KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The Rev. Jorge Acevedo challenged ingrained church behavior while offering practical, Gospel-based tactics for sharing Jesus during the Evangelism Conference held March 14-15 at Cokesbury United Methodist Church.
An estimated 350 attended the Friday evening through Saturday afternoon main event, with about 90 attending a “pre-conference” from Friday morning to Friday afternoon.
“Jesus called his church to redeem people from the hell they’re heading to, yes, but also the hell they’re living in,” Acevedo said during one of three plenary sessions. “So our job is to fish for people.”
“It could be that our lack of crowds in our churches -- this one is going to hurt -- is because we keep Jesus out of our church. That hurts. It could be that sometimes the way we do church -- the things that we hold on, our sacred cows -- are the very things that keep The Master from showing up at our church,” Acevedo said.
Later, Acevedo asked if church members tend to love their “rituals, carpets, and buildings” more than they want to share Jesus with others.
“It seems the kind of people who follow Jesus aren’t always the kind of folk who are welcome in the church,” Acevedo said.
“People are more important than our properties,” he said.
Acevedo, recipient of the 2009 Distinguished Evangelist Award, brought three pastors – the Rev. Arlene Jackson, the Rev. Shari Lacey, and the Rev. Wes Olds -- with him from his four-campus Grace United Methodist Church of southwest Florida.
The Florida pastors explained how their church has grown from 400 to 2,600 in the last 15 years by reaching out to people “who no one else wants.”
Acevedo shared a video about a ministry recently created by Grace UMC for special-needs children, often rejected by churches. He told stories about prostitutes and others who are left out by society, yet welcomed at Grace UMC.
Acevedo said his church was willing to do whatever necessary to use church facilities and resources to reach new people, even if it sometimes offends long-time members.
“We are committed to doing whatever it takes,” he said.
"Evangelism Conference features Jorge Acevedo" (The Call, 2/24/14)
"From near-death to neighborhood life centers" (The Call, 3/2/12)
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.