Church of the Nazarene
2013 Assembly Report
M. Kim Smith
Dr. Porter, Pastors, Delegates, and friends of the One Hundred and First Assembly of Iowa District Church of the Nazarene. It is my privilege to stand here today and give my first report to the Iowa District. My journey to Iowa began 41 years ago on March 25, 1972 when I married Rose Marie Denman, and one year later heard the voice of God clearly calling me to go “Change the World.” The journey continued to Mid America Nazarene University and has continued around the country. We have pastored some wonderful churches filled with godly men and women who desired nothing but to do the will of God and see lost people find Jesus. I would like to begin my report with a word of testimony.
On March 25, 1999, I accepted the invitation to become the pastor at First Church of the Nazarene in Clarksville, Tn. It was during my fourteen years at Clarksville First that I truly learned what it meant to experience the hope that Jesus offers in the midst of disappointment, heartaches and brokenness, and to be changed into an ambassador who desired nothing in life but to “Share Hope and Change Lives”. I thank God today for all of the transformative experiences I had in that Community of Hope and I stand and testify to the amazing reality, that regardless of where you are, or what you are going through, we serve a God who loves, forgives, and offers hope to the hopeless and healing to the brokenhearted.
On March 25, 2013 my well established life was interrupted once again when I heard the voice of God, my friend, my redeemer, my healer asking me if I would go to Iowa and be an ambassador of the hope that he had graced me with. I must confess, as I stood on the front porch of our beautiful country home, looking out across the meadow, there was a deep inner struggle. Our home, “Hidden Meadow” as we named it, had become a refuge and a place of healing and restoration following the years of the locust. It was there that I experienced the healer in deep ways I never imagined possible for myself. It was there that I truly began to embrace for myself the hope that Jesus offers, and begin believing in a real way that hope was available not only for me, but for everyone who would allow themselves to be embraced by Jesus and his community of disciples. In the midst of my conversations with God he clearly spoke into my spirit and told me it was time to get out of the rocking chair on the front porch and leave “Hidden Meadow”. My healing was complete and it was time to leave my refuge and embrace the calling that Jesus had embraced… “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good new to the poor, He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lords favor”. Luke 4:18-19
It was time to go serve as an Ambassador of Hope in the state of Iowa. It was time to go proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. It was time to go speak into the lives of pastors and laymen and testify to the power of the healer. It was time to testify to the reality that he can take a broken pastor and reshape and restore him and fill him with new passion.
It was time to testify to the reality that the church can become a Community of Hope, committed to making fully devoted disciple of Jesus who will reflect his love to the hopeless, broken, oppressed prisoners of the world. I stand here today because, this is the time and this is the place where everything changes!! Regardless of where we have been, or where we have believed we were headed, this is the time when all of that changes. This is the time when we begin together embracing our future of “sharing hope and changing lives” all across Iowa.
As I was leaving Tennessee, Miles, my 8 year old grandson wanted to know if Iowa was in the United States and Macy, his 6 year old sister, asked me if I was going to become an IOWEENIE. As we arrived in this foreign country of Iowa on the May 2, we were greeted with a snowstorm. Everyone told me that never happens here, at least not in May. As we started traveling across the state and began sharing the message of hope, it was our privilege to meet hundreds of IOWEENIES and have coffee with over 50 pastors during the “greet and meet” tours in seven different churches. A special thank you to the host pastors and churches who offered such gracious hospitality. I have also had the privilege of speaking and visiting in nine additional churches. I say all of this to only report that everywhere we have gone we have been greeted with IOWEENIE hospitality, that exceeded our expectations, and a radical optimism about the future possibility of “Making Christlike Disciples” and becoming “Communities of Hope” all across Iowa.
The obvious question for all of us today is “How are we going to do that”? I have good news for you…It is already happening! Are you aware that the fire of God is moving and breaking out all over the state? We don’t have to start the fire, it is already burning. The fire has been burning for over a hundred years. Before the Church of the Nazarene was organized, our founder P.F. Bresee was already preaching and starting fires all over Iowa in Chariton, Council Bluffs, East Des Moines, Red Oak, and Claridan. The fires that Dr. Bresee started have never gone out, but like all fire, unless it is constantly fueled it will burn dimly and be threatened with extinction. It becomes the responsibility of each generation to learn the importance of fanning the flame and keeping the fire burning. God has always provided anointed leadership over the years to remind us to tend the flame and keep the fires of hope burning. Great District Superintendents, like Dr. Forest Whitlatch who is with us today, planted seeds of hope and started fires all over Iowa that are still producing fruit and shining light in the darkness. Let’s take a moment to honor Dr. and Mrs. Forest Whitlatch. (Invite them to stand)
In my hometown… there is an old steam engine in the city park. I remember going there as a child and playing on it. Climbing over it, under it, pretending to be an engineer, playing tag, and other games that children play. The train sits on steel tracks that support it and serve as a reminder that at one time the locomotive actually served the purpose for which it was built, and actually had a destination beyond just sitting in the park as a decoration and reminder of the past. Inside the engine where the engineer stood is an old steel door with a handle that moves but the door is welded shut. The door use to open to a firebox where the real power for the engine was generated. The fireman would keep the fire burning and the old engine would be powered down the track. But it has been a long time since there has been any fire in that boiler, and now the old train, cold black shiny steel, just sits in the park as a reminder of the glory days. They plant flowers all around it, keep applying fresh coats of paint to keep it shiny, but it isn’t going anywhere. It’s best days are behind, now it just sits as a memorial of what use to happen when it was filled with fire.
The greatest danger we face in the church is that we forget our purpose. Every church in Iowa has a history and a memory of the day when she was full of fire, and making a difference in the darkness and hopelessness of the communities where she served. God never intended for the fire to go out and His church be relegated to a memorial where we spend our time planting flowers, adding fresh coats of paint, sitting on tracks that are going nowhere and memorializing the days gone by. We’re not in this condition because there is no fire, there is fire….there is fresh fire….fire that God wants to place back into the boiler room of our churches. Fresh fire that will illuminate the darkness and move us into the hopelessness of the broken and oppressed people that fill our communities and our churches. Fresh fire that will restore our churches to the glory that Jesus called us to express. The battle cry of our founder, Dr. Bresee, was “keep the Glory down,” keep the fire burning, illuminate the darkness with hope so people can find their way! Once our churches are filled with the fires of hope, people will find their way out of the darkness of sin and oppression and become disciples of Jesus and return back into the dark places as ambassadors of hope.
As I have traveled across the state I have sensed the desire for fire, and have witnessed it breaking out and burning brightly in many places. Fire is fueled by acts of obedience and fanned into flame by the wind of the spirit. I know there are many places where fire is burning brightly that I am not aware of, but allow me to share a few things I have witnessed.
My very first assignment as District Superintendent was to meet with the wonderful people in Knoxville. When I arrived I was met me with gracious Ioweenie hospitality, and an eagerness to begin the process of finding a new pastor. In our first meeting it became apparent that they were ready for fire to breakout in their church and Knoxville. They were quick to share with me they had been gathering each week for several months as a board to study a Jim Cymbala book and video series on prayer, and then spend time praying for a new pastor and revival in their church. Following that meeting we knelt to pray and the powerful presence of God anointed the room. I’d like to invite Enetha Rankin to come and share with you a little about those prayer meetings and how God has answered their prayers. ( Enetha Rankin)
I’d like to report to you that God is faithful and their new pastor Greg and Sara McClain and four beautiful daughters will arrive in Knoxville on August 4th to begin their ministry of sharing hope and changing lives. What could happen in your church if a few laymen, a few board members began to meet weekly asking God to use them to change their communities. When Gods people start humbling themselves and praying and asking Him to break their hearts for the lost, holy fire will start breaking out. When that happens, it is always manifest in movements that take us beyond the walls of our churches and into our communities and we begin to lay new tracks that will lead us into the darkness with the message of hope.
Further evidence of God’s movement in Iowa can be clearly seen in the Compassionate Ministry movement that began several years ago under the leadership of Rev. Michael Lynch and Teresa Stecker in Iowa City. The church began looking around their neighborhood and asking God how they could make a difference. Today four different cultural congregations worship each week in their sanctuary and multiple ministries of compassion to their community are flourishing. When fire begins to burn, it also begins to spread, and that spirit of compassion has now spread into a district wide movement. Iowa District has officially formed a non-profit Compassionate Ministry, being led by Teresa Stecker. Compassion is an expression of God’s love that every church in Iowa can be involved in. I’d like to invite Teresa Stecker to share a few highlights of what is happening across the district and how your church can participate. (Teresa Stecker)
I’d like to challenge every church to consider how your church can become a Community of Hope. There are people right outside the doors of your church that are waiting for you to notice them. Lord give us eyes to see the needs all around the state of Iowa.
God always uses people to be fire starters. Several years ago God spoke into the heart of Pastor Terry Chapman about a spirit of darkness he witnessed in his community. He made a commitment to light up that darkness. The result of that act of obedience resulted in an intentional movement of recognizing and addressing the needs of our Hispanic neighbors in Ottumwa. The District responded by inviting Shane Wilson to Ottumwa to start a Hispanic congregation. Two years later, we have a fully organized congregation in Ottumwa. We are making plans for Shane to move to Des Moines where he will lead a brand new congregation that was started in Des Moines Eastside under the leadership of Rev. Paul Miller. Jorge Vasques has been serving there as our pastor, but will be moving out of state in September. Shane will also serve as Hispanic coordinator for new Hispanic church starts across the district. I’d like to invite Shane to share with you the scope of the harvest field across Iowa and how you can be aware of the potential in your community. (Shane Wilson)
NEW CHURCH STARTS
God’s spirit will always be directing His people into places where the light of hope can illuminate the darkness of hopelessness. The only way we can effectively change our cities across Iowa is to be actively starting new centers of fire. Several years ago God spoke to the Dan Hardcastle about reaching the community of Glenwood in western Iowa. He and his family have been ministering there now for two years seeking creative ways to share hope in that community. I also have had conversations with several pastors about creative new ways to start church plant movements in all of our major cities across Iowa. I’d like to challenge every pastor and church leader to begin praying and exploring what it would look like for your church to reach beyond your walls and spread the fires of hope by starting a new church movement.
PLANNING, PROMOTING, FINANCING
These are just a few of the movements of HOPE that are happening across the district. In order to fan the flame of these exciting movements and keep the fires burning and spreading there are several initiatives that I will be implementing
Ministry Action Plan
This fall I will organize a team of leaders from across the district to develop a Ministry Action Plan. That MAP will help us to strategically organize, coordinate and fund the exciting movements of God and enable us to maximize our energy and resources.
Website & E News
Sharing what God is doing across the district is essential in order for us to be praying for and celebrating the missional victories that will be happening. In order to keep everyone informed we will be going online with a new website very soon. It will be updated regularly in order for everyone to have access to current information and happenings across the district. Additionally we will initiate a monthly Electronic Newsletter communication that each local church can publish and distribute.
Sharing Hope Fund
Financial Resources are always an important consideration as we make plans to make aggressive missional movements into the devils domain. I have always lived with the promise that where God guides God provides, and when are willing to trust Him and step out in faith He is delighted to bless us with all the resources to accomplish the task He is leading us into. I would like to challenge every church and every layman to consider making a pledge to the “Sharing Hope Fund” for the advancement of the missional movements that are expanding all across the district. I’d like the ushers to distribute the “Sharing Hope” commitment cards. If 50 churches could pledge at least $100 month which would only be $25 weekly, and 100 individuals could give $150 or more in this next year which only be $3 weekly, we could easily raise $75,000 and make a huge impact in communities all across Iowa. Your giving will assist in expansion of our Hispanic church planting effort, our Compassionate Ministry Communities, and our New Church start movements. This challenge is only a suggested starting place as there may be those who feel led to give much more. Later this morning, before we dismiss, we will be passing the offering plates and collecting these commitment cards as well as cash that some of you may want to go ahead and give. Pastor, if you don’t feel comfortable making this faith commitment for your church today, could I suggest that you put it at the top of your church board agenda for August and give your church an opportunity to participate in this district challenge. This a tremendous opportunity for us to experience fresh fire across the district and in your church as result of your faith and obedience.
The challenges are great, but God has called us to “Make Disciples in the Nations” and Iowa is part of that mission field. All across Iowa we already have fifty two churches that are strategically positioned to Share Hope and Change lives.
- We must see that our mission is to Share the Hope of Jesus in every city across Iowa.
- We must get on our knees and begin praying for fire back in the boiler…..
- We must lay down some new tracks, dream some new dreams, and believe that God will propel us into a new future.
- We must be willing to go into the dark places empowered by prayer with the confidence that the battle belongs to the Lord and we are going to rescue those who are being held captive.
- We must see our churches as Hospitals, that are strategically placed throughout the state to offer hope and healing to the broken hearted.
- We must see our churches as training centers that are committed to making disciples.
- We must realize that our best days are still ahead of us.
Who is going to lead this effort? Our Pastors are going to lead! These are the men and women who are going to lead this charge into the darkness. Your Pastor has a calling from God and an invitation from your congregation to share hope and dispel the darkness. They have been called by God, empowered by the spirit and ordained by the church to lead His church into the darkness and rescue the hopeless. They have been called to be ambassadors of Hope. They have been called to make a difference in the world. They are capable of leading forward because they live and serve under the same commission and anointing that Jesus lived and served under. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19
Pastor, the devil doesn’t want you to experience this anointing. He wants to isolate you, defeat you, diminish your influence, and destroy you. Let me remind you that “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world”. Let me challenge you that if you don’t already have someone that is praying with you, encouraging you, speaking into your life, and holding you accountable for the calling God has given you, then I will be praying that God will help you identify someone who will disciple you and encourage you in your ministry, and you will find someone that you can disciple and encourage. The most empowering experiences of my life and ministry have been those early morning breakfast with brothers who shared the same calling and faced the same challenges. I always came away stronger and more confident in who I was and what God had called me to do.
Every Sunday morning for 2 months before I received the call to Iowa, I listened to the song “Spirit of the Living God” as I drove to church. I started it so that it would finish just as I pulled on the church parking lot. Just before exiting the car, my prayer would be, “ Lord anoint me fresh today to share Good news, to proclaim freedom to the prisoners, restore sight to the blind, and release the oppressed, and show your favor on us today.” I then walked into the church with boldness and confidence prepared to
Share the Hope of Jesus. Just before the service started, twenty or more men would gather and pray that God would speak through my heart and life. When we finished praying, we walked out together, sharing in the victory that we knew God would give us for that day.
Listen to me delegates and laymen, your pastors wants to experience the fulfillment that comes from living out their divine callings. Your pastors wants you to stand with them, pray with them, and prepare together for the victory that God wants to bring in your church and your city. Your pastors are not content with an engine that has no fire and isn’t going anywhere. And you know what, I don’t think you are either!
You will be hearing later today about the divine call that God has placed on your pastor’s life. You will be reminded why they do what they do. I’d like to invite you right now to stand and gather around these pastors and pray that fresh anointing would fall into their lives and your lives. Pray that Fresh Fire would fall on all of us and a renewed commitment to Share Hope and Change lives will consume us, and control us, and compel us into the mission field to make disciple for Jesus.
In closing, Thank you for allowing me to come to Iowa and further realize the fulfillment of my calling to Share Hope and Change lives.
Respectfully Submitted and,
Consumed with His call,
M. Kim Smith