One church just wasn't enough

By Jeff Campbell

North texas east district members with awards
Members from the East District churches celebrate their One Matter Discipleship Award.

The One Matters awards usually are awarded by Discipleship Ministries for annual conferences to one church that has made large strides in their discipleship missions. But, last year, the North Texas Conference didn’t see any one church that had outshone another. So, what did they do?

They awarded a One Matters award to every church in the East District because of the impact they had all made together.

I think that’s incredible!

“I nominated the whole East District because they made an impact together. It wasn’t so much one church carried the increase in professions of faith, but 22 churches proved ‘One Mattered,’” said the Rev. Cammie Gaston, director of the Center for Leadership Development for the North Texas Conference.

“We were very appreciative to the Center for Leadership Development for recognizing us as a district for this award,” said Rev. Vic Casad, superintendent of the East District.

They awarded a One Matters award to every church in the East District because of the impact they had all made together.

Let me share these churches’ stories.

Morale was low at First UMC Winnsboro when Rev. Debbie Lyons took over in 2017 upon the death of the previous pastor. During her initial meetings with members, they expressed a desire to grow. Her first action was to reach out to the community.

“I immediately introduced myself to the city manager and mayor and offered to lead a prayer at our monthly city council meetings,” Rev. Lyons said.

She became active in the Winnsboro Cultural Arts Center, worked with the city council and school district. She credits the congregation for the seven new professions of faith, and said they weren’t afraid to create new relationships and try new things.

North texas whole east district presentation
UMC Discipleship Ministries General Secretary/CEO Rev. Junius B. Dotson (left), North Texas Director of the Center for Leadership Development Rev. Cammy Gaston, and Bishop Michael McKee present the One Matters Award to East District Superintendent Rev. Vic Casad at Annual Conference.

Miller Grove UMC is a small country church in Hopkins County. For the past 14 years, the church has been led by Howard Strickland, an 80-year-old quarter-time bivocational pastor.

In 2018, Miller Grove saw eight new professions. According to Strickland, the new professions of faith “liked what they heard and stayed.”

Every Monday and Friday, Wesley UMC sponsors Breaking Bread, a free lunch for residents. The congregation shared about the ministry with their neighbors and sent two mailings to surrounding zip codes. Through this ministry, at least a dozen people started attending Sunday worship.

An adult confirmation class was created to educate 12 new Christians about The United Methodist Church by pastor Steve Cook and his wife, Dicie Rue. From these efforts, the church had four adult professions of faith and two confirmands.

When Rev. Cathy Partridge was first appointed to Caddo Mills UMC, she looked for ways to create disciples. Her first task was searching church records for those not baptized or a member.

“Once the first person made the commitment, more began to follow suit,” Rev. Partridge said.

Church members started inviting friends and neighbors. Because of the combined efforts, the church saw four confirmands and 11 professions of faith.

“In these cases, the church benefited from the new energy and gifts that come with people discovering and rediscovering the grace of God,” Rev. Gaston said.

Aren’t those great stories? The whole district adopted a real passion for discipleship and people all over the area learned to love Jesus and each other.

Wishing you a passion for Christ,

Rev. Jeff Campbell is the General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries. He comes to this role having led Discipleship Ministries as the Associate General Secretary for Strategic Programming, where he coordinated the work of the agency around three strategic priorities: an Intentional Discipleship System in every church; equipping local churches to engage their communities; and lifting up and creating local, contextual resources globally. Rev. Campbell joined Discipleship Ministries in 2013 as Executive Director of Conference Relationships.