About 160 church members gave up portions of two sunny spring days to attend Holston's Evangelism Conference at Cokesbury Center, April 1-2 in Knoxville.
The gathering was the second organized by the Witness Ministry Team with the Rev. Ronnie Collins as chair. Last year's conference was attended by 353.
The main speaker was the Rev. Charles Kyker, lead pastor of the multi-campus Christ United Methodist Church in Hickory and Statesville, N.C.
Kyker shared his strategies for growing churches, including creating events that help "build a crowd" by giving away bottled water at a ballpark or hosting free block parties without expecting payment. The idea is to show the love of Christ, "no strings attached," he said.
"There are people who think that chicken pie suppers and bake sales are ministry," he said. "No. Let's go out and blow the minds of the community without trying to get money from them."
Using audience members on stage, Kyker demonstrated how churches are ineffective when they permit finance and administration to drive vision, mission, and ministry. Instead, vision, mission, and ministry (in that order) should drive finance and administration, he said.
Ministries that do not fulfill the vision probably should be eliminated, he said. "You can't do everything."
- Think "beyond Sundays and buildings" by finding ways to Impact Community.
- Participate in the May 14-15 Change the World weekend.
- Update your church's profile on the Find-a-Church.org site.
- Develop a Welcome Ministry in your church.
Bishop James Swanson led closing worship and Holy Communion.
Despite research showing the denomination is in a formidable decline, Swanson said, "I refuse to believe the statistics that are saying to us that we are finished. Instead, I see this as an opportunity for us to show the world that we serve a miracle-working God."
Swanson encouraged participants to identify actions, activities, or problems that discourage or distract people from seeking God. Examples are visiting with friends at church rather than extending greetings to new people -- or removing the basketball goal to keep community children from playing on church property.
"What are the things we are doing to stop people from seeing Jesus?" he said. "You've got to figure that out."
Representing Lake City/Dutch Valley UMC in Oak Ridge District, participant Charles Dawn praised the conference on Facebook:
"Often when you attend different events you are ready for them to end," Dawn said. "I could have stayed longer. My experience of the Evangelism Conference was a movement of the Holy Spirit in those that attended."