Carrying one another’s hearts

Carrying one another’s hearts

By Liza Kittle

The purpose of Renew has always been two-fold. On one hand, this organization has engaged in a twenty-year spiritual battle for the integrity of the gospel, the historic tenets of Methodism, and the need for Christ-centered women’s ministry within our denomination. But just as importantly, we have been engaged in ministries of love, hope, and healing to the lost and broken.

In his devotional book This Day with the Master, Dennis Kinlaw writes about how Paul’s letter to the Philippians gives a wonderful example of “the attitude Christians ought to have toward those to whom they minister.” This book reveals Paul’s passionate and tender love for others—the love of a father, brother, and friend—even in the midst of great personal suffering. Paul writes, “I thank God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4). Just thinking of the Philippians brings an indescribable joy and sense of gratitude to Paul due to their kinship in Christ. This bond results in a supernatural ability to love each other. Paul also says, “It is right that I should think this way about you, because I carry you in my heart” (Philippians 1:7). The intimacy of his relationship with Jesus manifested in his relationship with those he was called to serve. Kinlaw challenges the reader to ask, “Are you loving like Paul did? Are you carrying the people God has given you in your heart?”

God has given Renew an opportunity in ministry that I believe has produced this joyful and grateful spirit of love and kinship in Christ. Last summer, a young pastor from Uganda emailed me inquiring about resources for a women’s conference he was holding at his church. As we began to correspond with one another, I was struck not only by his great knowledge of the Bible, but also by his tremendous heart for the women and families of those he served. His name is Paul Mabonga and the church he planted is the Magamamba Healing Centre, located in Iganga, Uganda, East Africa.

Like many local pastors in Uganda, Paul completed a one-year course of study through a ministry of the Nazarene Church, a church with early roots in the Methodist holiness movement. Pastors are equipped through a network of regional training centers, which enable them to be trained locally for Christian ministry. Against incredible monetary and physical constraints, the Lord has blessed this young congregation with fruitfulness and joy. They worship in a room rented from a local school, with a few plastic chairs and a dirt floor. They hold women and youth conferences and all-night prayer vigils, praising God with songs of joy and thanksgiving. The members of Paul’s church have heard the Word preached, accepted the gospel offered, and experienced lives transformed.

I believe this young pastor Paul shares many characteristics with the great apostle Paul—passionately devoted to Jesus Christ and to the souls of the Ugandan people. As Paul’s letter to the Philippians explains, he “carries them in his heart.”

Paul Mabonga also carries Renew in his heart. His family and congregation have “adopted” Renew and pray for this ministry. We are their “spiritual moms” and their love for us in emails Paul writes can be felt across the many miles between us. At the end of each email, Paul always closes with a blessing and a thanksgiving. He asks God to bless Renew abundantly and to expand our borders, and Paul thanks Renew for loving him and his church and “carrying them in our hearts.”

Our partnership with this young church in Uganda is just one of the exciting areas of ministry God is developing for the Renew Network. Initial plans are beginning for a national leadership conference to be held in 2011 where women from all across our denomination will be able to come together for praise and worship, biblical teaching, and leadership training. There is much on the horizon as God enables and equips Renew to “expand our borders.” Please join us as a member of the Renew Network and experience the love, joy, and gratitude made possible through a relationship with Jesus Christ and service to his kingdom. Let’s “carry each other’s hearts” in ministry together.

Liza Kittle is the President of the Renew Network (, P.O. Box 16055, Augusta, GA 30919; telephone: 706-364-0166.

Carrying one another’s hearts

Examining your glasses

By Frank Decker

We were nearing the conclusion of a training session in which I was teaching about the Kingdom of God when the hand of a South American pastor shot up. “So, does someone have to be a Protestant to be saved?” he asked. His question was obviously born from uneasiness that had been building in him throughout the day. We had been discussing the importance of enabling people to meet Jesus within their own denominational context—as Jesus’ disciples demonstrated. And we had re-examined the meaning of the word “church” (or ecclesia), defining it as simply a gathering of believers in Jesus Christ, regardless of their denominational affiliation. This pastor’s frame of reference, however, was that Catholics needed to be extracted out of their own background and into his own context (in this case Methodism) as a prerequisite for them to really meet Jesus.

When this type of thinking is the default setting in our cranial software, we are likely to find ourselves spending far more energy proliferating our own denominational organizations or traditions rather than simply sharing Jesus. The distinction may seem rudimentary, but it is crucial. Sometimes the religious lenses we wear cloud our ability to see God’s work in the hearts of the people around us. However, if we are willing to look at those lenses rather than through them, we are likely to position ourselves to more fully experience reformation and renewal. In fact, after my response to the pastor’s query, which was the simple question, “Are you saved by being a Protestant, or are you saved by the blood of Jesus?” it seemed as though a light had come on in the room.

I am encouraged by evidence that this light seems to be coming on in many places. Vincent Donovan, an American Roman Catholic priest, served as a missionary to the Masai of Tanzania in the 1960s and 1970s. During his first year of cross-cultural ministry he wrote a letter to his bishop questioning the missionary approach that had preceded him for 100 years in that location. The schools, chapel, and hospital that marked the presence of that mission consumed countless hours of energy, and in Donovan’s assessment produced little spiritual fruit.

In other words, as helpful as these ministries had been to meet specific needs, sustaining them had eventually begun to interfere with—rather than enable—the essential work of pointing people to Jesus. So, instead of resigning himself to spend his time and energy only maintaining these mission mechanisms, this novice missionary decided to invest himself by “simply getting to know the Masai and telling them about God.” His book Christianity Rediscovered bears witness to the result that he became a successful disciple-maker in a locale where previously, in his estimation, not one local Masai had come to faith in Jesus.

Picture a scene with burned-out automobiles and buildings, the result of recent clashes between Muslims and Christians in central Nigeria that have left about 400 people dead. It was in this environment that Mission Society staff members Dick McClain and Darrell Whiteman, cross-cultural worker Kirk Sims, and African leaders recently facilitated a Global Engagement Training event attended by 100 pastors and bishops representing seven denominations. As the teaching progressed, it was evident to the Christians present that they needed to think not in terms of spiritually conquering their Muslim adversaries, but loving them into the Kingdom.

A watershed incident took place when one woman stood up and testified, “Because of the conflict, whenever I see a Muslim, I just become angry in my heart. I don’t even want to look at them. But now I see that I need to love them.” She continued, “If we cannot deal with Muslims right here, how are we going to be able to reach them in Senegal or wherever else God sends us?” She went on to say that she intended to begin to pray for her Muslim neighbors and to reach out to them. A spirit of revival broke out during the event that led to the final two evenings being consumed with times of crying out to God for Muslims to meet Jesus. In Sims’ words, “it was almost like scales falling off the eyes of people.”

As I think about the increase of light, I also am aware of the opposition from the forces of darkness. In fact, if I were the devil, I think I would attempt to reduce the biblical message of Jesus and his Kingdom so that it would popularly be understood in a weak and diminished form—as mere adherence to a religion, void of the essentiality of actually knowing the King. Then that perspective, not the perspective of the Kingdom, would become the lens through which devotees would view everything else. Yeah, if I were the devil I think I would try that.

Frank Decker is the vice president for mission operations at The Mission Society and a long-time columnist for Good News.