By Daniel R. Gangler
Faith forming relationship is the growing edge in Christian mission and ministry today, according George Howard, an administrator in mission and evangelism with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries based in New York City. He said the poor must be a priority for United Methodist worldwide in keeping the Wesleyan tradition.
Howard was the Friday morning presenter to a gathering of more than 200 pastors from across Indiana during an annual conference educational session.
“Risk taking needs to be a component of ones personal faith development,” Howard said.
He realized that truth when challenged to leave an administrative position in his West Ohio Conference and join in establishing a ministry in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Columbus. He then asked his audience, “Where is Christ calling you to stretch and to grow?”
Working closely with others, Howard helped establish the Church of All People that began with services to the community in 1999 and led to a worshiping community three years later. Taking what he had learned, he now works with Global Ministries worldwide using one of several models of church formation.
Howard listed three models for ministry development.
- The Three Self Patriotic Movement is a model used by Chinese Christians, who went to their government asking for self-governance, self-support and self-propagation. The model was accepted by the Chinese government and has led to a more open church of 100 million Christians.
- The John Wesley Model began in the 1700s with a charity school, dispensary, loan society, daily worship and class meeting. Wesley focused his model on class meetings, which were considered primary to worship. In America, Methodists used young men in their 20s and 30s riding on circuits by horseback.
- The North Katanga UMC Model. In this African conference, ministry begins by building a church, then a parsonage with a garden to feed others, a clinic, school and community water well. This church model runs seven days a week and has led to that conference being the largest annual conference in the denomination.
All these models include three elements important to development including relief (an urgent promise of emerging aid to reduce suffering), rehabilitation (restoration) and developing a process of ongoing change done WITH people not to or for them. Howard said empowerment is so important to the process. He then asked, “Where is your mission, and which ones do you participate in?”
He said the keys to effective lasting ministry is driven by relationship, is asset based (what resources are already provided), is a healthy partnership which begins with leadership that is already there, and holistic not just focused on one ministry but holistic to the whole community.
He made a very specific emphasis on ministries to the poor. He explained that he became involved with the Church of All People from a personal challenge of someone asking him what he was doing for the poor every day. He realized that before becoming involved in this ministry, he had no personal one-on-one relationship with poor people. He discovered that the success of such ministry is based on the core affirmation that God loves us just the way we are and that God is not finished with us yet!
Probably the most important aspect of these models of ministry is listening to the needs of people to build relationships. “That’s what Jesus did,” he said, and avoid any kind of paternalism. He said we may have all the resources, but we need to listen and to be in partnership to move forward.
“When God opens the window, God is on the other side to welcome you. God equips the call,” Howard assured in closing.
Howard can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.