Ocean City —
For 40 days starting Sept. 21, individuals will gather at homes through Ocean City, Upper Township, Somers Point and Egg Harbor Township to discuss why they are here on Earth.
The Forty Days of Purpose Campaign is conducted at churches across the country, and St. Peter’s United Methodist Church in Ocean City will join the ranks this month.
The primary question the campaign poses is “What on Earth am I here for?” This is central to Pastor Rick Warren’s bestselling book, “The Purpose Driven Life,” which is a focal point of the campaign.
“One of the basic reasons we wanted to take part in this campaign is because it’s been something that has been done by every sort of denomination, by thousands of churches,” said Pastor Michael Smith of St. Peter’s UMC. “Essentially, it is just a great tool we are using to grow spiritually here at St. Peter’s. It’s a spiritual growth campaign. We’re looking to see what our purpose is, not only as a church, but as individuals.”
The campaign takes a look at the five purposes of a person’s life, according to Warren, which are worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and mission. The first week of the campaign focuses on the question “What on Earth am I here for?” Each subsequent week centers on one purpose, each building on the previous week’s teachings.
Smith said there are three aspects to the campaign. One, each Sunday morning at St. Peter’s the sermon will focus on the campaign and one of the purposes. Two, there will be small group discussions at homes in the area once a week to watch teachings by Warren and hold brief discussions. Three, Warren’s book, broken into 40 brief five- or six-page chapters, will be used for weekly readings.
An individual can get as involved as he or she wants in whatever capacity.
“You’re going to have lots of different levels to engage with the material,” Smith said.
According to Steve Croft, chairperson of St. Peter’s UMC council, the Forty Days of Purpose Campaign has a high track record of success where it has been practiced and conducted.
“It’s success in terms of what people say and how they feel about their own spiritual growth at the end of the campaign,” Croft said. “It attracts new members to churches. There is a 10 to 28 percent growth that tends to occur. People are gratified as they come through this.”
Participants do not have to be members of St. Peter’s UMC to take part in the campaign. Smith has a master list of homes in the area for gatherings, and he can help an interested person find a location close to him or her. He feels the small home gatherings will be less intimidating than a gathering at the church.
“A lot of these groups are going to be anywhere from 10 to 12 people. You can really feel you can give your opinion or voice a question and not feel like you’re getting lost in the crowd,” Smith said. “In a small group setting, people depend on your conversation. They depend on your opinion.”
For those uncomfortable visiting a stranger’s home, weekly meetings will be held at St. Peter’s UMC on Tuesday evenings. One is from 5 to 6 p.m. The second is 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. This begins Tuesday, Sept. 23.
Smith and Croft expect to have a strong turnout for the Forty Days of Purpose Campaign, if only because the question it poses appeals to most people.
“We believe it’s a question everyone wants to know the answer to,” said Smith.
“The relationships that are built will last far longer than the 40 days of this campaign,” Croft said. “They’ll go on and help support one another.”
For more information on the Forty Days of Purpose Campaign, call Pastor Michael Smith at St. Peter’s UMC at (609) 399-2988 or on his cell phone at (732) 850-4901. A Missions Ministry Fair will be held at St. Peter’s UMC on Sunday, Oct. 19, in conjunction with the campaign. Nothing will be asked of attendees, but they will get the chance to see all of the mission and ministry opportunities they can get involved in at St. Peter’s UMC.