Home, Sweet Home
by Rev. Dennis Hartman
Published July 8, 2010
There are some things that never change. The desire to have a good dish of ice cream. Then there is the desire to repeat that marvelous breakfast that you cooked while camping. You know, the smell of coffee and bacon frying in the cool of mountain air. Then there is the desire just to return to the little stone church of your childhood days.
In my case, that church would be in the state of Pennsylvania. When a youth, it was an Evangelical United Brethren church just east of a small south central town. I remember that we use to open the windows and the music seemed to waft down the valley where many farmers could easily hear the melodies of the great hymns of the faith. When we sang it seemed that the walls would resonate the music to the point that they would throb to the beat. We loved to sing from the hymn book and not words projected on the wall. When people heard that singing they knew it was Christian music.
Then there was the preaching. Yes indeed, the preacher had to preach from the Bible. There were many good preachers who came through those doors and stood behind that pulpit. Such names as Rev. Zepp, Rev. Gutwalt, and Rev. Amos Funk. You could expect some hell fire and brim stone messages from them. Great preachers with great faith and big hearts.
Just recently I visited that little stone church in the country. Today it is an United Methodist Church. It has grown to have two morning worship services. And like many churches of our time, the words to the songs were projected on the wall. The windows can not be opened in their new building because of the air conditioning. So the music is held hostage. Some of the music was word music. That is, in order to know that it was Christian music, you had to listen to the words. The music itself did not seem Christian. Still they had several standard hymns. The pastor no longer wore a coat and tie. Instead he wore his collar with a black shirt, pants and shoes.
And what about this pastor? What about any United Methodist pastor? These are good questions. In this case the pastor was in his mid forties and seemed to preach a good sermon. No not the normal do good - go to the left sermon that seems to be the hallmark for most United Methodist preachers. He used scripture and did a good job of it too. One could have come under conviction for their lost eternal soul. But wait just a country minute. Is this not the exception to the rule in United Methodism? Let's consider this question.
Now when I moved from the north to the south to take my first pastorate things were going down hill fast for United Methodism. As a student at Bob Jones University I never heard a Methodist preacher from their platform. The reason for that was the gross apostasy with in that denomination. But this will not answer the question as to why they never allowed an independent type Methodist to preach.
As I progressed through my thirty three years of ministry I became an ardent enemy of United Methodism. But my opposition to them was not because they were Methodists, but because of their denial of the great spiritual heritage left to them, and us, by John Wesley and Bishop Francis Asbury. This is not to mention the faith of others such as Peter Cartwright and O. T. Summers. The United Methodist Church represents what could be called the mother church of Methodism.
The Independent Methodist movement never amounted to much, nor will it. Most in that movement are either Calvinists, Baptists, or some other "ist." Not many were guilty of being the real thing. None were truly Methodist because all to many of their pastors were graduates of independent schools which are either totally Calvinist, Baptist or Pentecostal. For them to read one biography of both Wesley and Asbury made them masters of theology and history of Methodism. Enough said on this point.
Recently the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church held their annual conference. The Bishop of that conference is James King. He decided to show the preachers the difference between a sermon and an address. As he began his sermon, he gave his scripture reference and then paused. He scanned the audience and a look of contempt came across his face as he realized that few if any had a Bible. In a very discussed tone of voice he said that he now knew he was as a Methodist meeting because no one carried their Bible. WOW! Hats off to this Bishop. After hearing one message from this Bishop I can say that at least he does sound like a preacher.
Within the region that I live, I have discovered a nucleus of United Methodist pastors who are concerned about the eternal salvation of their people. Men who have a genuine desire to win the lost to our Lord. Most of these men are seminary educated. But God has moved them above the mediaocary of denominational politics and social works and concerns. As I move among them I am discovering a desire of many to preach the word more and more. This is a good thing. This is the reason for their calling in the first place.
As for the pastor that I heard in my home church, he too shows a marked difference from those who we normally cast as United Methodists. He spoke the Word citing various passages of the scripture. Perhaps, we might be turning a corner in at least one mainline denomination. We could only hope that this is the case. There is still much to be done. It is about time that some of the United Methodists join in the conflict to over come the spiritual darkness of our time. O God, give us more.
Pastor Hartman has been in the ministry for thirty seven years. He graduated from the Institute of Christian Service of Bob Jones University. He also holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Columbus State University and did post grad work at the same school. He has taught in the public school system for fifteen years, and is currently working with a small private academy. He has traveled once to Russia, three times to the Ukraine, twice to England in a humble effort to help the missionaries spread the Gospel of Christ. After resigning form his pastorate in 2005, he does supply work for other pastors in the community. While he is Independent Methodist, he is currently attending a neat conservative Church. If you wish to contact Pastor Hartman, please feel free to do so.