State of the Foundation 2024

Video Transcript:

VISUAL: Begin 75th Anniversary Video

[Music] The origin of The Foundation for Evangelism was a group of visionary laity who came together way back in 1949. They set our purpose as “diffusing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Our mission today is to promote, encourage, and provide resources for Wesleyan evangelism so that all people are invited into life-transforming relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The Foundation for Evangelism has three major grant focus areas: Equipping the Local Church, Raising Up Gospel Leaders, and Engaging the Ministry of the laity. As we enter our 75th Year I hope that we continue to be a model of the Wesleyan tradition – that is the joy, that is the living transformed life right now. So, happy 75th anniversary to The Foundation for Evangelism. Visit our website to learn more about how you can be part of this journey, this work to spread the Great Commission all around the world. [Music]

END VISUAL

JANE: Hi, I’m Jane Boatright Wood, the president of The Foundation for Evangelism and I’m excited to share with you our state of the foundation report. This is a milestone year for the foundation because you see on January 31st 1949 we were chartered.

So we’re 75 years old this year. There were a group of lay people that came together then with a clear focus. It was that there needed to be an organization that reminded and guided the Church of its purpose – a Zeal for infusing a love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They came together, a group of Wesley-tradition folks, who wanted to change and influence the church. They wanted to see a history where a love of the gospel and a sharing of that gospel became the very heart and center of Christian lives.

Even today I stand in awe of the Visionary nature of their intentionality, of their dedication, because that work continues to influence lives even today. I wonder what they would think of an organization that now impacts all 50 of the United States. We do work on five continents. We are working with eight Wesleyan-tradition denominations. I like to think that they would be excited to know that that dedication to the spirit and the nature of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ flows through everything – every grant, every contact, every resource that we make.

Their successors now represent six separate Wesleyan-tradition denominations. They come together with that shared focus, with a love of Christ and a desire to seek God’s will for the work of the foundation and to keep this impact going. So it’s a very grand vision – a broad spectrum of impact. And yet for me, the definition of what we are all about is best encapsulated in the words of a lay leader who was interviewed on the site of one of our equipping the local church Grant recipients…

VISUAL: Mosaic Church Maxwell House Grant video – clip of volunteer defining Evangelism. 

I can look at the definition of evangelism and I say “oh that’s not me.” But I’ve learned that it’s just loving people and letting them know that Jesus loves them, and don’t have an official title doing it.

END VISUAL

JANE: It’s so simple, the essence of how Jesus lived our God’s love in our midst. Our certainty of Responding to God’s pursuit of us, all are invited to the lifelong journey to love God and neighbor with their whole heart.

Her words are simple but they are pure. Jesus lived among us and he shared and lived God’s love in our midst. This is where we get our certainty – that it is in responding to God’s pursuit of us that we enter that lifelong journey to love self and neighbor fully throughout all aspects of our lives. So it is with this knowledge that we began our journey in this our 75th year to look at how the foundation for evangelism has done this work, how we have and continue to infuse a Zeal for sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, and those grants that accomplish our purpose.

That “how” – those grants focus on three very specific areas: Raising Up Gospel Leaders, Equipping the Local Church, and Engaging the Ministry of the Laity. For me it’s natural to begin by discussing the longest running Grant initiative. It began in the early 1980s, some 40 years ago, when the foundation board and leadership became aware of a very real oversight in the preparation of pastors for the local church, and so we set a focus, a goal for ourselves, that we would transform the largest Methodist denomination in the United States. We set about changing the requirements not just to encourage but to require that people entering the local pastorate should have a class in Wesleyan-Tradition evangelism and practices.

We went to local churches, we went to seminaries and set up programs. In some cases we funded the professors in others we provided fellowships to train those folks who would sit in those chairs. And when it was all together there was a system for graduating evangelistic pastors to lead local churches. Put simply you could say that the work of The Foundation for Evangelism impacts every local United Methodist Church because every seminary graduate that enters the ordination process is required to have a class in evangelism. But we wanted to look more deeply. You know when you ask the question of “How?” you need to have data, and so we decided that we would go beyond uh the seminaries and beyond the those who who we have our grant relationship with and go directly to the end user we contacted the local pastors. These were folks who had been out of their seminary training for 5-8 years and serving in the local church. And we asked them the same question at three points in their ministry. The first was, “When you signed up for your evangelism class did you believe it would have a positive impact on your ministry?” and 53% said, “yes I thought it would have a positive impact.” Immediately after completing the class that number jumped up to 85% who thought it would have an impact and 91%  said, “yes.” That’s success. That’s being a catalyst for the local church.

But in doing this we also learned  another overlooked and underrated impact that was going on this whole time, and that was that no one seminary draws from any one denomination. And so even then when we thought we were focusing on the largest Methodist denomination we were impacting the Wesleyan tradition through those professors and those students.

Today you know those professors as the E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism and they can claim that they have contact hours with over 12,000 students in the US, Russia, Germany, and Zimbabwe. But even with this wonderful news The Foundation for Evangelism wasn’t ready to stop there. We didn’t want to say, “well that’s great,” and just continue on.

We know, like you know, that the face and the nature and the challenges that are faced by Christian leaders are an everchanging landscape and so we continue to ask questions, develop new relationships, and innovate where we can have an impact on those next generation of leaders. I’d like to share with you just a couple of examples. The first of these is at Duke Divinity School where they discovered a need to reach out and equip new leaders in the Hispanic Latino Community. They formed a Hispanic House of Studies and when we saw that Reverend Dr Alma Tinoco Ruiz was going to be the leader we were in. So we had a conversation about how we can support her salary and allow her to be fully present and bring her amazing gifts and graces and expertise to the students of what they lovingly call “La Casa.” Listen to Alma’s words. Not only will you hear her expertise, not only will you hear the passion she brings to the work, but I think that you will see her intentionality and God working through her for this community.

VISUAL: Begin Video of Rev. Dr. Alma Tinoco Ruiz

My partnership with The Foundation for Evangelism continues because we are recipients of a grant. It’s a grant that I believe allows me to be creative it the way I respond to my students. They are exploring new ways of doing ministry. Not everyone will be a pastor, a pastor, a pastora, but they will be doing ministry. And they will be doing important ministry out there. It’s really good to talk to them and knowing that some of them will be serving through nonprofits, some of them will be serving as a social worker, but the fact that they want to learn more about how to be faithful servants of the Lord and how to be evangelists through everything they do, that excites me!

I have been thinking about the visits I have received from my friends from the Foundation. It’s really good to have conversations with them, to share what I’m doing, to share what I’m exploring, to receive also their comments. And it makes it more than just receiving a grant. It’s being part of this relationship. And so I really appreciate that it’s not just the Foundation helping financially but they really care about accompanying me, walking with me though my journey as a professor and as a minister.

END VISUAL

In a similar way we were able to establish a relationship with United Theological Seminary. They had a excellent business plan, a lovely design for for a Fresh Expressions uh House of Studies, and they had successfully gotten money to support the clergy, the pastoral leader, component of that, but they about two years down the road planned to add a lay certification. With our understanding of the full spectrum of Christian leadership and our desire to promote the lay in leadership we offered to write a grant to allow that lay certification to start at the same time and so now we’re 3 years into a fully functioning Fresh Expressions House of Studies and the data is amazing. In some locations, in some contexts the laity are actually outperforming the clergy leadership because they’re in the community and they’re taking their faith with them into all the aspects of their life. We’re excited what we see here and in fact have just extended that grant and are uh pleased to continue this program with United.

From January 31st 1949 till today The Foundation for Evangelism has been a resource, an encourager, and a trainer for leaders in the local church. As a matter of fact we’ve provided resources to the local church but recently we’ve made a pretty profound step in that direction because this January is the third grant cycle for equipping the local church and this is a new exceptionally well-received program that has proven to be a catalyst to those congregations that are led by pastors. It brings a partnership into the mix, lay and clergy together focused on an evangelistic church community. We hear wonderful stories from these groups and I’d like to hear let you hear in their own voice how catalytic a Foundation grant has been to their ability to do ministry and to transform lives.

VISUAL: Begin Video of Grace [A.M.E. Zion] Church Raleigh

CRYSTAL: We’re located just outside of downtown Raleigh and it’s a really dynamic community. It has evolved a lot. I think the largest challenge that our community is facing is a lack of jobs and opportunities. There are still some challenges I think as well with drug use in our community as well as food insecurity. Grace is a part of a connectional ministry through the A.M.E. Zion Church. One of our district leaders in Christian education shared a presentation about The Foundation for Evangelism. We thought that this would be perfect for Grace because we’re in a changing community and we need some way to stay connected and we thought that evangelism, discipleship is absolutely critical to the mission of our church and so any opportunity that  we have to create a discipleship pipeline with this community would be great. The Foundation for Evangelism is providing resources for the discipleship training program which provides a series of very practical weekly sessions that discuss principles from the Bible we talk about life application and really unpack the Word in very practical terms. It has allowed our members to open up in ways that they haven’t before and I think that’s where we see transformation happening and so it’s been I think really exciting to see. Our GlowUp ministry is an opportunity to share the Good News and to share light in a dark world and to provide hope to people who have lost it.

One of the things that The Foundation for Evangelism is funding or resourcing for this program is an annual community event where we bring in resources that are needed for this area. We partnered with several Community organizations that come and bring information. We’ve had vaccination events, we’ve had Financial Navigators who come and share how people can receive resources for medical care and then in addition we share information about our program we have youth come in we play games with them it’s a really fun day and opportunity for us to just have fellowship and really connect with our community and for our community to see us and see that we’re here we’re still relevant and we still are able to connect them to resources that are necessary.

LASHAE: It gives us the opportunity to just allow the community to know that we’re more than just the church that’s in the the area we’re able to relate to one another we’re able to grow with one another and we’re able to transform our area we’re trying to make sure that everyone has a solid and firm foundation in Christ and that they know who God is and what he’s able to do and so far it is amazing

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JANE: This is just one of many videos, many stories that are available. As you get time go to our website look at some of the videos perhaps run your finger down the list of the now 80 churches that are working with us. These are all small to medium churches and when we think about that you and I know, right, that that those churches aren’t places or buildings – those churches are people and those people face two very real challenges in our Wesleyan tradition. One is the itineracy of their clergy leadership uh their clergy will be called to practice or to do their leadership in different locations um perhaps sometimes in different vocations.

As John Wesley realized in his movement that priesthood of all believers means that those laity that remain are the church in that setting. They are those who transform the lives and transform community and welcome those Shepherds into their presence. And so it is that reality of Wesleyanism the priesthood of all believers that leads us back to our beginning which was lay leadership, when that group gathered so long ago and recognized that we needed to be the constant for the church that kept that Zeal that understanding that the sharing of the Good News of Jesus remained with the church where it stood.

We recently brought together the largest group, the most diverse group of lay leaders across the Wesleyan denomination that we have convened to date and it was on this conversation, “How do we engage the ministry of the laity for the local church?” that that group talked. We found some consistencies across the board um there are some lack of resources about how the laity can be trained there are some um needs to develop a shared understanding between the clergy and the laity about how they should be engaged in ministry and practices. We took all of this information, our key purpose, and we came up with an initiative that we’re calling “Participating in Abundant Life” and is based on John 10 in the scriptures. My friend and E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism, Dr. Mark Teasdale actually does a very good job of summarizing what this approach means

VISUAL: Begin Video of Dr. Mark Teasdale talking about “Participating in Abundant Life”

MARK: What would you do if somebody came up and asked you that – “What does it mean for someone to become a disciple of Jesus Christ and what is that transformation that’s occurring in the world how does it make the world a better place?” What would you do if the person who asked you wasn’t a Christian but was a member of the larger secular culture around us? Come and join us as we look at what it means to participate in Abundant Life and as we do to develop metrics for salvation that we can use in our local churches to demonstrate to other people regardless of their faith background the good that it does in people’s lives when they become Disciples of Jesus Christ and the good that transforming the World brings about.

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JANE: Using the knowledge that we’ve gained the resources that Mark has shared

and the partnership of a large conference uh Board of Laity we’re in pilots right now where we’re expanding the reach of this participating in Abundant Life. We’re helping laity to begin to understand their faith story, to begin to understand how to share God’s story, and then to look at, through that new lens, their faith Journey, the ministries of their churches, and to find opportunities where they can be the church, develop relationships, invite others, transform lives, and transform their communities in very measurable ways. As I said this is just a pilot but we believe it will spread very quickly to areas all across the United States. It also feeds into our local church cohorts where these skills that are gained are multiplied through teams of clergy and laity working together so that they can develop cultures of evangelistic churches and then apply for equipping the local church grants.

You see the cycle. It is the cycle of Christian Community – laity, local church, pastors. It is the rhythm of our life and work. It has been the rhythm of the last 75 years and it is the rhythm that will lead us into the future as we continue to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

There is a place for you on this exciting 75th Anniversary Journey.

It takes a whole year and it culminates in our big event this coming November. I hope you’ll register and be a part of that event but as we get there, there are a series of virtual and regional celebrations that I hope you’ll participate in because you see without you we aren’t the Evangelistic Wesleyan grant-making organization that is a catalyst to equip leaders and Steward funds for the transformation of lives and to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Thank you for your interest, for being a part of this sharing of the state of The Foundation for Evangelism. As we shared this, and I know this is a lot of information, it came to us that you might like a place to go and maybe look at some more details. So at the end of this session we’ll share a video link where you can go and find some statistics about the Foundation maybe revisit some of the reports that we shared here today.

As always it is my honor and privilege to serve in this role as president of The Foundation for Evangelism, to be your partner as together we make sure that all individuals are invited into life transforming relationship with Jesus Christ through the work and the ministry and the focus of The Foundation for Evangelism. Thank you.

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