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What Will Bring Us Back
I think it is about time. It’s about time we start filling up our churches again. The pandemic has kept our churches only half full, and sometimes less. There are those who predict that this will be the way from now on. They’ve shown that many of us have grown accustomed to watching our worship services at home on demand.
As comfortable as it is worshipping in pajamas, it will never take the place of being in community with friends and singing the songs to live music. Even though many churches are still wearing masks and not touching each other with hugs, kisses, or even holding hands, there is an undeniable connection when we’re together in the sanctuary and worshipping with each other.
When Pam and I are leaving and fellowshipping in the narthex, we can’t help but share some hugs and shake a few hands. I know we probably shouldn’t be touching others, but we miss it so much and find it difficult to hold back. I’m not saying it’s the healthy thing to do. What I am saying is it shows how much we miss it.
The Church is not an institution, a club, or an organization. The Church is the instrument of God. It’s the personal warmth and bond of faith that is the glue binding us together. We are a community of love that builds God’s Kingdom come, God’s Will be done. This is what will bring us back to Church.
Agape, Kimball, S.E.
I Just Want To Hug Somebody
This pandemic has put a hold on our ministry for two-and-a-half years. I miss being in your churches. I mostly miss the personal touch, I miss preaching to you, singing with you, and hugging you.
I realize why we had to stop hugging each other these past years, but I hope we never have to do it again in my lifetime. Being the Church is being in community, and being in community is a feeling you cannot have without the freedom of being together in worshipful dance, song, and touch.
Not only have we not hugged each other in church, we haven’t even held hands in a friendship circle. We haven’t been able to face each other without masks and joyfully lift our voices in song.
The scripture is true, “If we keep silent the stones will shout out” (Luke 19:40). I don’t believe for a minute this pandemic will stop the Church from being what she is called to be.
The Church is not a body that can be blown away by the winds of disease. We are built on a foundation of faith. We are filled with the Spirit of Christ that brings us together in a community of love, and nothing can stop us from hugging each other.
Agape, Kimball, S.E.
A Joyous Easter from the Coburn Family
We have experienced the joy of Easter in the city, the country, the desert, and the beach, but experiencing Easter in Mt. Baldy is one of our favorite memories. We lived there for eight years, and it quickly became a tradition for our five young grandchildren. They came up from the cities below and spent part of Holy Week with us preparing for Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter.
They helped Granddad build the cross from branches found on the forest floor our first year. They climbed the hill and planted it firmly. Stones were placed around it to keep it steady. Sometimes repairs were needed, but most of the time the cross seemed to withstand the forces of wind, rain, and snow.
Kimball draped the cross with a purple cloth. It stood humbly on the mountainside above his study that we called the Servant’s Quarters. The children would run up the hill and place fresh wildflowers that grew alongside the creek beneath the cross. We had our daily meditations during Holy Week in sight of the cross.
On Good Friday he removed that cloth and replaced it with a black one. The children’s flowers lay wilted and decaying ‘neath the cross, but when they joined us for this day of quiet, they surprisingly seemed to understand its significance.
On Easter morning just at daybreak, Kimball climbed the hill again and took the black cloth off the cross, and draped it with a white one. He buried the dead flowers and replaced them with Calla Lilies from our flower garden. Having done this, he began yelling to all of God’s creatures, “He’s alive! Christ Jesus has risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah! Thanks be to God!
Throughout the day our family would pause and look up to the cross and feel the love and sacrifice it represented. ~ May you, also feel the joy of Easter!
Agape, Pam Coburn
A Feeling I’ll Never Forget
It was 1968. I was sitting in the library of my college when I went into a dream state. I dreamed about the possibility of serving God in a way that would change the world. I felt it so deeply it brought a warm feeling of God’s presence in me. Tears welled up in my eyes and dropped on the page of a book on my desk. They startled me but I didn’t want to wake up and lose that feeling and the vision I was experiencing.
My tears were of sadness because we were losing 58,000 young men and women being killed in the Viet Nam War. Sadness because prejudice and discrimination were rampant throughout my southern homeland. They were also tears of joy that I could be a part of God’s plan to make a difference in our country and world. I had the privilege of preaching the confronting and challenging message of Christ in two little country churches on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky. They weren’t what you would label liberal, but they listened, and gradually over time, began to be changed by the teachings of Jesus.
That day was a feeling I’ll never forget. It was a feeling I don’t want to forget. It was a feeling I wanted to carry with me for the rest of my life. Those tears gave me the blessed assurance my decision to follow God’s call into ministry was my center and destiny.
My wish for you is to have a moment like mine when you feel God’s guidance to use your talents to change the world.
Agape, Kimball, S.E.
I sit here with a blank sheet of paper in front of me hoping I can write something that will help people to know God. With all my years of having a relationship with my Lord, it seems it should be easy to communicate this feeling and this knowing about God. The more I think and the more I write, I realize you can’t define God or know God through words. Knowing God can only come by faith, and faith can only come by believing.
I think the best way to move toward this feeling and believing is experiencing. Experiencing opens your mind and starts you thinking of the possibility of something bigger than self. If you’ve never had a spiritual experience, I can promise you it will be the most wonderful experience you’ve ever had. Life will take on new and meaningful directions. Hope will lift you up and love will be your ever-present guide.
I am a praying man. But how do I suggest to people who don’t believe there is a God, to talk with a spirit that doesn’t exist. Although you don’t feel God exists, God knows you exist. God is watching over you and loving you. This is called prevenient grace. Simply be still and God will talk to you. How will you know it is God’s voice? You’ll know … you’ll know.
Pam and I have four children, two boys and two girls. The younger brother, Collie, at the age of eight, told us one Sunday morning that he did not want to go to Church. After some thought, we allowed him to stay home that Sunday.
He didn’t mention it all week, neither did we, but come Sunday morning he was dressed and ready for church. One week was a long time for our young son to realize it didn’t feel right to stay home while his family went to church. He missed his friends, the children’s choir, and Sunday School. It just didn’t seem like a Sunday without going to church.
For the past 15 months, the Christian community has missed going to church. And like Collie, Sundays haven’t been the same. Our children have missed their friends in Sunday School, hearing the stories of Jesus, and singing songs that help build their foundation of faith. The same goes for all ages in our churches. We miss celebrating communion, baptisms, and weddings. We’ve felt stifled in our ability to reach out to the lost, sick, and hurting. We’ve missed the joy of celebrating holy holidays together. This lack of connection has reminded us that the church isn’t merely a building, the Church is the people who gather together with imagination and the strength of God’s Call. Are you looking forward to getting back to church? Have you missed being together physically in worship with your brothers and sisters in the spirit of Christ? As soon as it’s safe, I hope you and your family will be back with the family of God to, once again, enjoy the fellowship that can only be felt when two or more are gathered in His name.
Due to the Covid crisis, technology has begun playing an important role of encouraging us in our faith. Many believe it will continue to do so in the future, not as a replacement of the local church, but as an enhancement to help us reach people where they are. It’s been exciting to see the church take bold steps using video, podcasts, and social media with open hearts and minds. Our Ministry’s Board of Directors has added a new media team to imagine with us new ways to help keep our ministry relevant and in touch with your needs on your spiritual journey. As our churches are imagining how to serve our Lord in today’s world, we as a Ministry of Evangelism in the Prophetic Spirit have begun creating video messages. These brief videos (3-5 minutes) include stories and music that will encourage you and your church to follow God’s Call. We’ve titled this new series OUR CALL. I invite you to share them on social media, download and use them in your church, or in your church’s videos.
May God bless and use our imaginations as we reach out to our world with the hope freely given. This is Our Call.
Shout Hallelujah, It’s Easter Day!
When I was a pastor, I wrote a song for our youth choir to sing on Easter. The keyline was, “Shout hallelujah, it’s Easter day.” This is what I am thinking about as I put my thoughts together for this Spring Issue of THE CALL.
During this year of sheltering in, Pam and I have experienced more quiet time being still and remembering special times with our family. We missed their birthdays, the birth of our 4th great-grandchild and the 1st great-grandson of my late brother, Tommy, as well as the holidays that usually brought us together in joyous love.
We have come through a difficult year, but Easter is coming, it’s time to shout ‘Hallelujah!’ It’s time to praise God for our feelings of HOPE! Memories take us back to 1972, our first Easter in Claremont, CA. Traditions came with us from Tennessee, along with 4 children and our dog named Christmas. We actually had a rabbit named Easter later that year. That’s another memory, for now, I want to take you back to Easter Week.
Our tradition of stripping the branches from our Christmas tree and saving its pole for Easter began our Easter Week celebration. After the celebration of Palm Sunday with our children parading down the aisle of our church, with their palm branches, it was lunch and an afternoon of transforming the Christmas tree pole into a cross. Kimball Boyd (9 yrs. old) sawed the pole and Collie (7yrs. old) tied it with a strong rope and put it back in the Christmas tree stand. I placed it where the Christmas tree stood only months before. Pam draped it with a soft purple cloth. Kathy (5 yrs. old) and Cari (almost 4) picked flowers to go around it. It was the gathering place for our Holy Week devotions.
I remember the day so well. It was early morn on Good Friday. Before the children woke up I took away the soft purple cloth and draped a black one over the Cross. The flowers lay dead but I did not move them. Our boys had experienced this, and maybe Kathy remembered it too, but for Cari, to see that change broke her little heart as she ran to her room, threw herself on her bed, and cried. I followed her and sat next to her, stroking her hair and wiping her tears. “But Punkin,” I told her, “I have good news for you. On Easter, Jesus is going up to heaven to live with his heavenly Father and he left something for you.” “He did?” she said, “He did!”, I said. “He left his love and his spirit in you!”
With that Good News, she suddenly burst from her room proclaiming to all that she was going to ‘Hab Church!’ She and her big brothers turned our living room into a church while Kathy went to get the ‘people’ (Mooey, Mooey Cow, Raggedy Ann, and her brother, Andy, Mrs. Beasley, and Baby Tenderlove), plus our dog, Christmas. The candles were lit and the preaching began! Cari, with the cutest little speech impediment at that time, was the preacher.
“Now eberbody, today is a bad day. I don’t know why they call it a good day cause it don’t seem like it is to me. You see ‘dem dead flowers is dead, but on Easter morning they will be all growed new! And you see that old black ‘aterial on the cross, on Easter it’s gonna be white like snow. I know cause my Daddy tolded me so. “You don’t hab to be sad,” he tolded me…he promised me that Jesus libs for-e-ber!”
After her child-like sermon, Cari Beth led her congregation, with Kathy, playing their toy piano, in singing the Cherub Choir’s special for Easter, “He Libs! He Libs, Da Jesus Libs today!” Just as her Daddy assured her, our God assures us that He Lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with us and talks with us. You ask me how I know He lives. He lives within our hearts.
A simple, yet profound story that concludes with the news that Easter is about hope! Easter is about unconditional LOVE! Easter is about joyous praise of God ~ HALLELUJAH! Come on everybody, sing it with me!
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today
You ask me how I know He lives
He lives within my heart!
Agape at Easter,
Kimball & Pam
The Noble Family
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!
A Letter to the Churches
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.