Ministers Letter – October 2008

Rev. Ray Coates
Dear Friends,

I have just returned from a day at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Harrogate and felt an urge to write about it! It was amazing the number of people we saw that we knew and that in itself was a reminder of the way in which we are part of a wider family that is made up of both fellow Methodists and friends from other traditions, and I have to say that if I only ever mixed and worked with Methodists, I would be much the poorer! As it was I lunched with some Anglican friends I work with while on the next table were a few from our own congregation here in Tadcaster.

There was plenty to see, lots to buy and some teaching sessions on all kinds of subjects. With a ticket costing £3.50 that would allow me to go on each of three days, with different subjects for the teaching on each day, it was exceptionally good value! One of the sessions or workshops was on the use of story-telling and drama in worship and I rather have the feeling others there will make sure its lessons are put into practice here in Tadcaster.

The final session that I went to was on Evangelism and was led by a young man who was both inspiring and practical. The subject is the sort that often Methodists will shy away from, sometimes saying things like, “I can’t do that!” Probably we all can, but the trouble is we may have the wrong sort of idea about what Evangelism is. It is simply sharing the good news about Jesus and what he means to us and there are many ways we can engage in it. He had some points for Church Leaders and then some encouragement to those who might regard themselves as mainly evangelists. But he went on to give some pointers for all who attend church because he like I believe in “Every Member Ministry”. We all have gifts and a part to play in the mission and work of God. What he said made sense to me and included the following suggestions/points:

We need to rediscover our confidence in sharing the good news of Jesus. (For Methodists this was something they used to do when they met in Class Meetings – there they would talk about what God was doing in their lives.) The fact that we find it difficult to speak to people outside of church circles about Jesus is no surprise – we don’t talk a great deal to others in church about him! This was what Tom Stuckey was saying a few years ago when he was President and he produced a book called “Time to Talk of God” to address this very problem.

Very few people come into the life of the church because of a campaign of house-to-house visiting, a special event or because of a Minister’s preaching. The main thing that draws people (77% come this way) is because of friends or family. When, I wondered, did we last invite somebody we know to come with us? Perhaps, he suggested, we’re so afraid the impression folk would get if they did come would pout them off forever that we don’t ask. Is that what we think? Friendship and friendly welcome can be so powerful.

We need to work together. I have experienced some fine examples of that in Tadcaster. Perhaps we could apply it to inviting and drawing people into a living relationship with Jesus that would develop through being part of the family.

Perhaps we need to devote a larger part of our church budgets to parties, entertainment and going out and doing things as a group in cafes and pubs, where others might see we don’t have horns on!

I came away with a lot to think about and there are things here we could all act on and seek to put into practice.

With much love,

Your Minister and friend,