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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Pastorgraphs: “Personal Story”

E-Vangel Newsletter
April 7, 2015

Christ United Methodist Ministry Center

“Christ in the Heart of San Diego”
3295 Meade Avenue - San Diego, CA 92116 - (619) 284-9205
Pastorgraphs: “Personal Story”

Until a week ago, I had never heard Adam Hamilton speak. Thanks to Claremont School of Theology posting his Wallace Chappell Lectures online, he is no longer just a name to me.

Adam Hamilton is the founding pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, the largest United Methodist congregation in the United States. Since its founding in 1990, Resurrection has grown to an average weekly attendance of 8,600 people. That alone should have encouraged me to seek him out, to learn his “secret” of church growth. But as always, it was in God’s timing that I heard him speak.

I’ve heard my share of seminary lecture series. To be candid, most of them have been quite boring. Oh sure, they were enlightening, comparing some intricacies of theological positions between (let’s say) St. Augustine and St. Francis. But for the most part, inspiring they were not.

For over an hour and a half, I was mesmerized by Hamilton’s “lecture”. That is because he could not stop telling personal stories. Foremost was the story of his unlikely journey into ministry, much less his journey into the pulpit of the largest UMC congregation. His parents were Church of Christ and Catholic, polar opposites. His parents ultimately divorced. His early life was a spiritual wasteland. Adam was no altar boy, and is candid about his youthful mistakes.

While attending Oral Roberts University, his friends invited him to attend a Methodist church. He admits he wasn’t sure what he believed in at the time. But there were some pretty girls sitting near the front of the church, and as he admitted, “I know I believed in pretty girls.” That kept him attending long enough to begin his own spiritual transformation.

I almost feel out of my chair when he said what pulled him in was reading the Methodist Book of Discipline (BOD). I would have believed it if he said his transformation began while reading a Gideon Bible in a motel room. But the Book of Discipline? Are you kidding me? Not the minutia of church law and rules, but the first part of the BOD most of us jump over when trying to find the rules for a charge conference, ordination, or closing a dying church. What Adam read was John Wesley’s Social Principles, General Rules and The Ministry of All Christians. These expressed what he had always understood Christians should be and do.

What is most encouraging is that Hamilton affirms that the Wesleyan model is still valid after 300 years. Resurrection Church proves it. Adam stated in his lecture Methodists might be best positioned between the theological extremes, similar to his own parents, to show the way to what Wesley called spiritual holiness in the 21st Century.

I think I found Adam Hamilton’s secret. He cannot talk for more than a few minutes without telling a personal story. Whether it was his own faith journey, or the one about giving a flight attendant his pocket Bible, or opening a satellite church in downtown Kansas City in a former bar next door to a strip club, he tells true stories of how lives are still being transformed by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and faith in God.

So listen up, preachers, Sunday school teachers, parents, and all. Your audience, whether 8,000 people in a sanctuary, or your teenagers in your home, don’t want to hear pious platitudes. They want to hear what faith in God means to you! Everyone loves a good story, and even more when it is a real testimony of how your life is different now that Faith, Hope and Love are the anchors of your soul.

For Christ’s sake,
Bill Jenkins

From The Quote Garden:
The earliest stories in Genesis were not written to tell primeval history. They were written to tell readers about themselves and about God.
~ Adam Hamilton

Photo credit: Adam Hamilton.

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