January 20, 2016
This Week’s Storyteller is…
Charles Kinder, Retired Elder
Thirty nine years of ministry provided many wonderful (wonder full) experiences; serving a General Board, a United Methodist Foundation and an interdenominational /international ministry. However, the most meaningful experiences were during the 29 years when I served local churches. That’s the front line of the Church where things happen, and where ministry is most fulfilling.
While serving as pastor of First Church Pinellas Park, in greater Saint Petersburg, I had a very moving experience. It happened during a pastoral visit with a couple who had recently moved from Chicago to retire in Florida.
After we felt comfortable with each other, this man, Tom, said, “We are lifelong Presbyterians, but we now want to become United Methodists. I will tell you why. I was in my Chicago office when a delegation from your denomination arrived. They wanted a logo for the newly formed United Methodist Church. I called in one of our artists and some other staff. The team told us the story of the birth of Methodism. They shared John Wesley’s heartwarming experience and the amazing things that followed. They spoke of a prayer which was recorded in his journal. ‘Lord, set me on fire and watch me burn.’
“They told how that movement crossed the Atlantic and swept over the colonies and the frontier like a forest fire. They told how one historian, referred to this amazing events ‘the greatest ingathering of souls since the days of the Apostles.’ After much prayer, thought and creative work, we came up with THE FLAME AND THE CROSS. We want to be a part of that movement of God. Please do us the honor of receiving us as members of the United Methodist Church!” That was the only time I ever had such an impassioned request.
At the close of morning worship the man from Chicago would often come to the chancel and kneel in prayer. The first time Tom came, I knelt beside him. He said, “I’m alright, pastor, I just had to come and thank God that I am a part of this movement.”
My wife and I were in London for the dedication of the giant flame and cross memorial at the New Museum of London on Aldersgate Street. I remembered Tom’s words and thanked God that I am a part of the movement that started when a humble Anglican priest’s heart was set on fire. I went to the rectory where Wesley lived, knelt at his prayer bench and prayed, “Lord, give me a touch of what that man had.”
While traveling across our great church, I found the Methodist fire to be still burning, sometimes a blaze, sometimes only an ember. While visiting the pastor and author, Charles Allen in Houston, Texas, he asked, “Do you believe there is real evangelism out there in United Methodism?” My response was, “I do.” He said, “I will tell you what I think. When you travel to our Annual Conferences, you take evangelism with you in your briefcase. When you leave, evangelism is still in your briefcase and goes back with you to Nashville.”
Near the end of my time with The Foundation for Evangelism, I was in Texas and called Charles Allen. He asked me to come and see him. When I arrived he rushed to me and gave me a big hug, which was unlike him. He said, “I am going to say something to you that few people have ever heard Charles Allen say. I was wrong. Since we last met, I have done some investigation and am now convinced that there is real evangelism out there in our Church.”
May the fire that started in John Wesley’s heart keep on burning as we offer Christ across our nation and the world. My prayer is that United Methodism will remain true to its roots and continually live up to the deep meaning behind THE FLAME AND CROSS.
Up Next Week…
Richard Ottum, LifeSong Church
The disciple gives us an amazing reminder of how God can take a terrible situation and bring good from it for His purposes.
The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church
450 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33815
(863) 688-5563 or toll free (800) 282-8011