Christ Centered Evangelism Conference: Bishops and an All Star Roster
By Lindsay Peyton
Sometimes it’s hard to remained focus on the main thing – even when staying true to your course is key.
“In difficult times, it is crucial to remember our most important values, purposes and activities and to live into them more fully,” said Bishop Scott J. Jones of the Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
In other words, he said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”
This phrase stuck out to the Rev. Kip Gilts, District Superintendent of the Central North District, while planning an inspirational event. He kept wondering about the main goal of the Methodist faith – and gathered an all-star roster of speakers to discuss Christ-centered evangelism.
The result was the Main Thing Conference, held on April 7 at Klein United Methodist Church in Spring, Texas.
Bishop Scott Jones took center stage with Bishop James Swanson, of the Mississippi Conference, and Dr. Laceye Warner, associate professor of the practice of evangelism and Methodist studies and associate dean of Wesleyan engagement at Duke Divinity School.
The day centered on two Biblical passages that stood out for Gilts. One was John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
“That really describes Jesus’ mission – for us to have life and live as God desires it,” he said.
Also, he wanted to focus on Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Gilts asked each of the keynote speakers to talk about God’s presence discipleship. “I said to go where their hearts led them to go,” he recalled. “And it was a phenomenal day.”
Bishop Swanson spoke about being rooted in Christ. “Without roots, there’s no fruit,” Gilts said.
Warner spoke about the Holy Spirit’s work in the church. “She asked us to think about what God has called us to do,” Gilts added.
Bishop Jones spoke of how Methodists can act as ambassadors, asking three questions: Who is Jesus to you? Who is your neighbor? What is your gift? Are you bold?
“Bishop Jones is a great speaker and teacher, but this was his best,” Gilts said. “This came right from his heart. It’s what he’s passionate about.”
The Rev. John Wayne McMann, from Kingwood United Methodist Church, provided his worship band New Vine and its leader Ryan Stueckemann, for live music during the conference.
In addition, the event’s leadership training hour featured Rev. B. T. Williamson, Dr. Elijah Stansell, Rev. Gail Ford Smith, Rev. Jill Daniel and Rev. Mike Tyson.
At the end of the Main Thing Conference, Gilts said participants walked away feeling reinvigorated about evangelism.
“We’re simply proclaiming the good news,” he said. “There are thousands of people near every church who have still not heard the life-changing grace of Jesus Christ. It’s easy for that good news to not receive the headlines.”
So it’s up to members to spread the word, Gilts added. “This will remind us of our calling, which is to be ambassadors, to make known this transforming grace and the amazing community that forms around it,” he said.