BY JEFF FINLEY
From hundreds of locations across the United States, individuals, small groups and congregations connected online Sunday (Feb. 10) to watch Free Methodist Church – USA bishops interview church members who are living out their faith by serving their communities.
The Vision Cast aired twice to accommodate viewers in different time zones. Each airing included live interaction with the bishops through chat messages. “This has been great to hear these perspectives,” commented Jada Bown Swanson, who added the Vision Cast “really speaks to the heart of seeing service as all aspects of our lives.”
The online event launched the Uniquely Free Methodist campaign that will provide resources for implementing the vision of the Free Methodist Church – USA: “To bring wholeness to the world through healthy biblical communities of holy people multiplying disciples, leaders, groups and churches.”
This Vision Cast highlighted people who live out strategies initially highlighted at the Vision Cast aired last fall. As Sunday’s broadcast began, Bishop David Roller explained, “We’re going to continue to talk about following Jesus into the cities; about discipleship as more than a notebook — discipleship as service; and about this idea of ministering to outsiders — to people who are not like us.”
Viewers heard from Joanna DeWolf, a homeschooling mother who volunteers with Nepalese, Burmese and Congolese refugees through Lansing (Mich.) Central FMC; Kenneth Martin, the pastor of New Vision Fellowship in Forestville, Md., and the leader of the denomination’s Urban Ministry Task Force; Dr. Mark Brown, a family physician who attends Edgewood FMC in Rochester, N.Y.; and Socrates de la Cruz, an attorney who attends First Spanish FMC in Lawrence, Mass.
DeWolf, an ordained FM elder, said she has felt a call to ministry since her teen years, but despite her preparation for a career in ministry, only four months of her life included a paid ministry position. She now realizes that her life is a ministry with opportunities to share Jesus Christ with people whom “other people overlook or don’t want to look at.”
Brown, the coordinator of Edgewood’s Healthy Harvest ministry, said serving local residents is “integral to our faith because we see the needs around us, and the Holy Spirit — I believe — allows us to have compassion and demonstrate the love of Jesus to the people that we interact with in the communities of need near our churches. So for me, it’s really impossible to separate church from the community.”
Martin shared insights from his urban ministry experiences in St. Louis, Mo., and Washington, D.C., and his partnerships with rural congregations. He cautioned that urban ministry takes time and community involvement. He offered the following advice to fellow pastors: “We’re not just called to pastor that church. We’re called to pastor that community, and we have to be community leaders.”
De la Cruz and fellow First Spanish members were inspired in 2010 at Overflow, a Free Methodist gathering in Orlando, Fla. They decided to invite people to small groups, pray with them and share a Bible story. “You don’t have to be an ordained minister to do it. You don’t have to be a ministerial candidate to do it. You just have to know the story. It has to have affected you,” de la Cruz said.
Bishop David Kendall led a time of prayer for the people who were interviewed and all of the Vision Cast viewers. “We are grateful that You have chosen to break our hearts and to draw us into your passion for all people,” Kendall prayed. “We want to see people and respond to people in the way that You do.”
Bishop Matthew Thomas encouraged people to visit the Uniquely Free Methodist website to learn more about the church’s mission, vision, values and strategies. The site’s “Focus on Discipling and Serving” section includes a video message from Thomas and an article he wrote on “Making Your Church Gatherings Great.” It also links to
related resources. Other sections — each tied to a strategy — will be launched on dates specified on the website.
Internet access won’t be required to learn about the strategies. Thomas said a forthcoming brochure will “give a clear picture of everything we’ve talked about today and how it’s connected together with our identity as the Free Methodist Church and our history, our beliefs, how we got where we are and what our preferred future is.”
To be informed about future Vision Casts and other Free Methodist news, subscribe to email announcements at fmcusa.org.