Denman Award Recipients: Seeing and Meeting the Needs of the Community in the Name of Christ
Evangelist (noun) – bringer of good news (from the Greek euangelistes)
Chances are, when you hear the word “evangelist,” you think of someone who has devoted their life to revivals and crusade events. Or maybe it’s someone with a national TV show, YouTube channel, or podcast. Or it may even be a negative image.
But the word had a much broader meaning in the days of early Christianity. It simply meant, someone who brought the Good News of Jesus. As Christians from the Wesleyan tradition, we know that John and Charles Wesley wove “bringing the good news” into every aspect of daily life and the practice of their faith.
That’s why we get excited when the stories of each year’s Harry Denman Evangelism Award recipients begin to arrive at The Foundation for Evangelism. These “every day evangelists” encourage us – pastors, lay persons, and young people – because they are sharing Christ in their towns and among the people they see everyday. Rarely do they draw thousands of people to an event or have millions tune in on a TV show or YouTube channel. Rather, they build the Kingdom of God, introducing people to Christ one relationship at a time.
Susan Suarez Webster realized while working for the US Census in East Charlotte that there was a gap that needed to be bridged in that community. As a missionary for 15 years in Mexico, she has a passion for sharing her faith. She made the connection with Central United Methodist Church in 2010, a church that wanted to reach out to Spanish speakers in their community. Susan shared “When I meet someone I always have the [mindset] that God loves them unconditionally, our church loves them, and we want them to feel accepted and loved. Those are the motivating factors for me to give them open arms.” Listen to her interview on Means of Grace, a podcast of the Western North Carolina Conference.
Kimberley Rhames was the lay recipient of the award in Alabama-West Florida. She is described as “the epitome of an evangelist,” and one who “truly embodies God’s transforming love through Jesus Christ.” When her church’s youth group dwindled, she stepped in to bring new life to it, emphasizing Biblical teaching with a focus on following Christ in a personal relationship. She also shares Christ through teaching a Bible study at a residential ministry for women with life controlling issues. Kimberley “has a heart for bringing all to experience the love and life of Jesus Christ.” https://www.awfumc.org/awardwinnerbios2020
Lydia Burkit received the Youth Denman Evangelism Award in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. Described as soft-spoken, she is unafraid to share her life experience, and faith with strangers. Using technology, she reaches out through daily text messages to share God’s love and hope with others. Her nominator shared that it reminded him of Harry Denman writing encouraging notes to individuals he’d met. She serves in her local church showing others that they are loved and accepted by God. And much like the award’s namesake, Lydia prays for the strangers she meets.
A pastor couple, Jim and Sara Hein, took their first appointment at a church in the Minnesota Conference, building it from the “ground up”. Guiding the church through a “soft-close” to a relaunch, they were then able to start anew, looking at the needs of their community and finding ways to engage with the people living there. The two opened their home to new attendees and have begun building relationships in the community through events and conversations. When the pandemic hit and they were under a shelter in place order, they swiftly shifted to online video, focusing specifically on easy-to-understand Bible lessons for kids. For each interaction through their online worship or special videos, the Heins follow up with a private message. Sometimes those follow-up interactions lead to a conversation that helps connect someone new to the life of the church. Read more on the Minnesota Conference website.
We received dozens of stories like these throughout 2020. Because many annual conferences were not able to or delayed meetings we received them well into the fall. But each time we received one, and read about these normal, everyday people sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, we felt joyful. Now, as we prepare to receive the 2021 Denman Evangelism Award nominees, we look forward to hearing the creative ways that these “bringers of Good News” have been at work inviting others into life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ!