What does Christian Evangelism mean to you? What do you think about when the subject of Evangelism is raised? Is it true, some people would rather have root canal surgery and spend half a day at the orthodontist than share their faith openly with others?
David John Decker, Conference Lay Leader for the Iowa Annual Conference, passed away on Wednesday, August 20, 2014. His death came as a shock to his family and to the many people who worked and worshiped with him. He graduated from the Iowa School of Lay Ministry in 2008. He remained a tireless advocate for more opportunities for laity to serve locally and have access to Christian training in Discipleship and Evangelism.
I was first introduced to his passion for laity and clergy education and partnership when he was a Lay Leader for the North Central District. The district hosted a leadership training day on Bishop Rueben Job’s, Three Simple Rules. Bishop Job was not able to attend, so I was asked to share with those who gathered at Clarion, First United Methodist Church on that wintery Saturday in 2009.
Dave was a key participant in writing and promoting the Strategic Priorities for the Conference. He championed the emphasis on more training of world-transforming laity. Dave believed that experiences like “Walk to Emmaus,” lay speaker and lay servant training were invaluable to any individual who wanted to move from the sidelines to having an active role as a follower of Christ.
I am reading, again, a book that was recommended to me by an excited Dave Decker. The book is Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus, by Kyle Idleman. (click here for Cokesbury link) Jesus wants a relationship with us. Yes, Jesus wants an intimate, strong relationship with you. It is not good enough just to believe in God and declare a belief in Jesus. What Jesus asks for is a commitment; and he invites us into a relationship with him.
I have shared that I am a Chicago Cubs fan. Dave was a University of Nebraska fan. We talked about the difference between being a fan and being a true follower of Jesus; and confessed we both were works in progress. Dave felt and expressed an urgency for lay and clergy to focus more on relationships and real evangelism that would make reaching new people with the love of Jesus our main business.
A big supporter of Imagine No Malaria, Dave believed that loving Jesus and saving children go hand in hand. Traveling with his wife, Karen and attending church meetings took up a great deal of his time in recent months. Dave recently assumed leadership role with the North Central Jurisdiction Lay Leaders and was eagerly looking forward to a meeting with all of the bishops of the Jurisdiction.
“I just want to know how we can work together to reach more people for Jesus Christ.”
For Dave Decker, Evangelism meant listening to the stories of others and sharing the journey with Jesus Christ. Well done, Dave Decker. Well done!
Bishop Julius C. Trimble