I was at the beautiful Canyon Camp for the last two days. Canyon Camp is our United Methodist campground in Central Oklahoma. I was there for a retreat that our Bishop holds every year. This year's theme was the subject of evangelism.
Most people realize the struggle the UM church is having with declining numbers. We have been challenged to build our numbers as the tangible sign of our overall mission of making disciples for Jesus Christ.
I want to share some of the insights from the retreat for your comments.
First- most of the material that was being shared was an affirmation. The information that was being presented was the same thing I have been sharing with the leadership of the church for two years. The model of operation suggested was what shaped the formation of the Vision Team. The style of evangelism and ministry that was being encouraged is our ministry model we currently have. It was affirming that we are doing something "right". (It's only right when the experts says that's the way to do it.)
Second- I realize that I'm probably not doing enough evangelism personally. When I go to these retreats my own shortcomings are made apparent. So I realize that I need to make more connections with the unchurched. I need to be out in the community more than what I am. I should be leading by example as well as challenge.
Third- while we do not experience as bad as some, St. Andrew's experiences a sense of isolationism. If we think about our church in relation to the rest of United Methodism we seem somewhat cut off from the rest. We don't associate with other churches. We don't participate in many District or Annual Conference events.
Fourth- we are gaining the right reputation. One thing that was said that I heard very clearly was: we should be known as the church that helps. Angel Food, the prescription drug assistance, and Financial Peace University are all avenues whereby people hear that we want to help. We are reaching needs and striving to make a difference.
Last- We may never see the fruit of our work. We keep speaking about the people who will come to St. Andrew's because of what we do. You know what: they may NEVER come here. But if one person chooses to follow Christ because one of you helped them in a time of need then or because you have said a word of grace and love when they needed it then we have fulfilled our commission to making a disciple. They may join another church or return to a faith they haven't practiced in years. But God receives them and it was partly because of us that they come to Him.