Category Archives: methodism

A Wounded Church

My dad, Chuck Killian, the first circuit-riding preacher I knew and who introduced me to Methodism.

 

“Even if it wounds him.”

That was the prayer that I prayed several years ago on behalf of one of my sons who was going through a particularly difficult time in his life.

It was a hard prayer to pray. No good parent wants to invite unnecessary pain into the lives of their children. Pain is a difficult teacher; still and yet, pain is sometimes the most precise, shaping tool in God’s sanctifying toolbelt.

Pain is diagnostic. When allowed its probing investigation, pain brings us to the mirror of self-examination, a closer look inward at the condition of our hearts … the foundation of our thoughts. How we feel, what we believe, and the truth underlying both considerations, … yes, this is the good, diagnostic work behind a painful wounding. To settle for less–to run and hide–would be to stop short of pain’s potential.

Woundings deserve a good look, don’t you think?

In recent days, the church has been wounded … my church … the United Methodist church. We are a global denomination and in this last week, I gathered (via livestream with thousands of others who were tuning in) alongside 864 on-site delegates to watch the already festering wound among us open up in such a way that all who were watching could not escape the pain. In many ways, albeit odd, the severity of the wounding kept us attached to the festering until the clock ran out, the mics were silenced, and the screen went black. And there we were … there I was … released, dismissed into the night with a bleeding heart that needs both a dressing and addressing–a covering and a closer look. I imagine I am not alone.

The wound belongs to all of us. The pain is ours to hold. Perhaps, at the end of the day, this is the one issue upon which we can all agree. This is a collective sorrow.

As an eye-witness to the wounding and now a heart-holder of an aching discomfort that cannot be unseen or easily mended, it only seems best for me to come to the mirror, to allow my very good parent, my Father, to probe the depths of my feelings and the strength of my thinking.

Pain in the hands of a Masterful Surgeon offers cleansing.

Pain in the hands of a Masterful Surgeon offers conviction.

Pain in the hands of a Masterful Surgeon offers clarity.

Pain in the hands of a Masterful Surgeon is, indeed, diagnostic. And therein, friends, lies the rub.

For pain to work its potential, pain must be given over for examination to the only Surgeon who is completely holy and wholly skilled for the job. Not many will be able to arrive at this place of deep trust, of letting go and letting God. But I can go nowhere else because I have learned that God’s hands are the safest place for me to reside. He is my only hope for holiness.

So friends, those whom I know and those who are strangers to me but who have found themselves (like me) entangled within the reach of this tremendous pain, I make an invitation to you even as I am making it to myself. If we want this wounding to matter eternally, if we want it to do more for us other than to momentarily wreck us, then we must surrender our heart-hurts to the nail-scarred hands of the Master Surgeon. This is our first and best step. He is our only way forward.

Let’s not let this be for nothing. Let us, instead, allow this to be a time of deep, soul reflection. In doing so, a better “us” just might emerge.

Even so, I love you deeply. Even so, I pray for you each one God’s …

Peace for the journey,

PS – This blog has always been a safe place for dialogue, prayers, healing, and peace. I welcome your thoughts, but I humbly ask you to not let this be the time for debate. Shalom. 

Circuit-riding Faith …

She reads to me about his life, this man named Francis Asbury.

Do you know of him? I do. I’d better. Why?

Well, I’m the daughter of a Methodist preacher. I’m married to one as well.

I grew up in Wilmore, KY, home to Asbury College and Asbury Seminary. I graduated from the former and ran the halls of the latter during my growing up years, cutting a path between my professor, daddy’s office and my registrar, momma’s office. In a later season, I’d have an office of my own in that hallowed institution. Francis Asbury was, in part, one of the reasons behind my being raised where I was raised … being reared how I was reared.

I am a Methodist. I don’t make much of it here at the blog, because I’m a Christian before I’m a Methodist, but I’d be lying if I didn’t confess those denominational lines run pretty deep within me. So when my daughter was assigned another book report (she’s a fan of Christian biographies recently reading the stories of Corrie ten Boom, Amy Carmichael, and William Booth), I hand selected this one for her. Perhaps it is time she knows something of her spiritual roots.

Francis Asbury was one of the first circuit riding preachers in America. Sent here by John Wesley in 1771, Francis (a.k.a. Frank) spent the next forty-five years riding the circuit amongst the burgeoning Methodist societies and preaching the kingdom of God. He averaged 6,000 miles a year on horseback (a lifetime total of over 270,000 miles) and delivered over 15,500 sermons. His first night in America he chronicled his thoughts in his journal:

“ … When I came near the American shore, my very heart melted within me to think from whence I came, where I was going, and what I was going about. But I felt my mind open to the people and my tongue loosed to speak. I feel that God is here and find plenty of all we need.” (Benge, Francis Asbury: Circuit Rider, 2013, p. 53)

From whence he came was England into an America convinced of their need to cut ties with their mother-country. Francis tried to delicately step his way through the growing controversy between the colonies and England, governing his thoughts, words, and deeds by his desire to spread the Gospel and grow the church. However, because of their ties to the Church of England, circuit-riding preachers were often met with suspicion by colonists who tagged them as Loyalists. Many circuit riders abandoned their posts – some into hiding, some sailing back to England. By late 1777, Francis and another preacher named George Shadford were the last two, English-born Methodist circuit riders in America. Again, from Francis’s journal:

“Three thousand miles from home—my friends have left me—I am considered by some as an enemy of the country—every day liable to be seized by violence, and abused. This is just a trifle to suffer for Christ, and the salvation of souls. Lord, stand by me!” (ibid, p. 98)

The Lord did stand by Francis. He must have. I am (in small measure) living proof. And although my daughter and I have yet to finish this biography, I know how it ends … at least for now. God’s Word is alive in my heart and, just this morning, I meditated on that Word while listening to the words of my preacher-husband standing behind his Methodist pulpit. My mother did the same, listening to my daddy who stood behind his own pulpit. My in-laws the same. My sons? Well, they were in the pews of their own Methodist congregation. This is who we are. Christians first. Methodists second, and by the grace of God, saved to the uttermost.

I don’t know if Francis Asbury understands the influence he’s had on the spiritual landscape of America, but if he could look down from his heavenly post today and catch a glimpse of what his forty-five years and 270,000 miles’ worth of riding has birthed, he would know that his faith—his witness and his willingness—was no trifling matter. His faith was an eternal matter, one that continues to reap kingdom dividends some 250 years after he first glimpsed the American shore.

May it be so for each one of us. May our faith—the witness and willingness of our hearts—be no trifling matter. May it, instead, last eternally as we travel our circuits and spread the love and life of Jesus wherever we go.

Ride on, Christians, and leave a holy trail of Jesus behind you as you go. Someday we’ll all look back on these lives that we’ve lived and be amazed by how our paths of grace have changed the landscape of humanity. What a privilege to share this traveling ministry with you. As always…

Peace for the journey,

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