Our Wesleyan Heritage Part 4: “Rekindle the Flame”

Pastor Galen Zook

Sunday June 30th 2019

2 Kings 2:8-14; 1 Timothy 1:1-10

A Legacy of Faith

In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul exhorts Timothy to “rekindle the gift of God that is within you.” 

To “kindle” means to “light up.” It’s this image of fanning a spark to make it grow into a flame, to make it burn hotter. And so to “rekindle” means to “light again.” It means that at one time the fire was hot, but it burned down, and it needs to be fanned back into flame.

Paul tells Timothy to “rekindle the gift of God” that is within him. Timothy was in many ways a “spiritual child” of Paul (see 1 Tim. 1:1). Paul had mentored and discipled Timothy, and trained him up to be a leader in the church. Paul and Timothy had ministered together in Ephesus, but when Paul felt led to move on to a new city, he left Timothy behind in Ephesus to minister to the church there. Paul obviously placed a great deal of trust in Timothy, and he cared about Timothy very much, but he also seems concerned that Timothy’s faith might be waning.

I don’t know exactly what was going on in Timothy’s life, or why Paul felt that the flame within Timothy was beginning to die down, but I do know that there are times in all of our lives when we may feel beaten down by life. We can become discouraged, doubtful, or downtrodden, and we need the flame within us to be rekindled. The burdens and cares of this life can be overwhelming at times, and we need to be reminded of the faith that is within us. That is what Paul is seeking to do for Timothy.

Paul says that he knows there is a deep faith in Timothy because it existed “first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you” (1 Timothy 1:5, NRSV). Timothy’s faith had been influenced by his mother and grandmother. He was the recipient of a legacy of faith that had been passed down from generation to generation in his family, and Paul wants Timothy to remember this. Paul wants to see Timothy’s faith revived and rejuvenated, and Paul believes that this is possible — not just because Timothy once had a strong and vibrant faith, but also because he came from a long tradition of faithful men and women. 

Inspired by Those Who Came Before

Often we think of faith as something that belongs to each of us individually. It is true that each of us individually must decide whether or not we believe in God. Each of us must decide whether or not we are going to place our faith and trust Christ. We are not saved simply because our parents or grandparents were followers of Christ. 

But on the other hand, faith is so much easier when we are surrounded with faith-filled people. In 2 Kings chapter 2 Elisha was inspired by the faith of Elijah, and even asked God for a double portion of Elijiah’s spirit. The Apostle Paul’s faith was an inspiration to Timothy, as was his mother and grandmother’s faith. 

During the month of June we’ve been hearing stories of faith-filled people in our Wesleyan/Methodist tradition. Phoebe Palmer, John Wesley, and Fannie Crosby were all faith-filled people who shaped and influenced our church and denomination, and I hope that their stories of faith have inspired you towards deeper faith in God.

“Church of Constant Revival”

Today as we finish out our series on “Our Wesleyan Heritage,” we’re going to come even closer to home as we look at the early history of our congregation, Hampden United Methodist Church. (One of the amazing blessings we have is that 100 years ago, Rev. Dr. Edward Daniel Stone, who was at that time the pastor of this church, wrote a detailed account of the first 50 years of our congregation in preparation for our church’s 50th’s Anniversary Celebration, entitled The History of Hampden Methodist Protestant Church 1867-1917, and we are privileged to have several copies of the book here in our church library).

Many of you know that our congregation was founded in 1867 in the home of John Knight, in what was at that time the village of Hampden. 35 fervent believers gathered themselves together for worship, and Hampden Methodist Protestant Church was born. More people began to join them, and they soon outgrew the house that they had been meeting in. They erected a temporary tabernacle for their worship services. But when they outgrew that building as well, they made plans to build a more permanent church building. 

In the first 15 years, the congregation grew by leaps and bounds. By 1868 the church had 71 members. In 1869 there was a revival that lasted for over a year. In 1873 a report of one of the revival services in that year stated that the altar was “crowded nightly — one hundred added to the church.” 

Writing in 1917, Dr. E. Daniel Stone said that “Hampden Church has been called often, ‘The Church of Constant Revival.’ What a blessed title — Constant Revival — constantly at work, helping to carry out the yearning of the burning heart of Jesus. Hampden Church was born in a revival. Thousands have been converted at her altar” (Stone, 22). 

In those early years, our congregation even sent out missionaries and church planters who planted churches in Remington, Roland Park, and a church further down Falls Rd. near North Avenue. Our congregation supported a missionary in Japan. And at the time that the book was written in 1917 there were several young people who were in the process of being trained and equipped to do ministry — one was a young women named Sarah Cullen who was in training to be a deaconess, and a young man who was on his way to Moody Bible Institute to be trained for ministry.

What a history! What a legacy we have!

Our Legacy of Faith

The story of the founding of our church is well known to many of you. But what you may not know, is that 45 years after our church was founded, some thought that our church should be closed down. In The History of Hampden Methodist Protestant Church, Rev. Stone says that in 1913 when he arrived as the new pastor, the church had “passed through many discouraging events and was told by prominent officials that ‘Hampden Church had about outlives its usefulness,’ and the only thing left to do was to sell out, move away and start new at some other site” (Stone, 45).

When he arrived, the men’s Bible class consisted of only eight men, who met in the pastor’s study. Rev. Stone looked around the streets of Hampden, and saw men hanging around the street corners. He inquired as to where they went to church, and he was told that they didn’t go anywhere to church. So Rev. Stone mobilized the eight men in his Bible class to go out and reach the men in the neighborhood. 

According to Rev. Stone, “with faith and much prayer and love we went out after them — on the streets, in the pool-room, in the cigar store, in fact, every place where men go, and they heard our message and accepted our invitation” (Stone, 55). He went on to say, “We never substitute, we never send, we don’t mail literature (only on rare occasions), we don’t phone (only as the last resort); we go, and go, and then go, and then go some more” (Stone, 55).

In this way, the men’s Bible class grew to 65 men within a month, and 500 within a year. And of course you probably know the story, that eventually the Emmanuel’s Bible Class at Hamden Methodist Protestant Church grew to become the largest men’s Bible class in the world, with over 1400 men on the roster. And the Queen Esther Women’s class was not far behind, with over 900 women involved.

This is our legacy of faith! This is our story! And the amazing thing is that the faith that lived in those 35 believers who gathered in 1867 in the home of John Knight, and the faith of those 8 men who gathered in the pastor’s study for Bible study in 1913, I see that same faith in you!

A Double Portion of God’s Spirit

And just as Elisha prayed for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit, I want to encourage us this morning to ask for a “double portion” of the faith of the men of the Emmanuel Bible Class and the Women of the Queen Esther Bible Class.

We are once again in a time when some might say that our church has outlived its usefulness. Some might say that the people here in the Hampden community just aren’t interested in attending church anymore. So why not just sell out, move away, and start over somewhere else?

When I look around Hampden I see many men, and women, and children who don’t go anywhere to church. I know that our church has reached out to the community in many different ways over the years. Sometimes we’ve seen great results, but at other times we’ve seen very little results for all of our efforts, and that can be very discouraging. 

But the story of Rev. E. Daniel Stone and the Emmanuel’s Bible class and Queen Esther Bible Class should inspired us to keep going, to keep inviting, and to keep praying and seeking God on behalf of our neighborhood and community. Just as our church was known as the Church of Constant Revival in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, may it be true today as well!

As Rev. Stone pointed out 100 years ago, there is no substitute for face-to-face invitations. 

A recent Gallup poll estimates that 43 percent of Americans are unchurched. But another poll said that eighty-two percent of unchurched people said they would be likely to attend church if a friend, co-worker, neighbor or family member invites them! 

That’s a rather staggering statistic! More than eight out of 10 of the unchurched said they would come to church if they were invited. But sadly, only 2 percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church!

Now you and I both know that many people may say they’re going to come to church but they never show up. But that’s where we need to keep inviting, keep being faithful, continue being persistent, not pressuring them, but letting them know that we care about them and that they are welcome.

And so this morning, like the men of Emmanuel’s Bible Class, like the women of the Queen Esther Bible Class, let us Go! Let us go to those who are lost or in need, and let us keep going to them. Let us share God’s love with them, and let’s invite them to come.

Let us pray for a  “double portion” of their spirit, and that God would once again rekindle our faith and that we would see revival in this neighborhood. Let us pray for boldness and courage to go to those who are lost and in need and to invite them to come in — not just so that our church building would be filled, but so that they too may know the love, and the joy, and the peace of Christ, and that they too may know the transforming power of God.