|Pastors, lay people learn practical approaches to evangelism
The Rev. Gary Exman
Jan. 11, 2006
By Linda Green*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) ?
Instructions exist for almost every aspect of our material lives, but pastors
and church leaders came to the Congress on Evangelism seeking instructions of a
spiritual kind: the ?how-tos? for winning souls to Christ.
More than 950 people, including
United Methodists from the Philippines and Norway, came to learn how they can
?Let the Good News Roll? at the 2006 Congress on Evangelism, held Jan. 3-6. The
annual congress provides evangelical methods and methodology to earn disciples
for the Lord.
?Evangelism is important
because God mandates that we are to go and preach to the whole world that Jesus
is the way, the truth and the life,? said the Rev. Gary Exman, Columbus, Ohio,
immediate past president of the Council on Evangelism of the United Methodist
Church. The council is a sponsor of the congress and affiliate of the United
Methodist Board of Discipleship.
Bishop William Willimon
According to Bishop William
Willimon, evangelism is done as a response to the God who first reached out to
us, and it begins in the heart of God and God?s desire to have a people. ?We
call it Good News because it is something that came to us rather than something
that is derived from us,? said the bishop, who leads the denomination?s
Birmingham (Ala.) Area.
Exman, a pastor in the
denomination for 39 years, told United Methodist News Service that the
50-year-old council was created to ?propagate? evangelism in local churches,
districts and conferences across the denomination.
Since 75 percent of United
Methodist churches are in small-town and rural settings, the congress aims to
lift up Christ, to teach those church leaders how to evangelize and to foster
church growth, he said. Exman also leads Come and See Ministries, designed to
strengthen small-town and rural congregations.
Congress officials also have
been concerned about involving more young people in evangelism work. In the last
three years, the council has provided more than 300 pastors and lay people under
the age of 40 with scholarships to attend the national event.
During the congress, church
leaders focused on how to win people to Christ in individual and corporate ways.
?Evangelism is to bring people to Christ and to bring them to a relationship
with him,? Exman said.
Jesus is called the evangelical
who said that no one gets to God but through him, Exman noted. ?We must
challenge people, even in this politically correct day, in appropriate ways ?
which we Methodists are very careful to not offend if possible ? to bring people
to Christ, which Jesus called us to do.?
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green
Participants at the 2006 Congress on Evangelism respond to an altar call for healing.
But pastors often do not know
how to extend an invitation to discipleship. ?An invitation is a long and tried
and true standard of evangelism,? he explained. ?Many of our seminaries teach
theology, but they don?t teach as much ?how-tos.??
To address that, the Foundation
for Evangelism, based in Lake Junaluska, N.C., has provided financial support
for each of the 13 United Methodist theological schools to have a professor to
teach the how-tos of bringing people to Christ.
Willimon outlined the
differences between preaching and evangelism in his discussions. Evangelism, he
pointed out, is a claim about who God is and what God does, and it?s a claim
?Evangelism is something God
does. Evangelism is an act of God,? he said.
He said a lot of preaching,
including his own, is far too ?anthropocentric and not theocentric,? or is
modern or individualistic when it should be cosmic.
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell,
pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, told participants
that before anyone can do evangelism, that person must make certain he or she is
whole, healed and well as a result of applying the spiritual disciplines in his
or her own life.
Caldwell, pastor of the
denomination?s largest congregation, said that in order to make local churches
grow, leaders who have a heart for God are needed, and they must possess five
characteristics: be Christian; be consecrated and tithe; be competent; be
compassionate; and be community-minded.
?Once you get yourself together
and your leaders together, the church will follow,? he said.
The Rev. Billy Abraham,
professor of Wesleyan studies at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, told the
gathering that bringing people to Christ requires a recovery of nerve to say
that regardless of what is happening in the world, God created his kingdom and
invites people to become a part of it.
In other action, the congress:
- Collected $13,000 for
survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and pastors affected by the storms.
The money will be disbursed by bishops in the affected areas. This year?s
congress originally was to have been held in New Orleans.
- Honored Charles Whittle of
Fort Worth, Texas, for 50 years of evangelical service.
- Elected officers for
2006-08: the Rev. David S. Kerr of St. Louis, president; the Rev. Joe
Peabody of Dalton, Ga., vice president; the Rev. Allen Black of
Fayetteville, Tenn., secretary; the Rev. Patti McGinn of Marshall, Texas,
Next year?s Congress on
Evangelism will be Jan. 2-5 in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda
Green, (615) 742-5470 or
The Rev. Gary Exman: "Evangelism is the mandate."
The Rev. Gary Exman: "Evangelism is important."
Bishop Wil Willimon: ?Evangelism is something God does.?
The Rev. Kirbyjohn Caldwell: "You want to make certain."
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