In 1997, the Board of General Superintendents made a historic decision when they declared the United States and Canada a mission field. They recognized that the traditional definition of missions had changed and that the church would have to consider new ways to accomplish ministry as neighborhoods and communities
became more diverse and pluralistic in response to increasingly secular, economic, and cultural forces.
To be effective in communicating the gospel, clergy would need a degree of flexibility and openness formerly thought of as the special calling of missionaries. This evergrowing reality prompted the 2009 decision to declare the United States and Canada a region, along with the other global regions in the Church of the Nazarene. Years later, the church in the United States and Canada is still constantly flexing and innovating to fit the various diverse ministry contexts in which it finds itself. Such adaptation has led many congregations to refocus and retool their efforts around community need and relevance to the unchurched. Missional models of church have not only prompted increased sensitively to people in the margins of society but also on the efforts needed to disciple and form people in a present and future kingdom.
In 2013, a roundtable panel of seven pastors in the Church of the Nazarene sat down with General Superintendent David Graves to talk candidly about missional engagement among small and mid-sized congregations. The meeting was convened by Grace and Peace Magazine and hosted by Bob Broadbooks, USA/Canada Regional Director. The panel included Gary Ball II, Jeff Barker, Kyle Johnson, Kevin McGinnis, Aimee Mulder, Alice Piggee-Wallack, and Chad Wilks. An abbreviated and edited* portion of the panel discussion appears below. Video portions of the discussion are available at www.graceandpeacemagazine.org.
This panel discussion has accompanying videos. Please CLICK HERE to view the videos.
Broadbooks: We have as our guests leading pastors from across the United States who have been effective missionaries in reaching their communities in missional ways. Along with them, we welcome David Graves, who serves as jurisdictional general superintendent for the United States and Canada.
Graves: I remember when the United States and Canada were declared a mission field by the Board of General Superintendents in 1997. I was pastoring in Cincinnati, Ohio, and even there I realized we were in the midst of a changing culture. We had a diverse congregation, with people from many different nations. I felt my primary responsibility was to reach that city for Jesus Christ, and the best way to do that was to know the community and its people. Many years have passed since that proclamation was made, and we want to hear what’s happening in your churches, what you are learning and experiencing, how you’re engaging the mission field where you are. Chad, you’re pastoring in Sandpoint, Idaho. How has your community changed since the 1997 decision, and how has your congregation responded to those changes?
Wilks: What hasn’t changed is we’re still a mission field, and not because of ethnic diversity, but because roughly 10 percent of our community is in church on a given Sunday. We’re a small community, about 7,000 people; the town sits on the largest lake and largest ski mountain in Idaho, so tourism and vacation have been a big part of why people come to our town. USA Today called us the most beautiful small town in America—and people were coming and building. Then the economic downturn took place, and people stopped vacationing and building homes. We’ve been hit tremendously hard by unemployment. Now, we have a community in need; people are moving away to find jobs. If we’re going to make a difference for the kingdom, it isn’t going to be about "come and see us." It’s going to be about "we need to go out." Our people are taking the needs more seriously because it’s a more serious time. We’re asking, What are we doing for the kingdom? I see that much more today than in 1997.
Graves: Jeff, what are some of the other social, maybe even cultural, religious currents that affect the way we do ministry today?
Barker: One of the most pronounced trends is pluralism. How we understand who we are, whom we relate to, how we form social groups. That’s tied in part to advances in science and technology; the church always wrestles with: How do we respond to scientific discovery? What role does technology play? Just watching my own children navigate those waters is fascinating. The Facebook phenomenon illustrates a lot of this for us, that you can like something or someone without joining a social group. It’s all about liking, preferences—I can like Jesus but not commit. The absence of commitment is obvious. The question of pluralism opens up some interesting avenues for the church. A lot of people in my neighborhood recognize Jesus as a good moral person, and that opens a door for some interesting conversations about evangelism. What is gospel? What is good news? Who is Jesus? As I think about some of the social, cultural, technological advances, we’re poised to ask some difficult questions, but we are also at an interesting intersection to really have a word of good news. Euangelion, this is good news, a story that you can enter into. You enter into God’s family, God’s story, and then God gives you identity and a framework for living life.
Graves: Gary, how do we motivate our congregations from an ingrown “Come see us” to “Hey, this is our mission field; we need to get out to where people are”?
Ball: It all goes back to identity, and understanding who we are. As the people of God, this is a kingdom focus. It goes back to Abraham. We have been blessed in order to be a blessing. In Exodus 19, the people ask, “Why did you bring us out of slavery?” And God says, “This is who you are; you’re my treasured possession. You’re a holy nation and a royal priesthood.” Not to be exclusive, but to be inclusive, the great commission. You’re not saved from something; you’re saved for something. That goes back to our sacramental theology as well, that we’re broken and poured out for our community and baptized into something—helping our people understand that we have a role, a purpose. It really awakened our congregation. They came alive: “That’s us. That’s our story. We’re adopted into this, and we’re participants in the redemption of all things.” Often, we want to get people in the door and get them saved. That’s great—we want people to exit their old lives. But there’s more excitement in entering a new life and entering into this mission. When our congregation came alive, they understood their identity. It gave them opportunities to serve and identify where they were gifted. It became a means of grace to participate. The more we do to participate with God, the more it becomes part of our nature, and transformative. It wasn’t a method. It wasn’t a gimmick. It wasn’t a church-growth strategy. It flowed from our identity.
Barker: Gary’s introduction recalling the notion of covenant is an interesting framework to think about this. I’m wondering if the way we’ve often talked about holiness as exclusionary, as in “set apart,” should be holiness as an invitation into a family, into something larger than ourselves that gives identity. Certainly linking it to the notion of being poured out through sacraments, through baptism, our identity—who we are becomes critical in this. Worship, discipleship, catechetical processes—these help people remember who they’ve been made to be; they’re at the foundation of these shifts helping them see the world differently. Maybe Walter Brueggemann’s “prophetic imagination” is at the heart of our work now as pastors, and articulates this new reality of what it means to be the people of God.
Piggee-Wallack: Our ministry was founded on that missional model. We took Matthew 25 as our motto: Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the incarcerated and sick. We also were founded on the fact that we’re in the greatest business there is, and if every other business can be open a good part of the week, then it’s up to us—God’s business—to be functional every day. Our doors are open seven days a week, and people come in seven days a week. Not only to have their tangible needs met; we’re able to speak into their spiritual needs as well. We take great delight in doing that. We’ve always gone outside our doors. We figure that if we go out on the streets, somebody should be able to say, “Hi, Pastor Alice.” They should know us because we know them.
Graves: Kevin, you didn’t come into an existing church and change a mindset. How are you creating that mission mindset with a new congregation?
McGinnis: We began the same way: We looked at our community and asked how to be involved missionally. If you’re not involved in the community, you can be seen as transient. People wonder, They don’t have their own building, they worship on Sunday. How are they relating to us? So we started looking into our small town—what areas of need can we meet that aren’t being met by other ministries? We began to partner and volunteer with other parachurch ministries in the area, like the pregnancy center. We had some unique opportunities within our town; for instance, we were given a fudge shop, which is also a family restaurant. People come to eat, and we also feed people who can’t afford it. It’s been a great way to build community relationships. We’ve helped sponsor a community garden. We bought a historical home and established a pregnancy center. We have one of the highest pregnancy rates for our state in our small town, so it’s a real area of need. I’m a chaplain for the police and fire departments; they call me on dispatch. That’s brought me into people’s lives at tragic times. I don’t get a call from dispatch unless there’s been a death in the community. Being with people when they don’t have anything else is when we can be Christ to them.
Graves: So, you have continued to find new ways to meet the needs in your communities.
Piggee-Wallack: Yes, there are always gaps in community services, and we find needs not being met and do our best to fill them. When we noticed increasing numbers of homeless women and children with nowhere to go, we opened one of our buildings to offer a safe place during the day. We were among the first to offer such a resource for women and children, and we’ve expanded the ministry to transitional living services. We want to create cottage industry opportunities that help inner-city women produce products and market them.
Graves: Kyle, how do we help people sustain a missional mindset?
Johnson: We have to own it ourselves. We can’t expect it from our people if it’s not something that comes out of who we are—our identity. I love how Kevin leverages the opportunities his community affords him. Too often we come to these discussions, or we read a book or see what someone else has done, and we’re like, How do I make that happen in my community? But every situation has its own unique needs. I come from a middle-class or upper-middle-class suburb in a large city. We have people on our streets who don’t know Jesus, and they go into their homes, shutting their doors, isolated from everything. Last fall, we were in transition at our church, moving from one building to another. We decided to go into the park to worship—in California, we could do that due to weather, but that helped build a missional mindset. While people in our community are standoffish and not into church, they said, “Let’s see what’s going on at the community park,” and when they did, things happened.
Wilks: We value what we celebrate, and when we see people out living the mission, we should celebrate it. We need to create a culture that says this is who we are. Then people begin to catch on. We need to celebrate what we are doing, whether it’s Celebrate Recovery, Upward Sports, the pregnancy center, or any of the various ministries we’re a part of. We have a school in our church, and we’re involved in prison ministry. Those things reach into our community and give people permission to minister in places we wouldn’t have thought about. When people come to me and say, “Maybe the church should be involved in what Joe’s doing,” I say, “Man, the church is involved. Joe’s the church.” It doesn’t have to be this corporate effort. That’s the incarnation continuing to be lived out in the community.
Ball: We partner with our food bank for four different ministries. We have a distribution. We have a team that serves on our river levy, where homeless shanties are, five mornings a week, and we have a produce program. Diabetes is rampant in the migrant worker community, so we do education in partnership with our food bank. They piloted it with us, so they’re looking for ways to distribute. These nonprofits want large distributions so they can get their grant money. They’re looking for outlets, so we need to be willing to partner with some of these organizations. We have a trailer for infant supplies and durable medical goods for our elderly, and a community garden. That’s taking advantage of the things we’ve stumbled across. Our Salvation Army closed, so we house women and children. That was probably the greatest impact we’ve had on our community, stepping into that gap and opening our doors.
Johnson: The schools in our area have been hurt by economic downturn. They have invited us to help with things like distributing packets on registration days. The schools in our area know they can call us because we’ll send teams of people. I love it when the principal calls or emails, and says, “Can you send a team to this event?” Or around the Christmas holiday, they’ll ask us to help provide for some needy families. They know to call us.
Mulder: Our church is directly across the street from the local high school, where my small boys will one day graduate. We asked the principal for a list of teachers so we could pray for them. We don’t have a large congregation, but we can pray.
Piggee-Wallack: In April 2007, we started the True Light Family Resource Center, which is a separate, faith-based, nonprofit, Nazarene compassionate ministry. We do a lot of partnerships and collaborations in our neighborhood. We serve community breakfast by collaborating with Metro Lutheran Ministries. Each Saturday, 150 to 200 people eat breakfast. During that time, some of the guys from our church go over and talk. We get to know what people are dealing with. Some come to an afternoon monthly matinee, where we show a film and have a discussion. It’s an outlet for those who don’t have money to see a film, and there’s popcorn. We ask them to come to church on Sunday.
Graves: Anything else you’re doing to teach and evangelize your communities?
Mulder: Michigan’s been hit hard by the recession. We have several mechanics at the church who fix cars, so we’ve started a car care clinic. The church has a beautiful garage that was built a long time ago. We’re organizing a 501(c)(3). We want our church to be the church where you can come get your car fixed. What’s neat is the good male bonding taking place.
Piggee-Wallack: We partner with Metro Lutheran Ministry, and what they found is, “People bring us clothes, but you hand them out better than we can.” So they send their donations around to us. They have a huge food bank. They do that better, so we send folks over to them, but we maintain a small food pantry so that when their food program is closed down for the day and somebody comes in, we’re able to meet the need. We tell them, “This will help you for a day or two, but you need to get around to Metro Lutheran Ministry or St. James United Methodist Church.” Another way we help each other is stepping in to relieve someone who needs time off. Brother Lewis at the Catholic Worker House asked, “Pastor Alice, can you see that the folks are fed this meal on Saturday night?” So, one Saturday a month, we do that. We find out the agencies, what they’re doing, and we refer folks, and we’re a member of United Way, and they’re referring folks to us all the time also. We make a point to know what folks are doing so we’re better able to serve the needs of the community.
Ball: Our food bank has resourced us in amazing ways; they’re happy to use us as an outlet, so we have a great relationship, partnering with Teen Challenge and other churches. It’s finally getting to the point where the churches in our county are starting to see this as part of our cooperative mission, which is exciting.
McGinnis: By discovering community needs that weren’t being met, we’ve connected with all different agencies, including parachurch groups and other denominations. It’s important to build relationships with these places—it opens a lot of doors we often assume are closed.
Graves: How do we continue to motivate our people to be involved?
Johnson: I have to lead, or no one else is going to do it. I can try to hide out in my office and tell people to go, and it’s not going to happen. If someone rises up with a vision, we’ll bring other people alongside to say, “Go help meet that vision.” We celebrate every moment of the journey. We don’t hold people down who stumble and fall. We pick them up and say, “Try a different thing.” That’s become a culture within our body to say, “Okay, try something to reach someone.” It’s all about making that connection so we can share the gospel. In Acts 2:45, it says they sold all they had to give to anyone in need. Two verses later, it says that they enjoyed the favor of all the people. We’re not going to get the favor of our community unless we’re meeting needs. Once they had the people’s favor, Acts says that many came into the body of believers.
Barker: Being present in the community is a long-term investment. You begin to understand your community as your parish. I’m here for a while to be present in this community, to build these bridges, to be known as we gather together to bear witness to this God who brings about transformation in our lives. Our church is located close to a large area of federal/state-subsidized housing units. Ninety-five percent of these units list women as the heads of the household, so there’s an absence of men. Our church’s practice used to be to hire a part-time youth pastor who was a student at Eastern Nazarene College. The student moved on every two or three years, which reinforced the transient male figure for the community. Now, our current youth pastor predates me; the church finally decided to make an investment in someone who would stick around. So, the issue of presence is critical.
Graves: Aimee, you mentioned earlier that the high school is across the street, and you hope your sons may graduate from there. That’s a long time.
Mulder: I remember God saying to me during our pastoral interview, “Your boys are going to graduate from there.” But these three years, I’ve been wondering, Are you sure? Because it has been really tough. I stood in front of our congregation during a revival and said, “The only way we are leaving is if God puts it on a sign: Mulders, Go Home. That’s the only way we’re leaving.” I am thankful for the struggle anyway.
Piggee-Wallack: We’re formed in the struggle. We’re given strength in the struggle. It’s not always easy. But when we’re there for the long haul, people see that. They want to know, Are you here? Are you really here, or are you going to be like those other folks who are here for a little while and then leave?
Barker: The questions of presence, longevity, and caring for ourselves and others are critical. I don’t want people to come in, burn out, and leave. It’s understanding life differently, committing to a particular people, being identified as those people, and sticking through the struggles; understanding that it’s not always easy, but it’s in the struggle, Alice, as you said, that who we are is revealed, and that which sustains us is not our own energy, our own initiative, but it’s God’s work within us—not only individually but corporately as the body of Christ that’s being poured out into the world. The only way we can do that is because we worship every week, and we’re reminded of who we are and who is the source of this grace that permeates the world.
McGinnis: If we approach ministry and community with the idea that, “I’m called, this is my parish,” that forms our mission ideas and how we see the community. You begin to be part of it, and the idea of leaving becomes devastating.
Graves: Burn-out is real for many people, especially when it’s a smaller church and a lot of the load is on you as the leader, as the pastor. How do you renew yourself, nurture yourself, when so much of the responsibility falls back on you?
McGinnis: You know, to come off of Sunday and it’s awesome and exciting, but on Monday, I’m exhausted. I think, Well, I did this, this, and this wrong. I could have said this differently, or, I missed this opportunity. I take Sabbath, a time to be with God and be alone and get recharged. I had a good mentor beat that into my head all through college.
Mulder: We protect Fridays as our Sabbath because my husband is bivocational. He gets off work at ten in the morning, and we have pancakes. We turn off our phones. That is the most glorious thing ever. I think it’s also important for me as a woman to be somewhere where I’m not Pastor Aimee, or the boys’ mom, or Devin’s wife. We also know that Sabbath is for play, and that’s so important for our family. But it is a challenge, because I’m never alone.
Barker: The bivocational model does present challenges in terms of Sabbath-keeping and other practices. Accountability is necessary, and it’s probably not going to come from your congregants, your parishioners. But there is the collegiality you have with fellow pastors that holds you accountable to some of these things. For me, it’s walking, journaling, praying, meditating, reflecting, engaging in particular practices that are deeply formative, that remind me that I am God’s beloved and that the work I’ve been given to do is not to make me something I’m not. It’s to stand in that space between God and God’s people, and mediate grace, speak prophetic words, and model and live a particular life. I’ve got to be nurtured and fed and keep Sabbath as I expect the people to keep Sabbath.
Johnson: I talked to one church planter who said, “I got in about seven or eight years, and I felt like it was time to go.” So he transitioned out and is now in ministry somewhere else, but then he said, “Looking back on it now, I don’t know that it was time for me to go. I was exhausted. I don’t know that I would have left if I had taken a sabbatical.” We have to have more people who invest in a community for the long term, even when it gets tough. We need to be able to say, “Okay, maybe I need to take that sabbatical rest and rejuvenate my spirit.” I think sometimes we leave when what we need is simply a rest. I want to thank you and what the denomination is doing to push sabbaticals. At least on my district they’re pushing it and saying, “This is something we encourage our pastors to do.”
Wilks: Sabbatical is a huge gift, and I find Sabbath moments along the way. One thing my church does is provide me a Sunday off on those months that have five Sundays. I still work Monday through Friday, and attend church, just not our church. That way, I get to see what others are doing. How often do we have the opportunity to see what’s going on in other places? That’s valuable. The largest value has been that I get to sit in a church where I have no responsibilities, with my kids and my arm around my wife, and we get to worship as a family. The sabbatical is one of the reasons we’re still there. I think as we’ve had those times, it’s helped us be there almost sixteen years. God has reconfirmed my call every time we’ve done that. Because, when you’re in the trenches, you have to step back and really be reminded, This really is what I want to do. This really is what God has called me to do. I think my church has benefited greatly from me having time to reenergize throughout the years.
Piggee-Wallack: As people in my church take responsibility, I release them and empower them to minister. That takes a lot of responsibility off me. I let my associates and student ministers who have come alongside me minister in every area, and that includes preaching. I only preach two or three times a month. That gives them an opportunity, and it gives me a chance to step back, relax, and enjoy.
Ball: I have a good and wise wife who helps keep me accountable. When she says I’m too busy, I find release and the ability to re-center through physical activity. Some of my best friends in the area are pastors, and we surf several times a week; we call them board meetings. My church and my wife recognize that I am the best pastor and best husband when I take moments of Sabbath.
Graves: How do you convey the doctrine of holiness?
McGinnis: I discovered it is easier to define sanctification and convey what the Scripture says about it than find synonyms. Many understand the need for forgiveness but lack a desire for more. Some desire holiness but are like those who stand at the front of the line for the roller coaster: They’re waiting, but they’re not sure if they want to get on and ride. There’s both fear and excitement, and sometimes people run from the experience, which breaks my heart.
Mulder: It’s exciting to be a preacher of holiness because the message is so appropriate for our time. It’s a challenge to keep explaining, but that’s why we’re in it for the long haul. There was a lady who came to know Christ last year. Darkness was over her life. I asked her go to a women’s retreat, and waited for her to bail out the whole time. Yet she got saved, and when she got up from the altar, her face was full of light. I meet with her weekly, and she wants that feeling, that moment, back. I tell her that moment was awesome, but now we’ve got to move on. We’ve got to keep moving. Holiness is within her reach, but it’s a process.
Ball: In and out of the church, many people hear the word holy as, “This is who we aren’t,” rather than who we are. It can become an ethical code by which we measure our saved-ness. We simply exchange the chains of sin for the chains of holiness, and do not realize that holiness is received, not achieved. It is a gift. It is something we receive, not something we gain for ourselves. It’s grace. It’s free.
Barker: We recently did a Bible study through Ephesians, and we began to use “gambling everything on Jesus.” It’s not our traditional way to talk about holiness in the Church of the Nazarene, but it did invite us to that reflection of the cosmic scope of what God is doing, that every aspect of our lives is under the lordship. What does that look like? How is that directed? I’m finding, at least in my congregation, that people are looking for something to orient their lives to. They’re adrift, even those who have grown up in the church. They’re trying to figure out, What does this all mean? Does it truly translate into anything in my everyday living? When we start talking about every aspect of your being, your attitude, your behavior, your choices, everything you’re doing is discerned through God’s being and lived through God’s being. That resonates deeply. That moves them to compassion. That moves them to issues of justice and responsibility. They begin to advocate for those who are marginalized. There’s a depth there then that pushes us into the world, not to do good but to live God’s mission in the world and see all of creation redeemed. It’s the “gooding,” the “re-gooding” of creation. It’s cosmic in scope. When you think about the magnitude, everything matters. Every decision the church board makes, every decision we make regarding curriculum, every prayer meeting. Everything now matters. How I spend my time matters. How I spend my money matters. How I raise my children matters. How I work matters. It inspires me to do my work ever more faithfully, to communicate the cosmic redemption that God is orchestrating here and now.
Wilks: I try to lead by example and talk about my own journey, letting them know I hope to look more like Jesus six months from now than I did today. In our church family, many people have walked a tough road, and have made God-honoring decisions, giving up self, and exhibiting holiness. With permission, I highlight these examples and reinforce what kind of culture we want to build.
Piggee-Wallack: We deal with a lot of people who are struggling to come out of addictions, and sometimes that struggle is so difficult. We let them know that you’re not able in and of yourself to do this, but with Christ, if you open yourself to the power of the Holy Spirit, God will help you come out of this. If you fall, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to stay there. God is still working in you. You can get up; don’t depend on self. You’ve got to lean into him to help you with this journey of holiness.
Graves: Jeff, how do you see the relationship between worship and missional engagement?
Barker: I was a pastor in the late 1990s, during worship renewal conversations. Now we’re talking about missional engagement—which makes this an exciting time to bring these two conversations together. Several of the churches represented here are connected to the issue of hunger. We’ve seen connections between the Eucharistic table, gathering around God’s table, and that table then being extended into the world as part of our mission. Table fellowship becomes the centerpiece for our worship. What does it mean to gather around God’s table and learn the family story in Scripture, say family prayers, and be shaped by particular practices? For me, there are major connections between preaching, centering ourselves around Scripture, and elevating the centrality of sacraments. Now this is an interesting conversation in a low-sacramental tradition, but I think as I’ve lived on the bookends of these—the worship renewal conversation and the missional engagement conversation—much of that continues to center around this question of identity, and identity is understood through baptism then through the family meal of Eucharist. Someone who brought that together for me was a little girl about six years old. We had a food pantry box in the corner of the church, and she asked me one Sunday, “Pastor, why is the food pantry box in the corner?” I said, “Well that’s a fascinating question. I’m new here, so I don’t really know.” But I added, “We’re beginning a journey during the season of Lent. Why don’t we put this in the center of our worship space, and invite people to bring food each week that we can then give to the food pantry?” We did that, and people brought bags of groceries each week. It was overflowing at the end of six weeks, and we faced a critical question. We had become a different people because the center of our worship gathered around table and fellowship, and if we moved the food pantry box back to the corner, it would say something we didn’t want to say. Even today, that food pantry box is right in front of our communion table, and as we come to the table regularly, we understand that God’s table now extends into the world through our participation in the ministry of feeding others. It goes back to what Alice said, about Matthew 25. We are God’s presence in the world through these avenues that God has given us. That resonates in my congregation; we are deeply concerned about world hunger, poverty, and justice. Each week we say, “And now, God, send us out into the world to do the work you have given us to do.” That becomes our mission as we leave; it’s the benediction. It’s the blessing that sends us out, that flows out of our worship.
Piggee-Wallack: We have a time of testimony where people can stand up for a minute or two during the service and talk about how God is transforming them and what that has meant. It encourages others who come into our midst to know that we don’t have to stay the same way, that when we have that encounter with God, he calls us into a different place. We talk about forgiveness—not only forgiving others who may have hurt us but also forgiving ourselves as to how we responded. We are big on affirmations as well, because we believe it’s through the affirmations that, “I can do all things.” Go out and do it through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Mulder: It is so important to have a culture of prayer in our congregations. Sometimes you preach a sermon and think nobody got it—and then a life is changed. That’s because the Holy Spirit is working, and prayer awakens us to the motions of grace. I want our church to be increasingly a culture of prayer, where we are people of prayer.
Graves: What are you doing in the area of pastoral care?
Mulder: I love having people over to our very loud house; we have two families over once a month. There’s something that happens around the table. People do not care what they’re eating, and they are so thrilled to be at your home. I pray about whom to invite. It’s wonderful when an elegant eightyeight- year-old lady and a new single mom discover they have something in common. There’s something about that, and it’s one way I care for people.
McGinnis: I’ve had great success with the same thing, Thursday evenings, trying to match up people. As you get to know the community, it’s so positive for us to meet one another. Everybody’s more relaxed around food, and there’s real fellowship around a dinner table. I purposely feed my board before we have board meeting. Being a chaplain for the local police department has provided me all kinds of great opportunities. Many of those situations are sad; I often meet people through the death of a loved one. Some of those people are now in our church. Some people don’t even know my name, but they know us by reputation. Those instances provide great opportunities I never imagined to minister to the community.
Piggee-Wallack: There is something special that happens around the table. Since our inception, we have always had fellowship directly after service. Everyone goes across the street, the food is prepared, we sit down, we always try to sit with someone who might be new, try to encourage friends, you know. Folks look forward to that fellowship time.
Wilks: This area is a tension for me. When I first came, we were small enough that I could have pie with everybody monthly. I could provide one-on-one pastoral care all the time, but as we’ve grown, that hasn’t been the case. I want to be there, but I can’t be in all of those places anymore. I tend to spend my time with the folks who really need it. We want to create a culture where pastoral care is shared by all of us. I’ve found that people appreciate a brief touch—a phone call as I’m driving somewhere. “Hey, I heard this is going on with you. Wanted you to know I’m praying.” I try to discipline myself to write a few notes each week, to say, “I’m praying for you.” Media and social media have become ways of pastoral care. I touch many people through Facebook and email, jotting a note. I learn a lot from social media about what’s going on in my church’s life that I would probably not know in any other way.
Barker: I’ve been thinking that how we care for one another reveals the truth of the message we’re trying to proclaim. For me, there are stronger links between care, love, sharing life together, and how we understand ourselves to be God’s holy people. I’m trying to teach my congregation how to care, and that their care is authorized by the church. It’s shaped biblically and theologically—it’s not random. There’s something significant when that moment happens—something sacred and holy—it’s an encounter where two or three are gathered in Jesus’s name. Pastoral care takes place in a lot of different ways. One of the practices I’ve really worked hard on is communion. We have them come forward, and I call them by name. To be named is to be known and loved and cared for, so I view that as a critical pastoral act—I know your name, and I want to understand or know your story.
Piggee-Wallack: There are some things I will never leave to another person, like an emergency room situation. It can be three o’clock in the morning, and if I get that call, I’m gone, because I want to be at the bedside. I want to pray with that individual so they know they’re important to me and to God, and that God is there, especially for the critically ill or very afraid.
Mulder: In our first eighteen months, we had fourteen funerals. It was one of those seasons; when you heard the phone ring, you wanted to say, “Please, someone not die,” because you were completely tapped out. But you had to go. I never really understood the power of the Holy Spirit, except in those moments when you don’t have anything, when there’s a three-year-old girl who got run over by her mother in an SUV. You don’t have words for that. That’s why it’s so important for us to be continually connected to the Holy Spirit because there are some moments when we will not ever be enough.
Graves: We have to keep focused on those things God is doing through our ministries and through our lives. Thank you all for joining me in this conversation. I pray it is a blessing to God, to our clergy, and to the church.
This panel discussion has accompanying videos. Please CLICK HERE to view the videos.
About the panelists:
• Gary Ball II formerly served as senior pastor of Watsonville (CA) Church of the Nazarene.
• Jeff Barker is former senior pastor of Bethel Church of the Nazarene in Quincy, Massachusetts.
• Kyle Johnson serves as lead pastor of The Crossing Church of the Nazarene in Sacramento, California.
• Kevin McGinnis is lead pastor of Mosaic Church of the Nazarene in Florence, Arizona.
• Aimee Mulder, along with her husband, Devin, serves as co-pastor of Breakwater Church of the Nazarene in Muskegon, Michigan.
• Alice Piggee-Wallack is senior pastor of True Light Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, Missouri.
• Chad Wilks is senior pastor of Sandpoint Church of the Nazarene in Sandpoint, Idaho.