A few years ago, I was at an art exhibit with my husband when we ran into an acquaintance of mine from the community. As we introduced our respective spouses, he mentioned to his wife that I was working on my PhD, but he was unsure of the area. When I replied, the theology of evangelism, both he and his wife physically recoiled with expressions of horror. He was immediately embarrassed that their response had been both so negative and so visible, and he attempted to recover by stammering, “Evangelism, wow. I never would have thought. You’ve always struck me as being so open-minded.”
Not for the first time, I struggled to explain that evangelism and open-mindedness were not mutually exclusive, with one clearly preferable to other.
Repeatedly, across denominations, both within and outside the church, I have encountered hesitation, frustration, misunderstanding, denial, negativity, and even outright hostility in response to the entire topic of evangelism. Few people, it seems – at least in Western context, are comfortable talking about evangelism, much less engaging in it.
Kudos to Ed Stezter (@edstetzer) for pointing this out recently. He’s spot on when he says, “Today, too many of us roll our eyes at evangelism strategies, calling them hokey and ineffective, and, instead of coming up with other evangelism strategies, we just don’t evangelize.”
Double kudos to Ed for not just talking, but doing. He’s organizing a conference and convocation to mobilize the church for evangelism. He’s calling it Amplify and it will focus on learning what others are doing and (most importantly in my opinion), cultivating “a lifestyle of showing and sharing the love of Jesus.” I’m honored to be able to be a part of this gathering and look forward to the way God will move when we come together.
Here on the Methodist/Wesleyan branch of the Christian family tree, we’re also doing our part. Since 1996 we’ve been gathering for the Order of the Flame conference to instill in young pastors the DNA of evangelism, to help them see that evangelism lies (or should lie) at the heart of all that we do. As evangelism is holistic, the focus of the Flame conference is also holistic: not only on equipping and training, but on spiritual renewal and the strengthening of faith.
We’ll be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Flame conference March 14-18, 2016 at Epworth-by-the-Sea on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia. As in years past, there will be an invited group of new members for the Order; but to commemorate our anniversary year, we are offering existing members of the Flame the opportunity to return. As we gather old and new members of the Flame, we expect our time together to be marked by spiritual refreshment, celebration, the fostering of community, and encounters with the Holy Spirit.
Unique to this Flame conference, we will provide new learning opportunities for both returning and first time participants. New members will be able to experience the strong teaching that has marked all Flame conferences, while returning members will be exposed to a fresh crop of gifted speakers such as Andrew Forrest, Rosario “Roz” Picardo, Brent La Prince Edwards, Jeremy Steele, and others. All will encounter Holy Spirit-inspired worship, strong bible teaching, breakout sessions, and other opportunities for growth and learning.
I share Ed Stetzer’s desire to cultivate a lifestyle of showing and sharing the love of Jesus. I’m excited to be a part of what he is doing and excited about what World Methodist Evangelism is doing as well. These are two great opportunities to more fully embrace the call to share the love of Christ with a hurting world. I hope you’ll join us for Amplify and, if you’re a member of the Order of the Flame, I hope you’ll return for the 20thanniversary celebration.
To register for the Order of the Flame, contact World Methodist Evangelism.
Featured image courtesy Neal E. Johnson via Unsplash.