While we might not go ‘to the ends of the earth” in body, we can go there in spirit through The Advance.
REV. DR. JEROME DEVINE
Director of Connectional Ministries, DAC
If you spend any time on social media sites you will see a variety of quizzes that you or your friends may have taken. Some seek to point out elements of our personalities or to suggest we are similar to archetype characters or historical figures. Others might check to see how many classic works of literature we have read or how well we can spot an intentional deviation in a field of similar letters or characters.
I confess that I almost never do any of these quizzes, partly because I am not certain what data they are trying to track and partly because I really don’t care how the creator of the survey wants to label or categorize me. However, I did recently complete one related to where I have traveled. That particular survey asked respondents to identify how many of the states in the United States they have traveled to. I was pleased to see several of my colleagues and co-workers in Michigan and from across the U.S. filled it out. Some have now been to all 50 states. Impressive!
As I filled out the survey, I mused on what took me to the 45 states I have visited. The majority of that traveling was to extend and connect the work of our United Methodist Church. Yes, I did mingle in some family vacation times, yet even then am I not still a traveling witness “to the ends of the earth”? My travel to 13 other countries on five continents was almost entirely on behalf of The United Methodist Church.
When your local church helps support a Volunteer in Mission team, whether youth or adults, to Appalachia Service Project or UMCOR Disaster Response sites, or an education center in Haiti or Liberia, you celebrate them as an extension of your faith and local church community as they are “witnesses to the ends of the earth”. Even though you, as an individual, may not have gone physically with that team, doesn’t your support help advance the cause of Christ in the world?
This brings me to the real point of this blog. Not every one of us has the opportunity to physically go to very many of our mission partner ministry sites. Even so, we are still connected to those efforts and are advancing the witness for Christ through our involvement in the missional giving of our local church, annual conference and the wider United Methodist connection through our General Board of Global Ministries. Our witness travels on to many places and circumstances, impacting thousands if not millions of lives along the way. Allow me to give you a way to see this more clearly.
“Since its founding in 1948, The Advance has helped channel over three million gifts totaling over one billion dollars to thousands of projects and ministries around the world.”
Did you know:
- In 2016 West Michigan Conference local churches gave $601,650.39 to designated giving through the Advance program of our denomination.
- In 2016 Detroit Annual Conference local churches gave $738,390.72 to designated giving through the Advance program of our denomination.
This Advance giving was in addition to all of the Special Sunday Offerings, Conference Projects in the Six Lanes of the Advance and Spotlight Church booklets, and giving the foundational gift of paying Ministry Shares/Apportionments. So what is the Advance and why does it seem to appeal so much to us as United Methodists in Michigan?
In 1944 the then Methodist Church was asked to bring new hope to a world ravaged and traumatized by World War II. Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam sent forth the invitation for a “crusade for Christ” to help bring healing and restoration following the war. While I do not like the language of “crusade” because of the negative historical images, what Bishop Oxnam was calling forth was for those Methodist disciples of that time period to live out the words of Jesus from the Book of Acts:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Local Methodist churches showed that the Holy Spirit had come upon them as they raised $27,000,000 and also welcomed in 1.6 million new members as part of this “advance for Christ” over a four-year focus. Then in 1948 the General Conference established the Advance Fund.
So, in a very real and practical way The Advance has become one of our clearest ways of advancing together our witness for Christ’s healing and empowering compassion in all places and situations.The description on the General Board of Global Ministries website goes on to say:
“The Advance strives to be the leading conduit for United Methodist designated giving. We offer the church an integrated package to channel designated giving to connectional projects and mission personnel. The Advance works with church leaders around the world to ensure that approved projects are aligned with the goals of The United Methodist Church in the local area, help develop partnerships that are mutually advantageous, tell the story of projects and missionaries, and report how giving is making an impact.”
When the Evangelical United Brethen and Methodist denominations came together in 1968 to form The United Methodist Church they both had a similar designated giving program, thus the Advance has continued to this day. Click here for the historical outline.
Together as United Methodists in Michigan we gave over $1.3 million in just one year. Our dollars, our compassion, our faith commitment and our witness of the love of Christ has traveled on, even when we ourselves are not able to be physically present.
As we now live into being one Michigan Conference one of the deep desires of our existing two Conference Boards of Global Ministries is that our essential spiritual and organizational DNA of mission-mindedness will travel on with us into the new conference. These boards have been meeting jointly for most of the past year and are already designing the new model for involving you and your local church in the mission connection of United Methodism. They will help us all continue being “witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”