Local Church at the Forefront

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.

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