Witness Ministries: Calling others to Christ’s love

Christian witness is a public act of both faith and hope intended to awaken in the world belief in Jesus Christ and hope of salvation. Trinity’s Witness Team coordinates, plans, carries out, and evaluates the congregation’s witness ministries, helping all to know and respond to the love of God in Christ. This includes planning for evangelistic outreach and setting goals for congregational growth, visitation, and hospitality.

If you are interested in being a part of this essential team, see Rob Miller at church, send him an email using our Contact Us form, or by leaving him a note in the Witness Team mail box at church.

To give you a glimpse into what being a witness means to United Methodists, here is an article of interest we’d like to share with you:


What it means to witness: Honoring our United Methodist vow
By Julie Dwyer

As part of The United Methodist Church’s Baptismal Covenant, new members promise to faithfully participate in a local congregation through their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. But, how can they go beyond the words they profess to actually living into these vows? In a special five-part series, we look at each aspect of this membership vow and how United Methodists can answer the call to serve Christ through the local church.

Members of The Gathering United Methodist Church in St. Louis are spending a lot of time back in school these days. Each weekday, you’ll find church members at Peabody or Washington elementary schools reading to kids and providing support to school staff and families. Their efforts are part of The Literacy Project, an outreach ministry at The Gathering that is committed to improving the literacy rate in St. Louis Public Schools.

The Literacy Project is an outreach ministry at The Gathering that is committed to improving the literacy rate in St. Louis Public Schools. Photo courtesy of The Gathering. “Our witness is being present in some of the lowest performing schools in our state — places that the public have largely overlooked or forgotten,” said Sabra Engelbrecht, executive director of ministries at The Gathering, a multisite congregation with more than 700 members and 1,200 in weekly worship.

Identifying the needs in a community and taking action is what witness is all about, said the Rev. Mark W. Stamm, author of “Our Membership Vows,” a Discipleship Ministries resource. United Methodist congregations are doing that every day, whether it’s providing sanctuary for immigrants, offering after-school care for at-risk kids, helping the homeless or standing up for the marginalized.

When new members join The United Methodist Church, they profess the vows of the Baptismal Covenant. They vow to renounce evil and to be loyal to Christ through the global United Methodist Church. They also promise to be active participants in a local congregation, pledging “to faithfully participate in its ministries by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service and their witness.” 

The word “witness” was added by the 2008 United Methodist General Conference to highlight the mission and evangelistic responsibilities of church membership. It also reminds United Methodists to live out their vows publicly. Churches need to discern locally how they are going to do that in a specific way and a specific place, said Stamm, who is professor of Christian worship at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

“We commit at baptism to resist evil and repent of our sin. We commit to resist injustice and oppression and work against them. So, the question is: ‘Where is the injustice in the place that we live? What does it look like here? Do we have the courage to name it where we’re living. And if we name it, then, what would resisting it look like?’” For Barnes United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, that injustice is youth violence.

In the late ’90s, Barnes’ neighborhood was among those leading the city in homicides, said the Rev. Charles Harrison, the church’s senior pastor. He said the violence was affecting the church. “It was creating fear. People were afraid to come into the neighborhood because of the high level of violence, gangs and drug dealers, so we were trying to respond to that,” he said. Indianapolis Ten Point Coalition, a faith-based nonprofit aimed at helping reduce violence and homicides in the surrounding neighborhoods, was born out of their efforts.

For nearly two decades now, members of Barnes UMC and other volunteers have been walking the streets engaging at-risk youth during Ten Point’s weekly faith walks. Many of the church members are ex-offenders themselves, former drug dealers and gang members, said Harrison, who is president of the coalition.

The Rev. Charles Harrison and Barnes United Methodist Church members take part in weekly faith walks to help reduce youth violence in three Indianapolis neighborhoods. “They go out in the evening time into the areas where we’re experiencing the highest levels of violence and their role is to look for those individuals who are drug trafficking, who may be involved in robberies or gang activity. And what they’re doing is their sharing their story with the young people of the mistakes that they made in their life that led many of them to prison. … They talk about the role that God has played in their life in helping them to turn their life around and get on the right path,” Harrison said.

“We see ourselves as the light of Christ in the midst of these communities that are experiencing a lot of violence, poverty, lack of quality education opportunities, broken families, and our very presence there says to people that we care.” That’s witness when you do things like that and do them publicly, Stamm said. “You discern as a congregation that this is the particular way that God is asking us to be faithful to our baptismal vows in this place,” he said.

United Methodists also can witness individually to co-workers, friends and neighbors. “If we can be relieved of thinking we have to somehow become particularly articulate theologically to witness, if we can get past that … We’re not asking people to be amateur preachers and teachers … we are asking them to live consistently with the gospel,” Stamm said.

Leading a Christian life by example is a form of witness, whether it’s acting with integrity in the workplace, showing compassion to neighbors, or helping others embody the love of Christ through advocacy and outreach.
New United Methodist Jill Schmalz, who became a member of The Gathering UMC last fall, is actively living out her faith through volunteering, small group ministries and Christian education classes. She said there are easy ways to witness in day-to-day life.

“Sometimes, it can be as simple as including church attendance when discussing your weekend plans. … People are curious, and most of us have experienced that longing for a greater purpose or understanding in life. When you make yourself approachable and are willing to listen, people will ask about faith. … I am glad to share my story with others,” she said.
Stamm said it begins with people believing they can make a difference.
“Any kind of positive intervention in a system can begin to change the whole system,” he said. “Positive witness in any particular place can begin to change the community. It really can.”

This feature was originally published October 30, 2017.
Julie Dwyer is a writer and editor for United Methodist Communications. Reach her at jdwyer@umcom.org.


Prayer Warriors

Trinity’s Prayer Team members stand ready to lift up the names and needs of anyone in need of physical, spiritual or emotional healing.

The monthly Breakfast at Trinity is a great opportunity to share our faith and fellowship through prayer with those in need. All prayer requests are written down during worship services then our Prayer Warriors will pray for and with each guest. Requests (if approval is granted) are then disseminated to all members of the church’s Email Prayer Team the next day, so that multiple intercessory prayers are made on behalf of each request.

If you need prayer, why don’t you join us at any one of these activities or following every worship service at the altar rail? And, if you would like more information on the Christian faith, we have a small booklet we would like to give you titled “Why on Earth Would I Want to be a Christian?” The writer/publisher has made this booklet available online, so it can be downloaded at http://www.whyonearth.org. If needed, you can order copies in bulk to give away to your friends and family. They also offer free copies to prisoners and underserved groups, as well.

For more information on Trinity’s focus on developing Prayer Warriors or to join our Prayer Team, contact our Prayer Team Coordinator, Carolyn Harner, by using our Contact Us form.


Discipleship

All programs of Bible study at Trinity are focused on one thing: intentional discipleship, for it is the mission of the church to go out into the world and make new disciples for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We cannot do this until we gain a better understanding of what a disciple is and how disciples grow. The teachings and support we offer at different points along the journey to becoming a mature disciple is at the core of our Discipleship Program and curriculum. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination, created a very structured process for growing mature disciples which encompasses the following elements:

Come join us and together we will explore, search, worship, grow and mature into the kind of disciples that God needs out in our hurting world.

For more information on Trinity’s focus on developing disciples willing to witness to the unchurched and minimally-churched, contact our Witness Team Coordinator, Rob Miller, by using our Contact Us form.


Hospitality

Hospitality takes many shapes and forms at Trinity. It could be a warm conversation with a visitor in the Sanctuary, sharing a cup of coffee during our Fellowship Hour, a “Thank you for visiting” card sent to your house, or helping to direct you to our Nursery. All of these opportunities offer us an opportunity to witness our faith to others.

One of the most important calls that Christ gives His church is to be welcoming to people. In doing this simple, selfless act, we become His “ambassadors” (2 Cor. 5:20). Members of Trinity embrace the understanding that we must be a church who welcomes not only Believers, but also those who may never have stepped inside a church. Our Ambassadors are guided by Jesus and our role is to welcome people and connect them to the life of our church. He uses us to be His welcoming arms – to draw people from the outside into His presence. Once a connection is made, we know it is the role of the Holy Spirit to save people, but we are the instruments through which He works. How important is that! To learn more or to join Trinity’s Hospitality Team, contact Judy Ross, Hospitality Team Leader using our Contact Form.


Spiritual Gifts

As Christians, we are all called to serve, and each of us has a unique set of spiritual gifts that God has given us for this purpose. At Trinity, we have created both small and large group opportunities designed to engage and involve every individual who wants to serve our Lord. Before doing so, however, we encourage our members and friends to assess their personal habits, likes, dislikes, interests and leanings by taking a Spiritual Gifts assessment. The United Methodist Church offers this tool for free. Visit their website by clicking on this LINK. Once you have completed the assessment, please turn in to our Church Office so we can update your profile in our database. That way, our team leaders will know your strengths and those areas of ministry in which you are most interested!

Click HERE to preview a list of the many different “offerings” (areas of ministry) we have at Trinity to decide which one appeals to you. Then take action and let our pastors and lay leaders know where you would like to share your gifts and graces. For more information, contact Rob Miller, Witness Coordinator by using our Contact Form.

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