State of the Foundation – December 2021

I am reflecting on the year ending like so many of you. Taking time to explore how we fulfilled our mission and vision. Examining what is most exciting about the upcoming year.

The Foundation for Evangelism leads with the “Evangel,” the Gospel of Jesus, so that everything we do is to equip disciples to invite all people into life-transforming relationships with Jesus Christ. We have two purposes: 1) make grants and 2) provide a place for folks who want to invite the world to know Jesus to pool their resources to make that happen.
So how did we do in 2021?

GRANTS

For me, the highlight was the Foundation’s year-long review of the impact of the E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism grant. It was almost 40 years ago when we boldly accepted the God-sized vision to change the ordination requirements for the largest Wesleyan denomination in the U.S. That change was facilitated through our grant funding. Evangelism became a required seminary class through a partnership between the Foundation and church influencers. Then we helped implement the new requirement with over $16 million in grants (through 2021) to support world-class scholars as mentors and instructors. I consider that a success!

We believed that to fully understand a grant’s impact, we had to go where disciples are invited and lives are transformed. Dr. Amy Valdez-Barker agreed to lead a team to survey church pastors and Christian leaders 5-8 years after their seminary experience and report what they learned. The graph below shows one of the insights we gained:

The result is an invaluable study of successes, challenges, and developing opportunities. We will share statistics, lessons learned, and stories with you throughout 2022 focusing on “How have the Foundation’s grants and expertise been a CATALYST for evangelical ministry?”

RESOURCES

The Foundation for Evangelism continues to connect with more diverse Wesleyan-tradition believers who share our passion for these Evangelism Grant Focus Areas:

  • Raising Up Gospel Leaders
  • Engaging the Ministry of the Laity
  • Equipping the Local Church

With the addition of the Dr. H. Eddie and Mary Nell Fox Endowment for Evangelism (global outreach) and The Foundation for Evangelism Fund (ongoing grant funding in three focus areas), we increased the number of active donors by 47%. Almost 150 donors made their first gift in 2021.

WHAT AM I MOST EXCITED ABOUT for 2022? Equipping the Local Church!

This year we will double the number of Local Church Cohort training opportunities in the U.S. If travel restrictions allow, the first international initiative is ready for 2022. Cohort Proposals are underway from Church of the Nazarene regional leaders, Spanish-language cohorts, and teams from small participation churches across multiple denominations who want to learn from one another

Perhaps the most exciting news is our first $250,000 grant cycle for Equipping the Local Church! We can fund up to 35 grants and plan to use every available dollar to train, equip, and provide tools for disciples to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Mark your calendar – applications open on January 15, 2022. Go to our website now to learn more – and then tell everyone you know! 

I am excited to close this year knowing what has been accomplished, but eager to begin a new year with a new grant cycle and new opportunities. We are truly grateful to our donors, staff and trustees and look forward to forging new relationships with leaders, laity, and congregations who are equipping disciples to share the Good News of Jesus Christ! 

Have a Blessed New Year! 

Jane Boatwright Wood

Transformation, not transaction – Advent Reflections part 4

photo credit: Shane Albuquerque @ Pexels.com

from Rev. Dr. Heather H. Lear, Vice President for Grant Administration

No one expected the Messiah to be born in a stable to an unwed couple from Nazareth. They couldn’t have predicted he would be raised as the son of a carpenter and spend his 3-year ministry teaching and living in a way that turned social orders and worldly logic upside down. He refused to give answers that fit snugly into the expectations of the day.

St. Therese of Lisieux, nicknamed “The Little Flower,” is known for the profound impact she made in her short life (she died at age 24). One of her lesser known but important sayings is, “God knows all the sciences, but there’s one science God does not know, God does not know mathematics. God knows nothing about mathematics.” So why are we so tempted to tally, count, compare and produce?

Jesus isn’t concerned with blessing our tallies. He pushes back when people try to get him to affirm their math, easy formulas, or that life always adds up and the scales always balance. Time and time again Jesus flips the script and elevates presence, love, wholeness, and true belonging over traditions, expectations, and the hierarchy of the day.

We worship a God who isn’t interested in transactions, but rather transformation. A God who understands our struggles and suffering, loves us deeply, and names and claims us as God’s own.

The past two years have been hard. What are your hopes for encountering God this Christmas? What will help facilitate this experience for you and those you love?

Are there things you can let go of that diminish your peace and joy, maybe just for this year? Maybe from this year on?

New Math – Advent Reflections part 3

photo credit: Monstera @ Pexels.com

from Rev. Dr. Heather H. Lear, Vice President for Grant Administration

When COVID-19 shut down the schools in my state, I found myself serving as the “stand-in” algebra teacher for my 12-year old son. As the days went by, I realized there is something comforting in mathematics. You can check your answers and have certainty in the work. During a period when uncertainty reigned with no end in sight, the certainty of following a process and checking for right answers was a gift.

So much of our lives are grounded in a kind of math, formula, or logic. We are told that if you follow these steps, do the right things, your reward is waiting. Sometimes that pans out – sometimes not. This tallying and linear thinking can also be applied to our interactions with God. The Christian faith is often presented as easy math, simple transactions. If you agree to these statements, you’ll have eternal peace. Give money to this cause and you’ll be “#blessed.” Pray a little harder and your pain will go away, your wish will be granted.

But this isn’t consistent with God’s character or with what Jesus taught and modeled. The formula breaks down because life is hard, we struggle, and the fairness scale is unbalanced.

There’s no math that makes sense when we consider God’s unconditional love and grace. It’s so extravagant that we can never earn it and it’s definitely not what we deserve. As we prepare for the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, we are reminded that God doesn’t operate in our neat and tidy formulaic ways.

Today, I pray that we can move from thinking we need to do more to earn our place and instead, learn to swim in a sea of God’s grace. Amen.

You’re More Than Enough – Advent Reflections part 2

photo credit: cottonbro @ Pexels.com

from Rev. Dr. Heather H. Lear, Vice President for Grant Administration

I think we’ve all heard sermons and read devotions about not being so preoccupied with our busyness that we miss spending time with Jesus. But let’s be real, especially during this season of the year. How many of us find ourselves taking care of all the details, making sure everyone has what they need? Because if we don’t, who will?

In the story of Jesus coming to Mary and Martha’s house, we find Martha frantically scurrying about trying to fulfill her hosting responsibilities (Luke 10:38–42). We also see her getting increasingly annoyed at her sister for not lifting a hand to help. Martha has spent her entire life living into expectations placed on her or that she placed on herself along the way. This is the tradition and formula for making things work. She pleas with Jesus to affirm her efforts and to implore Mary to balance the equation. But Jesus pushes back:

Martha, you’ve already done more than enough by opening your home and providing physical space. Now open your heart and have confidence that you are enough, and your worth isn’t tied to the things you do or roles you play.

A Perfect Christmas – Advent Reflections part 1

photo credit: cottonbro @ Pexels.com

From Rev. Dr. Heather H. Lear, Vice President for Grant Administration

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or is it? With all the commitments and pressures so many of us already face, all the other holiday-related things can feel like a huge drain.

B. Janet Hibbs, Ph.D., a Philadelphia-based therapist says, “Childhood memories of gingerbread houses, decorations, wrapped presents, special foods, as well as familial and religious traditions pose unconscious expectations.” Many of us watched the women in our families bake and decorate and run around like a maniac buying gifts. So, part of the reason we might take on these activities ourselves is because it just seems normal. We have our to-do lists, shopping lists, Christmas card lists, and general mental checklists to ensure everything is perfect and sticks to the magical Christmas formula. I don’t remember my grandmother ever pausing her hostess role to sit down and enjoy the food she prepared at the one time a year our extended family was gathered.

How do we remain focused on preparing for the birth of Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us?

As we mentally scan our to-do lists and long-held traditions, what makes sense and brings expectation and joy today, when things may be new, or different or hard?

The Foundation for Evangelism Local Church Grant Cycle Launches in January 2022

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 6, 2021

LAKE JUNALUSKA, North Carolina – The Foundation for Evangelism is pleased to announce the launch of a new $250,000 Equipping the Local Church grant cycle opening in January 2022.

Grants for $5,000 or $10,000 will be awarded to small and medium* church congregations, or clusters of churches working together, in a Wesleyan-tradition denomination. The grant focus is to launch an experiment or initiative to share the Gospel, tell their faith stories, and invite others into a relationship with Jesus.

Any church or group of churches fitting the criteria may apply. A total of 25-50 possible grants will be awarded in the summer of 2022. Information will be posted at FoundationforEvangelism.org/grant-seekers  on January 1, 2022. Applications are due by February 28, 2022.

The Foundation for Evangelism Equipping the Local Church grant initiative seeks to empower pastors, laity, and smaller local congregations to dream, take risks, and partner with God in the transformation of lives and communities. These grants are made possible through the generosity of donors, friends, and partners with The Foundation for Evangelism.

The Foundation for Evangelism works globally to educate and invite people into the Christian faith.  Grants to pan-Wesleyan/Methodist leaders, churches, seminaries, and denominations impact Christian leaders in Russia, Europe, several African countries, and the United States.  To learn more about our ministry, visit www.FoundationForEvangelism.org.

*under 250 participants

###

CONTACT:

The Foundation for Evangelism
Barby Bowser, Communications
828-454-6800

RESOURCES:

PDF news release

Building Renovation Supports Foundation’s Mission

The Foundation for Evangelism’s world headquarters at Lake Junaluska, N.C., has housed the offices of the organization for over 15 years. With more staff living and working remotely in other parts of the country, we asked the question – how can the Foundation be a better steward of this incredible resource gifted to us by donors and supporters?

In recent years the headquarters building has welcomed the offices of the SEJ Heritage Center, the Smoky Mountain District of The United Methodist Church, and two other individual tenants.

In 2019, the board engaged a study to evaluate space utilization statistics and explore the potential for renovation of the headquarters building. The purpose was to allow the building, one of our greatest assets, to be self-sustaining and allowing donated funds to further the mission and vision of the Foundation. With funding secured through an exceptional gift from the Wilma Carlisle Estate, the Foundation’s board of trustees boldly moved ahead with the work in early 2021.

On November 7, the Foundation board and staff held an open house and rededication of the headquarters building. Donors, current and former staff, trustees, and friends from the community celebrated the renovation and ministry potential of The Foundation for Evangelism world headquarters.

Gaye Nell Heck and Mary Nell Fox (center) are joined by Rev. Allen Black (board chair) and Bishop Richard Looney (episcopal director emeritus) at the building rededication.

As part of the rededication, persons who were instrumental in the construction of the original building were honored. Paul and Kitten Ervin were honored with the naming of the building wing which still houses the Foundation and two other Methodist organizations. Mr. Ervin, a former executive director for the Foundation, shared his appreciation for all those who helped make the headquarters building possible.

Paul and Kitten Ervin (right) joined by Bishop Richard Looney (episcopal director emeritus), Jane Wood (president), and Rev. Allen Black (board chair).

Mr. Royce and Jane Reynolds were honored by the naming of the wing which previously served as a conference center for events and trainings (which was named for the couple in the original construction). Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds have been long-time supporters of the Foundation. When Mr. Reynolds passed away in 2020, the Foundation joined so many who mourned the loss of this exceptional Christian philanthropist.

The Foundation for Evangelism’s staff and board of trustees are excited to welcome four new tenants to the building in 2021. The final construction phase is set to be completed in early 2022.

Honorary Trustee, Mary Brooke Casad, greeted new trustee, Brian Hammons and wife, Kim, at the rededication service.

Study Respondents Share Impact of E. Stanley Jones Professors

Impact Study Concludes with Report at Annual Board of Trustees Meeting

The Rev. Dr. Amy Valdez-Barker reported on the E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism impact study funded by The Foundation for Evangelism. Designed to assess the impact of the professors on pastoral leadership in the local church and Christian global community, the survey included over 250 seminary graduates from the last 5-8 years. Of those surveyed, 70 interviews were conducted to explore direct impact of the grant program on the understanding and practice of Wesleyan-tradition evangelism.

The report summarized observations from the former students and incorporated statistics on relevance and lasting impact, allowing the Foundation to assess viability and opportunity for improvement in its largest grant initiative.

Dr. Valdez-Barker noted that through the E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism, The Foundation for Evangelism has proven its ability to help shape the understanding and practice of Evangelism. This research indicates a continuing role for the Foundation in places where the field of Evangelism needs to be refined and developed.

“The Foundation for Evangelism can continue to shape the landscape through the contributions made by these professors and the students who engage and grow through the courses on Evangelism,” Dr. Valdez-Barker encouraged.

"I would not have dreamed before the class that I would write this: I'm now totally convinced that ministry is not possible without evangelism."
Student
"NOW, I use what I learned every day in my work with people who live in poverty and even more so with families who have been impacted by COVID"
Student

91%

felt the class with E.S.J. Professor brought value to evangelism in their ministry

75%

E.S.J. Professor changed their overall perception of evangelism

76%

The evangelism class equipped them for the effective practice of evangelism.

83%

The evangelism class equipped them to articulate and educate others on evangelism.

Local Church at the Forefront

Group of people walking toward the entrance of a church.

By Rev. Dr. Heather H. Lear

We regularly connect the threads of grant impact. Occasionally a grant becomes a shining example of the woven tapestry that forms from more than 70 years of ministry.

Dr. Mark Teasdale

For six years, Mark Teasdale, Foundation for Evangelism E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (also the first Foundation-funded Denman Fellow) and I have co-taught the six-week Evangelism for Non-Evangelists online course. Over 600 seminarians, pastors, and lay leaders have completed the course, and we continue to find opportunities for broadening its impact for the small to medium-sized evangelistic church.

Dr. Teasdale recently served as teacher and advisor to Rev. Dr. Peggy Gibson in her Doctor of Ministry work at Garrett. Dr. Peggy is a passionate, committed leader, who went back to school at an age when most are considering retirement. As part of her doctoral defense, Dr. Teasdale was introduced to Dr. Peggy’s District Superintendent for the Seashore District of the Mississippi Annual Conference (UMC), Rev. Dr. Larry Hilliard. Through those interactions, Dr. Teasdale witnessed Dr. Peggy’s desire to help other leaders and congregations. It was apparent that she was a leader positioned and willing to equip her district, especially those served by Licensed Local Pastors.

Dr. Peggy Gibson

Through the ensuing conversations and connections, this fall The Foundation for Evangelism provided a grant for Seashore District to hold a 16-month cohort. This cohort includes 11 churches who, through training, sharing, and collaboration, will be equipped to share the Good News of Jesus. Dr. Peggy will serve as the anchor and mentor throughout the cohort.

Dr. Peggy and Dr. Hilliard engaged the district, devising a plan for how to use the Foundation grant money for lasting impact. A portion of the funding will be used to pay for the training, while the remaining funds will serve as “micro-grants” to help the churches implement their evangelistic strategies.

Currently, the teams of laity and clergy from those 11 small congregations have completed the Evangelism for Non-Evangelists online course. Dr. Peggy will lead the group through a second training module developed as her final project at Garrett with Dr. Teasdale.

Only through The Foundation for Evangelism’s funding and connections, could this cohort have happened. And only through the generosity and trust of our donors were we able to provide those things.

The Foundation for Evangelism partners with Wesleyan-tradition, evangelism-focused organizations, making a greater impact together than we could on our own. That is what a CATALYST looks like!

“The [bishop’s] cabinet is so excited about what you all have committed to accomplish and can’t wait to hear how it goes!”

Rev. Dr. Larry Hilliard
Seashore District Superintendent

Rev. Dr. Heather H. Lear is the Vice President for Grant Administration at The Foundation for Evangelism. She lives and works in Brentwood, Tenn., is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church and served as a pastor in North Carolina before joining the Foundation team.