The Minnesota Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, whose theme this year was “Dare to Reach, Love Boldly”, honored two individuals who have devoted their ministry to reaching their community and young people with the Good News of a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Their stories are excerpts from an article on the Minnesota Annual Conference website.
Dan Ziegler: Dan Ziegler has served as the director of Koronis Ministries since 2016. In just over three years of his leadership, Koronis is poised to reach record for summer attendance in 2019. This continued growth is attributed to Ziegler’s passion for ministry, his creativity in camp programming, and his heart for sharing Christ with children and young people. “This is how Dan is loving boldly: Dan does not simply say, ‘All are welcome at Koronis’ (but they always are); he says, ‘We had you in mind when we created this program…” said Keith Shew, director of camp and retreat ministries for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area. “This ministry is personal to Dan. He commits his whole heart, his whole self, to it—and because of him, hundreds of children, youth, and adults are experiencing Christ, creation, and community in profound ways.”
Rev. Ronald Bell, Jr.: Rev. Ronald Bell. Jr. was appointed to Camphor Memorial UMC in St. Paul last July. In less than one year, average Sunday worship attendance increased by 26 percent. The congregation received 44 new members, celebrated 13 adult professions of faith, and six baptisms. On April 28, Camphor launched a second Sunday worship service to facilitate further growth. A relationship with Jesus, a kingdom mindset, and a commitment to love all people are the lens through which Bell and the church view their ministry. “Because of Rev. Bell’s relational, compassionate, optimistic, and energetic leadership, the people of Camphor church are propelled out as a community of believers to evangelize and make a difference in people’s lives,” said Teresa Neal, Camphor’s Church Council chair.
It began with just a converted camper trailer, three storage units, and a passion for reaching people with the good news of Jesus Christ. In the oil boom area of Watford City, North Dakota, much of the population works in the oil or services industry. Yet because of the volatility of the industry and transient lifestyle of some of the workers, there is often a need for support – both for physical needs like clothing, food, and household items, as well as spiritual support for those who live apart from family and support networks for months or even years at a time.
Through the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church’s “Bakken Oil Rush Ministry,” one couple has made it their mission to share the Good News of Jesus with those individuals in the wake of these oil “booms and busts.” Jim and Kathie Konsor see their work providing the needed goods and support as a way to build relationship with individuals who are in need of not only the physical items to make their lives a bit better, but also a prayer, hug or laughter to encourage their spirits.
The Bakken Oil Rush Ministry has impacted the lives of thousands of people, thanks to the leadership of Jim and Kathie who have moved the program from an extension ministry of the conference to a self-supporting 501(c)3 organization. The ministry has moved from its humble beginnings and now includes a new retail center as well as a sorting and storage warehouse. Having gained region-wide support and endorsement, the ministry now has the capability of responding to local emergencies and assisting the community where needed – always with the intention of showing the love of Jesus.
Recently, the Dakotas Conference of The United Methodist Church honored Jim and Kathie Konsor with the 2019 Harry Denman Evangelism Award for their unwavering call to share the Love of Jesus with all they meet. We celebrate their devoted ministry, which, in the spirit of Harry Denman, makes personal connections to help bring all people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.
On the morning of Sunday, May 26, at First United Methodist Church in Humble, Texas, Pastor Danny Hernaez was surrounded by family, friends, and his pastor when he was presented with The Foundation for Evangelism’s Distinguished Evangelist Award. The following evening, he was honored at the Texas Annual Conference Awards Banquet.
“Pastor Danny” is credited with the establishment of the first Walk to Emmaus in the Philippines (2012) where he continues to work with teams in the program as well as the Chrysalis and Kairos programs. He has also been a coach for the Vibrant Church Initiative, and has participated in Laity Unleashed and the Academy for Spiritual Formation in the Texas Annual Conference. Those who know him call him a prayer warrior and an inspirational writer and speaker. One nominator for the award stated that “God has given Danny wisdom and the power of discernment and has made use of his talents and skills in speaking, writing, organizing and relating with people; in spreading the Good News; and in advancing the Kingdom of God, wherever he finds himself.”
Upon presenting the award to Pastor Hernaez, The Foundation for Evangelism’s President, Jane Boatwright Wood, noted that, “We are excited to celebrate the ministry of Pastor Danny Hernaez and look forward to working with him to share his inspiration and expertise. Recipients of The Distinguished Evangelist Award, both present and past, remind us that as disciples, we are called to invite all people into life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.” Pastor Danny humbly expressed his thanks on receiving the recognition and shared, “I look forward to serving through the Foundation for Evangelism in spreading the Word beyond this award. Only for Him!”
By Rev. Dr. Heather Lear, FFE Research and Teaching Fellow
During the last week in May, I had the opportunity to travel to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to visit and provide training for some of the 13 United Methodist churches in the country. Democracy is a relatively new form of government in Mongolia, as the country was closely aligned with the Soviet Union and operated under socialism and communism during most of the 20th Century. As a result, only about one percent of the three million Mongolians identify as Christian. My task was to offer an evening of evangelism training to the clergy and laity from the UMC churches and introduce a bible study resource I wrote a couple years ago that was recently translated into Mongolian.
I must admit, prior to arriving at the Chinggis Khaan International Airport, most of what I knew about Mongolia and the Mongolian culture came from online articles and YouTube videos. Because my training time was limited and needed to include an allowance for translation into Mongolian and sign language (one of the 13 congregations is explicitly for, and pastored by a member of, the deaf/mute community), I spent the first morning peppering our missionary hosts with questions that would help me fine-tune our time. There was no point in me offering training that was irrelevant and inapplicable to their context. That night I tweaked some of my material for the next day, but decided not to heed one piece of advice given, “Don’t waste your time in interactive exercises. They probably won’t engage and are just coming to learn from you.”
Over several years of leading workshops and training not only in the US, but in Africa, Asia, and Australia, I’ve learned that people need to internalize information and make connections with their own experience and story, especially with evangelism. So our second day in the country, I arrived at the church for my evening of training with my activities planned and pictures in hand. Because evangelism has quite a bit of baggage and negative connotations, I always begin by trying to re-frame evangelism as the goodness of God and ask people to select an image from the many offered that represents God’s goodness to them and in their lives. They are then asked to share their image and reasoning with a neighbor. In all the times I’ve led this exercise, I’ve never observed anything but joy in the sharing or anyone at a loss for words. This then sets the stage for us to connect their experience and story with God’s wider story in a way that’s authentic and compelling.
As I reflect on that night and the advice I had been given, I think the missionary had something else in mind when he cautioned me against “interactive exercises.” What I think he was really saying was, “Don’t put them on the spot by asking questions with prescribed answers or checking their biblical knowledge.” Now I know that to be good advice walking into any room to teach or lead training, not just in Mongolia. And unfortunately, that is how many view evangelism: knowing the “right” answers and quoting the “essential” bible passages. Not only is that not compelling, especially in a place that is 99 percent non-Christian, but it makes who God is and what God’s doing too small. It also misses the point of evangelism in the first place: to experience the love and grace of God that frees and transforms our hearts and minds to be more like Jesus, living lives of love and being who God created us to be. As Wesleyan Christians, we believe the Holy Spirit is active and at work in the lives of all people, even before they realize or acknowledge it. How are we helping people to see it, name it, and claim it for themselves? John Wesley referred to this as an awakening. In our polarized, broken world, the gospel offers a different narrative grounded in love, hope, and peace. This is what we want people to know and experience, and only then should we slowly dive into biblical teaching and theological reflection, using our own experiences to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to life.
After all, no one likes pop quizzes.
Dr. Heather Heinzman Lear is the Research and Teach Fellow for The Foundation for Evangelism. She is an ordained elder in the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) where she served churches in the Raleigh-Durham and Rocky Mount areas. She worked for five years as the Director of Evangelism Ministries for UMC’s Discipleship Ministries.