. When we humbly serve God’s children, we are reflecting Christ out into the world.

The Lord created us to be in community and family with one another. He didn’t just stop after Adam. He recognized loneliness and knew we weren’t meant to live that way. I have often heard people ask, “Why don’t you just send them the money you would spend on getting there to them?” The Great Commission tells us to go to the ends of the Earth for our brothers and sisters. Go into all the nations and baptize them into one nation, God’s kingdom. We can’t do that just by sending a check and signing our name on a card. My first mission trip to Tennessee made me want to start a relationship with Jesus. Not because of the work we did but because of the people who were there. They loved me like Jesus does, just as I am.

Image: In the Dominican Republic: Anna celebrating a little boy's successful surgery. He had just received surgery for a cleft pallet. | Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

In the Dominican Republic: Anna celebrating a little boy’s successful surgery. He had just received surgery for a cleft pallet. | Photo courtesy of Anna Stewart Faircloth.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28: 16-20, ESV

This world needs a revival and it starts with you! How are you responding to the Great Commission? Are you living out your God-given responsibility to share the Gospel with every nation and tribe? Be the generation that fulfills the Great Commission. Put your trust in him and be spontaneous for God. All you have to do is go!

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image: Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya: Anna and one of the children after a church service. They became fast best friends!

Ray of Hope Orphanage in Kenya: Anna and one of the children after a church service. They became fast best friends!

Anna Stewart Faircloth is an intern at the Board of World Mission for the summer of 2018 and is a member of Friedberg Moravian Church in Winston-Salem, NC. She attends Liberty University and is studying Youth Ministry with a minor in Camp and Outdoor Leadership as well as a minor in Family and Child Development.

 

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Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part Two

This is the second in a series of posts that share the development of a project which I’ve been working on since June of 2015. (Read Part One here.) The Board of Cooperative Ministries has sponsored and overseen this work. I didn’t think it would ever have a name, but finally we found one that rang true for those involved in this process. We now call it Living Faith.

This blog starts with my comments regarding the development of a model of church life that we believe can invigorate our congregations. You may find that some of my comments ring true for you, while others might have you objecting out loud. I hope you share both in response to this blog.

In my first post, I suggested that much of what we do in our congregations focuses on things other than what we need to enable our members to experience spiritual growth. These are important things, but they are designed to achieve objectives other than spiritual growth. If you look back at that post, I write about Sunday School classes and the good that they do. I mentioned that Bible studies also serve an important purpose but often lack the elements that they need in order to enable participants to experience significant spiritual growth. They may learn about spiritual maturity, but they don’t necessarily experience it. This probably raised questions in the minds of many readers as to what factors do I think are needed to make spiritual growth possible. That’s what this post is about.

A key element that helps to make this happen is face-to-face interaction on a regular basis in which we share our spiritual journeys with each other. In Living Faith, this involves sharing our responses to two questions while a few are gathered together:

  • In what ways has God moved in your life since we last met?
  • In what ways has God been silent in your life since we last met?

This makes two things necessary:

1) One is that the group must be smaller than many Sunday School and Bible study classes that exist in many of our churches. If there is a group of seven or more, time just doesn’t allow meaningful responses to these questions by each participant. Smaller than seven is actually preferable.

2) The second thing that becomes necessary in order to respond honestly to these two simple questions is an agreement that things shared must be kept in the strictest confidence. Most of our gatherings in church are not understood to be in confidence. They are good groups, but they aren’t seen as places of confidentiality. This is not to suggest that people must share deep, intimate secrets in such a setting in order to achieve spiritual maturity; but some level of privacy is needed in order to develop close relationships and accountability.

Speaking of accountability, in addition to face-to-face interaction on a regular basis, another element that is essential to spiritual growth is attendance at the weekly to bi-weekly Living Faith group’s gatherings and also personal daily devotional practices. Group members don’t confront each other but encourage each other to remain committed to these parts of their group covenant. This binds the group members together in a way that few other things can do.

Many Moravians have participated in a Gemeinschaft group. This movement began in the Southern Province of the Moravian Church, but it has been used beyond Southern Province churches by many who have found it beneficial. Those who read this and who have participated in such a group will notice some of the similarities between Gemeinschaft and Living Faith. (I should point out that there are significant differences, too.) Most have found that the experience of sharing their faith journey in regular gatherings develops strong, long-lasting relationships. That group becomes an important faith community for them.

The development of one’s faith is not meant to be pursued in solitude. It is intended to be found in the fellowship of others who are seeking the same walk of faith toward spiritual maturity in Christ. That’s what Living Faith is all about.

When has ongoing fellowship in the faith with others enabled you to move closer to Christ. Anyone care to share?

Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.

The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Tim Byerly

It’s Time to Be Bold Again

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Let’s face it: we are anxious. Nervous, tense, uptight, some perhaps even scared, frightened, terrified. Life is not the same. We seem busier, more disconnected from each other, less safe, less secure financially, and more uncertain. The world is polarized – pro this, anti that, with very little room for compromise. Violence, intolerance, and xenophobia seem to be on the rise as well.wsquote

Even worse, a new report from the Public Religion Research Institute describes “mainline Protestants” as less optimistic, less hopeful. “Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants and white mainline Protestants are markedly more pessimistic than other groups,” the report notes, “with majorities believing that America’s best days are behind us (60% and 55%, respectively).”

It all sounds so grim. Where is Jesus in all this? How did we, the Easter people, become gripped by fear, rather than inspired by hope? We appear to have hunkered down in our beautiful buildings and left the real world behind. Now the world has found us and is beating at our door. Will we answer the call? Can the church today help us build each other up in faith, love, and hope? This should be a frequent topic of conversation among Moravians.

On November 7, 2015, Moravians got together at Clemmons Moravian Church to talk about making bold choices for Christ. We heard from some pretty sharp folks, including Brother Thomas Fudge, preeminent Hus scholar and Professor of Medieval History at the University of New England in Australia. Dr. Fudge was a visiting professor during the fall of 2015 at Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he taught a class about heretics and delivered the Moses Lectures. He helped us understand what it means to be a Hussite 600 years after the death of Jan Hus. Brother Craig Atwood spoke about the ways our Moravian ancestors made bold choices for Christ through the generations, from Gregory the Patriarch in 1457 to Comenius to Zinzendorf until our settlement in what is now Winston-Salem, NC. Brother Sam Gray reminded us that, in many ways, our Moravian brothers and sisters around the world are making bold choices for Christ every day, making tremendous sacrifices to live out their faith in places like Cuba, Peru, Honduras, Albania, and Nicaragua, to name a few. (Visit The Board of Cooperative Ministries YouTube channel to view these inspiring, thought-provoking presentations.)

Our history speaks for itself. The courageous witness of Jan Hus, who gave his life so that the truth would prevail, has inspired Moravians for hundreds of years. Gregory the Patriarch and the early “Unitas Fratrum” (or “Unity of the Brethren”) broke from the established state church in 1457, when it was illegal and even life-threatening to start such a radical movement. Our spiritual ancestors went back to the basics of following the way of Christ from the New Testament, believing that many in the church had lost the true spirit of Christianity. According to the Ancient Unity, the New Testament tells us clearly what is essential: faith, love, and hope.

bonhoefferBishop John Amos Comenius helped keep alive the faith of his church in its darkest hour, and provided inspiration that led to its subsequent revival as the Moravian Church during the Zinzendorf era. The renewed Moravian Church of the 18th century followed Zinzendorf’s bold assertion that “there can be no Christianity without community.” For the refugees in Herrnhut, this profound experience of Christian community developed into a passion for living each day for Christ, regardless of occupation or station, and led our brothers and sisters to share the good news of Jesus Christ with those most marginalized throughout the world.

And so the wisdom of the Scriptures and the faithful example of the Ancient Unity and the Renewed Church provide a way to understand our Christian experience today. God creates; God redeems; God blesses. And we respond in faith, in love, and in hope.

The Rev. Dr. Craig Atwood, Professor of Moravian Theology and Ministry at Moravian Theological Seminary and the Director of Center for Moravian Studies, spoke to the European Synod in Bad Boll, Germany, on May 24, 2016. European Moravians are feeling much the same as their North American counterparts – challenges abound at every turn. You may read Brother Craig’s complete address (and it is worth the read), but this passage stood out in particular:

I believe that in our world today, what we need is hope. And in our churches: we need hope. We need to hold on the hope that is within us. Yes, we experience conflicts in our congregations. Yes, we are facing financial difficulties. Yes, we may be facing the decline or even death of our traditional church life. But these things should not rob us of our hope and courage. Our church has died before. Our church has faced worse challenges than these. We have thrived when we have been the most radical and courageous, when we have embraced the teachings of Jesus most passionately, when we have looked into the future with courage and hope because we know that we belong to Christ and that Christ has called us to love his world with the same passion that he loves the world.

We do have much about which to be hopeful. Certainly, our rich history provides example after example of Moravians acting with boldness and courage in the face of much adversity. We know that our past can inform our future, but how do we bridge that gap between knowing and doing? How do we as the church best respond in these uncertain times to ensure that God’s grace is known far and wide through our witness and action?

Stay Tuned.

(Update 7/5/2016 – Part Two of this post is now available.)

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Questions?  Contact Ruth Cole Burcaw at rburcaw(AT)mcsp.org or call (336) 722-8126 Ext. 401

Ruth Cole Burcaw is Executive Director, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM).

Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part One

First in a Series

This post and the ones that follow share the development of a project which I’ve been working on since June of 2015. The Board of Cooperative Ministries has sponsored and overseen this work. I didn’t think it would ever have a name, but finally we found one that rang true for those involved in this process. We now call it Living Faith.

This blog starts with my comments regarding the development of a model of church life that we believe can invigorate our congregations. You may find that some of my comments ring true for you, while others might have you objecting out loud. I hope you share both in response to this blog.

There’s nothing official in this. These are only my thoughts based on my reading of the Bible and my experience as a Moravian for a lot of years. There are three things that the Church must be doing in order to fulfill God’s call to be a Church:

1) provide for the spiritual growth of its members,

2) find ways to do outreach in the surrounding community and the world, and

3) regular times of worship.

Everything else the Church does is probably good but is not essential to its calling.

Living Faith Small Group Ministry

I’ve shared this idea about church life with several people, and the response sometimes follows a common theme. The response was that the Church does well–and sometimes very well–on outreach and worship, but its efforts in fostering the spiritual growth of its members are often insufficient. That’s not to say that it does nothing to help spiritual growth happen. It’s just that it doesn’t receive as much focus as worship and outreach. We tend to invest our energy and resources in worship–with its creative use of music, scripture, prayer and sermon–and in outreach through which we hope to enable others to experience Christ’s love through us. Spiritual growth is seen as a personal, individual endeavor and so is left to the devices of the individual members to achieve as they are aided in a broad sense by the activities of the Church, such as worship, and by one’s own initiative, such as daily devotions. I believe that corporate and individual worship are not enough to enable our spiritual growth. More is needed from the Church to make this happen in our lives.

Now that’s not to suggest that nothing is done to encourage spiritual growth. There are several things the Church does that appear on the surface to focus on spiritual growth, but their success in the area of spiritual growth and maturity is limited because of a variety of factors. One example is Sunday School. A lot of good comes from Sunday School—

  • In the younger classes, a foundation of Bible knowledge is laid for the children’s faith. This is invaluable! We should do more of this and find ways to include more of our children in this wonderful experience.
  • During the adolescent years, young people are led through a process of examining their beliefs and how these beliefs and their faith relate to their experience of life and the world.
  • In adulthood, a major and often unspoken priority centers on long-term relationships. If this is not obvious, try changing the membership of some of those decades-long classes.

All of these benefits are important, and they all are needed for spiritual growth to happen. They are foundation stones for this. But none of them equates to spiritual growth that is integral to the Church’s mission. Occasionally a Sunday School class fosters deep spiritual growth. However, in my experience only small steps are usually taken in this regard. There are several reasons for this that I’ll share in a future post. For now, I’ll just suggest that Sunday School does a lot of good, but spiritual growth requires additional factors that aren’t found in most Sunday School experiences. The same could be said of a lot of Bible studies that are found in many churches.

The Church does lots of things in addition to Sunday School and Bible studies. Many of these fall under the areas of outreach and worship. Many of them do good and achieve much. But most of them lack the elements that are necessary to make spiritual growth happen.

In my next post, I hope to answer the question that’s bound to be in your mind–okay, if something else is needed, what would that be?

In the meantime, you might want to think about your experiences in church, particularly about those experiences that have helped you growth spiritually.

And what does spiritual growth and maturity look like? That’s something else I’ll write about soon.

Thanks for putting up with my thoughts. I look forward to seeing yours in a response.

Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.

The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Tim Byerly

Social Media & Ministry

social-mediaOur time is one of increased connectedness. Digital engagement is now a daily reality for many in the world and engagement, at its best, is relational. Social media is a readily available tool that allows individuals, groups and communities of faith to bear witness to the ordinary happenings of life together.

Our stories of faith are filled with examples of people called by God to share a particular message with a particular group of people. Likewise, in the history of the faithful, the medium by which we accomplish this mission both remains the same and radically different. Social media allows many congregations and followers of Jesus to share messages of hope, of peace and of love.

“Social media is a tremendous help in my work with youth, college age and young adults. I use Facebook the most, which is a valuable tool for communicating and reporting. Through Facebook I am able to contact people about upcoming meetings and events.  I am also able to share what we do in our youth and young adult ministries by posting pictures. This reporting helps inform what we are doing as well as generates excitement for upcoming events.  Communication is an essential part of my work as our province’s Director of Youth, College and Young Adult Ministries.  I get in touch with people through letters, emails, phone calls, and text messages, but my most effective means of communicating is through social media.”

-Rev. Doug Rights, Director of Youth, College and Young Adult Ministries

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest are easily accessible and maintain a broad demographic reach. These spaces allow people to interact, share content, and nurture meaningful relationships. Sharing content, event reminders and other various announcements are valuable uses of social media. Consider ways individuals in your communities of faith may engage one another to build Christian community.

Rev. Keith Anderson, a Lutheran pastor and author, encourages leaders to consider using social media to extend the simple question, “What can we pray for today?” “Liking” a post or sending an encouraging comment are gracious ways of reminding one another of the presence of God through the nearness of one another.

Finally, digital presence in ministry should be authentic, manageable, and responsible.

  • We usually do our best when we are our truest selves.
  • Be present on social media platforms that make the most sense for your community.
  • Remember the importance of boundaries and maintain an awareness of social media as a public place.

View the BCM pinterest board on social media for churches!

by Sarah Hubbard, BCM Communications Coordinator

Why Church Communication Matters

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The ministry of communication allows us to share the ways God is real, present, and active in our communities of faith. And just like any other area of life together, it invites the grace-filled participation of us all to make it work.

I recently came across this bit of wisdom shared by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on World Communication Day, 2012. He said, “Learning to communicate is learning to listen and to contemplate as well as speak.”

This is a good place to start when thinking about the many ways we communicate with one another and with the communities in which we live, learn, work, and play.

We listen.

Listen to one another’s stories of pain and healing, of forgiveness and redemption, of burdens and joy. We hear one another into speech. This is good news, and we are a gospel people.

Church communication allows us to creatively share these stories of faith and the gospel at work with our community and our world.

We believe church communication matters because we know a kind of love that matters.

Over the next few weeks, we will share a series of posts about ways we can engage in ministry in a digital world. We look forward to sharing what we are learning from you, with you, and for you.

Upcoming posts in our series include:

Best Practices for Websites

e-Giving

Social Media & Ministry

Equipping & Encouraging: Online Faith Formation

Don’t forget to visit our online library and search “church communication” to explore books available through the Resource Center.

By: Sarah Hubbard, Communications Coordinator

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Leadership Focus 2015

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Register now for Be the Church: Living Faith in a New Generation on Saturday, February 28, from 9:00am-3:30pm at Trinity Moravian Church, Winston-Salem. From fall 2014 through fall 2015 the Comenius Learning Series is focusing on ways to be the church in a new generation, using the 600th celebration of the legacy of John Hus as inspiration. Leadership Focus 2015 will include morning workshops followed by a mission blitz that will provide persons of all ages to partner with community organizations on a special afternoon project. Come as a youth group, small group or someone excited about mission!

God gives us life, our gifts and talents, the earth and all that is in it. In response to God’s grace, we live our lives in faith, love, and hope. During the mission blitz portion of the day, we have a chance to go out into our community and use God’s gifts to share the good news. These projects represent just a few ways we can live out Jesus’ mandate to love our neighbor.

Mission Blitz Projects Include: 

  • Bless Inmates, Families & Volunteers (Friends of Moravian Prison Ministry)
  • Serve Our Neighbor in Need at Sunnyside
  • Spruce Up the Shepherd’s Center
  • Practice Laundry Love with Anthony’s Plot
  • Share the Good News: Multi-Media Mission
  • Sew the Solution: Warmth for the World
  • Help Congregations SHIFT into More Effective Ministry
  • From Heart to Hand: Moravian Families Serving Together to Make a Difference (for families and children’s groups)

Register using this mail-in Leadership Focus 2015 Registration Form or use our online registration. You’ll find detailed descriptions for the morning workshop options and afternoon mission blitz in our printed registration.

We look forward to seeing you soon!