In most typical years, The Foundation for Evangelism would have received announcements of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award Presentations at annual conferences months ago. Yet, because of the current pandemic and restrictions on gatherings, many annual conferences had to be creative in how they made the award presentations. Most conference staff or chairs of evangelism that contacted us shared that their annual conference was delayed until the fall or that they would going “all virtual” with their conference. This was certainly not a small undertaking, and so we are grateful that they chose to keep this annual award part of their conference celebration!

As part of lifting up these special people, we want to highlight two award recipients whose work, no doubt, has been a beacon of hope and transformation in their community, pointing people to the hope found in Jesus Christ. More inspirational stories on award recipients can be found on the Denman Evangelism Awards page.

Marie Ferree – West Ohio Annual Conference

Marie Ferree receives the Harry Denman Evangelism Award from the West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church. Photo courtesy St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.

Marie is the director of the St. Paul’s Food Pantry, a ministry of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Defiance, Ohio. Her exceptional ministry brings hope to those she serves and leads them into transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. She has walked with countless people as they have started or reignited their faith journeys, and she sees each client as a child of God. Rev. John T. Schlicher, Marie’s pastor says, “Marie has made a genuine bridge to the community with many people moving forward in their faith journeys, ultimately being baptized and joining [the church].” Seeing potential where others saw none, Marie has employed and mentored clients who were out of work and needed help getting their lives back on track. She has a genuine interest in the clients she serves, showing compassion, interest, acceptance and attention to needs. Having been a client of the food pantry herself before coming to work there, she knows, perhaps better than anyone, what her clients are going through. One client shared, “Marie gave me a job in the kitchen…it’s because of Marie that I come to worship every Sunday and attend the Tuesday Bible Study. I’m keeping my faith alive.”

Billie Jean Baker (middle) with Rev. Rachel Baughman (left) and the Rev. Mara Morhouse of Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, at a pre-pandemic gathering. Photo courtesy of Oak Lawn United Methodist Church.

Billie Jean Baker

Many nights, Billie Jean slept on an outside balcony at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. As an unsheltered person, she helped open the eyes of the church to meeting a need that was literally on their doorstep. Through her relationship with church members and leadership, she helped the church to expand its welcome to other unsheltered individuals. Billie Jean was recently able to find housing, but it is 7 miles from Oak Lawn UMC. The distance, combined with the pandemic has limited her ability to be at the church for worship, but on Sunday and Tuesday evenings, she brings her Bluetooth speaker outside her apartment and invites neighbors to listen with her to livestreamed worship services. Billie Jean’s pastor, Rev. Rachel Baughman, says she has led other homeless people to worship at Oak Lawn United Methodist and participate fully in the life of the church. “I’m grateful for the witness of Billie Jean, not just in paving the way for us to open shelter, but also for building connections and relationships with so many people who found themselves in very similar circumstances to hers.”

Billie Jeans says she has just one calling, “to help the homeless folks hear the Word of God…. I stand up for those that can’t stand up for theirselves ’cause I have a loud voice and pink hair and people are gonna pay attention to me!”

United Methodist News Service has a wonderful story about Billie Jean that includes links to a video about her and the ministry she helped to start at https://www.umnews.org/en/news/evangelism-award-winner-slept-outside-church.

Read more stories like this

Matt Bistayi (at left), pastor of Valley Church in Allendale, received the Harry Denman Evangelism Award at the 2019 Michigan Annual Conference. After 10 years, Valley continues to “gain traction” with Jesus.

(This article originally appeared at www.michiganumc.org and has been reprinted with permission.)


BY KAY DEMOSS – Senior Content Editor for Michigan Conference of the UMC

None other than Billy Graham once called Harry Denman, “one of the great mentors for evangelism.” Denman lived a simple life, made friends with everyone he met, and shared the love of Jesus far and wide. Denman died in 1976 but his spirit lives on in an award that honors those who bring people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Rev. Dirk Elliott, The Michigan Conference Director of Congregational Vibrancy, presented the Harry Denman Award to Matt Bistayi, Pastor of Valley Church in Allendale, during ceremonies on Saturday evening, June 1 at the Grand Traverse Resort. 

In his introduction Elliott quoted Harry Denman saying, “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. Then we will be a package of evangelism.” 

Matt Bistayi is such a “package.” He and his wife, Shellie, were sent to Allendale in 2009 to start a new church. “It was a parachute drop,” Matt says. “The pastor and family are parachuted into the community, and they say, ‘Good luck!’” He reports that 70% of parachute church plants fail in the first two to three years. But after five years Matt reports that Valley Church “had hit its stride,” and now, ten years in, “we are gaining traction.”

Valley Church is, “Real friends who laugh with you, worship with you, serve with you, discover Jesus with you, and take next steps with you.” ~ photo courtesy Matt Bistayi

Matt and his team launched Valley on October 10, 2010 with over 100 people in attendance. The church was totally self-sufficient, receiving no conference funding, by 2013, at which time they were chartered. The church is now averaging 175 in worship.

The pastor gives credit the community into which he was dropped saying, “We were blessed with people who came on board, and who wanted to do something different here in Allendale.” Plus, Matt had good instincts. “Part of my story in ministry is what I experienced in college … when I wished I had a community like Valley to surround me,” Matt explains. As they arrived in Allendale, “that was a big part of what was important to my wife and me. We wanted to care about the Grand Valley campus and its students.” The excitement of those young people about involvement in a local church became “a big part of why Valley succeeded in those early years.”

While Valley cared about the campus community, the young and growing congregation never met on campus. “We are not a college church,” Matt says, “though we do care about college students.” The infant Valley first met in the township hall and then moved to a banquet hall in the Main Street Pub. Outgrowing those spaces, the group leased space in the Chemical Bank building on M-45, and they have gathered there ever since. Eventually they would gut and repurpose the bank space to make it look like what it does today. “It’s a non-traditional space that fits our vibe and culture well,” Matt remarks. “Valley is not auditorium-style. We have more of a warehouse-feel. And God is moving in our space.”

The staff photo on Valley’s website expresses the “super real” vibe. Left to right: Lead Pastor Matt Bistayi; Jeremiah Shirreffs, Creative Arts and Worship; Elaine Ebeling, Office Manager; Zach McNees, Student and College Ministries; and Sharayah Clevenger, Valley Kids and Family Ministry. ~ photo courtesy Matt Bistayi

The vision statement of Valley Church, which grew out of Matt’s passion, is: “Helping Others live For God, For People, For a Change.”

Asked to describe the “vibe at Valley,” Matt says, “At Valley we believe it’s okay to have fun in faith. We are laughing with Jesus and with each other.” But the main hallmark of the Valley faith-style is “making a difference in practical ways in the lives and relationships around us.” In a phrase, Matt describes the Valley vibe as, “super real.” He continues, “That’s what a lot of people say. When we meet each month for Pizza with the Pastor, that’s often what we hear.” And it’s clear that “real” does not mean “easy.” “At Valley we are not fake. We are honest. And we are able to laugh even when we screw up royally.”

Perhaps the realness factor at Valley merges out of their radical openness. “We value stories,” Matt shares. “Everyone’s story matters, and that means you matter to us.” What Valley loves is spelled out in compelling fashion on the homepage of their website. The statement concludes, “There are an endless number of things that divide us in the world and we’re convince that God and the church shouldn’t be one of them.”


One of the highlights of the Valley year is “Beach Worship and Baptism” in Lake Michigan. In 2017 the church celebrated ten baptisms, with eleven baptisms in 2018. In 2018 the church experienced 33 professions of faith.
 
~ Facebook/Valley Church-Allendale

The stories of individuals are just the starting point for relationship at Valley. Matt says, “Jesus changes everything. When Jesus gets ahold of someone, their life and story changes. They become infused with hope. Then they want to share that hope with others.” Matt often reminds the Valley family that, “It is not about us. The most important person at Valley is the person who’s not here yet.”

When asked what exciting things are going on in the life of Valley in 2019, Matt mentions the “15 babies being born this year.” He notes that it’s scary, too. “Where are we going to put them if they all show up on the same Sunday?” he laughs. Valley Kids Ministry is already repurposing space. Go Groups is another ministry that generates energy. Go Groups are 8-12 people meeting regularly to build community and to go deeper with what was preached on Sunday. “Go Groups do life together,” Matt says. “And we like to say, ‘Go somewhere and make a difference.’” Three Go Groups each received $500 grants during 2019 to enable their creative service projects. With that support one of the college Go Groups sponsored a Family Fun Day for those not able to go away on spring break. Another Go Group is planning a Back to School Boutique, open to the community to do “school shopping on the cheap.”

Now a decade old, the pastor says, “We are still learning who we are, what that means, and how we can become more of what God wants us to be.” They continue to “lean into growth.” Matt poses the question, “How can we be momentous enough that we can keep being faithful?”

Valley Church, a ten-year-old congregation, is one of the youngest churches in the Michigan Conference in terms of age of members. Lots of 20-30-40-50 somethings plus 15 babies on the way in 2019. ~ photo courtesy Matt Bistayi

Valley looks head to the next ten years with a bold vision. SENT is a two-year big-vision-initiative for mission ministry, and multiplication. “It’s also about a home for our church in the future as a launching pad for Disciples to be SENT from.” The SENT outlook is expressed this way on Valley’s website: “We don’t want to be a bunch of saved people, we want to be a bunch of SENT people. Who send other people. Across the street. Across the city. Across the world.” Read more about SENT here.

Upon presenting the award at the 2019 Annual Conference, Dirk Elliott said, “Matt describes his ministry by saying, ‘Reaching more people for Jesus is the vision. Because, we know that God is crazy in love with people and the more people who know that; the more lives become filled with the hope, grace, and love of Jesus.”

A “Super Real Evangelist” is not doing what he or she does for personal glory. The 2019 recipient of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award in the Michigan Conference concludes, “God and Valley are in the zone.” And that is what brings Pastor Matt Bistayi joy.

The Minnesota Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, whose theme this year was “Dare to Reach, Love Boldly”, honored two individuals who have devoted their ministry to reaching their community and young people with the Good News of a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Their stories are excerpts from an article on the Minnesota Annual Conference website.

Dan Ziegler: Dan Ziegler has served as the director of Koronis Ministries since 2016. In just over three years of his leadership, Koronis is poised to reach record for summer attendance in 2019. This continued growth is attributed to Ziegler’s passion for ministry, his creativity in camp programming, and his heart for sharing Christ with children and young people. “This is how Dan is loving boldly: Dan does not simply say, ‘All are welcome at Koronis’ (but they always are); he says, ‘We had you in mind when we created this program…” said Keith Shew, director of camp and retreat ministries for the Dakotas-Minnesota Area. “This ministry is personal to Dan. He commits his whole heart, his whole self, to it—and because of him, hundreds of children, youth, and adults are experiencing Christ, creation, and community in profound ways.”

Rev. Ronald Bell, Jr.: Rev. Ronald Bell. Jr. was appointed to Camphor Memorial UMC in St. Paul last July. In less than one year, average Sunday worship attendance increased by 26 percent. The congregation received 44 new members, celebrated 13 adult professions of faith, and six baptisms. On April 28, Camphor launched a second Sunday worship service to facilitate further growth. A relationship with Jesus, a kingdom mindset, and a commitment to love all people are the lens through which Bell and the church view their ministry. “Because of Rev. Bell’s relational, compassionate, optimistic, and energetic leadership, the people of Camphor church are propelled out as a community of believers to evangelize and make a difference in people’s lives,” said Teresa Neal, Camphor’s Church Council chair.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

LAKE JUNALUSKA, NC, October 1, 2018 — The Foundation for Evangelism (FFE) and The Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ) Heritage Center are pleased to announce that beginning in 2019, the two organizations will be sharing office and archival space at the FFE’s headquarters on the campus of Lake Junaluska Assembly in North Carolina. The SEJ Heritage Center will be the second organization to lease space at the location, joining the Smoky Mountain District (SMD) of the United Methodist Church which has housed its offices there since 2012. Although the SEJ Heritage Center will no longer be housed by Lake Junaluska Assembly, it will remain located on the Assembly grounds, and its long-time relationship with the Assembly will continue.

Renovations will begin in December 2018 which will allow the SEJ Heritage Center to relocate and occupy a portion of the office space currently utilized by FFE and SMD staff and will also include storage space to be converted to an area for archives.

Jane Boatwright Wood, President of The Foundation for Evangelism notes that “The cultivating of this relationship has been an ongoing process. We believe that this partnership enhances the ministry of both organizations.  Our team is excited to welcome the Heritage Center as they continue to keep alive the unique history of Methodism by preserving and sharing our stories.”

Jim Pyatt, Chair of the SEJ Commission on Archives and History, states that this partnership in ministry should be mutually beneficial.  He goes on to note that “The Heritage Center is the repository for the papers of Harry Denman, the founder of the Foundation for Evangelism,” adding that, “Part of the function of The Heritage Center is to preserve and record the story of how the people called Methodist have shared the Good News of the love of Jesus with others.  This partnership helps to remind us all of the mission of the church.”

This partnership between the FFE and SEJ Heritage Center will also provide access to onsite meeting facilities including the Reynolds Conference Center which is utilized throughout the year by Methodist-related organizations and churches for retreats, trainings, meetings, and special events. A small chapel is also part of the facility and provides space for worship, reflection, and prayer.

The SEJ Heritage Center serves as the Museum and Archives for the Southeastern Jurisdiction (SEJ) of the United Methodist Church and, as such, for Lake Junaluska Assembly, the oldest and largest of the SEJ agencies.  In this capacity the center houses the essential historical records for both agencies, and is a significant resource for anyone doing research on either the Lake Junaluska Assembly, on the SEJ, or on historical matters related to the United Methodist Church in this part of the United States. Those interested in finding out more or scheduling a visit to the Heritage Center should contact the director at heritage@lakejunaluska.com.

The Foundation for Evangelism is a catalyst to equip disciples to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, continuing a legacy of impacting how Methodist-tradition clergy, lay and youth are prepared to invite all people into life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. The Foundation makes its impact through promoting, encouraging, and providing resources for evangelism in keeping with the doctrinal spirit of John and Charles Wesley. To learn more, visit foundationforevangelism.org or email bbowser@foundationforevangelism.org.

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Mark R. Teasdale is the E. Stanley Jones Associate Professor in Evangelism at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL an elder in The United Methodist Church. He is also the author of Methodist Evangelism, American Salvation.

Reviews from colleagues:

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What’s more important than the Great Commission? Unfortunately, too many churches—including the one I grew up in—a lot! This is the book that I wish the leaders in my church had read while growing up.

—Daniel Im, Director of Church Multiplication at NewChurches.com and teaching pastor

Teasdale pushes us to see the Great Commission in a new light, a light that encourages us to respond to God’s sending us into our community no matter our size, pedigree, or circumstance. By sharing practices any congregation can do, he carefully provides concrete ways of engaging that do not require huge resources. This book Teasdale removes all excuses congregations make for not seeking to participate in God’s work of transformation.

F. Douglas Powe Jr., James C. Logan Professor of Evangelism (an E. Stanley Jones Professorship), Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington DC

Board and staff leadership of The Foundation for Evangelism (FFE) will engage a select group of innovative Christian leaders in Atlanta, Ga. on January 30-31, 2017 to determine how the FFE may best support evangelistic efforts in the spirit of John Wesley.

“The Evangelism Summit is designed to help The Foundation for Evangelism effectively engage with our key constituencies, which include laity, local church pastors and younger generations, and to determine best practices for evaluating the impact of those partnerships,” said Dr. Larry Klemann, board chair.

The group of 11 United Methodist leaders and Christian innovators, experts who have effective evangelism ministries, were specifically selected for their areas of impact that match the FFE grant focus areas. The FFE identified ministries across the United States where metrics exist to document that lives are being transformed–places where the ideas leaders read about are no longer ideas, but ministry reality.

“We recognize that we are not the practitioners who can answer the key questions. These exceptional leaders can help FFE more clearly understand how evangelism succeeds today, what are needed improvements for the future, and where FFE can invest our grant funds to have the greatest possible impact,” Mrs. Mary Brooke Casad, task force leader and immediate past board chair, said.

“We spent a great deal of time locating ‘next generation leaders.’ We specifically invited folks who are catching the attention of today’s leaders, who in turn say to us, ‘you better keep your eye on that one –God is at work in that ministry!'” Casad said.

Through careful listening and guided discussion during the Evangelism Summit, the FFE leadership expects to inform its ongoing efforts to discern where God is calling The Foundation to engage, provide resources, and encourage efforts to address adaptive challenges in Wesleyan evangelism.

The following individuals/ministries will be participating in the summit:

  • Adolf Hanson, Theologian in Residence, St. Luke’s UMC Indianapolis,
  • Craig Robertson, Founder, Spiritual Leadership, Inc.,
  • Eric Lindh, National Executive Director, Project Transformation,
  • Heather Lear, Director of Evangelism Ministries, Discipleship Ministries of the UMC,
  • Kay Kotan, Founder, You Unlimited,
  • Olu Brown, Lead Pastor, Impact Church;
  • Scott Chrostek, Campus Pastor, RezDowntown, [The UMC of the Resurrection]
  • Tyler Best, Campus Minister, Pfrimmer’s Chapel UMC,
  • Owen Ross, Founding Pastor, Christ Foundry,
  • Rob Peabody, Co-Founder, Awaken,  and
  • Adam Weber, Founding Pastor, Embrace Church.

Headquartered in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, the FFE is an international grant-making foundation that promotes, encourages and provides resources to grow Wesleyan evangelism by bringing all people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Of particular interest are ministries impacting young people and the local church.

Hasting United Methodist Church is the 2015 Culture of the Call Church Award recipient! Hastings’ vital ministry focuses on recognizing, encouraging, nurturing, and mentoring young people under the age of 35 to answer God’s call on their lives. The Hastings United Methodist Church has identified, encouraged, cultivated, and supported those whom God is calling into full-time Christian service by our “Ministry as a Career” program and internship program. Students are identified through different spiritual gifts and talents that they have for full time ministry and are encouraged to go through our MAC Track program, meeting with a former clergy of the United Methodist Church, Duane Sarazin, meets with the students once a month going through a ministry as a career curriculum that was developed by a former intern at our church, Jack Youso.

“These students get hands on experience through a variety of things: reading scripture in front of the congregation, playing in the worship band, helping out in the sound booth, becoming a leader for our youth worship service, doing the video announcements, preaching, and even being a camp counselor for our middle school camp. Students that want to experience ministry first hand they can apply to become an intern in the youth department. From this, students are supported and encouraged to take ownership in leading a team of their own. The youth department has five interns for the summer, each are in charge of a specific team that includes, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, social media, small groups, videos/media, and planning our middle school camp. MAC Track develops leaders through hands on experience in our church that encourages them to further their education after [completing the program.]”

Press Release Naming Hastings United Methodist Church as Culture of the Call Church

Photo 1 – Hastings UMC receiving award*

Photo 2 – Hastings MACTrack Participants worship at Annual Conference*

Photo 3 – Hastings MACTrack Participants on stage at Annual Conference*

* All photos are provided by the Minnesota Annual Conference