It was a cold wintry Tennessee afternoon when our family set out in search of pinecones and greenery for our Advent Wreath. Our 9-year-old was startled by what he saw. It was a broken-down house that appeared condemned with three children out in the yard. They were barefoot and had no coats, not even sweaters. They seemed to be looking for something on the snow-covered ground.
Kimball rolled down his window and asked, “What are you looking for, children?” One of the boys looked up and said, “Just kindling, Mister. Just kindling … we ain’t got no coal,” and went back to his task. Our hearts stood still as we felt their pain.
As a servant evangelist, I have never hesitated to stand in the pulpit and encourage people to stand for and vote for what is just and right by the teachings of Jesus. However, I draw the line when it comes to telling people who to vote for.
The Sunday after Jimmy Carter’s inauguration my sermon title was, “The Plains Truth.” Obviously, I was glad about the results of that election. I am glad about the results of this election. I pray that Joe Biden will do his best to bring healing and civility back to our country. But I wonder if this task is achievable with the deep divisions we have created politically, socially, and economically.
I think of the Apostle Paul and the church at Corinth, which was a mess. There were many problems causing division from fractionalizing behind rival leaders to marriage, remarriage and divorce, to chaos in worship because of speaking in tongues, to collection of a large sum of money to be sent to Jerusalem. So, Paul wrote in his letter to the church:
“Love is patient, love is kind, It does not envy, it does not boast, is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered. It keeps no secrets of wrong. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13: 4-8a NIV)
We, the American people, face a tremendous challenge in the years ahead. According to the 2020 election, there are 80 million Americans who believe in living life one way and 74 million who believe in another way. This is a moment that calls us to walk in each other’s shoes — to be sensitive to others with differing views and backgrounds, regardless of educational or economic status. We’re to be kind and considerate towards one another. Love doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. It means we care for one another. So much so, that we’re willing to listen and try to understand how the other feels.
Richard Niebuhr writes, “Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.” It’s Christ-like love that brings healing and hope. This is the love we need to practice as a nation. God’s love never fails!
May I step into your confessional booth? My Calling is to serve by helping you to hear God’s Call and be a witness to your faith. I am sorry for failing you. The proof is in the pudding. Our churches are not growing. We are not doing evangelism effectively. I have been doing my ministry of Evangelism in the Prophetic Spirit for 41 years but have not been able to help you turn the tide of our churches losing their focus. I have not been able to convince your people about the importance and urgency of doing evangelism.
The first years of my ministry church growth books and articles were popular and influential to pastors and their churches. I realized that what they were writing about and my vision of evangelism was very different. Church growth is a goal – evangelism is a ministry. Church growth is counting heads – evangelism is changing hearts. Church growth is marketing – evangelism is sharing. Church growth is bringing people in – evangelism is moving people out to be witnesses.
Why am I preaching evangelism while our country is crying out for social justice? Evangelism is foundational to the ministry of the Church. It must be revived and revised to include the “fullness” of the Gospel, salvation for self, and salvation for society. God is asking us not to preach evangelism, but to do evangelism, to save our society from injustices and give us hope through love.
In my travels among your churches I meet so many talented and dedicated people, I see no reason why we can’t stop this free fall we are in. I know the pandemic has stopped us from reaching out to people in handshaking and hugging ways, but we still can touch their hearts and show love through prayer and modern technology. I believe a great awakening in our churches is in our reach. Let’s talk about it, pray about it, and make a move that will make a difference.
I can’t think of a sadder situation than not being able to be with a loved one who is dying in the hospital with Covid-19. I ask that you, along with me, pray for the sick and dying during this pandemic.
Historically, pandemics have left cultural, political, and social changes that last far beyond the disease itself. The Spanish Flu of 1918, like Covid-19, was a virus. It killed approximately 50 million worldwide, including 675,000 Americans. As a result, this pandemic revolutionized public health, spawning the new fields of epidemiology and virology. It led several Western European countries to adopt universal health-care systems that are still in operation today.
I understand we will need time to go through a grieving period. Hopefully, as our bodies, hearts, and minds begin to heal, we will allow God to lead us to become a more unified country and world. Our churches are a most important part of this. We should not only be preaching “we’re all in this together”, but we should also be living examples of it.
This is our chance to do what Jesus told us we could do.
“I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same thing I am doing. You will do even greater things.” John 14:12
These past 41 years as I have traveled to your churches, I’ve seen how you’ve become more creative with music and media. I am very proud of the many churches that are making their services available online. This is something we are continuing to learn and will find to be an evangelism tool that will allow us to do greater things and growing things in the name of Christ. I am praying that we will use this time to put aside our disagreements and divisions and be the Church we can be and are called to be.
My Brothers and Sisters,
Never could we have imagined our world as it is at this very moment. We miss the hugs of humanity and feel a sense of hopelessness encroaching our homes. We’ve been made aware that as senior citizens, we’re the most vulnerable to the Corona Virus, therefore we’ve been directed to stay inside our home.
“But Lord”, we pray, “how can we be vessels of your love if we can’t witness hope to your people.
But the Lord tells us to take this time to pray and listen. He invites us to intercede for those who also feel hopeless and alone during this unprecedented time of social distancing.
Pam and I can’t help but feel the need to get out there and minister to those of you affected by this virus. But here’s a better option, let God minister to you. Instead of dwelling on fear and worry, put your mind on the Lord. When we spend time on our knees, we are reminded that God is with us.
That’s the message of a song I wrote called Still Be Still. I hope it’ll bring encouragement and comfort to you right now.
Silently, still be still
Bow your head, no words said
Silently, still be still
Take the time and listen
Clear your mind, just listen
You will find if you listen
God is there, God is there, God is there
Deep within lives a friend
Silently, still be still
In the mid-’70s, when I was finishing seminary, my dissertation for my Doctor of Ministry degree was “Prophetic Preaching From A Pastoral Base.” I never thought about any kind of ministry other than being a pastor in the local church. I admired the ministries of the prophets in the Old Testament. Jesus admired them, too, and certainly ministered in the prophetic spirit. His teachings were confronting and challenging, but they were also filled with love and hope. He was a prophet and he was pastoral. I saw in their examples how I wanted to relate to my congregations in actions and word.
I was blessed to have served 12 years in the local church before I began feeling my ‘Call within a Call’ from being a pastor to a servant evangelist. I knew wherever the call to evangelism took me, I would never let it separate me from the local church. If I commit the rest of my life to this new specialized ministry, it would have to be in a way that helps and supports the local church. And it had to be a ministry that mirrors the prophetic and pastoral ministry of Jesus … a ministry of love, confrontation, challenge, and hope.
It was a time when TV evangelists filled the airwaves with messages that were foreign to my belief with their lifestyles and the ways they preached the Good News. They put a disingenuous name on one of the great building blocks of the Church. As much as TV evangelists upset me with their cheap grace and preaching less than the fullness of the Gospel, I am disappointed in us who have let their ways push us away from evangelism. Do we do the same thing, in reverse, that they did? The Gospel is a double edge sword. It is personal and it is social. It is saving souls and it is saving society. Did we choose social justice and abandon evangelism?
This is why I named my ministry, “Evangelism in the Prophetic Spirit.” Evangelism is being a messenger for God, and God’s message is love, and that love moves us to love others through acts of peace and justice. We cannot compartmentalize evangelism into saving of self. It has nothing to do with numbers and building mega-churches. It is not counting heads, it is changing hearts. For me, it is partnering with local pastors to challenge, revive and grow their churches.
Let’s stop pushing and pulling evangelism around to fit our narrow-minded agendas. Evangelism is the fullness of the Gospel in all its Kingdom building ways. Let’s reclaim the true meaning and action of evangelism ~ Evangelism in the Prophetic Spirit.
Highlights from our summer event celebrating 40 years of ministry
Excitement began with the church parking lot filling up with cars and folks gathering to celebrate with us. It continued flowing as they were greeted by members of our Board of Directors and others. The refreshment table was beautifully set and the room was filled with photo presentations and honors of 40 years in the making! One guest said he was enjoying the photo journey so much that he forgot to eat! The oohs, aahs, laughter, tears and endearing hugs touched hearts with sheer joy!
The blessings were just beginning as music from The Calling Band called us to the sanctuary. With the room crowded to capacity, the night kicked off with a video that highlighted many of ways God has used this ministry these past 40 years. (watch video below) Kimball then introduced a new song he wrote especially for this night called “Created By God”. Board members, Lew Fry, Don Leiffer, Warren Stirling, Alma Roberts, and Dick Stager thanked Kimball for rekindling the spirit of their churches, reminding them to never let the fire go out. Eighty-nine-year-old Walt Davis, a friend from Pilgrim Place, surprised Kimball with a poem he had written. As he read it to Kimball from his wheelchair, tears flowed. It was most moving. Kimball and Pam shared their thanks and stories of the many who have encouraged, supported, loved and kept Kimball awake to God’s Call.
The congregational singing was rousing, tender and heartfelt. As God’s servant messenger, Kimball gave the words of the prophet Ezekiel to the Church today, “Awaken O Church—a new heart I will give you, and a new spirit, I will put in you“ (Ezekiel 36:26), along with the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine so that others will praise God.” Kimball challenged us by asking, “Who will be the first one to stand?” (A line from “Created By God”). We all stood together and sang with full hearts, “Created By God” and “Agape.” The Calling Band led us into the benediction and into the world with “This Little Light of Mine.”
“I think of all the clergy and laity that you inspired, especially the churches and institutions you have impacted. I think of individual lives that have been transformed through your preaching, teaching and active ministry. Most of all, I think of the people who have observed your faith and actions and have come to Jesus Christ because of the integrity of your ministry.
Thank you … Thank you … Thank you!”
Blessings, Grant Hagiya
(Excerpt from Bishop Hagiya’s letter congratulating Kimball on 40 years of serving God as a Servant Evangelist. Bishop Hagiya is Resident Bishop of the California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church
A man was in an automobile accident and was taken to the hospital in a coma. His pastor rushed to his bedside. Although the doctors told the pastor that his church member was in a deep coma and probably could not hear him, the pastor took his hand and prayed.
After a week of daily visitations, the pastor entered the hospital room and found the man was awake and sitting up in his bed. Overjoyed, his pastor put his arms around him and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving.
He told his pastor he couldn’t remember the accident but he did have a dream. .. a dream that he was sleeping and couldn’t wake up. There were doctors and nurses around him but there was nothing they could do to wake him.
“Then God came to me,” he said, “and told me the reason I was to wake up. I felt the warmth of sunlight on my eyes and they began to open. I could see a road to follow and a mission to accomplish.”
God got through to him, and God is trying to get through to us. God needs us as His presence here on earth to be alert – alive – aware – awake!
40 is a very significant number in the Bible. For 40 years Moses led the Israelites through the wilderness to the Promised Land. For 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus was tempted in the desert. There are over a hundred references in the Bible to the number 40. When I responded to God’s Call 40 years ago (1979), I never dreamed that at my age today, God would still be using me. But I did know that I wanted to give my all and the rest of my life to be God’s messenger.
“40” in the Bible is symbolic of times of testing and hardship. I have never felt God testing me, although there have been some hardships along the way. There was no salary, housing, medical, or pension plans. I was disappointed when my own Conference was not as enthusiastic as I thought they would be. I felt the friendly support of all the bishops I served under. Deep down in their hearts, they knew and cared about the importance of evangelism, but they didn’t know how to use me.
All the while, I felt God walking right beside me and the blessed assurance that all would be well. I learned that God doesn’t call you and leave you, God calls you and asks you to live by faith.
After 40 years I know that I know, yet, I also know that I don’t know it all. What I mean by this confusing statement is that I am confident in my faith, yet, I am still excited about the new ways I’m hearing God’s Call. There is so much more we can be and do as God’s Church.
Some people fear change in society and the problems they create. Change and problems challenge the Church and give her opportunities to grow. In the past 40 years, I’ve seen the church struggle with unity. I have also seen the Church grow in courageous ways doing God’s Will bringing life and hope to all people. The church is the instrument of God, and as long as we remember this, we will know the Truth, and the Truth will set us free to always be growing in love.
40 years have made me older, but they have also made me wiser. I’m thankful for how the years have shaped me in the direction of servant evangelism for God and the Church.
… and the journey continues …
I don’t preach denomination, although I have one. I grew up in Sunday school, youth group and as an adult in the Methodist and United Methodist Church. My first dates with Pam were at each other’s Methodist Church youth groups. We were married in a Methodist Church. I was trained in a United Methodist Seminary. The first two of our four children were born in a Methodist hospital. What would I do without my church and my denomination?
The United Methodist Church has struggled the past several decades seeking agreement on the LGBTQ issue. The Church has decided to go different directions. I was hoping and praying that we would stay United and open to serve all people, in membership and leadership.
I am an evangelist, a messenger of the Evangel for God. My altar calls will always be to all people because God’s love will not allow it to be any other way.
Let’s remember, we are disciples of Jesus Christ, and a denominational disagreement cannot change that, and must not hinder us from being who we are called to be.
Kimball, Servant Evangelist