Sunday, 7 August 2011

Mission or evangelism?

[EDIT - This blog reflects the first day of the World Methodist Conference, Thursday 4th August. Due to electrical conversion issues I didn't get a chance to finish the blog that night. So if it changes character part way through, that is why, and I apologise]

I may not have been incredibly taken by some of the content of the Council meetings the past few days, but the World Methodist Conference started today and seems to be bringing an improvement. There was not much of note for a large part of today, and I did find my self pondering if I would have any material for a blog today. This may have in part been due to the fact I opted not to go to a specific seminar in the afternoon. I spent my time in fellowship with friends from Ireland, and later on other corners of the globe.

I once again had a wonderful time in fellowship with young people over lunch. I really do feel that God is working through these people and that soon the Methodist Church will have some great leaders, and will then realise the potential it has been sitting on.

However, the session that has given me most of my material for this (still hopeful) blog was an optional session this evening. Last year the Methodist Church in Britain carried out the All Partners Consultation, in which it got together with Methodist Churches from around the world and asked how we can better work together. Around the same time, the United Methodist Church in the USA did a similar consultation. The session was based around conversations on where to go next. The main question I chose to look at during the session was "In what ways can we partner for mission to make a difference in the World?"

The small group I was discussing this with gave me plenty to think about. There was one American guy, who was what I would call a stereotypical American evangelist. And he told us he was passionate about evangelism, to the extent he had given out over 500 copies of the New Testament and was working towards 600. Great, I thought. It's not the way I would do it, but everyone has their own style. But the more I reflected on this, the more I pondered is this enough? Not in numerical value, but is it enough to give out only the new testament? I believe the study of history is really important when you are looking where to go. 
Now I guess I should confess, that I'm not always a fan of these 'out there' evangelists, so I may be presenting a very biased view!

Another question we batted around, and unfortunately had to try and explain to this American gentleman, was what constituted mission, and evangelism. We acknowledged that the two went hand in hand together, but they were very different. The conversation turned to the distribution of water, and if we are doing that, we might as well do it in Jesus Christ's name (new testament stuff again?) I asked the question of why we were giving that cup of water. If we are giving it because the recipients are in need of it, that is mission. And why not say I'm giving you this because I know Jesus' love and compassion. But, if we give that water so we can give it in Jesus' name, that is evangelism.

It was then acknowledged in wider discussion the importance of reaching out to young people. One idea of how to better the work, was to look into virtual communities. To create a new class meeting that connected similar people world over. I have met so many great people, and to have the internet to keep in contact will be so very useful. I do admit that technology and social media is not limited to young people, it is very much part of their lives. The internet can bring us much closer, the world is a lot smaller with it. Is it time we came together as one world wide connexion? Though after the amount of discussion over bylaws and constitutions over the past week, this may not be a good idea.

It would however, be an interesting exercise, which I think might bring about a lot of healing. 

It is also interesting to note the importance of the British Methodist Church still. One response from the All Partners Consultation was that the British Methodist Church needed to refresh it's spirituality, and prayer and that maybe one of the ways we could do this is through fasting. Now there, I think, is a challenge. But this could be a whole other blog.

I would like to finish with something I have heard before, but was mentioned in the small discussion group. "For God so loved the World, He didn't send a committee!" To which I thought, "But we are Methodists!"

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