Only four percent of Methodists share their faith
INDIANAPOLIS - The Christian church is in a mission situation and in need of sharing the Christian faith, said Dr. Eddie Fox, head of World Evangelism, a part of the World Methodist Council*. He is based in Nashville, Tenn.
He told more than 90 United Methodists from across Indiana that Methodist churches must be faith-sharing congregations. Surveys show that only four percent of Methodists share their faith with others.
He instructed the laity and clergy from across Indiana during a LEP Year convocation Feb. 29-March 1 at the University of Indianapolis.
Fox wrote a faith-sharing curriculum enabling Methodists to share their Christian faith with other people, primarily with those whom they know personally. He co-authored it with Dr. George Morris, Senior Professor of World Evangelism and former senior pastor of First UMC in Peoria. Ill.
"I am an evangelist," said Fox. He told participants that by attending this meeting he expected them to take these faith-sharing ideas back to their own congregations to lead classes on what they learned.
He said in the world and in the United States, reports show one-third of the population claims the Christian faith. Likewise, one-third of the population "does not have a Christian memory" and is not part of any faith group.
However, "there is a burst of spirituality in our society," he said. "This is an opportune time to invite them to the church and to the Christian faith."
He said surveys show that most Mormons and Southern Baptists share their faith and that even 30 percent of Roman Catholics now share their faith.
Compared with the majority of Christians in America, "we (United Methodists) are not doing our part in spreading the message of Jesus Christ."
Fox said John Wesley, founder of Methodism, said he feared that the Methodist church might become a dead sect. Therefore Wesley admonished his followers to hold fast to doctrine, discipline and spirit. Wesley defined doctrine as "sound teaching," discipline as our corporate life together and spirit, knowing that without (God's Holy) Spirit, there is no power.
"Methodists have difficulty in communicating the (Gospel) message and are increasingly unsure of what their message is," said Fox.
Faith-Sharing New Testament
During his presentation, he introduced The Faith-Sharing New Testament with The Psalms. This New Revised Standard Version is prefaced by what Fox described as a catechism, questions and answers about faith. The preface, titled "Basics of Christian Conversion and Discipleship," is a 24-question-and-answer primer beginning with the question, "What is a Christian?" Each question is answered and includes several New Testament references.
Following the text of the Psalms are "Essentials for Leading a Person to Christ."
Fox said he and Morris wrote these aides in understandable language based upon Wesleyan theology.
More than half a million copies of this New Testament have been published by Discipleship Resources in 38 languages since 1996 when it first appeared. It's available through Cokesbury (www.cokesbury.com).
The Faith-Sharing New Testament is complemented by Faith-Sharing: Dynamic Christian Witnessing by Invitation, a study written by Fox and Morris for congregations to teach their members how to share their faith. It's available from Discipleship Resources (www.discipleshipresources.org).
In a PowerPoint presentation, Fox spent Friday night and Saturday morning walking participants through the basics of the faith-sharing process explained in the book.
He said faith-sharing is evangelism that includes both word and deed.
"We lead people to faith. We don't convert anyone. We share, spread and announce the grace of Jesus Christ. It is the power of the Gospel that changes people.
"Christ does not call people to a religion, but to Himself and His Kingdom."
North Indiana evangelist
The Rev. Kimberly Reisman, director of Next Step Evangelism Ministries, based in West Lafayette, completed the Faith-Sharing curriculum presentation begun by Fox. She is an ordained minister of the North Indiana Conference.
The convocation, called "LEAP (Let's Establish A Priority) to Tell Our Story," was organized by Kayc Mykrantz of Logansport and Ike Williams of Carmel. Each is Lay Leader of the North Indiana and South Indiana Conferences respectively.
For more information about Faith-Sharing resources, log on to Discipleship Resources at www.discipleshipresources.org.
*The World Methodist Council, based in Lake Junaluska, N.C., is an association of the churches in the Methodist tradition throughout the world that promotes unity and represents 71 million Methodists worldwide.