Home > Uncategorized > Evangelism and Professions of Faith

Evangelism and Professions of Faith

At our last Annual Conference, Bishop Crutchfield challenged us to meet x number of professions of faith in 2007. If we met that goal, he would spend one session of the 2008 Annual Conference in a Spiderman outfit. Sometime last month we got word that the Bishop would not be leading the conference as our friendly neighborhood Spiderman. Not because he decided to go back on his promise but because the conference did.

Lest anyone think that I am wagging my finger in shame at any of the pastors or churches in the Arkansas Annual Conference, I am not. I won more people to using Apple computers than I did following Jesus Christ in 2007 which is part of my thinking and dilemma for this post. Most don’t consider the United Methodist Church to be involved in revival style invitations but those who think that are wrong. We may not have invented revivalism but we perfected it in our camp meetings and with itinerant evangelists. There is a reason that there are more Methodist churches in the United States than Post Offices and that is due mainly to our early conviction that people must be converted.

Of course, we don’t see a whole lot of emphasis on evangelism as a denomination. Wesley challenged his Methodist preachers by telling them, “You have nothing to do but save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work.” Are we as a denomination spending and being spent in the work of bringing people to Christ? What about you, pastor? If you are not then it’s likely your people are not. It needs to be modeled in ministry for them just like most other things*.

I’ll admit that the inspiration for my thinking in this post comes from a conversation I had yesterday with another pastor who has it. I don’t and I wish I did. Too timid, too afraid – I don’t know but I began to think not only about the way I seek out people during the week but also about worship. Last Sunday, in an informal get-to-know-you gathering I made some off the cuff remark about invitations in worship and you should have seen the body language. It was like I said there was a snake loose in the room. Invitations are things that Baptists do. I fear that is a thinking trend in the UMC that we really need to deal with. Not an every Sunday, 40 verses of “Just as I Am” invitations, but regular calls to commitment so that our people can commit their lives to Jesus for the first time or the second or the thousandth (What I mean by that isn’t “resaving”. I mean committing the whole of one’s life to Jesus Christ. I try to do that as often as I remember).

I’m going to make one short proposition and end this post for discussion. Evangelism, literally, is delivering ‘good news’ and if we truly believe that Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead, why aren’t we delivering the good news more vigorously? Proselytizing isn’t evangelism. We don’t want to convert people to church membership but to Jesus.

Are you as frustrated with evangelism in the UMC as I am?

* For the record, I’ve said this to myself in the mirror.

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  1. April 9, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    In my annual conference the Bishop challenged us by promising to wear red flannels. So, I guess this is a program the bishops are doing or something like that. Or just a crazy coincidence. I’m afraid that in areas where the UM church is shrinking most, our evangelism smacks of desperation. No one wants to be “saved” in order to be a savior for an institution.

    I don’t have “it” either, and I know just what you are talking about. However, I think there is something to be said about living out our giftings as an authentic calling to be Christians and to be the Church.

    If we are to convert people to Jesus (a premise I agree with, of course) then it is probably appropriate to ask first – am I really following Jesus with all that I am? Then as a church as, “Are we really following Jesus with all that we are?” And then with our words and our compelling lives we can ask the world, “Do you want to follow Jesus too?” This is not to advocate navel gazing since part of my following Jesus is located in Mt. 25, but it is to say that evangelism and sanctification are tied together.

    I hope things are going well for you.

  2. Dee Harper
    April 10, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    I think the reason that most people don’t invite others is fear. I know that I still have a lot of work to do on getting over those fears and worries. We worry that we’ll come off as crazies or something else. I think that we have to get over this idea that it is in appropriate to ask some one about there faith. We can talk about everything else, but don’t bring up religion. There is a story told, reported to be true, of a family who bought a cabin next to another family on the lake and over the years the two families would spend weekends and parts of summers together. They grew very close. One weekend the other couple announced that they had started going to this really great church that some one had invited them to go to. The first family was taken a back they had been going to that church for years and the other family never went with them. The second family said you never asked us.
    We don’t have to be super charismatic we just have to be willing to ask.

  3. Matthew Johnson
    April 10, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    How much of this falls on us to influence and equip our people to actively engage in evangelism? I’m reading Scott Jones’ book on the theology of evangelism and he’s bringing up some pretty great stuff but great – another book. What about the doing? Seems like we Methodists used to be a lot more passionate about seeing people brought to faith and now we, as Dee has pointed out, are too afraid.

  4. April 14, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    this is honest talk about something that many are uneasey doing – faith sharing – but it is at the core of what it actually means to “make disciples” – consider RO 10:14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?

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