Easter is time for new life and new possibilities. I pray you will experience the resurrection power of Jesus throughout this Easter season and especially on Easter Sunday.
But have you thought about the fact that many persons in your communities – your own friends, co-workers, fellow students, neighbors, and yes, the strangers, too – will not share in the joy of Easter?
I hope that bothers you. I hope it troubles you enough to stir up a spirit for offering Christ to new people. I hope it fires up preachers and laity alike!
Consider this passage from the book, “How Great a Flame! Contemporary Lessons from the Wesleyan Revival,” by James C. Logan. He writes:
In that same 1744 conference Wesley addressed the matter of what to preach, and as was typical of Wesley, he ordered it very systematically:
Q. What is the best general method of preaching?
A. To invite, (2) To convince, (3) To offer Christ, (4) To build up and do this (in some measure) in every sermon.”
Wesley always preached while expecting a response from his listeners, whether they heard him preach in grand cathedrals or in open fields. He expected the same from preachers under his leadership. Yet, Logan goes on to write:
Preaching, as important as it was, did not suffice for a comprehensive ministry of evangelism. Experience convinced Wesley that awakening souls without providing follow-up guidance, nurture, and discipline was playing into the hands of the devil! Thus his standard reply to reports from his preachers about initial responses of conversion was, “Follow the blow! Never encourage the devil by snatching souls from him that you cannot nurture.”
We must heed the words of John Wesley by inviting people to Christ and creating space and places where they can be built up in Christ. Can you deny your comfortable routines so that you may offer Christ to new people? Are you and fellow church members really doing all you can to be invitational to the people within your circle of influence who don’t know Christ?
When was the last time you prayed for someone other than yourself? Does your congregation make people on the outside believe – through your attitudes, conversations, and deeds – that you really want new people to come into your buildings and in your presence?
Here’s one last question for you: Do you hold yourself responsible for the lack of growth in your church? On Feb. 23, Holston Conference launched a bold venture to baptize 3,000 persons in our 904 congregations on Pentecost Sunday, May 23. Will your church participate in this venture?
If Resurrection means anything to us – if you are grateful that Jesus triumphed over the grave and now lives to befriend you and empower your life – then you should begin singing Easter hymns like “He Lives” right now.
Sing and live like Resurrection people.
"New Places for New People" is the third of the Four Areas of Ministry Focus determined by the United Methodist Church. Bishop James Swanson wrote about "Developing Principled Christian Leaders" in January and "Ministries with the Poor" in February. Still to come is "Global Health"