I was fourteen years old, doing drugs with my friend, when a man knocked on the door. He had a microphone that he held to his throat. And in a strange, mechanical voice, he invited me to church.
Not that I really needed to pay attention. No one who attended the West Michigan Annual Conference this year was snoozing when he was on stage.
Adam Hamilton founded the Church of the Resurrection in 1990 with just four people. Today, it is the largest United Methodist Church in the USA, with a staggering 18,000 adult members. We, who serve in leadership in the same denomination, know that we have much to learn from him.
Here, on stage, was a speaker, pastor, and preacher passionately in love with God, with Jesus, and with the denomination he serves.
Adam Hamilton believes that if there is one church that stands a chance of transforming the world then it is ours: The United Methodist Church– as we open wide our hearts, our minds, and our doors; welcoming ALL without judgment; struggling together through questions and doubts; and striving to lead authentic lives that reflect our faith.
But it wasn’t just his message that gave me hope for the United Methodist Church.
It was the man.
It is conference policy to collect and return visiting speakers to the airport. For several years, this has been my husband’s wonderful privilege…but not this year. Adam had requested that a young, newly-ordained pastor be his driver.
Sitting in the conference bookstore, I saw why. I was witness as he came in, with his roll-away suitcase, getting ready to leave. His young companion was by his side. Adam quietly took her over to the table where the many books he had authored were sitting; and proceeded, one by one, to pick them up.
Do you have this one? What about this? Did you get the companion DVD to this book?
That one is out of stock, the bookstore clerk replied.
Can you please order it for her? asked Adam quietly. And put everything on my account.
After making sure that his young companion had every book he had ever written, Adam then thanked the bookstore staff for being there. And left.
This pastor is someone who practices what he preaches; who kneels by his bed every night; who humbly and quietly follows Jesus. And who encourages me to do the same.
And I think about that man with the mechanical voice. The one whom God called to knock on Adam Hamilton’s door and interrupt him as he was taking drugs; the one who could have been at home lamenting the state of his health, but who chose instead to listen to God’s call on his life and to obey the voice that had him knocking on stranger’s doors.
I wonder if that man would ever know the enormous impact he had on that one, fourteen year old life, and how, because of what he did, thousands upon thousands of lives are being challenged, and changed for the better….including mine.
There is hope for the United Methodist Church.