Urban prophet seeking new Christians

4/15/2011

'God always smiles when we venture out of our comfort zones'

‘What we live on the platform validates I am accepted for the folks in the pew.’ —Rudy Rasmus

Photo by Michele Pitt

 

Open doors. That’s the exclamation point in our denomination’s motto. (Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.) But Pastor Rudy Rasmus said United Methodists must do more than that.

We must lift those doors right off their hinges.

"God always smiles when we venture out of our comfort zones. Be prepared to risk a little," Rev. Rasmus recently told more than 100 people attending the first seminar in the "New Christians" evangelism initiative for the Oklahoma Conference.

The March 5 program was hosted by OKC-Chapel Hill and included workshops as well as the keynote speaker.

Rasmus spoke with authority about new Christians.

Because he has taken risks for Christ, a once decrepit downtown church in Houston, Texas, has grown from nine people to 9,000. Rasmus, the pastor, said 68 percent of the new members at St. John’s UMC have joined through professions of faith.

One of them was his father.

"Never trust preachers and church people," the father had taught his young son. Yet Rasmus married and began attending a United Methodist church with his wife.

"I sat on the pew for five years not fully believing these people were as serious as they seemed to be about how they loved each other," Rasmus said. Then he joined a weekly men’s Bible study, held at a restaurant.

"In 1990, I said yes to Jesus."

In Rasmus’ third year as pastor at St. John’s, his father began attending the church. The seventh year, "my dad came to Christ," Rasmus said. "He finally found a preacher he trusted."

Along with his father, many others are entering St. John’s doors and finding trustworthy people, the pastor said. He urged other churches to examine and act on how they are perceived by the community. He pointed to research that shows people believe in God but are opting out on walking through churches’ doors.

"It could be because of how they perceive our truth," Rasmus said.

"You want young people in your church? You’ve got to give them a role in worship. It might not look or sound like you want it to look or sound, but what we live on the platform validates for the folks in the pew that I am accepted. Jesus is saying, ‘Dude, that’s what I had in mind.’

"You should want so much for your friends, relatives, and others to join you that you will go to great lengths. You can’t be afraid. You can’t decide how they are going to smell or going to dress. Just say come. That’s what Jesus did all the time!"

Another way to say it: radical hospitality.

Rasmus challenged each United Methodist to become more compassionate — and each church to become the place in the community where people in great pain truly can find refuge.

He outlined three approaches to outreach:

• Be a church in the community.

• Be a church to the community.

• Be the church with the community.

Rasmus said, "With is Christ incarnate in the community. That’s when we decide what’s in our building is only important to the people outside who need Jesus—and that’s everybody."

The two-year "New Christians" effort is coordinated by about 150 people who comprise the Evangelism Task Group of the Oklahoma Conference’s Discipleship Ministry Team. Bob Pierson of Tulsa chairs the task force.


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