Conference leaders gathered in Des Moines to discuss evangelism in our modern society at the Iowa School for Ministry.
One of the presenters, author Brian D. McClaren, reminded the group of a shocking trend in all faith groups from Christians and Jews to Muslims and Hindus: Worldwide more and more people are asserting their religious belief in nothing in particular. He identified challenges that Christians must overcome to develop relationships with skeptics. He proposed that the heart of authentic Christian belief can be summarized in the phrase, “Because I follow Jesus, I love you” no matter what our differences may be.
Dr. Elaine A. Heath, the McCreless Associate Professor of Evangelism at Perkins School of Theology, focused on emerging trends in outreach that break down barriers between people of diverse backgrounds. She asserted that evangelism is never coercive, exploitative, violent, manipulative, or for profit. Rather, evangelism is the “holistic process of initiation into the reign of God, revealed in Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, anchored in the church for the transformation of the world.”
Many local church pastors were able to use their continuing education funds made available by their congregations to attend this training event. In addition, the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry provided support for continuing education credits that were offered to all participants.