Personal visits lead to discipleship
By Jeff Campbell
I love a good story about leaders becoming more intentional about discipleship. I love it when disciples of Jesus connect with people in their communities, share the love they have found in Christ, and then witness lives transformed as people grow in wisdom and knowledge of him. When I heard this story from the Rev. Yohan Baek, pastor of Aldersgate UMC in Santa Fe, Texas, I knew I wanted to share it with you.
The Texas Annual Conference awarded Aldersgate the 2019 One Matters Award. They received this award because Rev. Baek and church leaders have found something that works well for engaging the people in the community. It is the age-old practice of home visitation.
Home visitation may have gone “out of fashion” for some, but Rev. Baek knows it works. He has a passion for and a focus on connecting with newcomers to the community and has found that the best way to connect with people is home visits. As United Methodists, we know this is important, because this question is included as a part of our historic examination for admission into the connection, “Will you visit from house to house?” (Book of Discipline, Paragraphs 330 & 336)
“In most of my visits, I give people time to tell me about themselves and their families,” he said. “People love talking about themselves, especially their families and hobbies. When they talk about themselves, I often follow by asking them to tell me more about it.”
As he listens and gathers information, he is able to ask probing questions that lead to deeper conversations.
“When you listen with undivided attention and an affirming attitude, you send people two powerful messages: 1.) you are important
to me; 2.) I respect you,” he said.
People can be intimidated by the word “evangelism,” but Rev. Baek sees the first step to having an evangelistic conversation simple – undivided listening and an affirming attitude. He said he finds this more effective than initially sharing experiences or talking about God or the church. It is amazing what can happen when we give our undivided attention to one another and listen deeply.
“When you listen with undivided attention and an affirming attitude, you send people two powerful messages: 1.) you are important to me; 2.) I respect you.”
People appreciate the visits. His visits with people in community and expression of love and interest into their lives usually result in their desire to visit the church. His home visits help each person become more comfortable with him as a pastor, and by association, more comfortable with the church.
In the past two years, 79 new people became regular attenders of the church, and 46 of those joined. The youth group has grown from four to 15 regular attenders.
Aldersgate’s philosophy speaks to their emphasis on discipleship: “Faith is more than what happens on Sunday mornings. It's a part of who we are, inside and out. At Aldersgate UMC, we believe in sharing the joy of the gospels daily, and living a life that embodies the spirit of Christ.”
Whether clergy or laity, we should all affirm the strategy of visiting house to house, seeing all the people in our communities, giving them our undivided attention and care. Like Aldersgate UMC, this should be who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ each and every day.
Remember to reach out,
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.