Archive for October, 2019

November 2016 was the date that the Indiana Conference staff listed these two prayer concerns we had regarding the conference…

  1. That the hearts of our people would ache for what God’s heart aches for; that they would long to make disciples
  2. That more churches would embrace multiplication

About that same time our Conference set as its Wildly Important Goal (WIG) that our churches might become missional by 2020.

Well, after praying for these concerns for three years, our Church Development team is praising God for them being answered!

More and more churches are asking how their people can connect with and disciple those who are outside their walls. Scores are showing up for our Fresh Expressions Vision Days and Dinner Church training events. In fact, we’ve had nearly 700 participants since the beginning of 2018! And more Fresh Expressions training days are being scheduled for 2020–February 22 at Evansville Blue Grass UMC, March 7 in the East District, and September 26 in the North Central District.

We also are launching six Multiplication Cohort groups around the conference especially for pastors who have a desire to help their churches develop a deeper multiplication culture–developing leaders, making disciples, and starting new Fresh Expressions and faith communities. In fact nearly 50 pastors have expressed an interest in participating.

So, we haven’t fully accomplished our Conference’s WIG. There’s more to be done. But we praise God for the positive signs we’re seeing! We’ve come a long ways since 2016! I hope you’ll be a part of it!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development

“Ed, I have a church that currently doesn’t do any ‘witnessing’ because the members think that means going out and asking people ‘if they know Jesus’ and quoting scriptures to them.  The idea that just building relationships for the sake of relationship and trusting that God will use these to build opportunities where we can share our faith stories is hard for them to grasp. Any suggestions?”

This is a note I received from an Indiana pastor this week. Even though one of our United Methodist membership vows is being a “witness,” I don’t remember the churches I’ve been a member of spending much time, if any, explaining how we should do that. When they did, the process they taught seemed so unnatural and complicated.

I know of a United Methodist Church that is presently walking its members through a small book by Michael Frost entitled, Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People. The beauty of this book is that it gives very specific simple handles on how a person can build relationships for the sake of witnessing in very normal, natural ways.

The author uses the acronym BELLS to provide us with a simple guide for witnessing.

B = Bless. You’re challenged to bless three people this week–at least one of whom is not a member of your church.

E = Eat. Share a meal with three people this week–at least one of whom is not a member of your church.

L = Listen. Spend at least one period of the week listening for the Spirit’s voice.

L= Learn. Spend at least one period of the week learning about Christ.

S = Sent. Reflect each week on how you’ve alerted others to God’s reign.

None of this will require a lot more time. It really simply is about us being mindful of others in our everyday life rhythms and intentionally connecting with them in normal, natural ways, and being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit as our paths cross with others.

So, BELLS is one answer. What have you found helpful? Please consider sharing it!

— Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development