Tag Archives: Order of the Flame

Little Pentecosts

While crowds of people followed Jesus during his earthly ministry in Judea, the spirit of Jesus worked through the disciples to give birth to a body of believers that has been growing ever since as the fire of the Holy Spirit spread to the ends of the earth.

Once again, Peter and the other disciples provide a significant model for us. While Jesus was on earth, they were followers, students. They didn’t always understand the message or the methods of Jesus’ ministry, and they certainly were not able to perform even a single miracle in Jesus’ presence. Their failures and weaknesses were most apparent.

In fact, Judas betrayed Jesus and then killed himself in despair; and when the pressure was on, Peter denied he ever knew Jesus. Finally, in the wake of the Crucifixion, everyone took refuge behind locked doors, hiding in terror, expecting reprisal. Yet these terrified followers didn’t remain students, and they didn’t remain terrified. Instead, they were transformed.  

They were empowered by the Holy Spirit to be more than simply followers of Jesus; no longer students, they became messengers of the gospel. This transformation didn’t take place because of the bodily presence of the Jesus they had followed those many months; it didn’t happen because of his teaching or through the witness of his miracles and healings. The disciples were transformed into messengers by the presence of Jesus in real time, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  

We call the event of the disciples’ transformation Pentecost, that miraculous event that took place fifty days after Easter and launched the spread of the gospel throughout the world. What we don’t always realize is that the Holy Spirit has been responsible for a myriad of little Pentecosts ever since.

A pivotal event in my own life occurred in 1996 when I had been in ministry only a short while. Due to the young age of my children, I had been appointed part-time to a local church as an associate; and while my work was focused mainly in the important areas of children’s worship and teaching, I had very little responsibility overall. Then I was invited to attend an evangelism conference, the Order of the Flame. With its emphasis on evangelism, the focus of the entire conference was on reaching others for Christ. It was a powerful time, and I was surrounded by many talented people who were doing exciting things for God’s kingdom.

The last event of the conference was a worship service. There was dynamic music, great preaching. It was an awesome worship experience. We closed our time with prayer. Everyone stood, and people spontaneously offered their prayers aloud.

As the praying became more intense, I suddenly felt the powerful presence of God’s Holy Spirit—not just in the service itself but within me. As I continued to listen to the prayers being lifted, I was overwhelmed by the spiritual depth that surrounded me, feeling out of my league. It didn’t seem possible that I could do the types of ministry these folks were doing with such power. I began to feel intensely unworthy, ill-equipped to do whatever it was God was calling me to do. In that moment, I was ready to bolt out of the room. It was truly a crisis, not necessarily of faith but of calling.  

As I began to follow my instincts and leave as quickly as possible, I felt the full weight of God’s power upon me. I couldn’t move. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t. I sat down, convinced there was no way I could do what God was calling me to do.

Then suddenly I heard the voice of Jesus within me, saying, “you are ill-equipped; you don’t have all the ability. But that doesn’t matter; because I am not ill-equipped. You can do this—you will do this, because I am your source of power; and it is I who will work through you.”  

God moments—“little Pentecosts”—times when we experience Jesus in real time. From that time on, everything changes—who we are, how we live. These aren’t events that exist only in the stories of our faith. They happen every day to believers all over the world, and following in the Jesus way requires that we be open to those life-changing, faith-shaping little Pentecosts.  

Being open to experiencing our own little Pentecosts is about recognizing that each of us has a life mission. It’s that purpose for which God created you, for which God has placed unique gifts and talents and passions within you. And often, you can trace your “God mission” back to some particular passion that has been in your life for a long time.

Are you open to the Holy Spirit bringing a little Pentecost into your own life? What do you feel ill-equipped to do? 

Praying for Our Pastors

Recently it was a joy to gather at World Methodist Evangelism’s annual invitational faith-sharing conference for North American clergy. Pastors and their spouses arrive from all across the country, representing a variety of Wesleyan Methodist denominations.

Order of the Flame is a special event every year, utterly unique. Pastors and spouses attend everything together; clergy from the AME Zion church and the United Methodist Church, Church of the Nazarene and The Wesleyan Church all mingle together to learn, laugh, and build relationships. Returning members from prior years sit next to new members who arrive exhausted and worn in their spirits. They leave with a new lease on life and fresh conviction about why they got into ministry in the first place.

Our growing Order of the Flame community includes many clergymembers, and we ask that you will join us in praying particularly for our Order of the Flame members. These pastors and their spouses have spent several rigorous days being equipped with faith-sharing resources, building relationships, and having their spirits renewed.

If you’re part of our community of John Wesley’s pattern of prayer and fasting, we ask that you include in your prayers the pastors who have come through Order of the Flame over the years, including our new 2017 members. In particular, pray that the Holy Spirit will apply the resources they’ve been given to their local ministry contexts. Pray for their spouses and families. Pray for the new relationships of support and encouragement that have begun. And pray for their congregations to be awake to the movement of God.

Every year we welcome a special bunch, and this year is no different. We celebrate the ministries of these pastors and pray that they share their faith in beautiful ways.

Spirit Nudges: Winston Worrell’s Life of Listening

Periodically, events happen in our lives that are natural points of reflection. Graduations, weddings, retirement.

I’m in such a season these days due to the recent retirement announcement of Winston Worrell, the Director of WME’s Evangelism Institute at Candler School of Theology.

Winston has led our Institute for 25 years, so his departure in June will leave a significant gap. His depth of spirit, personal passion for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, and faithful work to equip others for evangelism have been instrumental in the success of WMEI.

I often teach that God’s preferred method of interacting with us is to use particular people at particular times, usually to deliver a particular message. That has been my own faith experience. Twenty years ago, at a time when I was doubting myself in ministry, God used a particular person – Winston – to ease my fears. At the exact moment I was prepared to leave ministry behind, God used Winston to deliver a particular message – stay the course, I will be with you.

Until recently, Winston didn’t know how God had used him in my life; but in the 20 years since, I’ve watched him as together we worked and worshiped, prayed and taught, preached and played. Through it all his openness to the power of the Holy Spirit has never wavered. He always stands ready to be used by God – even when he doesn’t know he is being used.

Several years ago, at our Order of the Flame gathering, one of the speakers, Lyle Pointer, had to leave shortly after he had spoken, so at the break he left to gather his belongings. After the break, Winston was settling into his seat, excited to hear the next speaker, when he felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit: Go pray with Lyle.

To hear Winston tell it, he was not happy with this feeling that he should leave the session to pray. He was excited about the topic of the next lecture and didn’t want to miss it. Everything seemed fine with Lyle, why did he need to go pray? After a few minutes of wrestling, he reluctantly left the room to look for Lyle. Seeing him and his wife, Paula, across the parking lot, Winston hailed them down and told them he felt a strong urging to pray with them. This was not in the least surprising to them, so in that moment, Winston, a black man from the Caribbean, and Lyle and Paula, two white folks from Oklahoma, encircled each other and prayed.

After they had prayed, Winston returned to the conference session and Lyle and Paula began their journey home.

About 15 minutes later, while the next speaker was mid-lecture, Winston heard a rapping on the window near his chair. An African American man gestured for him to come outside. Curious, Winston joined him and it was quickly very clear that something had deeply moved him, so they began to talk.

He was a delivery man who happened to be unloading his truck when he looked across the parking lot and saw Winston, arms wrapped around Lyle and Paula, praying.

As Winston listened, the man cried as he shared about his burdens. He shared that seeing black and white people with their arms around each other, praying together, had moved him in a way little had in the past. Winston continued to listen with the compassion and spiritual sensitivity that has marked his entire ministry. And then he shared his own faith in Jesus. And they prayed together for the next steps in this man’s spiritual journey.

God uses particular people, at particular times. Winston realizes that. His ear is tuned to God’s voice, nudging him even when he is reluctant or doesn’t understand.

What is your ear tuned to? What is the Holy Spirit nudging you to do or to say that only you can do or say?

As I move through these next months in anticipation of Winston’s retirement, I pray for that same spiritual sensitivity. And I pray that each of us, like Winston, will become ever more in tune to God’s voice, ready to be the particular person, at the particular time, used to channel God’s message of loving mercy, forgiveness, and grace.