Event Invites Pastors to Evangelize Outside the Box
Story by V. Michelle Bernard / Photos by Brian Tagalog
Are Revelation Seminars outdated? Do we need to totally change our worship styles? Should we be working with churches of other denominations? What does it really mean to be a disciple? Some 160 pastors from around the Columbia Union Conference discussed these questions and more this past week at the union’s Transformational Evangelism conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Columbia, Md.
“Our goal was to offer our pastors the opportunity to see what their friends, their contemporary pastors and other conferences are doing to reach their communities,” says event organizer Frank Bondurant (pictured above), vice president for Ministries Development at the union. “Not only did we have incredible presentations that were relevant and innovative, but our pastors were truly able to network with each other, share and grow from each other’s experiences.
In one of the first sessions, Columbia Union President Dave Weigley (pictured right) reminded attendees that Jesus told His disciples to launch into the deep and cast out their nets to catch fish, and thanked them for making it a priority to “sharpen their swords to win souls for Jesus.” Weigley also reminded them to rely on God. “Who’s going to make you fishers of men? You? God has called you and me to be fishers of men. He’ll make you fishers of men by His power and His authority,” he said.
Speakers discussed how to build relationships within the community, methods of evangelism, discipleship and how to create an evangelistic culture in the church.
“Our evangelism strategy was influenced by culture and time. Our evangelism mandate was directed by God,” said Roger Hernandez, director of Ministerial & Evangelism for the Southern Union Conference, encouraging attendees to question and contextualize their methods, and added, “You don’t have to make the Bible relevant. The Bible is relevant in [and of] itself. You just have to show the relevance.”
Mike Speegle (pictured left), senior pastor of Chesapeake Conference’s New Hope church in Fulton, Md., and several other speakers questioned the traditionally held belief that “success” means a new baptism or person in the pews. “This is the pattern that normally happens when someone comes to our church,” Speegle said. “You’ve got to believe, got to behave and then you have to belong. What would happen if we switched it around?”
He continued, “We’ve discovered once you belong, you begin to behave, you begin to believe. People have a hard time believing you love them when you act like you don’t even love them.”
The church provides multiple opportunities for even nonmembers to participate in church life or in community service with local organizations, that, in turn, can build relationships and create a sense of belonging.
Another speaker, Emil Peeler (pictured below), senior pastor of Allegheny East Conference’s Capitol Hill church in Washington, D.C., encouraged attendees to prioritize the elevation of spirituality of the people in the pews, “starting with the person in the mirror,” he said.
“You have people coming each week and sharing their most precious nonrenewable resource: time,” and added, “Everything should be done with planning and purpose. [This] might shake us ’cause we have the three angels’ messages. The accuracy of our message is not enough. It does not excuse poor planning.”
He reinforced, “You need to make your worship more evangelistic. You need to literally improve your poor worship experience. A poor worship experience is the most effective way of keeping people from making that connection and returning to your church.”
Other highlights included encouragement from Potomac Conference’s Jennifer Deans, pastor of he Living Faith and the Cornerstone congregations, both in Northern Virginia, as well as Tim Madding, lead pastor of Beltsville’s Ammendale and Tech Road churches in Maryland to empower members to participate in the discipling and evangelism process.
Deans (pictured left) said, “God has told us to invest in the people who He’s put in our lives. It’s His job to convict, and 100 percent of our mission as pastors is to send our people as missionaries. It isn’t hard, but is hard to do unless you’ve had a paradigm shift. … [Change] won’t happen if we’re focused only on programs.”
Attendee Bill Levin, pastor of Ohio Conference’s Akron church, whose congretation focuses on relational evangelism through building relationships with immigrant populations, inter-church Christmas programs, community service and more, said he’s been to a lot of evangelism councils that were more about traditional and “in the box” evangelism. This event, he said, “Not only opened the door outside of the box, but [gave] permission [to get out of the box] and said it’s time we do this, saying there's a push, an urgency. This is something I wish [had happened] earlier.”
In the next several weeks, the Visitor staff will upload presentations from the Transformational Evangelism conference to columbiaunionvisitor.com.