CHRISTIAN EVANGELICAL PASTOR apart from prayer – the most important thing you can do to help a Christian in Pakistan, Syria, or somewhere else in the Middle-East or world is to become friends with a Muslim imam! Politicians have failed, governments have failed, and the U.N. has failed. Those of us that influence the masses of people in places of worship must step up to the challenge that is facing us all.
This isn’t theory – it’s already been practiced and it’s working. Now it’s time to spread it.
Imam Magid Mohamed and I got to know one another a couple of years ago. We were at a meeting of top Muslim and top Christian leaders from Pakistan. The whole issue was that of the minority rights of the Christians, Bahi, Ahmadi, and other religious minorities in Pakistan. As we talked it became fascinating how that religious freedom was more incumbent and more dependent on the religious minority than any other group. We also realized that just having “preachers” talk theology wasn’t going to do a lot to deal with the issues of religious bigotry and persecution. Read more
This is the kind of engagement that members of Northwood Church do! Chad Griffin, a NorthWood member, works with orphans in Uganda through Yonder Life. His good friend, Frank who helps runs that organization in Uganda, shared a great story of friendship about a Ugandan gym owner who was moved so deeply that he began supporting their ministry to serve poor children. The gym owner is Muslim as are the majority of those in his community – so who winds up helping him with ministry to serve the poor? Muslim athletes and body builders . . . read it and shout!
“In 2014 I joined New Beginnings Fitness Gym, a gym owned by my Muslim friend , Arafat Ssekitoleko. It was the typical gym environment, where by whoever comes in is focused on working out while being surrounded by motivational fitness charts on walls and music being played. Shortly after attending there I was nicknamed Pastor due to the way I used to behave. I wasn’t involved in abusive language and tried to stop whoever used bad words, so they called me pastor. Well later I kindly asked the gym instructors, Ibrah and Arafat, if they could offer us one day of Gospel songs because all the songs that were being played were secular music! To my surprise they accepted and chose Friday. At first some members opposed it and started complaining that the music was to slow and that “worship” slows them down, making them feel sleepy. Arafat insisted, so we collected all sort of gospel music and they started getting used, singing along with the player I loudly made words being heard to those of English songs I knew. Today even when I am not around, since I left the gym 250 miles away, Gospel Friday is known by all members and they are ok with it. The only thing you can hear are voices of them singing along with the player praising God!!
When I was sure it was ok to share, I shared the Yonder Life mission with Arafat and his elder Brother Asad. They were interested in learning more so they boarded the bus traveling 250 miles to see what we are doing on this side of Uganda. When they saw the children and the communities we work with and the great needs, they took action to help by providing clothes and shoes! Seeing half way naked kids was what made them realize they needed to help with that first!
A clothes drive was organized as the New Beginnings Gym celebrated its first year anniversary (a gym that that was officially opened by Chad on his first visit to Uganda)! All the clothes, shoes, bags, and other items were donated to the children and elders of Nyabuharwa, Mirongo, Mbale and Kyakashoro communities. The people were so appreciative and still send in their thanks for the support. Seeing Ugandans serving Ugandans in their country despite their religion or background is a blessing. Glory to God.”
The world today is boiling hot in hate, violence, discrimination, and war. Christians are literally on the brink of extinction in parts of the Middle-East and being forced out. A true fact is that numerically, more Muslims are being slaughtered by extremist Muslims in the Middle-East than any other group. Neither the United Nations nor governments seem to have the will or ability to address the issues. It’s time for those of us as religious leaders to stand up, stand together, speak out, and WORK HARD against religious bigotry and for religious freedom worldwide starting right here in the good old United States of America.
Fifteen years ago I began working in the Middle-East and Near-East with Christians, Muslims, Jews and others. Prior to that, all of my perceptions of Muslims, Arabs, and that part of the world were shaped by 2 minute news stories. There is no way, you can understand another group by short news stories or editorializes on either side of issues where the news deals only with the most shocking or sensational stories. I began to read broader, listen to many different news sources, and then meet people and talk to them directly.
There is not a more important role in the 21st century for peace and harmony in our world than that of the religious cleric. Peace or war is going to be driven, endorsed, promoted, justified by clerics to the masses more than any one entire group in the world. Religious leaders in the past, have felt attacked by academics, globalist, scientist, secularist, and diplomats because religion was supposed to go away – but it didn’t. Clerics of all faiths were viewed as ignorant, uneducated, simpletons and relics from another era. The world has discovered religion isn’t dead, it’s alive, and not just alive but thriving.
My heart goes out to the families of the 4 US Marines and the Navy Sailor who lost their lives and all those injured. There have been far too many mass shootings in our nation and sadly no longer disbelief as much as when will the next one occur. Whether it’s a White Supremicist, an extremist Muslim, or a mentally disturbed person – it all says something is seriously wrong in our nation and no one wants to do much of anything different. But of this I am convinced, we must come together, stand together, and not turn on one another. The old saying “United we stand divided we fall” has never been truer.
But once again it’s as if we’ve forgotten what we were taught as children and we no longer know how to treat one another. Our country is gripped by fear and by political polarization where we no longer know how to listen to one another, compromise, or stand up for one another. I was so sad, when I read the Facebook posting of Franklin Graham calling for a halt to any immigration from someone who is a Muslim and to call their congressman to make it happen. This would be devastating for those wanting to be Americans, as well as creating a perception that all evangelicals have of Muslims, which is incorrect. The majority of the mass shootings have been from non-Muslims. Because your platform is so large, built by the faithful witness of your Father, those of us, of your tribe, must challenge you, and this kind of thinking. This is not “evangelical” and even less evangelistic. This is not the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus your father taught so many of us as little children. Rhetoric like this is hurtful, incendiary, polarizing, and denies the Gospel of Jesus and instead of making people open to the Gospel, creates barriers and walls. Read more
In May 1998 I wrote the following in my journal – “God I want to hear and follow you. Hear my prayer; grow Northwood so it can be a base to engage Hanoi and all North Vietnam. I pray for 20% of the non-believers in North East Tarrant County that they will follow Jesus and our churches will reach them. Give the needed resources, allow my family to be a lighthouse, let Northwood be so much more than simply a worship service”.
Except for my age, the circumstances, and some of the faces – the challenges and issues are the same. Big vision, not enough resources, open doors, challenges, people issues were all present – and still are! We think that when God moves everyone is chirpy, upbeat, excited, and there are no headaches. Don’t tell that to Job, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Paul and a lot of other people. God moves despite our circumstances and in those circumstances he’s drawing us to himself. Whatever revivals were in the Old Testament – they didn’t last long. Whatever great things God did in starting the church in Corinth, man who would want to pastor that thing with all its junk! I’m excited about where we are and where we’ve come from – we have a fantastic future. But, keep this in mind, it’s never about the perfect staff, or the perfect finances, or the perfect people, or even me or you being the perfect pastor – it’s more about faithfulness to what God has called you to over the long haul. Read more
I’ve always believed in the power of prayer. Prayer is a part of my life. It’s a rare day, and there are rare days, when I don’t begin my day with prayer. I teach new Northwood Church members and new Christians that it is critical to begin your day with prayer. Prayer is breath. Prayer is talking and listening. Prayer is worship. For more than 25 years I’ve begun my days journaling what’s going on, good and bad, decisions needing to be made, etc. then I write them in my journal and I read slowly 3 chapters from the Old Testament, 1 from the wisdom literature, and 1 from the New Testament. Then as I read I write, what I sense God saying to me. I sing. I reflect. I worship. I believe it’s critical to do that first thing because it prepares me for the rest of the day. I pray throughout the day, I pray before meetings, during meetings, after meetings. I pray while driving, I pray while talking sometimes – “God guide my words carefully.” “God be present in this decision give clarity.” I’m praying non-stop no matter who is there or what is going on and I believe God hears all those prayers. There are so many dimensions to prayer – it’s bigger than a form, a set time, a moment – it’s a life.
Many years ago when I was in Afghanistan in the desert, I was with my Muslim friends and they would stop and pray. They would lay out their rugs on the sand, and I waited in the SUV. But I thought, I’m a Christian, I believe in God, I’m praying. So I asked them at their next stop would it offend them if I knelt down beside them and prayed as they prayed. They loved it – and I did to. It lead us to a whole conversation about what prayer was about and how God guides us in our life.
by Mitch Jolly, Pastor of Three Rivers Community Church, Rome, Georgia
College students are a powerful asset in our world. However, it’s possible to overlook the impact they can have while in their college years because of the transient nature of college life and sometimes seeming lack of focus.
Some see college students as older kids who just need to be fed and entertained until they graduate and get a real job. I don’t quite see them that way. I believe they are valuable now, and they need to be engaged in the world now.
The truth is that many college students are ambitiously looking to invest their time and energy all over the world and they are focused when engaged about what makes them passionate. The students I work with don’t want to be entertained. They want to give their lives to something that matters.
December 2008 marked a pivotal moment in the life of our church. A month prior we had held the grand opening of Vista Church and now I was boarding a plane for Abuja, Nigeria on a vision trip to evaluate whether or not we as a church would work in this burgeoning country. Nigeria’s population was exploding. Though rich with natural resources such as oil, there was a significant divide between the ultra-rich and the abject poor. Corruption was pervasive. The countless people groups, languages, religions and cultures fostered a simmering distrust between people. Boko Haram, the al Qaeda affiliate, was in the initial stages of solidifying a foothold in the far northeastern states of Nigeria. It was into this “powder keg” of an environment that Jesus said to us “go.”
Over the next seven years we took eight trips to Nigeria. We worked with and alongside of the Yoruba Christians, the Hausa Muslims and the Fulani Muslims. We took teams of teachers, nurses, doctors, pastors, small business owners and “handymen” with us to work in their respective domains of society. Reflecting back now I believe that we learned and received more from Nigeria than Nigeria learned or received from us. We are a better church because of our engagement in Nigeria. Here are some of the valuable and lasting lessons that I’ve learned by working in Nigeria:
In a world overwhelmed by hatred and conflict, it was refreshing to gather in Elkins Park, PA this week with Rabbi Howard A. Addison and the congregation of Melrose B’Nai Israel Emanu-El. The synagogue was filled with a cast of unlikely characters including Blacks, Whites, Jews, Christians, at least one Muslim and several different faith traditions. The occasion was, “A Conversation for Peace” led by Ali Abu Awad and Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, two men from the West Bank that I call friends.
These two men live in the epicenter of a conflict that the whole world is watching. Serving alongside, exchanging stories, and learning from men like these in the West Bank has radically changed the way I see myself as pastor, the world and the Church. Read more