At the Annual Metros Region Training and Meeting on February 7th at Christ Church in Racine, District Superintendent Deborah Thompson welcomed more than 140 participants, and introduced special guests and local US2 missionaries Tyler Smoot, Michelle Wood, and Beth McRill, who serve at Servant Community. Christ Church Pastor George Kafer also introduced the Urban Poeima worship team, who led several songs before the day’s speakers began their workshops. Offerings taken that morning raised $596 for Imagine No Malaria and $238 for the Community Developer’s Fund. Click here to see pictures from the day.

Debunking Evangelism Myths

Dr. Mark Teasdale, the first speaker of the day and Associate Professor of Evangelism at Garrett-Evangelical Theological School, said he sees four main reasons why people feel that evangelism is out of their comfort zone. The first reason is that it may require us to do something unnatural to us. “We’ve all felt awkward because of evangelism. Because we’ve been hurt by it, it’s awkward for us to hurt other people with it. And I can understand that,” he said. “But it’s not about doing something unnatural to us, but being authentic to what is good. We all believe there’s something good about that man on a cross. We need to claim that, and work out of that.”

The other three reasons – that it demands new programming or funding, that it puts us in competition with other churches, and that it requires us to master new knowledge – are also easily overcome. “Evangelism is generating organic practices out of what we already know and have. What people are looking for is someone who is genuine,” he said. “We have to think beyond the congregation. You already have connections, resources, and relationships. The question is, how do we share the good news through what you already have?”

He also explained the cycle of evangelism: Invite new people into your community, nurture their faith, and then send them out into the community to meet new people to invite in and restart the cycle. “The key step is nurture,” he said. “If we’re not forming peoples’ identity in God, we won’t have what we need to do the rest of it.”

Encouraging Leaders To Focus Externally

Dr. Angela Cowser, Assistant Professor of the Sociology of Religion at Garrett Evangelical Theological School, gave church leaders worksheets and asked them to look at their congregation’s meeting schedule to determine how much time the congregation focuses on internal or external matters. “I’m here to gauge your temperament in faith and in your congregation, and provide a more holistic picture,” she said. “What does it mean if the majority of your time is spent looking at internal matters at your church?” After lunch, leaders from each church reported how their congregations were spending their time, and discussed what that meant and how to do better.

Rev. Thompson encouraged churches who spend a lot of time on internal matters to shift their focus externally. “We’re not reaching beyond who we can be and what we’re called to do,” she said. “We’ve been living out the vision of Imagining Wisconsin Anew for two and a half years now: How do we connect in our communities? What do we value, and how can we make a difference as people of faith? Building relationships is what this whole ministry is about. If we don’t start establishing relationships with each other – that love, joy, care, concern for one another – why are we doing what we’re doing?”