Discussion Resource: Lent-Easter Evangelism Opportunities

We’ve developed discussion questions to go along with our Lent-Easter Catalyst Conversations for your discussion group. This series was recorded prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we hope that as churches and communities plan for the Lent and Easter season, these questions will help your group think through ways to invite new people into relationship with Jesus Christ and his community of believers.

We’d love to know what you’re doing to welcome new people at Easter or any time of the year! Email us at catalyst@foundationforevangelism.org or share on social media @FFEvangelism.

Video #1- Nashville Area

Discussion Questions:
  1. As you think about what you have planned for Lent and Easter, what do you hope people experience? Will your current plans facilitate this goal? If not, how can you tweak or reverse engineer the events with this goal in mind?
     
  2. Rev. Slowery shares about the intentionality of creating and advertising ministries and events that could connect with people dealing with a wide range of circumstances and life events. Her congregation wants their guests to know there is place for them and the church cares. How will you let guest know about upcoming opportunities or areas where they might find greater connection?
     
  3. We spend so much energy gearing up for major holiday celebrations that we are often exhausted and reduce activity once the season is over. This is understandable, but don’t we hope that people will respond and come back? How do we balance self-care with a plan to engage those who want to make a connection after the holiday?
     
  4. Rev. Ssebulime shares his struggle of wanting to measure effectiveness through counting and metrics while also just trying to be available for people without an ulterior motive or agenda. What could that look like for you personally, and in the life of your church? What relationships is God nudging you to build on?

Video #2 – Western NC Area

Discussion Questions:
  1. Rev. Nicole Jones shares the importance of looking for God in the ordinary. Does your congregation practice looking for and naming the ways they experience God in the everyday?
     
  2. Rev. Jo Schonewolf talks about finding ways to connect to people who are “through with religion” and engaging with them in everyday life like volunteer opportunities in the community or online. Does your church currently provide ways to do this? Have you experienced this personally? What opportunities can you think of?
     
  3. Rev. Jones describes visitors as a gift from God. It isn’t their responsibility to become like us, but our privilege to meet them where they are.  Does your congregation share that mindset? Why/why not?
     
  4. There tends to be more openness to church and the Gospel message around important holidays like Christmas and Easter. How does your church attempt to reach out and connect with those who normally do not attend church or participate in a faith community? Do you have a plan to continue engagement with them after Easter?

Lay Person Honored for Connecting Church With Community Online

Jennifer Stanton saw a need at the beginning of the pandemic. There needed to be a way to safely connect the rural community that Ebenezer United Methodist Church serves in the NW district of the Missouri Annual Conference. Using her gifts and skills as a senior technical sales engineer at Samsung she recorded elements of the worship service, then assembled the video and streamed the service online. The online presence created awareness and connection in the community and now reaches twice the number of people it did prior to the pandemic.

Jennifer shares:

“It was happening already before the pandemic, but now so even more…. We saw restaurants…either start up online ordering or completely go out of business. And the church has to adapt in the same way. Except, were ‘re not feeding them physically, we’re feeding them spiritually.”

Missouri Pastor Honored for Leading Church Online

Rev. Eddie Bone, pastor at First United Methodist Church, Park Hills, took action when his church was no longer able to broadcast services over a local TV channel. He led a team from the church to begin an online ministry as an outreach, but were initially frustrated by lack of participation. When COVID-19 hit, the online ministry took off, meeting a need for the local congregation and far beyond! Over 10,000 people worshipped or attended Bible Study through the online ministry of the church during COVID, including a missionary in Thailand.

Rev. Bone shares:

“Our church just absolutely embraced online ministry, and the team that puts it together is absolutely dedicated to the gospel and they strive with everything they have to do it to our utmost ability. As a pastor you always want to reach people for the Gospel. I was afraid that COVID would just wreck it. but it actually gave us one of the greatest opportunities I think in my lifetime to reach people for Jesus Christ.”

73 Years Diffusing the Blessings of the Gospel

Three Trees - Grant Focus areas

There is power in “knowing where you come from.” I recently delved into The Foundation for Evangelism’s original charter, where I found a wealth of inspiration from our founders and affirmation that 73 years later, the Foundation is still true to the founding vision. In this charter, the founders proclaimed a commitment to the work of evangelism on all fronts and in all places.

Our founding charter says that the purpose of The Foundation for Evangelism is:

“To diffuse the blessings of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ by the promotion and support of all forms and phases of evangelism; to promote evangelistic intelligence, interest and zeal throughout the membership of the Methodist Church, and throughout the nation and the world; … and to stimulate all persons wherever possible in worship and in Christian service.”

1949 Charter

Reaching back to this original intention of Dr. Denman, Mr. Edge, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Whitmore, and Mr. Boult, I’m reminded that these men were lay people. They weren’t pastors or full-time evangelists (although some may argue that Harry Denman WAS). They were members of church congregations who knew the transforming power that a life lived with Jesus at its center could have. As a lay leader myself, I am inspired by the breadth of their vision – the people of Christ’s church changing the nation and the WORLD.

Our founders were also aware of the organization’s responsibility to assure donors “that the proceeds of their gifts will be forever used for the cause of evangelism.” In 1949, these folks were members of the Methodist Church. Although that denomination no longer exists, we continue to uphold the promise they made to use the gifts we receive to fund evangelism in the Wesleyan tradition (based on the ministry of John and Charles Wesley), to guide our work, and to define our values.

For us, as John Wesley noted, we “look upon all the world as [our] parish,” and we are building relationships with churches and organizations across the Wesleyan tradition.

Our board and staff revisited how to “diffuse the blessings of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” In 2021, three focus areas were declared for the grants we award and resources we provide:

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

I love the imagery of three trees we developed to represent these focus areas. At once separate yet drawing their strength from the same source. In much the same way, these grant focus areas look distinct, but each is firmly rooted in the knowledge that we are stewards of the gospel story and resources dedicated to equipping evangelistic leaders and churches.

Our founding date was January 31, 1949. As I write this, the Foundation begins another year as a catalyst to equip disciples to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, and we continue in our purpose of “diffusing the blessings of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

It is my prayer that we stay true to this Kingdom purpose. Will you join me in prayer for our work today?

Jane Boatwright Wood
President

Harry Denman Evangelism Awards – Nominations Open

Jim and Kathy Konsor show their Harry Denman Evangelism Awards
(Pictured: 2020 Harry Denman Evangelism Award recipients from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, UMC)

Nominations for the Harry Denman Evangelism Awards are now underway. The award, given annually by The Foundation for Evangelism and United Methodist Annual Conferences, honors lay, clergy and youth whose exceptional ministry of evangelism – expressed in Word (what), Sign (why), and Deed (how) – brings people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Begun over 40 years ago, the Harry Denman Evangelism Awards have been awarded to over 3,000 individuals in at least 50 current or former United Methodist Annual Conferences.

The awards are named for Harry Denman, noted lay evangelist and Christian leader, who believed that each person must live their call to make disciples of Jesus Christ through relationship, mission, and faith-sharing. He once said,

“Today…the only way we can see Christ is to see him wrapped in a person… We need to become a package of love, a package of faith, a package of Christ.”

Harry Denman

Nomination forms for the 2022 Harry Denman Evangelism Awards are available on The Foundation for Evangelism website or by contacting your Annual Conference. Nomination forms should be submitted to your annual conference, or the annual conference of the individual being nominated.

What distinguishes a Harry Denman Evangelism Award recipient is the commitment to consistently introduce others to the Good News of Jesus Christ in all ministry settings. Their ministry is exceptional for the number of new Christ Followers who credit encounters with this person as critical in helping to start or reignite their faith journey.

We look forward to honoring these disciples so changed by their relationship with Jesus that they are compelled to share it with others!

Not Alone – Turning to God When You Feel Isolated

Two hands grasping one in friendship
Two hands grasping one in friendship

By Dr. Charles E. Kinder

As the newest variant of COVID-19 continues to limit our movements, countless numbers of people remain isolated or alone. This reminds me of a song that contains these lyrics – “I don’t know a thing in this whole wide world that’s worse than being alone” (“Where No One Stands Alone” by Mosie Lister). As we fight this virus a few people are terrified. Some are fearful. Others are restless. Some will need counseling. Many people of faith are fearless and at peace. I had an older 2nd cousin whose husband died when I was a child. About 40 years later my wife and I were visiting her in her small second floor flat in Logan, West Virginia. I said, “You’ve been alone for several decades. How have managed living alone for so long? She replied, “I have never been alone. My God is with me every day and night.” I pray that more of us might have that kind of faith.

Some enjoy being alone, but most people need people. We are gregarious by nature. Another song says “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world” (“People” by Appice, Stein, Bogert, Martell). So, if its true that we need people, how can we handle being alone? Here are three suggestions:

Count your blessings

On the top of a sheet of paper write these old lyrics:

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed. When you are discouraged thinking all is lost. Count your many blessings. Name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”  (“Count Your Blessings” by Johnson Oatman)
Below this make two lists:
– On one write the names of people who have been a blessing to you.
– On the other write the good things that have happened to you throughout your life.
Never complete either list.
Add to them as someone, or something, comes to mind.
Make them your prayer list and thank God daily for the wonderful people who came your way and for the good things that have happened to you.

Thank someone for the contribution they made to your life.

In person, by telephone, e-mail, or letter.

I was not academically prepared for college. I learned very little in public school. I was in 18 schools in 12 years. The first week of my college experience one professor took the time to inform my freshman class how to get the most out of college: how to listen to lectures, how to take notes, how to write essays and how to take tests. Many years later she came into my thoughts, so I called her and thanked her. I said, “I was not college material, but because you taught my freshman class how to get the most out of college I did well. I followed your instructions and received honors”. Incidentally, she was 80 years old and still teaching at Morris Harvey College in Charleston, W.Va.
Does someone like this come to your mind?

Tell God Thanks

Thank God for the way you have been blessed, protected, encouraged and guided even when you were not aware God was anywhere near.
Express gratitude to the good Lord for the fact that you are loved by your Creator.
Finally, in sincere prayer, tell God that you believe we will not only survive this crisis, but that something good will come forth as people support one another and become more aware the Creator. As it was throughout history, when there is nowhere else to go, people turn to God. I believe countless millions are doing just that around the world today.

Believe God is with you

Thank God we are never alone. Believe this truth and be at peace. Stand on it and do not be afraid. God is with you and will never forsake you. Hallelujah!


Rev. Dr. Charles E. Kinder is President Emeritus of The Foundation for Evangelism. He was instrumental in growing the ministry of the Foundation from 1977-1989, during which time programs such as The Harry Denman Evangelism Awards, Discover God’s Call, and the E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism were begun. Dr. Kinder is a retired minister from the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. He and his wife and partner in ministry, Phyllis live in North Florida.