Thinking Out Loud

August 2, 2010

Why You Should Know Adam Hamilton

His name has been coming across my computer screen more frequently recently, and he is one of the speakers at this week’s Willow Creek Leadership Summit, which is a must-do conference for many pastors, originating in Chicago and broadcast live via satellite to multiplied locations across North America.

So it was time to check out Adam Hamilton on that most authoritative source, Wikipedia.

Rev. Adam Hamilton (born July 12, 1964) is the senior pastor of the 17,000 member United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas. It is the largest United Methodist congregation in the United States, measured by weekend attendance.

Okay, for the bare facts, but then it gets interesting; I mean how can you not like a conversion story that’s got Darth Vader in it:

At the age of 14, Hamilton was at the house of a friend when a Pentecostal layman and door-to-door evangelist knocked on the front door. The visitor evangelized in this way despite being able to speak only through an artificial voice box held up to his throat. The man invited the boys to church, and even though they joked with one another that he sounded like Darth Vader.  

Hamilton has stated that he did not know why he attended the church services but hinted at the answer by admitting, “I wasn’t interested in God. I was interested in girls”.Original motives notwithstanding, Hamilton continued participating in the church and increasingly felt drawn to God. Finally, after reading the Gospel of Luke, Hamilton decided to become a Christian.

His original goal did not go unmet, however. While attending services at the Pentecostal church, he met the girl who would later become his wife, LaVon Bandy.

Hamilton is also a United Methodist minister who is also a graduate of Oral Roberts University.    Honestly, you couldn’t pay someone to make up a story like this.

But for me, the story really peaks when he begins his church plant in a building containing human corpses.

In 1990, following a stint as an associate pastor in a United Methodist congregation, Hamilton was appointed to plant a new church in south Johnson County, Kansas after requesting permission from the local bishop to do so.  The bishop excitedly cast a vision to Hamilton that, given 10 years, the church might even grow to 500 members. At the time, all of the schools and community buildings in the area were being leased on Sunday mornings by other church plants who had similar aspirations. Willing to think outside the box, Hamilton decided to ask the owner of the newly built McGilley State Line Chapel funeral home if the new church could meet there for Sunday morning worship services.

Before Hamilton got the chance to ask, however, the owner contacted Hamilton and asked him if the new church would consider meeting there. Hamilton casually agreed. The name “Church of the Resurrection” seemed to be a good fit for a congregation that met in a funeral home.

Personally, I’d have wanted an audit of their early attendance figures to make sure everyone counted was actually breathing.   But I digress.   Here’s where the heart of the story kicks in:

Hamilton also surmised that the educated population of Leawood would be drawn by sermons that engaged not only the heart but also the head. Therefore, Hamilton’s sermons are addressed to thoughtful Christians who have questioned their faith and are comfortable with nuance. His aim in preaching is to impart content to the congregation that would be the equivalent of a college course on the topic.  As indicated by the title of one of his books and his blog, Hamilton is intellectually comfortable with seeing the gray in a world that often sees only black and white.

Ingram International, the largest distributor of Christian books in the world, lists him as author for 14 different titles, all with United Methodist publishing company Abingdon Press, including the new When Christians Get it Wrong.

Resurrection’s sermon download page has sermon audio available dating back to 1999.    He blogs occasionally at Seeing Gray (In a World of Black and White.)   You can also watch a book trailer (and link to several others) at Christian Book Shop Talk.

To learn more about other speakers at the 2010 Willow Leadership Summit, click here and use the pull-down menu under ‘speakers.’

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