Evangelism is a bad word; OR, How (and why) to invite someone to church

“Evangelism” is a bad word. This is true whenever it tries to make someone look bad. For many the number one task of evangelism is to convince people they are a terrible person teeming with sins. Creating a sense of guilt, shame, and judgment are all therefore necessary components of “evangelism.” Stuart Murray in the April 5 Mennonite Weekly Review says, “for a long time evangelists used guilt and death to connect with people, with forgiveness and the hope of eternal life as the good news.”

For others evangelism consists of making God out to be the bad guy. This approach suggests God is mad as hell at you, so mad and disgusted that if you don’t watch out, a flood, ball of fire, or eternal hell will get you! God, you see, is out to get you, and would love to still get you, except that Jesus jumped in at the last minute on the cross and let God take out all his frustrations about us on Jesus instead. Hellfire and brimstone sermons like “sinners in the hands of an angry God” flow naturally from this kind of perception. When evangelism is an effort to make our friends or God out to be the bad guy, it to me is not an act of love.

But there is more than one way to imagine evangelism. Or, perhaps better said, there is more than one way to love our “non-believing” friends and family than convincing them of their personal sin. Murray goes on in his article to suggest other, better, starting points for sharing our faith than guilt, sin or death. I completely agree! To approach the “sharing of our faith” by acts of caring for others feels exactly in line with Jesus call for us to love others. With that in mind, alienation, loneliness, a search for meaning and purpose, interest in spirituality, and ways to live meaningfully with purpose are all ways to begin the conversation with our friends and family who do not consider themselves people of faith. Murray suggests that “Many people today want to know how they can make a difference and be fulfilled in this life – not just in the life to come. The Anabaptist emphasis on service and living the life of faith may prove to be an effective starting point.” The weekly reading in our worship services of the “This I believe” statement is convincing me deeply that sharing our faith may consist of connecting what people want and are working towards with what Jesus is already doing in the world: making a new world that reflects God’s kingdom and Jesus’ lived values.

What form, then, could such “sharing of our faith” take, if it’s not classic “evangelism”? It could be listening to a co-worker over lunch share about their family pain. It might be offering to pray with a neighbor who is going through obvious struggles. Perhaps it is grabbing a Close to Home pamphlet about financial debt or depression and passing it on to a family member in need.

Or perhaps it will be inviting someone to church. Robert Schnase has recently helped me to commit to caring for others by inviting them to our church. “An invitation is not complicated,” says Schnase. “People don’t need to know the answers to all the questions of faith and life to invite someone to church. They don’t need to exaggerate or persuade or say more than is true. They simply and naturally find their own way of saying to acquaintances and those with whom they share common activities, ‘Come and see.’”

So, to all people who feel alone or without friends, for people who need to learn how to offer and accept forgiveness, for people who need to know that peace runs deeper than an absence of conflict, for people who live with borders, I commit to saying, “Come and see! Check out the incredible new world God is making a reality, right in our midst.” What about you? Who is God calling you to care for by inviting to church?
Connecting More Fully at HMC:
►Financial Giving: We celebrate giving our financial resources as part of our relationship with God. Care to join us? A great starting question is: What percentage of income do you feel God is calling you to give? As each person answers that for themselves, we join together in making all things new. The April 25th, 2010 offering was $2,681.00 for an April total of $8,063.87, and a yearly total of $30,345.87.
► Immigration Rights March: Join a growing group of people in Houston who are caring for our migrant and Latino brothers and sisters. Saturday May 1, 2010 at 4PM is a “Grand March: For Our Dignity and Rights.” Location: the walk will begin at the corner of Bellaire and Renwick. For more questions, talk with Pastor Marty who will be walking with Malakai. They’d love to see you there!
►Anabaptist Learning Seminar- April 18, 25, May 9 & 16. Come Sunday nights and learn more about Anabaptism worldwide: beliefs, practices, and culture.
April 18th: Anabaptist beginnings in Europe & beyond.
April 25th: The spread of Mennonites to the “New World.”
May 9th: Global Mennonites today: Asia, Africa, and beyond
May 16th: Global Mennonite theology.

►You won’t want to miss Western District Conference Annual Retreat: Friday July 9-Sunday July 11. Put this on your calendar now! This is an amazing Christian resourcing, recreational, and relational event. Cost is incredibly low at $130 per person, for 2 nights and 5 meals. Location is Waxahatchie Texas, just South of Dallas. A 4 hour drive from Houston. Plan now to attend with your church family. Church leadership would love to see 20 or more HMCers attend. There will be a high school youth component which will include a service project.

God’s love has no borders
Ervin Stutzman, Mennonite Church USA Executive Director speaks on his commitment to caring for immigrants and encourages us to also care: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyG4JKesRY4 A powerful video, I encourage you to check this message out from our fearless Menno leader. As immigration reform has been shoved aside by other national concerns, immigrants wonder who still cares

These and other resources, including more information can be found at: http://peace.mennolink.org/immigrationprayervigils2010.html
This march is being brought to you by The Coalition in Defense of Community, and co-sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee, as well as over a dozen other local organizations.

Marty and Malakai Troyer will be in attendance and would love to walk alongside you!
Immigration task force calls for May 1 vigil
by members of the Human Trafficking Task Force
As a body of Christians, committed to the way of Jesus, Mennonite Church USA passed a resolution on immigration in 2003. It stated, “We reject our country’s mistreatment of immigrants, repent of our silence, and commit ourselves to act with and on behalf of our immigrant brothers and sisters, regardless of their legal status.”
Six years later, in 2009, Mennonite Church USA passed a resolution, sponsored by Mennonite Women USA, on human trafficking in which we committed ourselves “to join with other Christian denominations in a united voice against the evil of human trafficking.”
Jesus also spoke often of liberation for those in literal bondage. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” (Luke 4:18)
These resolutions and the biblical text share a call to advocate for people who are oppressed.
To follow up the resolution in 2009 a task force has been formed to work on advocacy for those trapped in human trafficking, which is also referred to as modern slavery. Institutional representatives meet regularly to discuss modern slavery concerns and identify ways the faith community can respond. Organizations represented on the task torce include Iglesia Menonita Hispana, Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Church USA Denominational Ministry, Mennonite Church USA Executive Leadership, Mennonite Women USA and Mennonite Mutual Aid.
Already this task force has provided worship resources and educational information about modern slavery. Among initiatives currently, MMA is developing a consumer education and advocacy campaign seeking justice on behalf of child workers in the cocoa industry, as part of its stewardship investing activities. Mennonite Women, has made this a lead issue in presentations, publications and through their online resource page http://www.mennonitewomenusa.org
This task force also recognizes clear connections between modern slavery and immigration and calls Mennonite Church USA to become educated about the intersecting issues.
According to the immigration resources at the Third Way Café, “When international agribusiness buys the land people have been farming to support their families, they need to find other opportunities to survive. Some of the people facing these kinds of economic pressures travel to the U.S. where they often take low-paying, menial jobs.”
Hence, we must recognize that many recent immigrants are forced to migrate in order to find work. And this is where the lines between modern slavery and immigration blur.
From the 2003 Resolution: “For many immigrants the opportunities of living in the United States are offset by hardship and discrimination. They work the most difficult and dangerous jobs for the lowest pay, and immigrants without documents are frequently cheated out of wages and denied compensation for work-related injuries. Unfair immigration policies make it difficult to travel across borders, unjust quota systems discriminate against citizens from some countries, and families are divided by long delays in document processing.”
Because modern slavery is invisible to most of us or because we’ve been conditioned to blame the undocumented victims, we can only estimate the number of children, women and men involved. Worldwide, the estimate is 12-30 million and in the United States, between 45,000 and 50,000, with hundreds of thousands more at risk.
One way to show visible support for immigrant sisters and brothers is to join with other Mennonites, May 1, for a prayer vigil on immigration. The purpose of the vigil is to strengthen relationships between cultural groups and pray for change in our hearts toward people different from us.
The vigil also seeks to raise consciousness and understanding of the realities faced by immigrants in the United States.
As a denomination with many diverse groups, may we learn to celebrate and lament together. For those of us who come from older immigrants groups who sometimes forget our own immigrant history, may we acknowledge our complicity in the oppression of others when we have not advocated for justice. For those of us who are more recent immigrants, may we be strengthened to know we are not alone in the struggle for justice.
Find more information on the May 1 prayer vigil at the Peace and Justice Resource Network Web site.

WDC Memo
For this month’s copy of the Western District Conference “Memo” click below.
Nancy Funk, Administrative Assistant (wdc@mennowdc.org)
Western District Conference
2517 North Main, PO Box 306
North Newton KS 67117
316-283-6300; FAX: 316-283-0620
What’s New at Mennonite Central Committee, 2010
Prayers for Sudan
MCC thanks you for your prayers for peace during Sudan’s elections. The elections were largely conducted peacefully, albeit protests of fraud and confusion.
MCC identifies priorities, plans that will guide long-term response in Haiti
Food security, education, economic development and housing are among the priorities that will guide MCC’s long-term rebuilding efforts in Haiti.
>> mcc.org/stories/news/mcc-plans-long-term-recovery-haiti
MCC’s long-term rebuilding in Haiti shifts to rural areas
Helping to strengthen infrastructure in rural areas is essential for the successful rebuilding of the country, Haitians tell MCC planners.
>> mcc.org/stories/news/mcc-help-build-infrastructure-rural-haiti
Photo Gallery: Seeds of Hope: British Columbia
Learn how MCC British Columbia is helping people lead better lives.
>> mcc.org/stories/galleries/seeds-hope-british-columbia

Help us tell people about MCC
Wear a new MCC T-shirt. They are super soft, lightweight and do not shrink. Available in blue or green, heathered look, sizes XS-XXL, $14.99.
>> mcc.org/mccstore/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=20_22_53
Get an MCC static cling for your window.
These are free, 4-inch square, non-permanent, vinyl static clings with the MCC logo and web address.
>> mcc.org/mccstore/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=614
MCC’s children’s magazine, Hello, is available online. Introduce a child you know to children around the world.
>> http://hello.mcc.org/
Rise Up and Come Together-
Mark your calendars now for July 9-11, when persons from all congregations will gather at Lakeview Camp and Conference Center near Waxahachie (Dallas), Texas, for Western District Conference’s annual conference session and fellowship opportunity. A Program Committee is putting the finishing touches on planning details, promising an inspirational and educational experience. Programs and activities will also be included for children: infants through senior high. More details to follow in coming weeks. Z
Theme “RISE UP AND COME TOGETHER” “LEVÁNTENSE Y JÚNTENSE” In Ezekiel 37, there are graphic images to instruct the people of God. The dry bones came together with the breath of God. The two sticks are joined together to show God’s power to bring unity. How does WDC experience God’s action? What are the ways our congregations will
come to new life? Experience this text in worship, prayer, conversation, fellowship, learning communities.
We will welcome our new WDC Conference Minister and install new officers and leaders in the final worship celebration.
Budget and debt counseling
Are you living paycheck to paycheck, trapped in a cycle of debt? Or, are you considering bankruptcy? Maybe you feel in control of your money now, but have financial questions you’d like answered. Budget and debt counseling, a free service sponsored by MMA, can answer your questions and help you take real, positive, steps toward financial stability – and freedom. For more info Check out http://www.cccs.org/ and/or call 888-577-2227, be sure to tell them you are Mennonite, and that MMA sent you!
Order of Worship Sunday, May 2nd, 2010
Do you know of someone who would benefit from hearing that there are things in life worth holding on to other than stuff, and that it might be time to let go of something? Consider inviting them to church. Here’s one way that might feel more comfortable to you and them: Tell them something your faith helped you to let go of, and tell them about our church Lenten theme. Let them know where and when we meet. Tell them to check us out online for themselves, so they know what they are getting into before they come. Try it, it might be just what they need!
* Call to Worship
Leader: Jesus gave a new command: to love as he loved.
People: Looking beyond ourselves, this is how to love.
Leader: Thinking first of others, this is how to love.
People: Pushing aside convenience, this is how to love.
Leader: Giving even when it hurts, this is how to love.
People: By following Jesus, we share his love.
ALL: We love because Christ first loved us.
May this be true for us all today!
* Opening Prayer
* Opening Songs
Here in this place HWB #6
Jesus, help us live in peace SJ #52
Scripture Reading John 13:31-35 NT Pg 108
Children’s Time (Children 1-5 dismissed for Children’s Church)
Sharing joys and concerns
Prayer Feel free to light a candle-prayer
Scripture Reading Acts 11:1-18 NT Pg 130
♦Communion & Special Music What will I do?
•Community Dialogue
Song of Response Christ’s is the World SJ # 62
Offering & Prayer
Welcoming of Visitors and Announcements
* Blessing Song When the church of Jesus Insert
* Blessing
* Please stand if comfortable when indicated by asterisk.
SJ- Sing the Journey (Green spiral-bound) HWB- Hymnal Worship Book (Blue hardback).
♦ Communion: Houston Mennonite Church celebrates an open communion. All people (members and visitors) who follow or long to follow Jesus are invited to pray and celebrate with us at the Lord’s table.
• Community Dialogue: We believe that everyone is gifted and has a voice, and value your voice in our worship. “Community dialogue” is your chance to testify to God’s presence in our world, respond to the text or sermon, or share your perspective or experience with us. Consider adding your voice for our formation by sharing verbally during this time.

Thank you to the following for sharing your gifts!
Worship Leader: Rachel & Than Vlachos; Song Leader: Paul Siemens; Accompaniment: Linda Washburn; Scripture Reader: Marty Troyer; Children’s Message: Marty Troyer; Children’s Church:; Speaker: Roxie Voran Sound: Nick Gehman.
Next Week: Speaker: Pastor Marty Troyer; Children’s Message: Judy Hoffhien; Children’s Church: Jane McNair and Danielle Graybill; Song leader: Linda Ensminger;
Scripture: John 14:23-29, Acts 16:9-15.

________________________________________Pastoral Care
Do you want a person to talk with about something in your life? Got a question or insight into faith or scripture you want to kick around? Have you been sitting on a great idea for the church? Need prayer? Want to get to know your pastor better?
As your pastor, I’m available to meet with you at the office or at a time and spot that works better for you. Just let me know when and where! Monday’s through Thursdays, and weekends by appointment. Marty Troyer, cell:(713)835-9436, church office (713)464-4865, hmcpastor1@sbcglobal.net, also available on facebook.
Additional Information
HMC E-Newsletter is compiled by Houston Mennonite Church pastor Marty Troyer.
All are invited and encouraged to share articles, personal updates, stories, announcements, pictures, etc… to include in the weekly updates!
Know of others who would like to receive HMC E-Newsletter e-mails from Houston Mennonite? Have them send name and e-mail to Marty at hmcpastor1@sbcglobal.net.

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