A people who together are authentically church understand that history is "his-story," that is God’s story brought to fullness in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, what Jesus began to do and teach they continue (Acts 1:1). It’s not so much that they have a story to tell, but that they are the story that tells. Who they are (identity), what they do (vocation), and how they live (life-style) embody the Jesus-story in and to their world. They are people whose defining story is his-story-making.
Obviously, Jesus’ story makes these people " a people." Without Jesus there could be no church, just as without Yahweh there could have been no Israel. First with Israel and then with the church, God calls people into being, a certain kind of being, that could be by no other means. Those who were not a people God has made a people (Hos. 1:10; 1 Pet. 2:10). Authentic church-being is a kind of being that could not be apart from God. As we look at groups today–including FMC groups–it is important to ask, how is it that such a group exists? Does its existence require God? Are creation and resurrection its foundational realities?
Perhaps not so obviously, the Jesus-story creates a people who participate in the Jesus-story. Read the Acts account of how the earliest followers of Jesus interacted with and related to one another (e.g., 2:41-47) and then compare these relations with Paul’s list of fruits of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Clearly the list becomes living among people of authentic church-being. They become a people whose association with Jesus explains their character and conduct, as we read of the apostles (Acts 4:13), a people who in the most extreme experiences of life replicate the responses of Jesus, as Stephen did in his martyrdom (Acts 7:59-60). It is important to set our intra-church dynamics alongside the Jesus-story and note how well they match. When we are together, as we do business, in the course of our worship, witness, and service does the list (Gal. 5:22-23) become living? In and through all we are and do, can others hear the voice of Jesus and feel his touch? Does our church-life, over the course of time, carry on the adventure of God interacting with, invading, and investing human history with holy presence?
Authentic church-being is radically counter-cultural. We refuse to accept the stories the world tells us. It’s not about the Pax Romana embracing the world through the Roman Empire. Nor is it about the American dream or Democratic ideals washing over every continent’s shores. No, it’s about Jesus who goes to Jerusalem, so that his people may go from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth and then to a new Jerusalem–carrying sufficient light to see the script of God’s story, in which every person has a role. It’s not about making your mark here and now during your brief span of life. It’s about bringing the eternal depth and dimension of God’s plans for all things into every moment of time while there is time, so that no one supposes that time is all there is. It’s inviting people to come out of the cramped smallness of merely here and now living into the vast, huge frontiers of the God-given and eternal. It’s not about scratching and clawing one’s way to the top in order to be something or someone. It’s about discovering the someone God made us to be and then becoming that someone, which is something indeed. It’s not about currying favor or attracting love, it’s about waking up to a world full of the steadfast love of the Lord that is from everlasting to everlasting, that can never fade or fail, and that can make us more than conquerors, no matter what.
In fact, authentic church-being exposes the lie of every story other than God’s story. Not so much by offering us better lines as by offering us better lives as individuals and congregations. It’s not the debate, but the demonstration that counts most.
The Reverend David W. Kendall, an ordained elder in the Great Plains Conference, was elected to the office of bishop of the Free Methodist Church in May 2005. He serves as overseer of East Michigan, Gateway, Great Plains, Mid-America, North Central, North Michigan, Ohio, Southern Michigan, Wabash, African Area Annual Conferences; and Coordinator of oversight for the World Ministries Center.
Bishop Kendall received a Bachelor of Arts degree (Philosophy and Religion) from Spring Arbor College (Spring Arbor, MI) in 1976 and Master of Divinity degree (Biblical Studies) from Asbury Theological Seminary (Wilmore, KY) in 1979. In 1984 he graduated from Union Theological Seminary (Richmond, Virginia) with a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies, New Testament.
Dr. Kendall was ordained as deacon in 1975 and elder in 1977. He served as superintendent of the Great Plains Conference from 1999 – 2005, a position he served until elected bishop. Prior to 1999 he pastored churches in the Great Plains Conference and Southern Michigan Conference for sixteen years. In addition to serving as pastor to churches and other pastors, Bishop Kendall has been an adjunct faculty member of Central Christian College (McPherson, KS) and Greenville College (Greenville, IL).
Bishop Kendall’s passion for ministry centers on two primary calls: first, to communicate the Scriptures as God’s Word in faithful and relevant ways to our world today and second, to assist God’s people to be truly the church in the 21st century.
Dr. Kendall also enjoys writing and seeks to build up the church through the printed word as well. He is a contributing editor to The Light & Life magazine, a regular contributor to Illustrated Bible Life, and the author of God’s Call to be Like Jesus: Living a Holy Life in an Unholy World, a 1999 publication of Light and Life Communications.
Bishop Kendall and his wife, Lavone, have three married daughters who with their spouses are: Charis and Jeremy Pastor, Rachel and Kenny Flowers, and Katrina and Juan Cordova.
The Kendalls reside in Greenville, Illinois.