Who Can the Church Love?

Joanne, Jose III, & Joel Cortes speak with a gentleman in the streets of Hamilton, Bermuda

The ministry of Jesus was a ministry of inclusion, not exclusion, and that makes perfect sense. After all, what would be the point of dying for people and then excluding them from experiencing God’s love and the opportunity of accepting His grace? Doing that would be inconsistent, not smart, and perhaps a waste of Jesus’ time on earth and of His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. It is simple and Jesus knew it, you cannot save people by excluding them. Jesus was crystal clear, if He was going to have a shot at saving humanity, they needed to see His love for them. That’s why He came and dwelt amongst us and became one of us.

I met an 18 year old, who shocked and saddened me when he unapologetically told me that he had found more evidence for Satan’s existence than for God’s existence in his church. When I inquired more about it, he told me a sad story, showed me two tattoos on each side of his neck and added, “no one in my church ever acknowledges me or says anything to me, they look at me funny and move on, as if I had a contagious disease, I definitely don’t belong there.” 

I saw, with my own eyes, how a young lady was asked to leave church on a Sabbath afternoon because she was wearing pants. When my wife and I stood up for her, she told us it had been a while since she had last been to church, but feeling unworthy and inadequate to come to the morning “Worship Service” she had decided to come in the afternoon. We were holding a special prayer session for an upcoming Evangelistic Series we were about to launch in that area. As soon as she walked in, she was told she could not enter the sanctuary wearing sweatpants. Turns out she was pregnant, out of wedlock, and trying to hide her belly.

Who Can the Church Love?

If the Church of Jesus cannot love guys with tattoos, ladies who wear pants to church, girls who are pregnant out of wedlock, and people who smell like smoke, among others, who can the Church of Jesus love? What is the purpose of the church then? Why do we even exist?

If the Church of Jesus cannot love all sinners, like Jesus did, then it is not a Church, and it is not of Jesus. Jesus loved all sinners and was always ready to minister to them, regardless of their sin. If you don’t love them, it will be very hard to reach, retain, or reclaim them.

Jesus did not baptize all the people He healed, fed, and counseled; yet He still healed them, took away their hunger, and blessed them because He loved them.

Is Your Church Filled with People of Different Walks of Life?

If your church is not filled with people of different backgrounds and walks of life, it is perhaps because they don’t feel that your church is a safe place for them. Jesus loved tax collectors, prostitutes, Jews, Gentiles, poor, rich, children, men, women, and Pharisees. This is why people of different walks of life approached Him and followed Him.

We, the Church of Jesus, must be willing to love people who sin differently than we do. Jesus died for them, as much as He died for me and you.

Where Do We Draw the Line?

Where do we draw the line? The answer is simple, we draw the line where Jesus did. When a woman, who had just been caught in the act of adultery, was brought to Him, and her accusers looked for approval from Jesus to stone her, He said: “He who is without sin, cast the first stone…” Then He told her “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

We are much more like Jesus when we are inclusive with other sinners. We reflect His character best when the doors of our churches are opened to people of different walks of life and backgrounds. We are way more effective reaching, retaining, and reclaiming North America when we are filled with the Love of God and the Compassion of Jesus.

Let’s just try it! Jesus did!

Pastor Jose Cortes Jr.

 

Honoring Our Moms on Mother’s Day and Always

On this day we honor our mothers with love and gratitude, recognizing that each one is a precious, vital, and irreplaceable gift of God to humanity. We congratulate women, who may have not given birth to a child, yet true mothers who have made a difference in the lives of kids, teens, and young adults. You are treasured, loved, and not forgotten. Your commitment and dedication to service and ministry are noticed and very valuable to us and to God. Without you, our world, communities, schools, and churches could not be.

We also cherish the great memories of mothers, who gave us so much love for many years, and are no longer physically with us. We miss them and long for the Second Coming of Jesus, when we will see them face to face.

Today, we pray for comfort for our mothers who will not receive a hug, a gift, or hear the words “I love you” from a child that has passed away. We pray that our merciful and compassionate God will embrace you with His love and peace, and the hope of a better day.

Together we would like to call on sons and daughters everywhere, to love, respect, and be the Eyes, Heart, Hands, and Feet of Jesus to moms, not only on Mother’s Day but every single day. We also call on each mother to be an example of love, truth, and faith to the children and grandchildren that God has put under your care. That this verse, which was written to Timothy, can also be true in your lives and the lives of your children: “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.” (II Timothy 1:5)

With lots of love today and always!!!

Pastor Jose, Joanne, Jose III, & Joel Cortes

CortesFam2015

Truth that is not Afraid of Innovation!

Truth and Innovation are not enemies, I would even venture to say that Truth and Innovation must be best friends, and more so for people who are passionate about Reaching, Retaining, and Reclaiming North America with a lifestyle and a message of Compassion, Hope, and Wholeness.

I say this for the following reasons:

God, the source of all truth, is an innovative God. He created our universe, our world, and us, though there was a possibility for failure. He could have chosen not to innovate, but He used His innovative spirit combined with His love and came up with something new and beautiful. As sons and daughters of God, we have been given the ability and intelligence to be creative. 

Jesus, the truth in person, is innovative. During His earthly ministry Jesus continuously came up with things that had not been done before by his contemporaries in ministry. He fed people after the sermon, touched lepers, talked to the children, used parables when preaching, ate with sinners, and defended a woman who was about to be stoned for adultery. It seems that every time He did something new and creative, He did it to bless someone in need. Jesus was innovative for the sake of the very people He wanted to save, not for innovation’s sake.

Innovativeness is in the DNA of Adventism. As we look at the history of our church, we realize that our predecessors were willing to do things that were new and different. These innovations helped to make a movement out of Adventism, to keep it alive, and to make it a global movement. If they had been afraid of doing things a bit different, and at times a lot different, had they not been innovative, and received God’s blessing, perhaps we would not be where we are today.

When I think of people like, James White and the creation of our church’s first papers and magazines, Adventist Review, the Youth Instructor, and Signs of the Times; John Nevins Andrews and his sacrificial travels to Europe; Anna Knight, the first black woman of any denomination to serve as a missionary to India; John Harvey Kellogg’s creativeness in the health field, which initially brought notoriety to Adventists, and the many declarations of Ellen G. White about coming up with new methods and ideas; I have to accept that no matter how I feel about change and new things, there has been an innovative spirit in the DNA of our church, from our very humble beginnings. 

In 1902, Ellen G. White said: “New methods must be introduced. God’s people must awake to the necessities of the time in which they are living. God has men (and women 😉 whom He will call into His service,—men who will not carry forward the work in the lifeless way in which it has been carried forward in the past…. In our large cities the message is to go forth as a lamp that burneth. God will raise up laborers for this work, and His angels will go before them. Let no one hinder these men of God’s appointment. Forbid them not. God has given them their work. Let the message be given with so much power that the hearers shall be convinced.”—The Review and Herald, September 30, 1902.

The same Holy Spirit that led our predecessors, is still alive and willing to guide us as we reach, retain, and reclaim North America. As we do so together, remember:

  • Creatives and innovators have always had a place in God’s work, even “In the beginning…” 
  • Not one single method works for everybody or everywhere; fishermen can testify to this.
  • Innovation is God’s answer to the needs of the people He wants to save through us.
  • Don’t give up quickly. Some methods may take a while to produce fruits, effectiveness can be measured best over a period of time.
  • When offering opinions about innovation or innovators, please make sure you are fully informed. 
  • The fact that someone does not agree with it does not mean that God cannot bless it, God blesses anything He wants to bless, regardless of human opinion, my opinion, or yours.
  • Being an Innovator may hurt at times, yet you should not hinder what God has called you to do, it is for an awesome cause, people will be blessed and the church will grow.
  • Don’t hesitate to utilize methods and tools, that may be different, for the sake of those you would like to see saved.

Oh, and one last thing, “by our fruits we will be known…”

Pastor Jose Cortes Jr., is an Associate Ministerial Director and Leads Evangelism for the Adventist Church in North America.

Celebrating 22 Years in Pastoral Ministry

Celebrating 22 years in Pastoral Ministry (January 1992 -January 2014). Grateful to God, Dad, Mom, Joanne, Jose III, Joel, my mentors, colleagues in ministry, church Elders, leaders, Conference AY, AYES, & Pathfinder Coordinators, Administrative Assistants, and to so many wonderful children, youth, young adults, and adults whom God have put in our life to make our ministry a blessing. The 22 years have been shared among Potomac Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (11 years) Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventist (8.5 years) and the Atlantic Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (2.5 years). Whether it was as a Youth Pastor, Senior Pastor, Adjunct College Professor, or Youth Ministries Director, I have enjoyed each stage, and have realized that even the brief bad moments, and the few who have not been supportive at times, had and continue to have a purpose that ultimately have brought more blessings to life and ministry.

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Compassion, the Bridge to the Post-Christian

A recent study by the Barna Group revealed that eight of the top 10 post-Christian cities in the United States are in the Atlantic Union territory: Albany, New York (1), Burlington, Vermont (2), Portland, Maine (3), Providence, Rhode Island (4), Hartford, Connecticut (5), Boston, Massachusetts (7), Buffalo, New York (8), and New York, New York (9). According to this study, the area where we have been called to minister and proclaim the good news of Jesus is highly post-Christian.

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