BY JEFF FINLEY
More than 1 million people are now members of the Free Methodist Church, Bishop Matthew Thomas announced Oct. 18.“The Free Methodist Church is growing substantially in some places around the world,” Thomas told the Free Methodist Church – USA Board of Administration (BOA). “I would like to note that since 1995, statistically, we’ve grown by almost a thousand percent — tenfold — in the continent of Asia, and that’s due in large part to our national leaders overseas.”
Cheers erupted at the World Ministries Center in Indianapolis as Thomas shared the million-member milestone. Someone began singing “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow (the Doxology),” and the rest of the BOA and audience members quickly joined in an a cappella rendition of the hymn.
Thomas said new Free Methodist ministries have emerged in places such as Togo, Guatemala, Nicaragua and south Asia. At the same time, he added, the Free Methodist Church also is experiencing new growth in nations with more than 100 years of FM ministries. The Free Methodist Church took more than 150 years to reach 1 million members worldwide, but much of the growth has taken place in the last 10 years.
“Could we believe and pray for 3 million people in five years?” Thomas asked. “We believe the Lord that He’s going to add to the harvest so richly.”International Child Care Ministries Director Linda Adams led the gathering in prayer. She noted the work of Free Methodist missionaries — some of whom became martyrs — to spread the gospel globally.
“A great forest has been raised up from those seeds,” Adams said. “We are so honored that we get to see it in our lifetime.”
Delia Nüesch-Olver, Latin America area director for Free Methodist World Missions, credited international Free Methodists for their commitment to sharing the gospel.
“In Venezuela, they apologize because they only grew 32 percent this past year,” said Nüesch-Olver, who added the desire for growth is “not for numbers’ sake but for Jesus’ sake.”
BOA members celebrated the news of the global growth in Free Methodist membership and also looked to the future.
“The real exciting part is that we’re shooting for 3 million in the next five years. God is on the move,” BOA Chairman Hal Conklin said.
Members expressed their desire to reach more people for Jesus Christ in the United States while praying for the denomination’s rapid growth to continue in other nations.
“I think this 1 million is the answer to many people who have been praying and working,” said BOA member Guillermo Flores, who shared his excitement about the global growth and his expectation of greater growth within the Free Methodist Church – USA through its mission, vision and strategies. “I’m seeing explosive growth in Hispanic churches.”
While speaking to the BOA, Thomas celebrated recent growth in the Free Methodist Church – USA through efforts that include traditional church planting and new house churches. He cited new church plants such as Revelation Church that launched Oct. 7 in Norwich, Conn., with 209 people in attendance and seven new commitments to Jesus Christ. The Chapel of Change in Paramount, Calif., also launched Oct. 7 with 690 people in attendance and 25 new commitments to Jesus Christ.
He praised the Oasis Conference that has launched 12 church plants in the last 17 months while also bringing the Free Methodist movement back to communities in which it had disappeared. On Sept. 9, two years after the closing of the local Free Methodist Church, the conference relaunched Buckeye Light & Life Church in Buckeye, Ariz., with 100 people in attendance and four new commitments to Jesus Christ.
At a worship service the next day, Thomas directed participants’ attention to three one-word banners that together stated “Celebrating One Million.” He said it’s important to celebrate each person, and the message would still be appropriate if the “million” banner fell down.