Tag Archives: jesus

Talking about Jesus in A Complex World

World Methodist Evangelism (WME) is proud to work with partners around the world to train indigenous, front-line evangelism leaders to talk about Jesus in a complex world. Usually lasting one week, these evangelism seminars provide laity and clergy in the Wesleyan Methodist family the opportunity to explore the nature and practice of evangelism in a cross-cultural environment.

Pastors and laity from the United States are encouraged to join with international church leaders in learning, worship, and mutual growth. We have three seminars in 2020: Indonesia, Fiji, and Romania.

These unique learning opportunities address topics important to Christ followers in these respective locations. Some topics include:
–Ministry in migrant communities
–Faithful creation care
–Providing a faithful witness under the pressures of an increasingly secular society
–The role of healing in evangelism and discipleship
–Addressing local and global poverty from a biblical perspective
–Ministering in places where folk religion is being mixed with Christian teaching

These issues are of increasing importance and provide helpful insights for leaders around the world. In addition, these seminars provide an arena for the World Methodist family to meet together for sharing, learning, and preparing for evangelism. Teaching is led by local church leadership as well as pastors and scholars from the United States.

These experiences are perfect opportunities to grow as leaders and faithful followers of Jesus, and to encounter the wonderful things God is doing in the church around the world. Additionally, continuing education credit is available while experiencing evangelism and church leadership in these exceptional environments.

Upcoming Opportunities:
– Indonesia
– Fiji
– Romania
To learn more, click HERE.

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Here is the Church

By Rev. Dr. Robert Haynes

When I was a child, my grandmother taught me an old saying, a little rhyme that she would act out with her hands. It went something like this:

“Here is the Church”

(She interlaced her fingers, hiding them inside a two-handed fist)

“Here is the Steeple”

(She pointed her two index fingers upwards to make a steeple”

“Look inside, there’s all the people”

(She turned her palms upwards, revealing her wiggling, interlaced fingers)

With all due respect to my loving grandmother, is it fair to divide the church and the people that way? What does the Bible say about what, or who, the church is?

The New Testament gives no formal definition of the church. However, looking at contextual clues for the church’s own understanding of itself provides important insight. From its origins, the church understood itself as a gathered group in, and for the sake of, the world. The term used in Acts to describe the gathering of Christians, the church, is ekklesia. At the time of the writing of the New Testament, the term was already in common use to describe the gathering of the people of the city at the bidding of the municipal leaders. Ekklesia is a term that was used in Ancient Greek to describe the assembly called by the town clerk. It was the role of this clerk to call the people to assemble for his purposes: to make an announcement, dictate a policy change, or conduct some business. The gathering, the ekklesia, was called together by their leader for the purposes that leader wanted to fulfill.

However, the early church was not just a gathering of people to fulfill a political purpose. Rather, they were the gathering of the people at the request of the Highest Authority: a Christian community proclaiming that God was calling all believers for his purposes. Such a bold proclamation said that Jesus’ lordship is over all aspects of life. As such, they were publicly declaring all other religions and societal structures as inferior to God, Jesus of Nazareth, the only Son of God. Even the government and its leaders were to be molded and shaped by the teaching of Scriptures and lived out by the people gathered and scattered—the Christians, the church. What made the members of the early movements of Christianity distinct from the world was that they saw themselves as not just a gathering of people, rather as the gathering of the people of God.

By choosing to call themselves ekklesia, the New Testament church desired to be a group gathered among the whole city and desired that they could, one day, be a gathering of the whole city. Christians, from the very beginning, were a movement of people launched into the public life. They lived in such a manner that the social, political, and economic structures would reflect Christ’s teaching. They expected others to be transformed by Word: the teaching of Scripture, Deed: their acts of mercy and service, and Sign: the divine works of the Holy Spirit. They did not leave this work to a select few, what we today might call the “clergy.” Rather, they understood this to be the work of every Christian.

John Wesley understood this at many levels. For Wesley, the empowering of the laity in ministry was the way that God’s Kingdom is demonstrated through a community of believers demonstrating the love of God and neighbor, therefore fulfilling God’s commandments. Wesley sought to revitalize the church by re-energizing the laity in the Christian faith they seemed to profess, but failed to demonstrate. The early Methodists exemplified the lesson that the laity embodies the church, visible in the world. The Wesleyan Methodist movement continues to thrive where this is embodied today.

It is important to remember, that from the earliest foundations of the Christian movement, the church is not first a building or the clergy leadership. Rather, the church is just that, a movement of people who have been transformed by Christ and are inviting others to experience that transformation as well. The church is not merely the building, nor is the church merely the clergy. Rather, as another old saying goes, “If the building burned down and the preacher left town, what you would have left is the church.”

Dr. Haynes is the Director of Education and Leadership for World Methodist Evangelism and the author of Consuming Mission: Towards a Theology of Short-Term Mission and Pilgrimage. He is an ordained member of The United Methodist Church. He can be reached at rob@worldmethodist.org.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_facebook][vc_tweetmeme][/vc_column][/vc_row] [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Work and the Rest that is Worship

By Rev. Dr. Robert Haynes

In the midst of the Advent season, many church leaders are busy preparing for some extra special: Extra and Special worship services. These services generally draw people to church who have not been before or who have not been in a long time. These can be wonderful times of evangelistic energy. Newcomers to the church can be invited into the Christian community when church leaders work to prepare themselves and their congregations for authentic worship.

Though it may seem paradoxical, Christmas services maybe a time to demonstrate that the work of worship can lead to a divine rest. It is work that does not exhaust, but refreshes.

Church leaders will spend a great deal of time preparing for worship services. Every word to be spoken has been carefully prayed over. Music has been rehearsed. The worship space has been prepared. Leaders should also teach the congregation that worship takes some work on their part. It takes a holy work, and therefore, it is work worth doing. Whether we participate in a uniform, regular order of worship or not, we all participate in a “liturgy.” Liturgy literally means “the work of the people.” Liturgy does not have to be confined to something we read through in traditional worship.

It is indeed powerful to remember, participate, and celebrate the traditions of the centuries of worship that came before us. But all worship: traditional, contemporary, emerging, etc. can be a “liturgy” or a work of the people. Worship is not a spectator’s sport. True worship occurs when we bring ourselves to the worship of God. This requires more than our mere physical presence. This requires our entire being, our time, and our full attention. This can be real work sometimes, but it is always worth it.

Because the Holy Spirit is working in authentic, work-filled worship it is powerful! The power is already there in the Person and Presence of the Holy Spirit. We do not have to force it or make it happen. The Spirit is already there. When we open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit by reverent and careful preparation for worship God is glorified, and we transformed in the process.

Worship is also about rest. Let’s face it, many of us have trouble resting. Sometimes we even look down upon those who rest as lazy or unproductive. To be the child of God that we are called to be, we need to rest. We must take a deep breath: spiritually, emotionally, physically.

True worship is a time of rest. We rest in the arms of the God who loves us and desires that we too love Him. He wants us to cast our cares upon Him and take rest from the burdens that the world, others, or even ourselves have placed upon us.

In our worship we can sometimes get so caught up in singing about God or reading about God or hearing about God that we forget that worship is an experience of God. We experience God’s love so that we too might be changed more into the likeness of Him. Have you ever considered how you might move from all those things about God and move into a restful experience of God?

Our worship truly takes on a whole new meaning when we live out that which we say and do in worship. We affirm that God is all powerful, that He forgives sins, that the saints are to commune together, and that there is more to our being than just this earthly life.

If done carefully, prayerfully, and intentionally every worship service can be filled with holy work and holy rest. As new people come to our churches, may Christian leaders model this work and this rest some that others would come to know God’s work and rest for themselves as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Haynes is the Director of Education and Leadership for World Methodist Evangelism and the author of Consuming Mission: Towards a Theology of Short-Term Mission and Pilgrimage. He is an ordained member of The United Methodist Church. He can be reached at rob@worldmethodist.org. To learn more about, or to order, Consuming Mission, visit www.ConsumingMission.com.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_facebook][vc_tweetmeme][/vc_column][/vc_row] [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Show Up and Pay Attention

By Rev. Dr. Robert Haynes

I was recently visiting my son who is away studying at University, and we attended Sunday worship at a church near his school. After the service, quite a few people stopped us to thank us for showing up to church. The congregation was made up of mostly older members who seemed thankful, relieved, and overjoyed that people from a younger generation would show up to church. That is the way the church is supposed to respond when people show up to church, right? So why don’t more people show up?

In an age of increasing moral relativism, secularization, and skepticism, convincing those outside the Church to show up inside the walls of a local church to seek answers to life’s problems will only grow more difficult. Standing on the front steps of the church while yelling, wooing, or cajoling passersby (literally or figuratively) to come on inside is likely to fail. Rather, those who would seek to effectively share the life-changing message of Jesus Christ must move in another space.

Sociologists say that we live and move in three different spaces. The first is our domestic space: where we live, eat our meals, and spend time with our families. This is our most private space. The second is where we go to work/school. We build relationships here, but they are limited by the confines of the nature of our work environment or school situations. The third space is where we spend the rest of our time. This can be a coffee shop, restaurant, pub, park, or playground. It may be the gym, the athletic fields, or the shopping mall. Used to its fullest potential, the third space is where we do life together. It is where we catch up with friends and neighbors. It is where we are able to hear one another’s hopes and dreams. It is where we are able to talk and reason and learn from one another. The third space allows for an exchange of ideas in a reasonable and measured way.

Faith-sharing is important in all of these spaces. At home, families should worship and study together. At work and school, there is an appropriate way for one to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ who shares love and hope with others. However, it is in the third space where a great impact can be made on non-believers. When people come together around a common interest or on common ground then Christians find themselves entering into spaces where God works in some remarkable ways.

Consider the example of the Apostle Paul in Acts 19 in which we see Paul living and working in Ephesus. In verse 9, we learn that for two years Paul and the disciples went daily to the hall of Tyrannus (an Ephesian third space, if you will). It was there that Paul taught any who would hear, Jews and Greeks, to the point where God did “extraordinary things through Paul” including healing people with the handkerchiefs and aprons that Paul had touched. Wow! Notice that it was not a cleverly devised outreach event where this happened. Rather, Paul deliberately and consistently moved out of the confines of his home and the marketplace of tent making and moved into a third space in Ephesus.

A mentor continues to remind me that in order to share your faith, you must show up and pay attention. Show up in people’s lives. Show up in the momentous and the mundane. Show up in times of joy and of sorrow. Show up for celebrations and for struggles. And pay attention. Pay attention to their hopes and dreams. Pay attention to their doubts and fears. Pay attention to their questions and curiosities.

Most importantly, pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is doing. When Christians show up in other peoples’ lives and pay attention to what is going on, the Holy Spirit will work in ways we could never imagine. As Wesleyans we know that God is calling each and every person to life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. We also know that we have the privilege and responsibility to use our presence, our works, and our words to be a part of God’s invitation to others. So, pay attention to the promptings and urgings of the Spirit to speak words of comfort and hope. Pay attention to the nudges you feel about when to speak of your faith and when to remain silent and to listen more. Pay attention to the doors that open for you to declare with loving kindness God’s saving grace.

So, move out into your third space. Show up. Pay attention. Then, celebrate what the Holy Spirit does in and among you!

Dr. Haynes is the Director of Education and Leadership for World Methodist Evangelism and the author of Consuming Mission: Towards a Theology of Short-Term Mission and Pilgrimage. He is an ordained member of The United Methodist Church. He can be reached at rob@worldmethodist.org. To learn more about, or to order, Consuming Mission, visit www.ConsumingMission.com.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_facebook][vc_tweetmeme][/vc_column][/vc_row] [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

A Celebration of Continued Vision

A Note from Board Chair Davis Chappell

It is with great joy and thanksgiving that we celebrate Kim Reisman’s 5th anniversary as Executive Director of WME. What a blessing she has been to our mission and ministry! God has used her in marvelous ways to continue the witness and work of WME. Her passion for Christ, her love for people, her vision, teaching, preaching and organizational gifts have faithfully led us into a strategic place for the days ahead.
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On behalf of the board of WME, we give thanks for Kim and are excited about the future, with her at the helm.
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“The past five years have been filled with lots of learning; we have all worked hard and come a long way. It is a true blessing to serve and to be part of this life-changing work.”

Through Kim’s leadership, WME has:

  • Expanded leadership: In addition to the amazing Board of Directors, Regional Secretaries and our newly formed Next Generation Advisory Team, WME has doubled the size of the operations staff, going from two to five positions. Take a minute to meet the dedicated team.
  • WME held our 24th gathering of Order of the FLAME and are working to create a database of all its members. If you have participated and are a member of the Order, please be sure to complete the FLAME Member Form and stay connected.
  • ICYCE (International Christian Youth Conferences on Evangelism) has been rebranded and is now called Metanoia. WME held our 10th Metanoia event after a nine-year hiatus. Young adults from over twenty different countries attended.
  • WME feels a strong commitment to missional evangelism, and therefore, has established the Residency In Mission (RIM) program. We have two residents working with host ministries in New Zealand to strengthen the work in their local contexts, while offering Residents an environment in which to grow in their ministry service.
  • Published the Embrace materials and began holding training workshops. Embrace is an evangelism resource melding personal experience and theological integrity to equip Christ followers to share their faith with confidence, competence and grace.
  • In this ever-changing and tech-savvy world in which we live, WME has worked to make advances in technology. We have updated the website, established a stronger presence on Facebook and other social media outlets, and created a working and more efficient database.

But most importantly, through the ministry of WME, lives of literally thousands of people around the world have been touched and changed. Collectively we will continue to empower Christ followers to share their faith in Jesus Christ!


Share, Give, Join

  • Have you been influenced by the work of WME? Share how Kim’s leadership has impacted you by commenting on our Facebook page here.
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  • You can support the work of WME and make a gift in honor of Kim. Donate NOW.
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  • Join us in our mission to strengthen and promote evangelism by telling others about your personal relationship with Christ.
Stay connected with WME! Receive The Latest news and info from WME

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Reaching Young Adults

By Rev. Dr. Robert Haynes

People sometimes ask me for advice on how to get more young adults to come to church. Frequently, their church is warm and friendly, but is made of up older and/or elderly adults. They sometimes speak passionately about their desire to see their church not die off as members age. These conversations usually occur with church leaders in parts of the world where the church attendance is in decline, particularly in the West.

When I ask them what sort of things they have tried, they tell me they are thinking of putting ads in the newspaper. Or they hung signs up outside inviting people to come to church. Or they held an event and they hung up fliers in places like the post office. They seem disappointed that the response to these has been poor.

At this point, I try to steer the conversation away from these passive, impersonal efforts at “outreach.” None of these require a great deal of time of true investment in people. Effective ministry takes work, a great deal of hard work. It takes an investment of time, of love, and of self-abasing service. While no single formula provides a simple solution to increasing the spiritual involvement of young adults, I will offer a few principles for fruitful ministry.

Pray. This seems so basic, but it cannot be overstated. Pray for God to open your eyes to those you are to serve. Remember that prayer not only changes the one who is the subject of your prayer, but it changes the one who offers the prayer. Pray that God will set your heart right to minister to others.

Check your motives. Simply wanting young adults to come to church merely because it will keep your particular congregation alive is disingenuous and unbiblical. People will see right through it and be turned off. Rather, the gospel calls us to share the love of Jesus because it changes lives, transforms relationships, sets free those enslaved to sin, and heals the broken hearted. If that is your focus, the church will grow as a natural result. If you seek maintenance of an “institution” without prioritizing mission, you will get neither.

Seek Community. Research continues to show that today’s younger adults are looking for an authentic community that will help them discover the meaning and purpose of their lives. There is no better place than the community of vibrant Christians faithfully living out the gospel to aid in that discovery. However, true community looks much different than the institutional nature of many churches, and young adults, generally speaking, do not trust institutions. They have grown up watching banks “too big to fail,” fail. They do not trust government because they see political acrimony everywhere they turn. They see the institutional church racked by scandal again and again. Hence, they will not give blind loyalty to an institution, as maybe the previous generations have done. In order to help them see the good news of the gospel, authentic relationships in a dynamic community of Christians dedicated to scriptural holiness must be developed to provide a healthy picture of the church.

Prioritize Belonging. Too many times the church has told people that they must behave and believe before they can belong. However, this is not the pattern Jesus models. In Luke 19, Jesus is passing through Jericho. When he sees Zacchaeus, Jesus publicly invites Zacchaeus into the community of faith. Picture it, Jesus offers a notorious cheat and swindler a place in the community of people of faith. The members of the religious establishment immediately disapproved. But notice that the result is Zacchaeus’ confession and repentance. Offering community where people are free to belong and can honestly share their doubts, struggles, and questions about faith and have them answered with the transforming love of the gospel is a powerful agent of change.

Celebrate multi-generational ministry. In many parts of the world, young adult Christians are a minority in their peer group. Anecdotal evidence and academic research alike show that young adults want relationships with Christians of older generations to help them navigate life. This does not mean that the older adults need to have all the right answers every time. Rather, young adults tend to seek someone who will say, “I’ve have been walking this road a bit longer. I do not have it all figured it, but I will walk this road with you.” I know I am thankful for the mentors who came alongside my wife and me to help us learn how to be better parents, buy our first home, or take on new community projects. We received invaluable friendship and wisdom from people of several generations.

Be authentic. Young adults value genuine relationships that demonstrate sustained authenticity. Putting on a false front or a fake persona will only hurt ministry. It is not necessary to dazzle them with fancy lights, sound, smoke machines, and mirrors. Do not prioritize another slick event to get people in the door. Leave these things to the entertainment industry. Similarly, do not rely on the latest, trendy program to solve everything. Share your struggles and successes alongside one another, just as the New Testament churches did. Live in community, devoting yourselves to the apostle’s teaching, sharing meals with one another, and sharing as any has need (Acts 2). When a church operates this way people, communities, and the world are radically transformed.

Practicing principles like these in your ministry can help reach people for Christ of all ages, particularly young adults, in your community. The work of World Methodist Evangelism provides even more resources and events to equip your church for ministry. Contact us today to learn more.

Dr. Haynes is the Director of Education and Leadership for World Methodist Evangelism and the author of Consuming Mission: Towards a Theology of Short-Term Mission and Pilgrimage. He is an ordained member of The United Methodist Church. He can be reached at rob@worldmethodist.org. To learn more about, or to order, Consuming Mission, visit www.ConsumingMission.com.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_facebook][vc_tweetmeme][/vc_column][/vc_row] [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

There’s Something About A Name

By Rev. Dr. Robert Haynes

Some years ago, I learned that a name is a powerful thing. For example, while working to complete my undergraduate degree in education, on various occasions my professor would observe us as we taught lessons in classrooms at nearby schools as we prepared for the time when we would have our own classrooms. On one particular occasion, I was teaching a group of students whom I did not know very well since I was only at the school a few times and only for short periods of time. As a result, I did not know the students’ names. My professor picked up on this immediately. In her critique of my teaching, she admonished me for my lack of connection to the young people. “Rob, you cannot reach them if you do not even know their names.” That lesson has resonated with me for over twenty years.

Everyone and everything have been given a name. These names signify an actuality, an existence, a being. The one who gives us our names has a certain power over us. Many of us receive our names from our parents. The names that my wife and I gave our own children came through careful prayer and reflection. The naming of our children was a sacred act which we took seriously. If someone were to come along now and try to change their names for some reason it would be an attempt to disrespect not only our son or daughter, but also to undermine the parental role of name giver. A name is a social reality. Referring to someone only by a racial category, by a class identity, or by a statement of (in)ability can be an attempt to de-humanize the individual. Categorizing them as such without recognizing their individual humanity can be a move towards mere objectification. Consider the biblical accounts when a person’s name is removed as a signal of a “social death” and even an attempt to remove their existence from the community (e.g. 1 Sam. 24:21; Ps. 9:5; 109:13).

In a world where evangelism and discipleship are increasingly personal and always highly relational, truly loving someone in Christian ministry means knowing, and using, the person’s name. It may seem like an easy thing, but I encourage us to be honest with ourselves. How many times, at least in our own minds, have we referred to someone as “the lady in the back pew” or “the guy with the beard who comes to the soup kitchen”? They have names that are precious to them and to those who gave it to them. We honor their humanity when we actively work to learn—and remember—their names. The use of someone’s name acknowledges them for who they are, it brings honor to them, it signifies a personal respect, and it recognizes their humanity. Referring to someone in a manner that does not use their name can objectify that person. For example, calling him “the guy next door” all the time or merely referring to her as “the lady in the wheelchair” fails to embrace the individual who is created in the image of God that is before us. People are more than the titles we try to impose upon them.

Leaders, pastors included, may sometimes try to disconnect their own name from the title and role they hold. There is a great example in the American television show, The West Wing. In this fictional story, the President of the United States is faced with a difficult moral decision. He calls his life-long priest to the Oval Office to advise him. The priest, who has known President Jed Barlett since he was a child, is in awe by the powerful position that Jed now holds and does not know how to properly address him. He asks whether to refer to him as “Jed” or “Mr. President.” Bartlett’s response in poignant. He asks to be called “Mr. President” so that he can be reminded of the separation of the person he is and the office he holds. The decision before him is difficult and he does not want to be personally held responsible. Therefore, at least in President Bartlett’s mind, being called “Mr. President” excuses him personally from what he is about to do. Those who serve in Christian ministerial leadership do well to remember that we bear a Name that cannot be separated from our own. By our baptism and our call, we bear Christ’s Name in our ministry. We have a new status: we were once dead, now we are alive. While we may not have been given a new name, we do bear Christ’s Name in a way that cannot be separated from our own being (e.g. Rom. 6:2; 1 Cor. 1:2; Acts 11:26; 2 Pet. 4:16).

There is just something about a name: our own names. There is a beauty in the Name that we bear. And there is a beauty in looking past what we see on the outside of the person before us, and instead see the name they have been given. We have been called to reach them with the love of Christ, and we just will not be able to reach them until we know—and embrace—their names.

Dr. Haynes is the Director of Education and Leadership for World Methodist Evangelism and the author of Consuming Mission: Towards a Theology of Short-Term Mission and Pilgrimage. He is an ordained member in The United Methodist Church. He can be reached at rob@worldmethodist.org. To learn more about, or to order, Consuming Mission, visit www.ConsumingMission.com.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_facebook][vc_tweetmeme][/vc_column][/vc_row] [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Evangelism and The Short-Term Mission Trip

By Rev. Dr. Robert Haynes

With the coming of spring and the anticipation of summer, many churches in the United States are preparing for the Short-Term Mission (STM) “season.” Churches frequently use a domestic or international STM trip as a standard part of regular programming for youth and adults of all ages. STM has been billed as a way for American churches to spread the Good News to those in impoverished and underserved areas of the world. The wide-spread and growing practice deploys teams that are often comprised of church members with willing hearts, ready hands, and a desire to bring about a change. However, the role of evangelism in Methodist STM deserves further examination.

STM began and grew as a populist movement with roots in evangelistic motivations. Some of the first short-term trans-national mission trips began in the 1950s. Under the guidance of groups like Operation Mobilization (1957) teams of young people from the United States headed overseas to minister to those who had not yet heard the Gospel. Many of these teams departed with suitcases full of Gospel literature and a burden to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. They distributed hundreds of millions of evangelistic materials in countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

STM, which I define as two weeks or less, has continued to grow. Today, approximately 2 million Americans, from 100,000 churches and thousands more non-profit agencies, participate in STM annually. This multi-billion dollar venture involves millions more in their targeted countries of service. However, do contemporary STM teams retain the evangelistic fervor with which some of the first teams set out? My own research of United Methodist STM indicates that often times STM participants can overwhelmingly affirm the value of the trips for them personally, yet often struggle to define their role in the larger Mission—are they missionaries, evangelists, friends, servants, or something else?

One possible reason for the ambiguity of the purpose of the trip may be that frequently STM trips are to places where churches are already established. In general, STM trips are to places that are already new centers of global Christianity. Seven of the top ten destinations for American STM teams are in Latin America or the Caribbean, locations that have a long history of active church ministry and which has seen important growth in recent years. Additionally, because these international service trips, done in the name of mission, often work in established church communities, many STM team members see themselves as now free from the directive to engage in faith-sharing endeavors that historically accompanies missional service. In fact, many American STMers perceived a greater faith in their hosts than they themselves possessed. This leads to an interesting outcome. Team leaders and members often do not feel a need to share their faith because, “Everyone’s already a Christian, anyway.” Because there is a strong perception of the Christian devotion in the mission hosts surpassing that of the STMer, for many, there is an expectation that the devotion in others would lead to a deeper devotion in themselves. They expected to grow in their own faith while on the trip in part by what they observed in their mission hosts.

This can occur for a variety of reasons and in a variety of service contexts. John, a pastor colleague, recounted the time he was serving as a long-term missionary in Eastern Europe during the 1980s. When the radical political changes of the late 80s and early 90s opened Eastern Europe to travelers from the West, his ministry was flooded with requests to host STM teams. After just a few teams had come and gone, he quickly realized that people were coming not to primarily serve in ministry, but to “do some good” while touring places that had been closed for generations. John had to then train his European staff members to evangelize the American STM team members who were coming to be “missionaries” in their own country. Could the same be true today?

I am not suggesting that people stop traveling, stop serving, stop learning, or stop building meaningful relationships with churches around the world. Quite the opposite. However, anything done in the name of Christian Mission should seek to faithfully engage the biblical foundations of mission it claims to embody. Doing so means that two important principles should be embraced: 1) Evangelism is mission, but 2) Mission is not merely evangelism. In other words, through careful biblical training pastors and other mission leaders should prepare their STM teams to share their faith with both their mouths and their paintbrushes. Under the explicit direction of their mission hosts, STM leaders should provide tools for their team members to engage in culturally appropriate faith-sharing—just as they should do at home.

Dr. Haynes is the Director of Education and Leadership for World Methodist Evangelism and the author of Consuming Mission: Towards a Theology of Short-Term Mission and Pilgrimage. He is an ordained member in The United Methodist Church. He can be reached at rob@worldmethodist.org. To learn more about, or to order, Consuming Mission, visit www.ConsumingMission.com.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_facebook][vc_tweetmeme][/vc_column][/vc_row]


Consuming Mission and Short-Term Missions

By Rev. Dr. Robert Haynes

From the earliest days of my pastoral service my leaders and mentors encouraged me to lead and develop short-term mission (STM) trips. They assured me that these trips would provide life-changing opportunities for those in my ministries. In addition, the people in the communities we would serve would receive the benefits of medical care, children’s ministry activities, or the construction of a new facility. This seemed like an easy decision to make.

However, few significant, lasting changes were made. The deeper I went into the practice, I began to wonder just who exactly the STM trip was to benefit.

My new book, Consuming Mission, is a product of asking what happens on a STM trip, who serves whom, what are the expectations of STMers on their trip, and what theologies shape and inform their activities.

Written for pastors, mission leaders, seminary students, and professors, Consuming Mission is an illuminating ethnography of current STM participants and is representative of the wide age ranges and demographic backgrounds from which STMers come. Since STM is a grassroots movement, hearing directly from the STM participants to understand their theologies and motivations for service is key to understanding the current practice and how to shape it for the future. It is the product of in-depth interviews with United Methodist STM leaders and practitioners from four different states and four different annual conferences.

A biblical motivation for mission is foundational to Wesleyan Methodist theology. Therefore, I asked team members and team leaders about their biblical motivations for STM.

Surprisingly, this was one of the most difficult questions for participants to answer. Participants often hesitated to answer and apologized for not being more familiar with the Bible when trying to recall a verse or story. Answers to this line of questioning varied and were among the most difficult to elicit during our discussions. Some pointed to verses where Jesus’ followers are command to “go” and to “serve.” Many team members and leaders referenced Scriptural principles that pointed to aid and comfort for the STM participants themselves. However, generally speaking, scriptural references in regard to service in the name of mission were slow to come from the interview participants.

Additionally, none of the teams in the interview pool reported using a cohesive Bible study or mission text to help shape their pre-trip planning or in-country service. Most recalled using Bible verses as a part of the pre-trip meeting devotionals, but these devotionals were but a small part of the meetings, which were usually consumed by logistical planning.

When there is a vacuum of biblical and theological missional training, something will fill that vacuum of motivation. For most STMers, the vacuum was filled by the desire for an “experience.”

Consuming Mission gives an in-depth examination of the role “experience” plays in the American consumer culture and missions. Many economists say that we are living in an “experience economy” which is driven by the high value placed upon things like experiential encounters, vacations, and everyday activities. Consider the high prices commanded at theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios. Diners pay a premium price for meals in restaurants with walls covered in music or movie memorabilia. Tour companies are offering vacations to increasingly exotic places in an effort to satisfy the yearning of their customers who want to top last year’s adventure vacation.

The influence of a desire for an experience is pervasive in the interviews with STMers in Consuming Mission. Such an influence can be seen, for example, in some of the responses when I posed a common question around STM, “Why not just send the money?” Many with whom I spoke rejected the idea for fear of missing out on the “experience” for themselves.

The experience they were seeking for themselves was frequently seen as the chance to grow in their own faith. Many people expected to be influenced by their mission hosts and the perception of a superior faith on the part of those hosts. When talking about their STM activities, participants often describe their time, money, sacrifice, and service, applied in the name of mission, as a way to purchase an experience akin to personal growth commonly sought by pilgrims.

Historically, a pilgrimage is an event when people travel to another place where they understood God to have worked before, could work again, and they expected God to work in their lives while they were there. They expected to come home different than when they left. They expected to be transformed by the experience.

Consuming Mission illustrates that many people are using STM to do just that: to use acts of service, done in the name of mission, for self-edification that functions as a pilgrimage. In STM, the cathedrals and shrines of historical Christian pilgrimage perceived as sites of the miraculous are replaced with what is perceived as substandard housing and malnourished children.

Many ministries have developed STM programs with the primary goal of consuming an experience for the implicit, and sometimes explicit, benefit of the participants. Yet, this is not a motivation for mission service demonstrated in the biblical text nor in Wesleyan theology. Rather, a cruciform attitude towards service, exemplified by Christ and taught in Wesleyan missional theology, displaces self-fulfillment as a motivator for activities done in the name of Christian mission.

To address such issues in this approach to mission, we must move beyond simply trying to correct a few “best practices” and move deeper to their underlying causes. Developing appropriate mission theology is important because theologies shape motivations and motivations shape practices. If we want to make a long-lasting change to the practices, the theologies that shape them must be further developed. Through the careful engagement with biblical mission theology, I point out the ways in which the missio Deishould be the “consuming mission.”

At its best, STM seeks to address many real-world issues. However, STM is failing to realize its potential due to a lack of robust theological reflection by its leaders and participants. The STM movement can, and should, function as an instrument of the missio Dei to strengthen the church around the world. When the practice moves away from pilgrimage towards a more robust practice of mission, it can begin to embrace such possibilities.

I am not suggesting that people stop traveling, stop serving, or stop learning. Quite the opposite. An increased awareness of the work of God around the world can only lead to good things. A life-changing pilgrimage should be applauded. Coming to a deeper understanding of the cultures of other nations leads to a better worldview.

Yet, tensions remain. Deep problems arise when those who participate in practices deemed “mission” do so with the primary aim of bettering themselves or experiencing something new and exciting. Unhealthy practices in the name of mission (e.g. ethnocentrism, paternalism, and developed dependencies) come forth.

Consuming Mission takes steps to confront such traits in STM and calls upon mission leaders to reshape this ubiquitous practice to more faithfully reflect a biblical missional engagement in the Wesleyan Methodist tradition.

Post originally appeared on UM&Global on 06 February 2019.

Dr. Haynes is the Director of Education and Leadership for World Methodist Evangelism and the author of Consuming Mission: Towards a Theology of Short-Term Mission and Pilgrimage. He is an ordained member in The United Methodist Church. He can be reached at rob@worldmethodist.org. To learn more about, or to order, Consuming Mission, visit www.ConsumingMission.com.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_facebook][vc_tweetmeme][/vc_column][/vc_row][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Faith and Social Media

By Rev. Dr. Rob Haynes

Over lunch recently, a ministerial colleague and I were discussing the various ways local churches seek to use social media to promote their ministry. He and I have served in a variety of contexts, and we observed that similar conversations seem to happen in each situation: some people strongly feel that putting a great deal of time and energy into a catchy social media campaign will cure many of the ills of church. Properly crafted digital posts, some believe, will reverse declining numbers in attendance and giving; a dying church will become vibrant again. However, research about the way people use technology to connect to one another and to God may contradict such notions. While opportunities to use the tools of the digital age for mission and evangelism are present, their implementation needs more careful consideration.

In a world of always on, anywhere, how can church leaders capitalize on the potential of the digital age? The answer may be more complicated than we might think. First, consider this:

  • More than 88% of Americans use the internet. 71% of Americans are on Social Media.
  • The average American spends approximately 6 hours and 30 minutes on the internet via any device, daily. (both from We Are Social)
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) will permeate everyday life and accelerate this connectivity. Not only are we connected by our phones, but the connectivity of everyday devices is on the rise. More and more people are connecting their thermostats, toasters, refrigerators, cars, lights, etc.
  • Technology trade groups and business leaders forecastcontinued rapid growth of the IoT. Currently there are more than 11.2 billion devices connected to the internet. By 2030, 125 billion such devices will be connected, most of which will be consumer owned (as opposed to usage by businesses, hospitals, militaries, etc.). That is nearly 16 devices for each person on Earth.

Such connectivity also spills over into how we relate to one another. Globally, social media users are growing by hundreds of millions each year. The opportunity to connect and share will continue to grow in the near future. These applications allow us to share pictures of our holidays, our families, and our lunches. Social media users share their support for their favorite sports teams or their favorite political candidates.

However, it appears that Christians are not using these means as a way to share their faith. A recent survey from Baylor University found that faith-sharing and the internet still have a strained relationship. Less than 15% of Americans surveyed said that technology improved their relationship with God. Likewise, 77% of Americans reported having never shared their religious views online.

Clearly, even though people are increasingly connected, it remains vital to keep relationships personal beyond just the glowing rectangles of our devices. Church leaders should be cautioned against putting their faith in the latest device, the newest trend in apps, or the cleverest of selfies. Rather, the devices of our age should be considered as tools to share the life-changing message of Jesus with those who need to hear it. That means the message will need to remain personal and always sensitive to the needs of the hearers. It means that the need to cultivate meaningful relationships will continue. It means that relying on the next trend in technology apps will not replace the work of being involved in peoples’ lives in a very real way. Jesus’ example of a highly relational, deeply involved ministry should continue to be our model, regardless of the latest technological trends. That does not mean we cannot use such technologies to connect with others, but they should not be our only means.

Remember that lunch where we were discussing technology in ministry? It took us a few days of communicating by phone, computer, and a variety of apps to make the appointment. Yet all of those conversations could not replace what we really wanted. The end goal, and the richness, was sitting down to share a meal and to ask about one another’s ministries, families, hope, dreams, disappointments, and successes.

While technology is useful at keeping us superficially connected, it can never replace the need for meaningful connection. If you find yourself fretting your inadequacies to create eye-popping social media posts or super slick websites, fear not. Instead, put down your device and step into your community. Take a friend to lunch. Share a cup of coffee with someone who is down. Visit the sick. Minister to the friendless and the needy. Spend time with the lonely. Then you will know just what to say online and in person. May God richly bless you as you go.

Rev. Dr. Rob Haynes is the Director of Education and Leadership for World Methodist Evangelism. His new book, Consuming Mission: Towards a Theology of Short-Term Mission and Evangelism (Wipf & Stock) is now available: www.consumingmission.com. He can be reached at rob@worldmethodist.org.