Recovering the adventure of God’s good work

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Recovering the adventure of God’s good work

July 25, 2007    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0707}

NOTE: A headshot of Whitaker is available at

An e-Review Commentary
By Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker**

Recently, I visited my mother and took her to Sunday school and worship in the small congregation in Mississippi where I grew up.

Several years ago I feared this congregation might be discontinued because of its decline, but I was amazed at the new vitality I observed during my visit.

Because of caring and strong pastoral and lay leadership, the congregation had revived. The facilities were impressive and inviting. The spirit was excellent. The focus of the congregation was on making disciples and growing in grace.

What impressed me the most was the presence of young adults and their children, and these young adults are the children of parents in my generation who were never involved in the life of the church.

How could it be that the congregation was being renewed by the enthusiastic participation of young adults who, as far as I know, were not reared in the church? Of course, the answer is that the Spirit of God is always speaking and in every generation is able to raise up a new people of God.

One of the most important theological convictions of those of us who are Christians in the Wesleyan tradition is “prevenient grace,” meaning the grace of God that “goes before” and guides us to repentance and personal faith in Jesus Christ. The doctrine of prevenient grace gives us our confidence in the task of evangelization. We assume that the grace of God is working in lives of persons even before they are aware of it. We are therefore motivated to establish relationships with persons outside the church and invite them to a new life as disciples of Jesus Christ in his church.

One of my deepest concerns about The United Methodist Church is that there are too many congregations reporting very few or no professions of faith in Christ. The only conclusion to draw from this fact is that we are not actively cultivating personal relationships with persons outside the life of the church and we are not offering in our congregational life the means of grace by which persons can be led to faith in Christ.

Relational evangelism through both personal witnessing and small group ministries is the life-blood of the church. It is true that new disciples bring enthusiasm into the church, but it is also true that we ourselves are renewed as we experience God using us as God’s witnesses. Every time we have a part in a person making a profession of faith, our own faith is enlivened and we are motivated to reach out to others. This is the most satisfying work we can do.

In early American Methodism, the preachers and lay leaders routinely described the life of a congregation as “the work.” They might speak of their congregation as a “good work” in which they were involved. They meant that they were participants in the Lord’s work of saving souls, of bringing persons who did not know Christ to Christ for the first time or those who had fallen away back to Christ.

I urge us to recover the adventure and satisfaction of being participants in God’s good work of reviving God’s people by leading persons to a profession of faith for the first time or restoring persons to the life and mission of the church by a renewed profession of faith.


This article relates to Evangelism.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Whitaker is bishop of the Florida Conference.

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