The United Methodist Church recently launched its initiative to plant 400 new churches in the next four years with an initial gift from a Christian businesswoman.
Mary Watson, the wife of a former pastor, pledged $400,000 to the 400 Fund campaign to develop new congregations outside of the United States, according to UMC's Global Ministries, the international mission agency of the UMC.
The 400 Fund will be used to support clergy training, develop Christian education resources and provide worship facilities for new churches in Asia, West Africa, Eastern Europe and Central America.
"I am excited by the thought of 400 new churches and what God can do with 400 new churches," said Watson, who along with her husband, the Rev. Ralph Watson, have been involved in mission fields around the world, especially in Russia, Estonia and Brazil.
She said her earliest memory of Methodist worship was under a brush arbor where her grandmother was raising money to build a church in Hannatown, a community in Decatur County, Georgia, named after her paternal family.
Starting new churches "is part of what God wants us to do in the world … We are to be God's hands," said the pastor's wife from Atlanta to the directors of the General Board of Global Ministries during their Oct. 13-17 meeting.
Watson was able to make the generous donation because of her successful career in the nursing home industry. Her husband, the Rev. Watson, works for the World Evangelism Institute.
Being a Christian helped her "to realize that everything we have is God's, everything – our money, our talents – everything is entrusted to us for the sake of doing things for God," Watson said.
But the successful Christian businesswoman doesn't want the giving to end with her. Watson urged other United Methodists to also donate to the 400 Fund, calling on children to join in and donate even pennies.
One hundred percent of every gift will go toward starting new churches.
Global Ministries, in addition to its goal of 400 new overseas congregations, also aims to start 650 new congregations in the United States.