,

New Book on E. Stanley Jones

The recently released E. Stanley Jones: Sharing the Gospel in a Pluralistic Society is published in partnership with FFE and GBHEM. The book is an insightful look at Jones’ contextual ministry, marrying mission & evangelism.
,

Jane’s Journeys – August, September 2018

General Board of Higher Education and Ministry Board Meeting

In early August, Jane participated in the GBHEM board meeting and was present for the signing of a new strategy agreement to establish the agency as the resource center for leadership, education, and formation to support future and current church leaders of the United Methodist Connection. “It was so good to be among friends and colleagues who share a vision for being the catalyst to equip emerging leaders in the church to share the Good News. I was excited to be a part of this meeting in which a new direction has been visioned for the future of this organization!”

Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies

Jane traveled to the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies at Pembroke College, Oxford, just a few weeks later to meet with E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism from seven of the 12 Methodist/Wesleyan-oriented seminaries. This gathering served as the annual meeting of the professors and was a great opportunity for them to engage with peers and academia. Jane noted that “I watched as the ESJPs were greeted with respect and interest, drawn into deep conversation across a spectrum of topics, and, perhaps most importantly, how they, in turn, challenged the academy to think about how this research might best translate to their training of students and beyond to equip the local church.” You can read the full story in the Oct/Nov fastFORWARD publication.

,

ESJ Professors Gather at Oxford Institute

John and Charles Wesley began “The Holy Club” on the campus of Oxford University, so it is fitting that every four years, theologians in the Methodist/Wesleyan connection from around the globe gather at the Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies. In August, the institute convened at Pembroke College, near Christ Church where John and Charles Wesley began their ministries which ultimately grew into a global Christian movement.

This year, in place of The Foundation for Evangelism’s bi-annual meeting of the E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism (ESJP), each professor was invited to submit an academic paper and to present their work at the institute.

Professors from seven of the 12 currently occupied E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism Chairs attended the event where they participated in Worship and Spirituality, Practical Theology, Theological Education, and Mission and Evangelism working groups.  Those attending included Dr. Bryan Stone (Boston University School of Theology), Dr. Mark Teasdale (Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary), Dr. Daniel Shin (Drew Theological School), Dr. Joon Sik Park (Methodist Theological School in Ohio) , Dr. Jeffrey Conklin-Miller (Duke Divinity School), Dr. Sergei Nikolaev (Russia United Methodist Seminary), Dr. Stephen Gunter (FFE Professorships Director), and Jane Boatwright Wood (FFE President). Beyond these current professors, three former ESJPs participated in the event including Professor Priscilla Pope-Levison, who was a plenary lecturer.

The time provided academic and theological exploration; however it also provided a time for building connection and contemplating practical application in mission and evangelism. Dr. Daniel Shin (Drew Theological Seminary) said of the gathering:

This experience has given me a better understanding of the global reach and character of the Wesleyan/Methodist movement, and as such it was a very meaningful experience. I have made connections with people from Africa, southeast Asia, Korea, England, and of course, the U.S, with whom I hope to continue conversations for further studies and shared ministries.

Jane Boatwright Wood, President of The Foundation for Evangelism reflected that the event was a testament to the impact of the ESJPs on the global academic community, and confirmed that the professors were fulfilling the Foundation’s vision to be a catalyst to equip disciples to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. She stated:

I watched as the ESJPs were greeted with respect and interest, drawn into deep conversation across a spectrum of topics, and, perhaps most importantly, how they, in turn, challenged the academy to think about how this research might best translate to their training of students and beyond to equip the local church.

The E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism are a partnership between The Foundation for Evangelism and the respective seminaries to prepare the next generation of leaders for ministry in the local church through classes in evangelism, missions, and a variety of other disciplines all taught with a focus on evangelism in the spirit of John Wesley. Through ongoing research and publication, these professors reach far beyond the seminary walls to educate and equip clergy, laity, and youth for evangelism ministries that bear fruit in the 21st century local church.

The Foundation for Evangelism is a catalyst to equip disciples to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is a 501(c)(3) organization with roots in The United Methodist Church, serving in ministry to Methodist/Wesleyan partners who share in its mission and vision.

The Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies is an affiliate of the World Methodist Council. Its mission is to foster and support disciplined theological study among professional scholars and scholarly ministers and laypersons within the Methodist and Wesleyan traditions around the globe, with a goal of undergirding and enriching the ministry of these traditions in their global settings.

6 Keys to Sharing the Gospel in a Pluralistic Culture

Lewis Center Director F. Douglas Powe, Jr., says evangelistic strategies often fail because they don’t meaningfully and respectfully engage those we are trying to reach. Powe highlights key values and practices for reaching others while honoring differences, gleaned from a recent study of the renowned 20th century evangelist, E. Stanley Jones.

It’s tempting to imagine that revitalizing a church is a matter of reverting to an earlier, “purer” tradition, as in the case of Methodists intent on emulating what John Wesley did in the 18th century. Others think it’s a matter of adopting practices that work in other churches. They go to a training event and hear someone say, “Our congregation started growing when we gave out refrigerator magnets,” and think a similar, seemingly easy evangelistic strategy will work for them.

The ideal of engaging all as children of God means altering the way we approach people, creating a space where all perspectives are honored.

What both approaches lack is an understanding of the importance of contextualizing practices. They fail to distinguish between the idea and the activity resulting from the idea. Sharing the gospel in a pluralistic culture requires that we contextualize the gospel in ways that honor the personhood and the perspectives of those we are trying to reach. I believe these six values and practices are key.

1. Engaging differences

The idea of engaging others who are different is something we often talk about, but we aren’t often successful in living it out. We either seek commonality at all expense, glossing over differences, or we shut down all conversation by demeaning those who disagree with us. We label them as liberal or conservative, progressive or traditionalist, etc. The implication is that they are not even worthy of engaging because we already know their perspective. The ideal of engaging all as children of God means altering the way we approach people, creating a space where all perspectives are honored.

2. Encouraging dialogue

Can we believe that Christ is the only way to salvation and still be open to the beliefs of others? We don’t have to accept the beliefs of others to appreciate their beliefs, to enter into dialogue without shutting them down, and to show genuine interest in what they have to say. Even those who claim to be open-minded can treat others in a cursory manner by failing to really listen to those with different beliefs. We need to genuinely listen and learn from others.

3. Valuing relationships

When individuals who think and believe differently than we do are not swayed to accept our perspective, some of us will stop being in relationship with them. Being in relationship with another is not about conformity, but about authentically seeing the person as a child of God, and treating that person as such, no matter the circumstances. We are called to be in relationship with people who don’t necessarily hold our beliefs.

4. Being accessible to others

It’s easy to paint a picture of society as “going to hell in a handbasket” and close ourselves off from those who aren’t like us. We live in a culture where we often give access only to those who run in similar circles with us. In many cases this is not intentional, but we never move outside of our comfort zones. We need to broaden our circles so that others will see that we are accessible. If I talk about wanting to connect with soccer families, it’s not helpful if I do this from inside my church. I need to hang out in places where those who play soccer attend. This may mean coaching a team or getting involved as a referee. We need to be intentional about building up relationships outside of our normal networks.

5. Becoming more vulnerable

It’s one thing to be accessible but another to be truly open to others. Too often we take the safe route and do things that do not require us to expose ourselves. An example is a feeding ministry where we get to set the terms and control all the resources. How can we be more intentional about entering spaces that we do not control so that those who believe differently will feel comfortable engaging, dialoguing, and relating to us?

6. Recognizing the importance of reciprocity

Our work in Christian outreach can never be one-sided. Too many Christians either abuse their right to speak in the public square by trying to shut down all the other voices, or they fail to speak up in the name of Christ because they do not want to offend. Neither is a reciprocal approach. We need to make space for others so that their voices can be heard. We cannot be afraid of letting others speak and voice opinions that differ from ours.

Our goal should be to be known not simply as Christians but as Christians who cherish the personhood of others. We need to learn to contextualize the gospel with people and not for people as we work to transform lives and communities.


This article originally appeared at churchleadership.com/leading-ideas and is adapted from the conclusion of E. Stanley Jones and Sharing the Good News in a Pluralistic Society (General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, 2018) F. Douglas Powe, Jr., and Jack Jackson, general editors. Used by permission. The book is available through the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and Amazon.