“The winning or revival of personal commitments to Christ,” reads one dictionary definition of “Evangelism.” And according to Wikipedia, “Evangelism is the preaching of the gospel or the practice of giving information about a particular doctrine or set of beliefs to others with the intention of converting others to the Christian faith.” No wonder so many people recoil at the very mention of what some shyly call “the ‘E’ word.” Even our United Methodist Church mission statement is “Making disciples of Jesus Christ…”
Yes, our evangelism is indeed mission-focused on “winning,” reviving, “preaching,” “converting” and “making disciples.” But the task is not intended to be so transitive or imposing. “Evangelism is one beggar showing another where to find bread,” said famed theologian D.T. Niles. It is about showing the way or sharing the bread of life, if you will, but not force-feeding it to the hungry soul. To avoid the offended reaction “Evangelism” too often draws, we are now more apt to call it “Faith-sharing.” Indeed, it is literally sharing a message, not a mandate, that Christ is and has the answer one seeks.
The Eastern PA Conference teaches and encourages faith-sharing that focuses on relationships more than religion. We encourage churches to find and come alongside seekers and sojourners on their journeys of exploration, to share their pain and struggles, hear their questions, suggest some answers, and point the way that leads to hope, peace and maybe even joy.
More than 4,000 churches close their doors each year. “I feel judged.” Forty percent of Americans say they attend church weekly, but the actual percentage may be half that. “I don’t want to be lectured.”From 1990 to 2000, membership in all U.S. Protestant denominations declined nearly 10 percent, by 5 million, while the U.S. population grew by 11 percent or 24 million. “Christians are a bunch of hypocrites.” Read more
Nearly 200 people gathered at Bethany UMC Wescosville in Allentown for the Faith-Sharing training led by Dr. Eddie Fox, Executive Director of the World Methodist Council on Evangelism. From beginning to end participants were reminded that faith-sharing is very much a part of our Methodist DNA. Therefore, faith-sharing ought to take primary place in our personal witness and practice of faith and throughout the life of our churches and ministries. Read more