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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!
Although I have a good education and enough money to get by, I am a beggar. To be Christ-like you must be a beggar. You can’t be demanding and controlling. It is a position of servanthood. Thank you for responding to my begging. Without your prayers, financial support, and belief in our mission to take the Good News of Jesus Christ into the world, my ministry of evangelism in the prophetic spirit would have faltered long ago.
The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, bragged about the churches in Macedonia. Although they were going through hard times and were very poor, they begged for the privilege of sharing in the ministry and relief of other Christians (II Corinthians 8:1-5). Like those faithful nascent churches, I beg pastors and their congregations to allow me to serve them as a servant evangelist. I ask earnestly and humbly to bring the challenge and the Call of Jesus to them.
My mission is to help Churches focus on their mission. Admittedly, sometimes I fail, but other times I strike a spark in congregations. At those times the spark is visible and palpable and the people begin coming to the altar before I finish the Call. It is as though the feeling had been building and they couldn’t wait to come to God with a renewed commitment. I say ‘renewed’ because I preach mostly to churched people who have come to the altar before, but that fire may be only flickering or even smoldering. Church has become just another activity they do as part of a busy schedule. They hunger and thirst for that deeper meaning, and when it comes, they can’t sit still. They become the church on the move, being the best they can be, for Christ’s sake.
This is what I beg for. When it happens, I am renewed. My mission is done. My Calling is fulfilled.
It was the year of 1978 when Christmas Eve came on a Sunday ~ actually, a good day to stop the madness of last minute shopping and take time to be still and truly prepare for the birth of Jesus.
The sanctuary was decorated with fresh greenery, holly and ribbons of red ~ the Chrismon Christmas tree stood in beauty ‘neath the choir loft. The Advent Candles flickered above the manger scene where only the animals had gathered. The Children, Youth and Sanctuary choirs sang with joy as they led us into stillness, an almost silent moment. Kimball stood in the pulpit of our church, El Monte First UMC. His Christmas message was powerful yet tender, as he touched the core of our hearts. He challenged us to welcome the Christ child with gifts wrapped in patience and servanthood as we reached out to welcome strangers in our midst. He told us to ribbon the gifts with the peace, joy, hope, and love in our hearts.
Earlier that evening, Kimball was gathering his things together for the Christmas Eve Service when the phone rang. I was putting out leftovers from lunch for our supper when I heard Kimball say, “Yes, I am Rev. Coburn, how may I help you?” The man calling sounded weak and weary and may have been crying. “Can you help my wife and me get to Phoenix to see our son and his family for Christmas?” Kimball asked him where they were. “We are at the El Monte Bus Station,” the man said. Kimball told him he would be there in a few minutes.
Having just hung up the phone, Kimball said, “My goodness, I forgot to get the man’s name! How will I know who to look for?” But as he pulled up to the curb he noticed an older gentleman with his arms wrapped around an older woman. Seeing their weary faces, he asked them if they were the ones who called about needing help to get to Arizona. “Si, Senor, we are!” they said excitedly. With a warm smile, Kimball invited them out of the cold and into the car. The gentleman told Kimball his name was Joe and his wife was Mary. Their son was very sick, and they knew they must see him and his family. They wanted so badly to go but their car was too old for that kind of trip. Their plan was to ride the bus from East LA to the El Monte Bus Station and catch a Greyhound Bus to Phoenix. However, when they got there, they realized they didn’t have enough money for the bus tickets. But they knew they must find a way. After praying together for an answer, Joe looked through the phonebook hanging in a phone booth for the only place he thought might help them – the churches. El Monte First UMC was the only church that had a home phone number for the pastor and that’s why he called him.
Since the bus they had planned on taking had already left, Kimball invited them to our home for dinner and to come to our 11:00 PM Christmas Eve Service. He explained that he had to get back to the church to finish plans for the service but assured them that the children and I were looking forward to having them in our home. And that we were. The boys put more wood in the fireplace and a favorite Christmas album on the record player. The girls set the table for supper and cut a bouquet of flowers to make it special. They arrived to find a warm welcome, complete with hugs, from our entire family and our dog who was named Christmas Angel. After washing up, the kids invited them to the table for supper. It was most humbling to listen to them tell us about their only son and his family. Joe and Mary had two little granddaughters, ages 3 and 4, who they had never seen. More than anything they wanted to be with their family this Christmas. They asked about our family, and when the children spoke, they listened to their chatter with smiles. Mary offered to help me wash dishes after supper and Joe helped the boys bring in more logs for the fireplace.
Kathy and Cari went to their room in hopes of finding something for Joe and Mary to give to their granddaughters for Christmas. On the top shelf of their closet, they found a couple of Holly Hobby rag dolls they had outgrown. They wrapped them in tissue and put them in a Christmas bag with ribbons and cards for Mary to sign. Kimball Jr and Collie found a stocking hat and gloves for Joe and I found a scarf and gloves for Mary, plus a box of goodies and an Upper Room book of Christmas meditations for their trip to Phoenix. The children filled extra Christmas stockings with candy and fruit and hid their gifts in a box in the back of our station wagon. It had been an unexpected evening of sheer goodwill as we drove off to church for more memory making.
Joe and Mary seemed a little embarrassed that they might not look good enough to sit in church with us, but our children quickly grabbed their hands and introduced them to folks. They were surprised to see little children in their PJ’s and mamas, daddies and grandparents in their work clothes. As the organ began to play “O Holy Night” they scooted right in with us feeling very much at home. In his message simply titled “Hope”, Kimball shared that Christmas had come to us early with a phone call from strangers in need. I couldn’t help but notice tears in the eyes of those around us, especially Joe and Mary.
A Christmas Eve tradition at our church was to end the service with the lighting of candles and singing “Silent Night”. As we sang, we moved out of the sanctuary and into the courtyard to represent going into the world with the light of Christ. We encircled our little garden and sang at the top of our lungs, “Joy to the World” to let our community to know that Christmas was here!
While folks wished each other Merry Christmas, our children and I slipped into one of the Sunday school rooms and took the little Christmas tree that was decorated and put it in the station wagon. Kimball took Joe and Mary into his office and told them he had vouchers for them from the El Monte Ministerial Association for a night’s stay at a motel and breakfast in the morning. Some of the folks from church chipped in to buy two round-trip tickets to Phoenix and back to Los Angeles. Kimball arranged to pick them up and see them off in time to be in Phoenix by 2:00 in the afternoon for Christmas with their family.
“It is Christmas!” all eight of us exclaimed, as we crammed into the station wagon and took them to the motel. While Kimball was helping Joe and Mary check-in, the children and I quickly ran the big box from the car to the room the motel had left unlocked for us. Out came the decorated tree! Gifts were scattered beneath it and the stockings were hung from the dresser knobs with care! And as Joe and Mary opened the door, the Christmas tree lights clicked on! Smiles, tears, hugs, kisses, thanks, and Merry Christmases were shared by all.
A tired Coburn family drove in the parsonage driveway around 2 AM. Our children got into their PJs, Kimball stoked the fire, and I brought out mugs of hot chocolate and Santa’s plate of homemade Christmas cookies. We gathered around our tree and were warmed by the glow of the fireplace as we talked about this Christmas Eve. Kathy questioned her dad, “This morning you told us we are to welcome strangers in our midst. Daddy, do you think God sent Joe and Mary to us?” Children have a wonderful way of seeing things that cause us to ponder their questions. Although we never heard from Joe and Mary again, we hoped they felt welcomed and loved this Christmas Eve and that it was truly a Holy Night for them, as it was for us.
Over the years, people have asked if I am a music minister and if I do concerts. I’m humbled by these questions, but always let them know that I’m not a music minister and I don’t perform musical shows. I am a preacher, a servant evangelist who uses music to enhance my messages and to lift the spirits of the people. Sometimes I’ll write my songs from the sermons, while other times the sermons come from the songs. But every song I write has a complete message that I feel stands on its own. In almost 50 years of ministry, I’ve discovered that the combination of sermon and song greatly strengthens a presentation by making it more memorable and focused. Yes, I suppose there’s a part of me that would like to be a musical performer. But what really gets my heart going is using all the gifts God has given me to share his prophetic message.
I’m also blessed to have children, grandchildren, and good friends gifted in creating music with meaning and purpose. They continue to surround me with their talents and are on all my recordings. We’re extremely proud of the music we’ve produced over the years and are excited to share it with you.
Click the Music of the Ministry tab to listen and download the music. For the highest quality sound, go to Bandcamp and follow the steps and choose from a variety of digital formats. Or simply let us send you any – or all – CDs. The price? It’s my pleasure to share our music free of charge with the hope of encouraging you in your faith.
Historically, Methodists were known to be warm people with warm hearts, warm fellowship, warm worship, warm music, and warm outreach. John Wesley’s life was changed when his heart felt strangely warmed. Having and conveying that feeling was one of the major factors in growing the church.
The difference between a warm church and a cooler routine type is quite noticeable. Warm churches enjoy fellowship on a deeper level. They understand the bond that brings them together and their mission they share. Even though each member is unique, in Christ their hearts are one. They’re relaxed and glad to see one another and enjoy sharing what’s going on in their lives.
Warm churches are joyful. There’s joy in their liturgy, joy in their singing, joy in their response to preaching and joy in their hearts when they go into the world to be the church in everyday life. Warm churches give generously and serve faithfully. They don’t get lost in survival and self. They preach a welcoming and personal Jesus. They preach his calling to build the Kingdom of God and take the social action necessary. Warm churches do something better than any clubs or organizations. They create a level playing field for all people — an environment where no one is better, smarter, richer, or more important than anyone else. God created us unique and precious in his sight. We worship and work together, shoulder to shoulder as a team with a focus.
I’ve been told if I were a consultant instead of a servant evangelist, I could make a lot more money. Consultants are sellers of their expertise while servant evangelists are messengers of Christ’s Good News. Being a servant-messenger sounds so much warmer – don’t you agree?! But if I were a consultant, the first thing I would tell you is: For God’s Sake, Warm It Up! Warm churches are communities of people who know they are the Church — the Body of Christ. And to be the Body of Christ means we’re warm in our being, warm in our methods, and warm in our touch.
As I start my 38th year of doing a ministry of evangelism in the prophetic spirit, it is time again for a ‘gut check.’ Have I resisted the world’s call to be popular instead of prophetic, a fundraiser instead of a faith raiser, a singer instead of a servant? ~ I have gone back through my sermons and newsletter articles to check my thinking and see if I have kept moving in the direction of God’s Call. Of course, it is your response to my ministry that makes it happen in your local church. So, let’s look together and remember God’s Call.
“I am convinced there is a place for the evangelist today, but the TV model must be replaced with the biblical model.” (1980)
“Maybe it’s good that people aren’t rushing to our churches today. Could it be this is God’s wake-up call to us saying, “It’s time to start doing evangelism instead of just talking about it.” (1986)
“I challenge all evangelists, pastors, music ministers and musically gifted lay people to create music that will inspire and move the Church into the future.” (1990)
“1950s, goodbye! I loved my old church. I thank her for being there for me at that impressionable age. But I want a church that realizes it’s a new day that calls for a new way!” (1995)
“Being a city boy, I’ve never expressed myself with the words, ‘It pleasures me greatly.’ However, they are the perfect words to express how I feel about being a servant evangelist. Although I graduated from seminary as a Doctor and was ordained a Reverend, nothing is more awe-inspiring to me than being a Servant.” (1996)
“Encouragement for Young Ministers: You can be humble and at the same time, assert your leadership. You can respect the elderly and at the same time, energize the youth. You can be pastoral and at the same time, preach prophetically. You can honor the traditions and at the same time, introduce new ways of worship. You can be a daily servant and at the same time, see visions.” (2000)
“I love the church because she is not self-serving. She exists in humility and meekness to serve the world. She exists to do evangelism, taking the Good News to the lost, confused and hopeless. I love the church because of her constant striving to change the world. I love her prophetic spirit and belief in peacemaking. I love her courage to confront and challenge injustice wherever it resides.” (2005)
“People today are much like those to whom Isaiah was prophesying who said, “speak to us smooth things.” The Church cannot be a ‘garden’ of smooth things. It cannot become an ‘ether environment’ that puts people to sleep to the hurts and pains around them.” (2007)
“Jesus was angry with his disciples when they fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane. I am angry with my church because we are sleeping while God is Calling.” (2008)
“METHODISM is known for being pioneering, spiritually fervent, socially concerned, theologically progressive and musically alive. Now put this with COMPASSION to the power of two, and the true meaning of EVANGELISM will be understood ~ E=mc2 (2009)
“When I see the church gaining the crowd but losing her life, it is time to give up popularity for the prophetic spirit.” (2010)
“You cannot be with poor children and not feel the great contradiction ~ the contradiction between God’s Will for the world and our actions in the world.” (2009)
“Challenge to Ministers: Most of us ministers have got what it takes, but we are not giving what we’ve got. It comes off like we don’t have the gifts and graces for ministry. We do have the gifts and graces. The challenge is to have the guts — the guts to stand tall and give our all.” (2011)
“Restlessness can be a good thing, a creative thing, and a positive change. Ambitious restlessness and Holy Spirit restlessness are completely different. One drives you inward to self, while the other drives you outward to others.” (2015)
The day is coming when we will have “autonomous cars.” This is what cars are being named that don’t need drivers. The automotive industry predicts by the year 2020, driverless cars will be on the roads. It sounds a little scary to me, although, in most cases, I am for progress. Progress for the Church is the opposite of this. Yes, God could control the Church, but chooses not to. God has chosen us to be the Body of Christ, the Church. God has called us to be builders of the Kingdom of God. We are not controlled by God. We are loved, blessed and guided by God. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and freed to be all we can be.
Progress for the Church is the opposite of this. Yes, God could control the Church, but chooses not to. God has chosen us to be the Body of Christ, the Church. God has called us to be builders of the Kingdom of God. We are not controlled by God. We are loved, blessed and guided by God. We are filled with the Holy Spirit and freed to be all we can be. The Church is not a car, but needs drivers. She needs people to keep their hands on the wheel and carry the Cross. The progress of the Church depends on getting more and more people involved. It is not autonomous, it is community oriented.
This is the title song of my newest CD. In the song, I sing about “a restlessness to be.” We think of restlessness mostly as a feeling of the young, but age is not a true factor. This restlessness comes from wanting to move from a dissatisfaction of the old, with a hungering to try something new.
Restlessness can be a good thing, a creative thing, and a positive change. Holy Spirit restlessness is completely different from ambitious restlessness ~ one drives us inward and the other drives us outward. Holy Spirit restlessness moves us outside of ourselves, as the song says, “crying out ~ send me.”
I am certainly not young, but I still feel a restlessness that gives me an edge, an eagerness and exciting energy to change smoldering embers into burning flames. I would be privileged to come to your church with God’s message.
“Don’t burn out. Keep yourselves fueled and aflame” – Romans 12:11 (The Message)
It was to be a cold Christmas high in the mountains of Mt. Baldy. The children wished for snow. The fathers wished for more wood for the fireplaces and potbellies. The mothers wished for their shopping to be completed before the first snowstorm of the season.
It was a time of excitement and busyness. Everyone seemed caught up in the wrappings and trappings of Christmas. The ‘I wanna’s and I gotta haves’ included everything from the largest tree, to the most presents, the best decorated house, the prettiest Christmas clothes…and the list went on. Can you imagine at this wonderful time of the year that people were so busy, busy, busy, getting, getting, getting that they were actually saying they wanted Christmas to hurry and be over so they could get back to their regular pace of life?
But there was one place in the tiny mountain village where the air was filled with quiet beauty and anticipation. There was no hustling and bustling, just great expectation of what was to come. It was the small Village Church that stood next to the creek and just at the entrance to Bear Canyon.
She beckoned the children, their friends and parents to come, but everyone was too busy. Her fireplace burned giving warmth but nobody came to be warmed. Her windows looked out to the stars…one was ever so bright, but no one came to see them. A giant evergreen tree telling of everlasting life stood glowing in the corner, but no one was thinking of everlasting life. They were thinking only of now. The Advent wreath in all of its beauty told stories of faith, hope, joy and love but these weren’t the gifts on anyone’s lists.
Nestled beneath the communion table a crèche scene graced the sanctuary of the small village church. Straw fell from the manger where a tiny baby lay quietly to share his love with the families of the mountain. Would they come? Surely they would come. It’s Christmas Eve.
All of a sudden the doors opened! There was laughter and joyful greetings. There were young and old alike. There were oohs and ahhs. They came to be warmed by the fire. They came to see the star. Did it lead them there? They came to feel the glow of the tree and to know the everlasting power it represented. They came in hopes of receiving the gifts of faith, hope, joy and love. They came because they wanted to share their love with the little one who lay in the manger of straw before them. They gathered around the crèche and sang lullabies of “Away In The Manger” and “Silent Night” to the babe and then silently prayed for their gift of gifts before breaking into a rousing, “Joy To The World.” Love truly came down that Christmas ~ a love for you and for me. It was a Christmas the families of Mt. Baldy will never forget.
This is a picture of my 5 year old grandson, Luke, singing his little heart out and praising the Lord. I’m not sure he knows what praising the Lord is all about, but I do know he loves singing and dancing in his church choir. Our job as parents, grandparents and church family is to teach him the deeper meaning of praising the Lord, having the heart of hallelujah as a child of God. I want my grandson to grow up not seeing the church as a somber institution, but as the joyful Body of Christ.
I have written a new song entitled The Heart of Hallelujah. I wanted to write a song with words that would lift our spirit, and a tune that would get our toes tapping and our hands clapping. Take a moment and listen to this song and feel the joy it brings.
All of life should be lived in hallelujah, which means, Praise to the Lord.
Kimball Coburn, S.E.