By Rev. Dr. Kimberly Reisman
In 1996, WME launched the Order of the FLAME, an annual gathering for young clergy. The goal of the Order was to instill the DNA of evangelism into young clergy leaders. Our prayer was that these young leaders would recognize that evangelism is not a separate or specialized emphasis, but a foundational element in all aspects of ministry. The name is telling – it is the Order of the FLAME, which stands for Faithful Leaders as Mission Evangelists. The heart of the mission of the FLAME to equip young clergy to be mission evangelists in their own communities, encouraging them to see themselves as appointed not just to an individual congregation, but to their entire community.
I had the opportunity to attend the first Order of the FLAME gathering in 1996. At the time I had three young children and was appointed as a less than full time associate pastor with minimal responsibilities. Because the FLAME is an invitational gathering of young clergy who have shown promising gifts for leadership, there were many talented young clergy at that first gathering, as there are at every gathering of the FLAME. I too, had been invited; and yet, I felt very out of place, so much so that as the days progressed, it became somewhat of a “crisis of calling” for me. What was I doing? Why was I even there?
Of course, I also received a great deal of encouragement and insight during those days and the teaching was outstanding. Even so, by the last day of the gathering, I was quite discouraged, thinking that if this was the direction God was calling me, I definitely didn’t have enough gifts or talents to follow. In my mind, I must have misunderstood my call to ministry completely.
The final worship service of the FLAME gathering occurred in the midst of this crisis of calling. Now that I have served numerous years in ministry, I have witnessed and experienced many amazing things as the Holy Spirit moves in the hearts of people; but at this point in my life, what I experienced was a first. It was a deeply moving time of worship for everyone present yet it holds very special meaning for me.
After the sermon we were invited to stand and pray aloud as a body. As the prayers swirled around me, I felt the immediate urge to leave the room. There was no way God could use me the way he was obviously using those around me. I decided to leave right then, when no one would notice.
Just as I was turning to leave, I felt “hands” on my shoulders pushing me firmly back down in my seat and holding me there. As I sat unable to get up, on the other side of the room a man who was then a stranger, but who has now become a dear friend began speaking in a loud voice. Oddly, No one else in the room seemed to be aware of what he was doing, and I couldn’t really understand what he was saying. But as he spoke, I heard a voice as clear as crystal in my own head:
Yes, Kim. You may not have all the gifts and talents. I know you don’t have all the ability. But none of that matters. You will do what you are able, and I will do the rest. I am your source of power and strength. It is not you who is working; it is me, working through you. Trust me.
Looking back on my ministry, this watershed moment at the Order of the FLAME was the beginning of a theme that has continued to mark my spiritual journey – trust. I have come to understand that it’s ok not to have all the gifts necessary to accomplish the tasks that God places before me, as long as I trust God. I do what I am able, and trust God to do the rest.
I credit my Order of the FLAME experience for redirecting my trajectory of ministry and instilling in me the trust necessary to follow Jesus and lead others to him. Over and over God has shown that he will provide exactly what I need – whether by teaching me a new skill or placing someone in my path who has the gifts and talents and that I do not. And over and over he has given me signs of his faithfulness – as I have traveled, as I have learned and taught, as I have led.
In leading WME and continuing to nurture and grow the FLAME community, my desire for the next generation of leaders is that they will discover (or rediscover) who the source of their power and strength really is. That they will realize that God is the one doing the real work and if they trust him and do what they are able, God will do the rest.