Mission First!

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December 30 Call to Prayer

by Teresa Dulyea-Parker

Jeremiah 29:11-14

11For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,14I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Jesus understood the deep connection, the underlying unity of all that is. The wholeness of God’s purpose evolving and being revealed on a daily basis.

It was this focus that carried Jesus through the hostility, mean-spirited testing, attempts to dis-credit his calling, distractions from his mission and purpose. He knew the reconciling love of God for the sake of the world. Jesus knew it was worth everything.

As scripture says, when you get tired, go over the story again. When you lack faith, focus on Jesus. When you are fearful, look to the One who said, “if you had but a mustard seed of faith” you would know that this momentary upset is nothing “compared to the glory about to be revealed to us.” Focused on God’s unfailing goodness and partnership, we can do anything. We can even overcome what has happened to us and find a new vision – putting Mission First.

Jesus knew. Nothing can break this unbreakable connection. It’s a given. A grace. He knew. So, do we.

Our Guatemala partners say to us when we visit them. “If you came here because you want to save us, you can go home right now. However, if you came here because you know that your salvation is tied up with ours, you are welcome.” We are connected in God’s great reconciling mission/work in this world. What happens to me, happens to you; What happens to you, happens to me.

We are most in danger, when we fail to see each other; refuse to honor the dignity of each other; disparage the value of each other; dis-engage from the stories of each other; are indifferent to what each other is living through. The plain Vision we need for our day is simple – we are our brother’s and sister’s keepers.

Jeremiah the prophet spoke to a people who were badly broken and eventually scattered to the wind by overwhelming powers. A people who had forgotten their Mission First; connection to each other and thus, to God. The results were predictable.

And, yet, even in the midst of a nightmare. Even after the worst had happened, Jeremiah could speak dare to speak a hopeful word from God, For surely I know the plans I have for you .

You will rise again.

Prayer: O God, You alone are our salvation. Help us to be open to Your word, soften our hearts and heads to listen for Your wisdom. For it is Your way that brings blessing. Amen.

December 9 Call to Prayer

by Christal Williams

The word of the day is sufficiency.

The quote of the day: The fear of inadequacy must never keep us from approaching God.

Prayer thought: Please join me in prayer today as we focus on the Sufficiency of God. I believe that God is able to do more than we can ask or think. (Ephesians 3) May we all join in an attitude of Abundance and Love. (more…)

November 18 Call to Prayer

by LaTaunya Bynum

Ezra 3:12-13

But many of the older priests and Levites and heads of families, who had seen the first house, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this house, although many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, because the people rejoiced loudly.

The exile has ended and God’s people have returned home to Jerusalem and the surrounding area. After they had settled into their newly rebuilt homes, and after being challenged to do so (see the book of Haggai), the people began the work of restoring the Temple. There was great celebration as the foundation for the new Temple was laid. There were shouts of joy for the Temple that would be. There were also shouts of lament and tears for the Temple that had been.

Change is hard. Some of us long for what we have known, even when it no longer exists. Others of us rejoice at what is to come, even when all we see is a bare foundation. As the prophet Haggai tells the story, God promises that the Temple to come will be filled with God’s splendor, and the ones who weep in lament and the ones who shout for joy will worship the living God together.

Prayer: Eternal and loving God, help us to remember that you remain faithful in every moment of change and transformation, and that you call us to do the same. Amen.

Data analysis well on its way

November 4, 2016
We’re getting close! 
  • In less than a month the Mission Council will have their first meeting (Dec. 2-4).
  • As of Nov. 2, more than 2,100 Mission Gathering questionnaires had been entered in the database with more on the way.
  • The last Mission Gathering is Nov. 11.
So now what?

More than 2,000 Disciples have come together in various settings face-to-face to talk about the mission of the Church. That is a lot of conversation to capture so you might be wondering how all this will get shaped into a usable form for the Mission Council.

Enter recent graduate student, evaluation specialist, and former Global Mission Intern (GMI) Ashley Holst. She along with a team of sociology students at Chapman University are analyzing all the responses qualitatively and coding the responses to help quantify the emerging themes.

An initial targeted sample of 300 surveys was examined by Holst to start identifying common terms, themes and ideas using NVivo, a qualitative analysis program. The results were used to begin the process of creating a framework to analyze the entire collection of responses. The Mission First Implementation Team participated in final wording, organization and definitions used within the framework.

The NVivo analysis led to the development of a modified framework of categories and subcategories to determine common responses. Several Chapman students and another former GMI (Bethany Waggoner) are assisting in coding survey responses using these categories. A professional researcher, Mike Ainley, has also reviewed their work to make sure we are capturing an accurate picture.

Trends in responses to question 2, “what have you learned from mission,” include responses such as: better understanding God’s word, giving and receiving love, and discovering that all people need God and help. Some of the “umbrella” categories for the third question about mission focus include location, community to be supported, and how we connect in service. Umbrella categories for the focus areas suggested in the responses included education/teaching, environment/climate change, justice/peace, food/hunger, poverty and other needs as well as evangelism. Categories around ways of being in mission together included presence, learning from others, mission trips, needs assessments, welcoming and others.

Components of the Mission First! initiative
The Mission First! pilot is a little like “run(ning) with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). It is a two-part pilot project to help us focus on our goal of showing God’s love in the world (a.k.a. mission) and making our structures more nimble for this new day.

Mission focus: The work of the Mission Gatherings is meant to listen to God’s call as we hear it through the congregations and ministries across the life of the Church.

Nimble structures: Since the General Board meeting in the spring of 2015, the Administrative Committee has been serving as a proto-Governing Board (as called for in the Mission First proposal) – smaller in number than the current board, but seeing to the ministry of administration.

Timeline: This pilot project of focus and administration will be evaluated at the February 2017 meeting of the full General Board. If it is judged to be a good way forward, there will be changes to our governing document (The Design) that will renew the way our ministries relate in covenant. Those changes will come to the 2017 General Assembly.
To learn more about Mission First, go to http://missionfirst.wpengine.com

 

Capital Area assembly reports on Mission Gathering

2016ccca-mgillustration

by Rev. Allen Harris, regional minister

2016ccca-mgofferingThe rich diversity of the Christian Church Capital Area and the energy of new life and purpose was evident at the Mission Gathering that was a central part of that Region’s Assembly  Oct. 14 and 15, in Shepherdstown, WV.  Representing Haitian immigrants, Hispanic church leaders, young adults and seasoned church members, African Americans, conservative, moderate, and progressive viewpoints, Asian Americans, LGBTQ persons, persons of European descent, charismatic Pentecostals, rural, suburban, and urban congregations over 200 people participated in the Capital Area Regional Assembly.  All who gathered eagerly shared their stories of faithful mission in their local congregations, their hopes and dreams for the future of the church, and their newfound excitement for a Region seeking to make Mission First! a reality for guiding the direction of the staff, board, and volunteers of the Capital Area.

2016ccca-mgtablesThe Rev. Dr. Delores Carpenter was host for the Assembly in the Mission Gathering, assisted by the Rev. Ciara Simonson.  It was especially fitting that Rev. Carpenter lead the two-hour session as she was present at the very beginning when Mission First! was initially imagined.  Both she and the Regional Minister, the Rev. Allen V. Harris, have been chosen to be on the Mission Council which will take all of the data from Mission Gatherings around the life of the Church and help to focus them as they guide the direction of our denomination.  The Mission Council will be meeting in Dallas in early December.

2016ccca-mgreportCommon themes from the reporting session included the need to do more mission outside of our comfortable church buildings, the urgency for more partnerships with other churches and even non-church-related entities, the challenge to rethink how we treat and talk about those with whom we are doing mission, and the firm belief that the mission to which Christ calls us will be the very thing that brings us back together as a church.  A particularly poignant moment during the plenary session from one of the table groups came when Nancy Solomon, member of North Chevy Chase Christian Church, Chevy Chase, MD, and treasurer of the Region, and Ramona Crawford, member of University Christian Church, Hyattsville, MD and member of the personnel committee, shared Ramona’s drawing inspired by the conversation in her group.  The drawing is of a “fragmented world,” and in the midst of the brokenness is the bread and chalice.  Dynamic lines pointing inward show that, “The chalice is knitting/mending the world back together community by community.”

May it be so.

Mission Gatherings roll across U.S., Canada

The process started with an address at General Assembly in Columbus last summer and has grown in scope to encompass nearly all 32 regions in one way or another. Disciples have shared their own ministries and what they have learned from partnering with others. And many shared what direction they believe Disciples as a whole might go with mission.

At this writing, more than 67 mission gatherings have occurred with at least 13 more scheduled before mid November. While not all the response forms have been received from those 67 gatherings, more than 1,600 have been entered into the data base.

Participants have included youth in several settings such as camps and conferences, Disciples Women at their planning meetings, special sessions at regional assemblies as well as National Convocation’s Biennial Session, the Bilingual Asamblea for Obra Hispana and North American Pacific/Asian Disciples’ Convocation. Several regions have had multiple gatherings across their geography.

If you have attended a mission gathering, thank you! If you are looking forward to one in the next 6 weeks or so, you can get ready in a variety of ways from re-familiarizing yourself with the Disciples identity statement to reading Global Ministries’ book of essays on mission.

Whether you participate in an actual Mission Gathering or not, you can join other Disciples praying weekly for the process, particularly as we approach the Mission Council’s meeting the first weekend in December.

For more information or to see the tweets about what participants have learned from mission partners, go to missionfirst.disciples.org or search this set of hashtags: #ccdoc #missionfirst #learningfrompartners

September 16 Call to Prayer

by Mission Gathering participants from across the life of the Church

 

 If you missed these gems, these are just a few of the many tweets of Mission Gathering participants that have gone out under the #ccdoc #missionfirst #learningfrompartners tag. A feed of them is also available on the Mission First! website.

  • We need to identify and talk about the difficult issues and problems in our communities.
  • People are the same even though backgrounds are different.
  • Serving from compassion rather than pity honors Christ’s call to love unconditionally.
  • There is a crying need for the church to take the good news outside the church building.
  • Everyone has hurt. Everyone has need for love, understanding, acceptance, and God’s love.
  • I am the student & the servant & they are the teacher & the provider of grace & hope.
  • Plant seeds for the outside world to see what Christianity is all about.
  • Walk slowly through a crowd to see and hear those overlooked.
  • God wants to be in a relationship with people- needs us to be conduits.
  • To be inclusive and non-judgmental.
  • All are God’s children and should be treated as such.
  • Even darkness cannot separate us from God’s unconditional love.
  • Embrace God’s living presence by coming near our neighbors.
  • A little hands on (work) goes a long way. Don’t overdo the planning.
  • We are all in need some times.
  • Woundedness wounds, so grace is key to good mission.
  • When you show love, you share God.
  • To have faith in God is to learn to love.
  • Value all as we build community.
  • Everyone doesn’t KNOW God’s love is for them. God’s love is communicated through our love.
  • There is enough for all when we work together. God is a god of abundance.
  • Dignity for every child of God. Look for unintended consequences by listening first.
  • People are hurting and we all need each other.
  • Everybody needs help whether they ask for it or not. We welcome all to the table.
  • Relationship is most important- loving God and neighbor requires getting to know each other.
  • Brokenness comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, nationalities and economic groups.
  • We all need something and we all need and deserve God’s love. Mission is an equalizer.
  • Provide empowerment, not “help”. Love everyone. Everyone has shareable gifts.
  • Band-aids aren’t good enough. People are strong, resourceful, and desire love/respect.
  • The more we involve ourselves in our community, the clearer our work becomes.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • “All” means all, even when you don’t like them.
  • I had to get outside the church building.
  • As we help others, we become a more loving community.
  • Don’t always realize how many others have needs that may not be obvious. Take off the blinders!

Prayer: We hear your call, O Creator God. May we answer with action.  Amen

Mission gatherings foster deepening connections

“’Enthusiastic’ is the most common word I think I’ve heard in regard to people’s sharing about the congregation’s work (in answer to the first discussion question of the gathering).” Mission First! Project Coordinator Kenetha Stanton is hearing a lot of enthusiasm as she talks with hosts for the 56 Mission Gatherings that have occurred.

More than 2,000 Disciples have taken part in gatherings ranging in size from six to several hundred people. Disciples Women, youth, regional assemblies, special area gatherings and ethnic communities have all provided venues for talking about what matters most – God’s call on our lives. In the region of Georgia, more than 250 youth at camp participated, but also folks with 90 years of experience participated in the process.

“The conversations and sharing that took place in small groups during our NAPAD Convocation allowed people to speak about their hopes for the Church. People had the opportunity to convey what the needs are in their local communities and how the Church can be prophetic in its response,” shares Rev. April Lewton, National Benevolent Association Vice President for Development and Marketing who led the NAPAD gathering. “There was often a lot of shared laughter. Groups stopped to join in prayer over something, and people came away encouraged through their connections together.”

“We had the wonderful opportunity to host 11 Mission Gatherings throughout the state of Georgia.,” says Georgia Regional Minister Denise Bell, a member of the Mission First! Implementation Team. “I was never quite sure of what to expect except that each one would be different. Attendance ranged from 15 to 250 and we experienced the joy of sharing current mission stories and activities and dreaming about what courageous actions God has in mind for us in our general and regional church.”

Bell continues, “I heard comments like, ‘I wish all of our members were able to participate,’ and ‘This was a wonderful exercise, I did not know that all of this stuff was going on in our congregations. We care about our communities.’”

She reports that one gathering has already started a conversation between two racially different congregations to join ministry efforts in their community. “Every person left the gathering with a renewed hope about the church. Our dreams will discern a shared community day where every church at the same time will make a service investment in their community. We are already working on a shared mission project and ways to celebrate every congregations mission projects.”

More Mission Gatherings will be hosted across Disciples regions in the coming months with all the results poured into a report to the Mission Council meeting the first weekend in December. The report will be a combination of computer and human analysis of all the information received from all the mission gatherings. The Council will discern one or more themes for the Church to help focus our work together. In addition, the General Board, meeting in February, will discuss whether to formalize the governance changes piloted these past two years and present them to the 2017 General Assembly.

 

 

Midsummer update

Just a hint

If you have been to a Mission Gathering, you likely have received an e-mail with two “word clouds” showing the subjects that came up as participants talked about mission. (And if you haven’t been to a gathering yet, read on for a little early inspiration for your own gathering.)

This is a compilation of the most common words in the responses of more than 1,000 participants thus far as they talk about the projects in their own congregations (for those of you who have participated, this is from the discussion around Question 1.)

MG-AugustCompilation2 MG-AugustCompilationData timeline set

The Mission First Implementation Team has laid out a timeline for the qualitative data analysis for the Mission Gathering feedback so the data is ready in time for the Mission Council the first weekend in December. This will be based on current research methods using a combination of human and computer analysis. Initial steps begin in August.

Components of the Mission First! initiative

The Mission First! pilot is a little like “run(ning) with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). It is a two-part pilot project to help us focus on our goal of showing God’s love in the world (a.k.a. mission) and making our structures more nimble for this new day.

Mission focus: The work of the Mission Gatherings from the spring and continuing this summer and fall is meant to listen to God’s call as we hear it through the congregations and ministries across the life of the Church.

Nimble structures: Since the General Board meeting in the spring of 2015, the Administrative Committee has been serving as a proto-Governing Board (as called for in the Mission First proposal) – smaller in number than the current board, but seeing to the ministry of administration.

Timeline: This pilot project of focus and administration will be evaluated at the February 2017 meeting of the full General Board. If it is judged to be a good way forward, there will be changes to our governing document (The Design) that will renew the way our ministries relate in covenant. Those changes will come to the 2017 General Assembly.

 

July 29 Call to Prayer

By Cherilyn  Williams

Colossians 3:11 New Revised Standard Version

11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Paul lays out the parameters of a holy and changed life if we are to be true followers of Christ. Earlier in Chapter 3 he lists off some of the things we need to let go of – anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language – and calls for renewal. And if you know anything about the situation in Paul’s time, you will recognize that he is calling for an end to division of race, beliefs and economic status. And it is all because of the wonderful gift of Christ. Then he goes on to say, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.”

It seems that this is the mindset needed for being a people engaged in the mission of accompaniment. Rather than approaching our partners with a know-it-all attitude, we need to come with humility. Rather than looking at others as “other” we need to see each other as “we.” Rather than buying into the hysteria that lumps people into categories to fear, we need to live into compassion and kindness.

There is much to mourn in the world – the harsh tone of public discourse, the violence against innocents at home and abroad, the economics that divide us. It is into this world Christ comes again, using us to share the Good News of God’s love for all of God’s children so we no longer define ourselves by our divisions, but by our common life in the love of God.

Prayer: Lord of light and salvation, turn my heart toward you. Turn my words from malice and slander to words of kindness and humility. Prepare me to walk alongside those who are, by human standards, different than me and welcome all to your abundant Table as you have welcomed me. May it be so.

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