The Transformational Energy of Evangelism

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BY DAVID HOLSTON |

Note: David Holston is the Executive Director of Sunnyside Ministry, a ministry partner of the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). 

Trees in the fall

As fall approaches each year I am reminded of a family in Sparta, NC. I worked on their clapboard house in the summer of 2003, during the first week of the first ever Mission Camp at Laurel Ridge. I helped that week by running errands to and from Blevins Building Supply in Sparta, where we purchased materials and supplies. I would visit two to three times a day to get a two-by-four or a sheet of plywood or some screws.

It didn’t take long for the staff to recognize me, and with each one of them I had a discussion about what we were doing and why we were there doing it. They had seen or heard of other groups doing things like this in Alleghany County, NC. But we were different–with Laurel Ridge just a few minutes from the heart of Sparta, we were neighbors. But for most of them we were also strangers. Over that week we developed a relationship, different from customer/vendor. We were becoming friends.

During a visit, one of the employees, after hearing the story, said “that sounds like the type of church we need here, I don’t ever see churches doing anything like that.” I never made the connection until several years later when a friend told me that what I was describing was evangelism. And he was right, and it wasn’t scary, uncomfortable, or even difficult.

We Moravians talk about having mountain top experiences at Laurel Ridge, and I have felt renewed and revitalized on many occasions during camps and retreats there. But when I left our mountain and went into the world of Alleghany and Ashe Counties to do work in Christ name, it was transformational.

Laurel Ridge

A few months later, I had a minister (not Moravian, and no one I suspect any of our readers may know) bring a meal to the homeless shelter where I was the overnight volunteer. As his youth served the homeless men and women, he stood in the back and watched. He asked me “why do you do this?” I was dumbstruck, not by the question, but by who was asking it. I looked at him and responded: “I believe it is what Christ wants me to do.” I had to ask him, but his response was that “they needed a bus driver.” I never saw him again, but I and the youth from that church continued to work together for several years at that shelter. Volunteering for nearly 15 years in a homeless shelter was also transformational.

I share these two experiences because those show our diverse church experiences. We are either a church that leaves the comfort of our sanctuaries to serve Christ. Or we sit inside our walls. Remember in James 2:17, “so faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” Some of the healthiest churches in our community are engaged outside of their sanctuary. They serve and support so many of the causes in our community, and there is an energy in them. I think about the energy that there must have been in Herrnhut in the 1720’s as the Church sent out missionaries all over the world. We are a church that still sends out missionaries and has this energy. I believe as we build our relationship with Christ, we must take that faith out into the world. It is how we demonstrate the love of Christ to others. I think it is contagious and is a way to grow Christians.

Lights and energy

At the beginning I wrote about a family I think of often. I don’t know what has happened to them, they were older adults 14 years ago, the daughter and son-in-law in their mid-70’s, and the parents were in their mid-90’s. We finished in the walls of a bedroom in that clapboard house. Although the rest of the house still afforded glimpses of the outdoors, in the winter I imagine this must be a very cold place. The last day I saw them this house was warm and full of the energy left behind by a group of fearless youth and their adult leaders. We showed a town what Christians can and should do. We showed them a church that at least one person said he would like to see exist near him. If we could show more people that church, think how we might grow the Moravian Church.


Questions? Comments? Contact David Holston at David@SunnysideMinistry.org or call (336) 724-7558 ext. 103

David Holston

David Holston is the Executive Director of Sunnyside Ministry. Sunnyside Ministry is a non-profit organization that provides food, clothing, and emergency financial assistance to families in crisis. All funding for our assistance programs comes from donations and grants. In 2014, Sunnyside Ministry provided $1,883,040 worth of services to families in crisis situations. Grocery orders were provided to 17,634 people and clothing to 15,483 individuals. To learn more about Sunnyside Ministry, subscribe to their email newsletter here.

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Reflection on Moravian Leadership Network

Applications are now open for Moravian Leadership Network Class of 2015-2016. The deadline for application is August 2, 2015. Read the program overview, which includes a detailed schedule as well as a link to the online application. Read a recent article about MLN in the Moravian Magazine.MLN Logo for print use
As I was pursuing my Doctor of Ministry Degree from McCormick Theological Seminary (Chicago, Illinois) one of the most valuable books I read during this time was entitled, Leadership On The Line by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky. In their book they use a balcony as a metaphor for leadership. One of the most practical ideas of leadership is the ability to get perspective in the midst of action. The balcony metaphor captures this idea very well. In their book they use the example of a dance floor filled with many dancers and a band. If one were a dancer on the dance floor, chances are they would be caught up in the music, the dance itself and their dancing partner.  When asked how things were at the dance they might reply, “The band played great and the place was filled with dancers!” From this viewpoint one might not notice things that someone in the balcony would see. Looking down from the balcony one might observe that only some people danced when certain music was played. Perhaps they noticed that all the dancers clustered to one side of the floor further away from the band because they were playing too loud. As this illustration proves, achieving a balcony perspective means one must be removed from the dance floor and be a keen observer of all things.

As Pastor of Christ Moravian Church, I have “sat in the balcony” and observed four of our members participate in the Moravian Leadership Network’s first two classes. During this time from my view in the balcony, I am filled with hope and excitement for the future of our Moravian Church. I have seen individuals who were already good leaders within our church mature and become even better leaders through the benefits of their participation in the Moravian Leadership Network. In addition I have seen other members who have participated in the Moravian Leadership Network recognize their gifts and talents more clearly and in turn they have gained more confidence in their leadership skills. I look forward to trying to “recruit” more members in the coming years to participate in the Moravian Leadership Network.  The benefits are not only discovered within the local congregation but provincial service as well.

I have seen members . . . recognize their gifts and talents more clearly and gain more confidence in their leadership skills.

Opportunities for leadership are available to us every day. I believe that leadership is a way of giving meaning to our lives by contributing to the lives of others. Leadership is at its best, a labor of love.  We have several dedicated clergy and laypeople who are now graduates of the Moravian Leadership Network. I have been witness first hand of the benefits of their instruction. They have been blessed through the instruction of laypeople and clergy who dedicate their time and talents in providing instruction and insights to those who participate in the Moravian Leadership Network. They give of themselves because of their love for God and love for the Moravian Church.

In a recent sermon preached on the subject of discipleship I offered these words worth repeating:

At the close of life, the question will not be how much have we earned but how much have we given. We will not be asked how much we have won but rather how much have we done. We will not be asked how much we have saved but rather how much we have sacrificed.  Finally we will not be asked how much we were honored but rather how much have we loved and served others.

The Moravian Leadership Network has proven that mentoring and instruction are bridges to a brighter future. I hope you will consider crossing over and participating in the Moravian Leadership Network’s next class opportunity!

dave marcus  The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
  Pastor, Christ Moravian Church

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

A story of online giving

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A special thank you to Friedberg Moravian Church for sharing their story of online giving with our blog!

Friedberg Moravian Church started talking about online giving in late 2011. There was a realization that over a two year period, the receipts for a given month saw a 55% difference from a low month to a high month. The discussion started in response to analyzing this variation that existed in giving from month to month. We found that giving was volatile enough that a month 3rd highest in terms of giving one year was fifth lowest in giving the next year. We heard that allowing members to tithe in non-traditional ways, such as online giving, could potentially stabilize tithing trends. We found that some Churches and non-profits were already looking to address this concern by investigating the possibility of allowing online giving.

From 2006 to 2009, there were 6.1 billion fewer checks written and this number continues to rise. Where 75 years ago, the Church saw 95% of donations in cash and only 5% by check, it appears that we have moved to the next phase of giving where many people routinely register for events and give to nonprofit organizations online. Individuals under thirty years of age prefer not to carry a checkbook or cash and many rely solely on their debit card. Once we started looking closer at the potential problem, we found multiple people saying that the only check they wrote was to the Church.

We formed a group to research online giving, speaking to many vendors and other Churches that were already offering this form of giving. During our research, it became apparent that many of the younger members that didn’t carry cash or use checkbooks also were looking for convenience. Some individuals wanted the ability to use their credit cards for perks when making donations. We saw the success of the Salvation Army when testing electronic payment machines at their kettles. We realized that 22% of all online giving occurs the last two days of December and we were offering no way for our members to make their Church their choice for giving. There seemed to be facts backing up the suspicion that allowing online giving reduced the impact of snow weekends.

Much was learned during our many discussions. We found two glaring weaknesses we needed to address. The first was the need to setup online giving through our web page, where individuals could contribute to a specific fund. The second related need was to accept card payments at events in support of sales such as concession stands, bake sales or auctions for fundraisers.

All of these factors led us to the decision that allowing people to give online would keep us current with societal trends, while allowing members to give freely and conveniently to our Savior.

Taking Up Our Cross

The following is a recent sermon given by Rev. Aaron Linville on Mark 8:31-9:1. 

One of the more well known and more quoted theologians of the 20th century is Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He is as well known for what he did, as what he wrote. Even before Hitler took over Germany, Bonhoeffer saw the writing on the wall. He knew that the Church in Germany was in trouble of loosing itself to the pressures of society. His fears were confirmed when the German Church did not protest any of Hitler’s anti-Semitic, anti-gypsy, pro-true-German policies.

 Bonhoeffer is famous for writing about the need for the church to practice discipleship rather than just believe lightstock_68100_medium_user_4370092the right doctrine. He is famous for living out his belief that Christian practice is just as important as Christian belief. In his life, this manifested itself painfully in the fact that he could have remained in the United States teaching, but instead returned to his brothers and sisters in Germany in 1939. He returned because that is where the Good News was needed, and it is where God called him to be. While he was in Germany, he ran an underground seminary until it was shut down. He was imprisoned and spent the rest of the war in concentration camps. Just a handful of days before Flossenborg was liberated, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed, a martyr of the Christian Faith.

 His most famous book is called The Cost of Discipleship. In it, he looks at several scriptural passages where people tried to follow Jesus-to be his disciple. He points out that while there is free grace in all those encounters, discipleship is not free. He talks about cheap grace- receiving forgiveness without really changing our lives. Cheap grace is still grace, but Bonhoeffer finds it to be shameful. For Bonhoeffer, followers of Christ are to be about costly grace.

 Costly grace requires that the person receiving grace changes her/his life. Costly grace is what the disciples experienced when Jesus said, “follow me and I will make you fish for people” – and they followed him at the cost of their jobs, their income, their livelihood. Costly grace is the grace that the rich ruler faced when Jesus said, “One thing you lack. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor and come follow me,” and the man left full of sorrow because he had great wealth.

 For Bonhoeffer, grace is free, but it should never be cheap or easy. It should compel us to change our lives. The most well known line in The Cost of Discipleship says, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Our inclination is to take that metaphorically- to say that Christ calls us to die to our selfish desires and whims, to give a few things up and to throw money at a project or two. Our tendency is to clean it up and give that bold and difficult statement a “G” or “PG” rating. It does include those things, but we must remember that Bonhoeffer did die for the call of Christ. Bonhoeffer actually meant it when he said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

 Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow
me.” Like the Bonhoeffer quote, our tendency here is to give what Jesus said a “PG” rating. Jesus is certainly not calling us to die for him, especially not here in the United States in the 21st century. There is no need for that. Jesus just meant to put others before yourself, and maybe sacrifice here and there for his sake. That’s all. But what if Jesus meant what he said?

 You see, we are in the same boat as Peter when he said, “Surely not Jesus. You ‘do not need to undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes and be killed. You should stop talking that nonsense.’” We say “Surely not Jesus. You do not really call us to die. You want us to live and do your ministry for as many years as possible. And besides, there is nothing that is going to cause our death here in America unless we nobly sacrifice ourselves pushing someone else out of the way of a speeding car.”  And Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan.”

 Jesus’ words here are harsh. There is no getting around that. I read this week that some people think that Jesus’ strong rebuke of Peter is appropriate given the way Peter openly and blatantly contradicted his teacher, but I disagree. Maybe Peter’s rebuke did merit a strong statement from Jesus, but “Get behind me, Satan” is a bit much no matter how you look at it. The strength of this statement, the gravity of Jesus’ rebuke, gives greater weight to what Jesus says on either side of it. It makes us really pay attention to what Jesus is trying to teach his disciples.

 And Jesus is trying to teach them that suffering and unpleasantness is a part of following him. That is not all there is to discipleship- for there is joy and happiness and laughter and love in discipleship, but we must not ignore that sometimes, discipleship is messy, dirty, and painful. Sometimes grace is costly to us.

 lightstock_150776_medium_user_4370092One reason it is easy for us to make this statement “PG” is that we hear Jesus say “take up your cross and follow me” knowing about the resurrection. It is easy for us go down that route, but we must remember that Jesus said these words before his crucifixion, before his disciples knew about the resurrection. It is almost impossible for us to imagine how they must have felt when Jesus said this. We hear this statement with hope, for we know about the resurrection. For us the cross is a symbol of life as much as it is death. This was not the case when Jesus said it. Jesus said, “to follow me, you must deny, forget, disregard your own rights, your own life, and walk with me to your execution.”

 That takes any sense of commonplaceness, any sense of ordinariness out of following Jesus, and in truth, there is nothing ordinary about following someone who has come back from the dead. But as Bonhoeffer indicates, there is a difference between following and becoming a disciple. Anyone can follow. The cross affects every living soul on this earth, so anyone can follow, and grace is there, but discipleship is for those who have seen their Maker’s face, who have seen the cost of their grace in his eyes, and who see in grace a reason to do things that do not make sense simply.

 This part of this county and the surrounding area is the worst place in the nation for food insecurity. It does not make sense for anyone to donate food for strangers to consume. It makes much more sense for us to take care of us and ours and let nature sort out the rest. Yet because of the face of Jesus, people all over this county come together to help cover the basic necessities for others.

 The blood in our veins is essential for our lives, and even though it is unpleasant and takes a chunk of time, the Red Cross will take your blood and give it to a stranger in need- a little discomfort and a little loss of time can help save up to three lives. I doubt this is what Jesus meant when he said “there is no greater love than to lay down your life for someone else” but isn’t that exactly what giving blood is? For various reasons, some people cannot give blood, but we can still go and be a comforting and calm presence for someone else who is scared of needles, who struggles with the physical side of giving blood, but desperately wants to do their part. It does not make sense for us to let our blood leave our bodies, but we do, and I know several people who do it, and can only do it, because Jesus said “take up your cross and follow me.”

 We know that a full night’s rest is exceptionally important for good health. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to decreases in your ability to get things done, memory impairment, heart attacks, strokes, obesity, and can cause several other issues with our health. It makes no sense for anyone to sacrifice sleep for another person unless it is in the name of caring for someone who is sick or tending to an infant- but dozens and dozens of people have done so every night this winter for our unhoused brothers and sisters in this county simply because Jesus said to take care of them.

 Jesus said “If anyone want to become my followers, let them deny themselves…” What if we denied ourselves the next time we voted? What if we voted not for which candidate would help our wallet, would increase our bottom line, would help take care of me and mine, but instead voted based on which candidate has the courage and ability to do what is right and just for the most vulnerable among us- even if it means we take a hit, even a big hit?

 I know it’s a cliche, but what if we gave until it hurt? What if the next time we went grocery shopping we bought two of everything on our list, and gave it away? Or even if we gave away a tenth of what we purchased? What if we gave up a portion of a meal or two every couple of days, or fasted, and gave that food away? What if we did any of that just because Jesus said “deny yourself.”

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 Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the
kingdom of God has come with power.” Picking up the cross, denying ourselves, even though neither makes sense, is where the Kingdom of God has come with power. We glimpse the nearness of the kingdom of God during Holy Communion. We glimpse it because we all come to the table as equals. Not equals in wealth, not equals in social status, not equals in abilities and gifts, but equals in that each come to the table because of grace, and in experiencing that grace, that forgiveness, we are able to return it to everyone else who partakes as well.

 We glimpse the Kingdom of God just as much when we pick up our cross and deny ourselves for the sake of another whom Jesus loves not for the recognition or the ego boost or the pat on the back, but simply because Jesus asked us to do so. We glimpse the Utopia of God’s Kingdom when we seriously and intentionally deny ourselves and pick up a cross in costly ways to follow Jesus. Maybe that’s what he meant when he told the disciples all those years ago, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until the see that the Kingdom of God has come with power.” That is just as true today as it was then, if we but take Jesus seriously and deny ourselves in order to become his disciples.

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The Rev. Aaron Linville is pastor of Rural Hall Moravian Church.

Open to God’s Leading

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I shouldn’t be amazed at what God can do when we open ourselves up to God’s leading-but I am. Vacation Bible School at St. Philips Moravian Church was one of those times. It wasn’t that it didn’t look as if it would happen: we knew it would. It was the way it came about and what we all experienced that made this week together such a blessing!

The Salem Creek Regional Council of Churches (RCC), Home, Messiah, St. Philips and Trinity, became aware of a gap in the summer feeding program for kids in Forsyth County the week before the new school year. This presented a unique challenge and opportunity for ministry. Together we decided to offer a Vacation Bible School program, including a lunch, for the community kids surrounding St. Philips, many of whom are eligible for summer feeding programs. Planning began months before by choosing a curriculum and recruiting volunteers. St. Philips provided leadership, space, volunteers and a huge commitment of time and talent. Members worked many hours preparing the church for a week of ministry.

One of the unique components of this week was the large bag of food given to each child to take home at the end of our time together. Brothers and sisters from all four congregations worked together in gathering and preparing food. The first day began with 20 kids, and our last 49!

On the first day of lunch, I was assisting a 3 year-old, when I noticed one little fellow sharing his biscuit with his 2 younger brothers. When the kids were excused from the table, I watched him walk down the table, taking what little food the others had left, and eating it as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. I called him over and one of the cooks packed 8 extra jelly and butter biscuits to take home. He was very appreciative and assured us he would share them. I have no doubt he did.

It was a privilege to share God’s love through food and fun. Using music, crafts, puppetry, drama, Bible Study, and play-we explored our great worth and value. Many learned the Moravian Blessing, shouting “EVERYWHERE!” following “bless thy dear ones” and making joyful noises.

One of the best activities was creating a prayer wall, inviting each child to write his/her prayer on a strip of cloth applying it to the wall. One 5th grader shared that his mother worked 2 jobs. She had to explain to him and his brother that there just wasn’t enough money for school supplies right now. His prayer? Not for school supplies. He prayed his mom wouldn’t feel bad about not being able to provide them. And as God will do what God will do- Pastor Russ May and Anthony’s Plot brought over 50 bags of school supplies for every grade! I wish you could have seen this child’s face when he saw that!

The last day we invited parents and friends to a celebration to see what we had learned. The kids sang, offered presentations, the teens played handbells, and the youngest used sock puppets to share that we are all God’s children. Over 80 peopled shared a meal together that day! We all left exhausted- but blessed beyond measure! St. Philips’ leadership, willingness and love created something exceptional that week-and those of us privileged to be a part of it are grateful. As one little girl said, “I went to bed early so I could wake up and it would be time to come back here!” Our RCC does a lot of things together- but this is one of the most meaningful. What a fantastic week!

Submitted by Joyce Carter, Trinity Moravian Church 

Let it roll!

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Imagine violence tearing you from home and family. To journey with strangers to an unknown land. Being left to cross strange waters.

Moravians are prayerfully considering ways to respond to the increasing number of “unaccompanied children” crossing the southern border of the US. Many of these child refugees are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, countries plagued with violence from drug trafficking. The Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has connected some of the children with relatives in the US, some in foster care, and some in detention centers. The children then appear in immigration court. Many risk deportation and a return to the violence they have fled. There are Moravian churches in some of the regions of greater impact by this humanitarian crisis.

Both the Northern and Southern Provincial Synods recently passed a resolution regarding “Spiritual Solidarity with Sisters and Brothers in Honduras.” This resolution acknowledges the special relationship shared between the Moravian Church in North America and the Moravian Church in Honduras. It urges pastors and leaders to “give voice to the Hondurans’ plight.” It calls the members of our congregations to awareness and education of how consumption of illegal drugs in our country contributes to this violence as well as addressing government policies that impact our brothers and sisters in Honduras.

In a recent letter to congregations and members of the Moravian Church in North America, Rev. Judy Ganz reminds us that we show God’s love when caring for those most vulnerable among us. She points to conversations shared with the President of the Honduras Province of the Moravian Church, Rev. Harlan Macklin. Brother Macklin acknowledges the increasing number of street children and single mothers in need of aid to care for their children. Many drug traffickers take advantage of this situation-making the killing and abuse of children and youth common. He encourages us to work for justice on behalf of our sisters and brothers in Honduras.

We are given a glimpse of God’s dream for all God’s children found in the words of Amos 5:24- “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Now, let us do justice.

  • Pray. Pray for all those impacted by violence, as well as those responding with supportive care and action.
  • Give. Church World Service provides spiritual care, legal representation, shelter and other basic needs for refugees.Your generosity will help support their response to the crisis of unaccompanied children and families.
  • Stay informed. Consider following some of the organizations actively involved in this work: Board of World MissionLutheran Immigration and Refugee ServiceEpiscopal Migration Ministries4 Welcoming WSNC, Refugee Council USA, PCUSA
  • Raise awareness. Share what you know with friends, family and community. Advocate for government policies that address this crisis.

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more and we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen”  – Ephesians 3:20-21