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
Christmas is a wondrous and joyful time of great HOPE! Hope can turn a weary life into a wonderful life. This story did not happen at Christmas time, but it reminds us of what Christmas is all about and that God wants the Christmas spirit to live in us all year long.
I served with the Missions Area of the Ontario First United Methodist Church as they reached out to the marginal and homeless people of the Inland Empire. This was a quarterly event that included dinner, singing, worship, and arts and crafts with the children. During one of these events, we became aware that there was a need to give special attention and hope in the weary worn community we were serving.
We invited a homeless family to our home in Mt. Baldy for a few days to get them out of the rat race of seedy hotels, lice, and discouragement. The children, ages 6, 4 and 3, could not play outside because it was too dangerous.
In those three days in Mt. Baldy, the parents washed dirty clothes that were piled high in the trunk of their car, enjoyed a few walks by themselves, dreamed and made plans for their lives. The children squealed with happiness as they splashed in the creek, climbed up in the treehouse, hiked to the orchard with Charlie, our neighbor’s Border Collie and picked fruit, played ball in the front yard, and made cookies for the first time in their lives. They also took baths. The little three-year-old took four bubble baths in one day! Her sparkling clean soft curls bounced as much as she did.
They all helped with meals and ate as though they never would again. They were eager to hold hands and say grace before eating.
Tears flowed from their Daddy’s eyes when he came in from a walk and heard his children singing and laughing. He asked me if I knew some of the hymns his grandmother had taught him as a child. I did and he joined us in singing those hymns. It surprised his children to hear their daddy sing and that he knew about God and Jesus. I believe he surprised himself and felt better when he remembered he had a foundation of faith that would help him.
The children were tucked into beds with clean sheets each night but on their last night, they wanted more. They asked Pam and me to tell them a story, teach them how to pray bedtime prayers and sing a goodnight song like we did with our grandchildren. Their mama and daddy joined us.
All scrubbed and clean, tummies full with a hearty breakfast, plus a bag of goodies prepared for each of them, they left the mountain with hugs and kisses and a sheer pleasure, but most of all, with a sense of hopefulness instead of hopelessness. We discovered that it’s not only adults who need hope in their lives, children also hunger and thirst for hope. The next week we went to the motel to see them, but they were no longer there. We prayed they had begun life anew with hope.
God sent the Christ child to give our weary world a thrilling sense of hope. Giving HOPE to others is one of the greatest gifts we can give at Christmas.
Once upon a time, some young people decided they wanted to become a rock band. They got so excited thinking about fame, fortune, and popularity. They talked for days about what the name of their band should be, what songs they’ll sing, what they’ll wear, and the kind of image they wanted to project. At the end of their meetings, they were full of themselves and couldn’t wait to tell their friends. They were completely ready to become rock stars, except for one detail that stood in their way. They didn’t know how to play their instruments!
This story reminds me of the church. You can’t organize a church into being. Meetings do not a church make. A new name does not make a new church. Buildings, parking spaces, and technology are not the foundation of the church. No, it is people ~ committed people, spirited people, talented people, compassionate and giving people, who in community understand they are the body of Christ.
There are no shortcuts to being the Church. The Church is the instrument of God, an instrument that requires practice, an instrument that plays the joyful and calling music of justice, peace, hope and love, an instrument of faithful commitment to prayer, worship, witness, evangelism and action.
The Church does not strive for popularity, it strives for community, a oneness through love and understanding. The call to be the Church is not for ‘groupies’ (those who follow the band), but for ‘disciples’ (those who follow Christ). A rock band thrives by having groupies. The Church thrives by having disciples. A rock band needs ‘roadies’ to help set up the band on the stage. The Church needs ‘radicals’ with the courage to take the Good News of Jesus into all the world!
In light of the recent rain, storms and floods, Kimball and I were taken back to a frightening experience we had 25 years ago. It was during Lent in 1993 and one of those unusual times when torrential rains flowed down the mountainside, but our spirits would not be dampened. We were still excited about the day before when we had begun our four-day Lenten series with the First United Methodist Church of Garden Grove, CA. We were eager to get back on our second day of activities, fellowship, and worship.
As we came to the creek’s crossing below our Mt Baldy home our hearts won out over our heads. We knew the water was higher than we had ever seen but didn’t anticipate its fierceness. We only wanted to get to the other side and be on our way. Ever so cautiously and with hearts pounding, we started across, only to be swept up in a matter of seconds into the raging creek. After crashing into a large boulder that kept our car from going farther downstream, Kimball found his door was lodged next to the rock and he could not open it, but he managed to climb into the back seat and open its door. Holding on to the seat belt to keep him from being washed away, he made his way to a large rock and held on. It steadied and protected him from the strong current. He called for me to follow. “No, I’m afraid” I yelled! He assured me I would make it and I believed him. I, too, climbed into the back seat and held on to the seat belt as I began to slide out of our car. The fast-moving waters immediately took my shoes (my new red flats!) and I began to panic. Looking up, there he was, one arm holding fast to the rock and the other outstretched to pull me to him. As soon as I got to him, he continued making a way for us to safety through the freezing waters and through thick brush to the edge of the road.
Our small community of good friends and neighbors rallied in support of us. As soon as we made it to a clearing they began wrapping us in blankets. About eight of us stood beside the creek watching our car, which was partially submerged in 5 ft. of water, being pushed and pulled by the force of the water flowing at an estimated 60 miles an hour. How in the world did we get out?!
As the tow truck began pulling our car from the creek, we saw a cross floating around in the back seat. “Look, it’s a cross!” It was a roughly made cross from branches of a fallen tree that Kimball had made for his time with the youth to illustrate the power of the cross. Never could he have imagined how significant that cross would become! Everyone pointed with amazement and the tow truck driver shook his head, took his hat off, placed it on his heart and said, “Bless be to God, it’s a downright miracle these folks got out alive! That cross is what saved them!” We told him we were “those folks” and thanked him for his concern and caring.
We held each other tight and smiled, feeling very humbled and oh, so blessed ~ The Creek, the Cross, and the Miracle! What an Easter Story! Never does the season of Easter come that we don’t stop our busy world and pause each day for our meditation time as we look at the cross and feel the love and sacrifice it represents.