A New Vision, A New Voice ~ The North Texas Conference
Andy Lewis Begins ‘Holy Detective Work’
The new director of Missional Outreach is uncovering effective ministries that others can copy.
By LINDA S. JOHNSON
It is one of those golden moments at the end of a hot summer day.
You and a group of friends have worked all day on someone’s house. Everyone’s tired, but it’s that good kind of tired as you share the collective pride of a job well done and helping your pals out. A couple of the guys just made a soda run, and from the trunk of their junker they break out every flavor of Fanta you can imagine.
And as you reach for a cool drink, you have an epiphany.
That’s what happened when Rev. Andy Lewis, then a new youth pastor, realized the difference between mission “to” and mission “with” people. The epiphany struck as he prepared to lead a prayer over a new house in Juárez, Mexico, that his mission-trip group and neighborhood residents constructed along with the family who would live there.
“I might have imagined that we [the mission group] would build the house,” Rev. Lewis said. “We went with a willingness, but the truth of the matter was we didn’t know how to do it well.”
Instead, the youth, the family and local craftsmen, serving as “maestros” teaching their young charges, worked alongside each other under the auspices of Proyecto Abrigo, a housing program in Juárez.
Today, Rev. Lewis — as the new director of the North Texas Conference Center for Missional Outreach — brings that sensibility to his job.
He already has embarked on “holy detective work,” tracking down local churches whose missional outreach is so effective and creative that it can serve as a model for others. He expects replicating those efforts will prove more productive than coming up with a top-down initiative from his center.
The Wesley-Rankin Community Center, which reaches out to West Dallas with programs for impoverished families and is known for its childhood education, is among the ministries that have impressed him — focusing on “relational ministry, not just transactional” and the partnerships it has developed with other nonprofits and businesses.
By connecting local churches with a ministry such as Wesley-Rankin and providing them a pattern to follow, the Center for Missional Outreach sees the opportunity to spread the reach of United Methodists.
“One of the opportunities that the CMO has is to equip the church to feel confident to be prophetic — someone who fearlessly speaks on behalf of God even when God’s truth makes the listener uncomfortable,” he said.
In taking over the leadership of the Center for Missional Outreach, Rev. Lewis was surprised at how widespread the operation is: working with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR); short-term and long-term disaster relief; global ministry; ecumenical relations; work with the homeless or impoverished through the Zip Code Connection, CitySquare and Dallas Bethlehem Center; helping immigrants through Justice for Our Neighbors — the list goes on.
“What I’ve learned is there is a natural connection between mission and evangelism,” he said.
“Evangelism offers a witness to who we are and to who Christ is that can open doors to conversations that can help make disciples. It offers the witness that can soften hearts and give us an opportunity for God to work through us to introduce someone to a relationship to God and Jesus Christ.”