The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College has established itself as a world hub for training in evangelism. Last week, Executive Director Ed Stetzer announced that the center had received a $1 million grant from the Lily Endowment to help fund and further the advancement of the center’s Church Evangelism Initiative.
The mission of the Church Evangelism Initiative is “to see thousands of churches across the United States and beyond develop communities where people find their way to Christ and where every disciple of Christ is equipped and mobilized to reach and make new disciples.”
The initiative brings pastors together into small groups of from six to 10 which focus on mentoring, problem-solving, and mutual support with the purpose of helping to revitalize their congregations and lead them into thriving missional engagement that results in the multiplication of churches.
Stetzer noted that “Pastors today face a complex set of leadership challenges and are often struggling to feel like they are thriving—or even succeeding—in ministry. Although the complexity of the task has been there for some time, pastors today face a unique set of circumstances, and we are ready to pour into them to see the church thrive in the decades to come.”
The Lily Endowment, Inc. is one of the largest private philanthropic organizations in the world. It was established and originally funded in 1937 by members of the Lily family with gifts of stock of the Eli Lily and Company. Its total assets were more than $10 billion as of 2016.
One of the primary areas of funding by the Lily Endowment is investing in deepening and enriching the religious lives of American Christians by “supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations.”
The endowment’s five-pronged areas of its Thriving in Ministry funding include strengthening pastoral leadership, deepening Christian life, enhancing congregational vitality, strengthening religious institutions and networks, and improving the public understanding of religion. The endowment also supports initiatives in community development and education.
The Thriving in Ministry sector of the endowment has extended nearly $70 million to 78 charitable organizations in the United States since its inception in January 2018.
Chris Coble, the Lily Endowment’s Vice President for Religion observed that “When pastors have opportunities to build a meaningful relationship with experienced colleagues, they are able to negotiate the challenges of ministry – and their leadership thrives.”
He added that programs like the Church Evangelism Initiative of the Billy Graham Center “help pastors develop . . . especially when they are in the midst of significant professional transitions.”
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- Lily Endowment, Inc., Our Work
- Wikipedia, Lilly Endowment
- Christianity Today, Billy Graham Center Receives $1 Million Lilly Grant to Equip Leaders for Revitalization through Evangelism
- Christian Headlines, Billy Graham Center Receives $1 Million Grant to Expand Church Evangelism Initiative
- By Christoffer Lukas Müller [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons