As I step into my first year as The Foundation for Evangelism’s board chair and reflect on the last three years I have served on the board, I am reminded that we are building on the foundation laid by those who came before. Seventy-four years ago today, the Foundation was born, charged with “diffus[ing] the blessing of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s quite a weighty task.
Raising Up Gospel Leaders
From the Foundation’s early days, under the umbrella of the Methodist Church, our board had a vision for emphasizing the ministry of evangelism. This vision led to funding professors of evangelism, E. Stanley Jones Professors, at 13 Methodist-related seminaries in the United States, Russia, Germany, and Zimbabwe. Nearly thirty-five years and many discussions with Wesleyan-tradition leaders later, we recognize that not all those called to pastor or lead a church take a traditional seminary path. So, we are enlisting instructors that are “bridge-builders” whose expertise helps translate and contextualize theological ideas with the goal of inspiring the practice of Wesleyan expressions of evangelism. In addition, Innovation Grants encourage out-of-the-box ideas and practices for equipping evangelistic leaders to minister in an ever-changing landscape. For instance, a 2022 grant involved collaboration with leaders in the Brazilian Methodist Church movement that drew more than 800 leaders to a virtual evangelism-equipping event.
Engaging the Ministry of the Laity
Our founder, Dr. Harry Denman, was a layperson, called to the ministry of evangelism like so many of the Foundation’s leaders that followed. The laity have a vital role to play in inviting people to the Christian journey. We celebrate the Foundation’s past grants such as Discover God’s Call Laity retreats, Campus Ministry Grants, and the on-going Denman Evangelism Awards in United Methodist Conferences that lift-up the evangelistic ministries of the laity. This spring, the Foundation will gather a group of evangelistic laity from seven Wesleyan-tradition denominations across the U.S. Their challenges, dreams, and needs will inform how we develop future grants to further engage the ministry of the laity in the Wesleyan tradition.
Equipping the Local Church
The Foundation for Evangelism recognizes that Christian disciple-making most-often happens in the local church. That is where many receive the invitation to life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ, grow in grace, and live out their faith by loving and serving God and neighbor. My father, Dr. H. Eddie Fox, pastored local churches for the first 18 years of his ministry before becoming a full-time world evangelist. The local church is where I learned about Jesus, where I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior, and where I find my faith community today.
Yet, the global pandemic led to a loss of community in many small and medium-sized churches. They are slowly rebuilding those connections vital to life-transformation in Jesus Christ. That is why I am excited for the Foundation to partner with these churches in its second annual 2023 Equipping the Local Church Grants cycle. The first round of these grants given in 2022 are already equipping the local church to share the Good News and invite their neighbors on the Christian journey! We invite you to hear about their impact!
Next year, in 2024, The Foundation for Evangelism will celebrate its 75th anniversary. We are already planning a big celebration, and we can’t wait to share the plans with you. While so much has changed since 1949, the priorities that were part of our mission then are still at the heart of what we do today:
As we build relationships across the spectrum of Wesleyan-tradition denominations, our vision is to be a catalyst to equip disciples to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Happy 74th Anniversary to The Foundation for Evangelism – and MANY MORE!
Gaye Nell Heck
Chair of the Board of Trustees