Investing in the WIG – Forward to a New Spring ©


As I read through Dr. Timothy Tennent’s probing book For the Body (which I highly recommend), I came across the following sentence: “The church is God’s divine work built on the foundation of Christ.” (For the Body, p. 190) This high holy understanding of the church is not founded on buildings but on faithfulness and fruitfulness to the mission that the risen Christ himself has given us – “to go and make disciples of all peoples.” (Matthew 28:19)
 
As we move Forward to a New Spring, we are encountering exciting signs of blooming faithfulness and fruitfulness.

  • District Youth Discipleship Coordinators and District Discipleship Coaches are engaging youth and congregations in every district with exciting new possibilities for disciple-making. (Visit the East, North/West and South/Central District web pages to learn more about the District Discipleship Teams and team members.)
     

  • Calvary UMC in Weatherford, a church on the edges of closing, has experienced nine professions of faith in September via a New Faith Community a Calvary known as Grace Meadow Fellowship. (The newly professed Christians are in the photo to the right with the red-clad Pastor Clint Jones.)
     

  • Over at the Lakeview/Elm Mott Charge, Rev. Aryn Mojica recently began a joint youth Bible study. As the result of a Bible study on what it means to be a believer/disciple of Jesus Christ, four youth (who grew up in the church) made professions of faith. 
     

  • Down south, Harker Heights UMC is experiencing exciting new life with children
    .

  • First UMC Glen Rose has grown significantly in discipleship making through small groups and community involvement during this season – growing from zero to eight small groups for disciple making.
     

  • St Barnabas UMC has restarted a ministry called “Feeding Frenzy.” They provide a free lunch every Thursday at the church for Martin High School students. The first week they had 21 students come. Week 2 saw attendance double to 43 students. The doubling up continued on week three when 86 students attended, and, most recently, 120 high school students came to eat at St. Barnabas. The East District has helped fund this ministry with a $5,000 grant that will be matched by a member of the church. This is a tremendous narrative of community engagement and disciple-making.
     

  • An amazing expression of faithfulness and fruitfulness is taking place through mission engagement at White’s Chapel UMC. Beginning April 2019, White’s Chapel began work with the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference to refurbish and remodel the UM church in Chihowa, OK. For more than two and a half years, volunteers have traveled to Oklahoma on a weekly basis to redo the interior of the building, including hanging new sheet rock, painting, plumbing, electrical, flooring and other restoration projects. The majority of the work has been done by the “Dirty Dozen,” a group of 30-plus men who volunteer for a variety of projects, from emergency relief and mission activities to on-campus church maintenance. Working alongside them were women from White’s Chapel’s Mary & Martha’s ministry. Together, an incredible amount of “sweat equity” and “tender love” have gone into helping to bring new life into Chihowa UMC!
     

  • I also invite you, if you haven't already, to check out the latest WIG video narratives put together by the outstanding video production branch of our Conference Communications tree. (click on any of the images to go to that video)

    • For nearly a decade, Mt. Zion UMC in Belton has engaged in a backpack ministry to help connect with the families of their community and provide children with new backpacks and school supplies at the start of the school year. Each year the program has grown and this year, Mt. Zion formed a ministry partnership with First UMC Belton to take the event to the next level and offer more than backpacks and supplies.

       

    • First United Methodist Church, Ballinger, TX is offering two United Methodist favorites - Prayer and Coffee - to folks as they drop off their kiddos at school each Wednesday. The Coffee and Prayer outreach ministry initiative finds volunteers up well before the sun each Wednesday morning to prepare and provide free coffee and prayer for all the parents who are dropping off their kids at the local elementary school just round the bend from the church.
       

    • The resurgence of COVID cases in Texas caused the cancellation of this year's city-wide ecumenical community service project in Waxahachie known as Worship Outside the Walls, or WOW. However, the folks at Ferris Heights UMC love the connection with the community during WOW so much each year, that they decided to do a Mini-WOW and find a way to serve and offer Christ.

Taking AACtion! and Granting Growth with New Faith Communities

The story of investing in our mission and Wildly Important Goal (our WIG) of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world does not stop with just this marvelous collection of examples. Recently, the Central Texas Conference announced a long-overdue strategic initiative to grow and strengthen our African American Churches. This great initiative, called AACtion!: Strengthening Our African American Witness, is a continuation of our efforts to energize and equip vibrant and vital congregations of all sizes, in all situations, made up of an incredibly diverse number of congregations.  (On any given Sunday in the Central Texas Conference the gospel is being proclaimed in at least seven or eight languages.)
 
A new faith community is focused on reaching people we are not already reaching. Along with AACtion!, it is an investment in the our Wildly Important Goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Through a new faith community, congregations all across the Central Texas Conference are experiencing renewal and new vitality. 
 
A new faith community consists of the following elements: 

  • Wesleyan,
  • Includes consistent worship experience,
  • Celebrates and seeks professions of faith,
  • Teaches discipleship practices including stewardship,
  • Remains accountably connected to the Central Texas Annual Conference,
  • Is a sustainable model (i.e. has the financial, spiritual, and numerical strength to exist long-term, allowing the existing congregation to step up to a higher level of Christian life and mission.) 


Back in 2018, Rev. Mike Ramsdell, then director of the Lamar Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission, and Church Growth (CEMCG), announced that the Smith Center would be offering one hundred grants for New Faith Communities in the amount of up to ten thousand dollars. To date, approximately $610,000 in New Faith Community Grants has been awarded. Here is a breakdown of the distribution of grants by Church Location...

  • 27 Grants to Urban churches – Churches with a surrounding population more than 50K
  • 24 Grants to Suburban churches – Churches serving a community with a population of 50K or more
  • 10 Grants to Rural churches – Churches 25 miles or more from an urban area and serving community of less than 50K in population

 
For the first 22 months that the New Faith Grants were being offered, our annual conference grew every single month in churches of all sizes and in very diverse contexts. We saw an increase in professions of faith, worship attendance, missional outreach in the local context, and deeper intentional discipleship.
 
The New Faith Communities work continues. We are setting the ambitious goal to disburse the remaining 39 grants before June 30, 2022.  These grants can be used for new churches, new faith communities, new missional initiatives, relocating churches, and churches building multi-campus facilities for the purpose of evangelistic church extension. (If your congregation is interested in applying for a New Faith Community Grant, please visit ctcumc.org/new-faith-communities-grant to complete the grant application. It is important that this application be developed by leadership of the congregation working with the pastor. Should you have questions about how to get started, please reach out to Rev. Meg Witmer-Faille, Associate Director of the Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission, and Church Growth. She can help your fine tune your grant ideas and develop a plan for a successful New Faith Community launch.

Feeding the Spiritually Starving

Recently, I read an intriguing analysis of Gallup polling data that reported church decline across America. The author noted that there is a deep and growing interest in matters of faith. In my terminology, people are spiritually starving. I go back again and again to D. T. Niles’ famous quote (often misquoted).  “Evangelism is witness. It is one beggar telling another beggar where to get food.” (D. T. Niles, That They May Have Life, p. 96) The writer analyzing the Gallup data commented, “The primary challenge facing pastors, rabbis and imams is how to invite nonmembers into an authentic experience of God rather than persuade them to join or rejoin a religious organization.” (Behind Gallup's portrait of church decline (religionnews.com)
 
As a side trip, it is worth noting that the Gallup data also shared that “Immigration increases religious vitality…” The analysis of the polling reported, “Figures from the 2010 census found that there were 43 million foreign-born residents in the United States, 74% of whom were Christian, 5% Muslim, 4% Buddhist and 3% Hindu. While figures from the 2020 census are not yet fully available, those same general trends will likely hold true.” – from Behind Gallup's portrait of church decline (religionnews.com)
 
As I come to the close of this blog post, two additional quotes come to mind. The first is about the ministry of Mother Teresa, the second comes from C. S. Lewis.
 

“Mother Teresa stated that without the intense, burning presence of God in our hearts, without lives of profound, intense intimacy with Jesus, we are too poor to take care of the poor. Jesus present in us is the one who presses us toward the poor." (From The Day is Now Far Spent by Cardinal Robert Sarah)
 
If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” - C.S. Lewis

 
My friends, together we are making a difference for Christ, for the Kingdom of God, for transformation of our hungry and hurting world.

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