Martin Boehm … and the Methodists.

1-2-989-25-ExplorePAHistory-a0h9u0-a_349The life and ministry of Martin Boehm is entwined with that of the early Methodists. Here is an excellent resource:

BOEHM, MARTIN (1725-1812), American U.B. bishop, was born Nov. 30, 1725 in Lancaster Co., Pa., to Mennonite parents who had come from Germany. He married Eve Steiner in 1753 and they became parents of eight children. Youngest of these was Henry who attained much prominence as a Methodist preacher and traveling companion of Bishop FRANCIS ASBURY.

In 1756, Martin Boehm was chosen by lot to be one of the preachers of the German-speaking Mennonite Society to which he belonged. Since formalism characterized the Mennonite Church, his preaching task proved difficult. Although he attempted to preach as required, he felt unqualified to teach others the way of salvation. His own salvation seemed questionable to him. One day, probably in 1758, while plowing, he became so wrought with his lost state that he cried out to God for help. A stream of joy poured over him as he received God’s assurance. From then on he became a truly evangelical speaker. The next year he was advanced to full pastoral standing among the Mennonites with the designation of bishop…1549802_orig

A formal break between Martin Boehm and the Mennonites took place around 1777 when Boehm was censured for his doctrine, manner of preaching, and associating.with men of other denominations. Turning his farm over to his son JACOB, Martin Boehm gave himself entirely to traveling and preaching… 

Methodists formed a class at Martin Boehm’s home about 1775, and his wife was one of the first to join. In 1791, a chapel was built on land which had belonged to the Boehms. In 1802 Martin Boehm joined the M. E. Church at BOEHM’S CHAPEL, although this did not interfere with his relationship to the United Brethren. The fellowship between English-speaking Methodists and German-speaking United Brethren was very cordial and they frequently shared in one another’s services.

After fifty-five years of preaching, Martin Boehm died at his home March 23, 1812. A few days following the burial in the cemetery at Boehm’s Chapel his son Henry and Bishop Francis Asbury arrived at the home. A fitting sermon was preached the following Sunday by Asbury in tribute of his deceased friend who was “greatly beloved in life, and deeply lamented in death.” (Cyclopædia of Methodism. Embracing Sketches of its Rise, Progress, and Present Condition with Biographical Notices, Matthew Simpson, Editor, 1878, pp. 290-291.) 3659591_orig2

BOEHM’S CHAPEL still stands today and is watched over by the Boehm’s Chapel Society. During the 1970’s, a committee was created to work toward the reconstruction and maintenance of Boehm’s Chapel as an important landmark of the faith. This committee became the Boehm’s Chapel Society, which was incorporated in 1982. Archeological investigation and written accounts yielded sufficient information to reconstruct the chapel to its 1791 appearance. This work was completed in time for the Bicentennial Celebration held in 1991.

In 1984, the Chapel was designated a heritage landmark by the United Methodist Church as well as a Pennsylvania historical site by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and a State Historical Marker was placed and dedicated later that year. In 1991, the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County presented a plaque and commendation to the Boehm’s Chapel Society for the exemplary reconstruction of the Chapel.


The first quote in italics above is from  The top photo is found here.

Tourism website for Boehm’s Chapel:

The second quote in italics above is from the Boehm’s Chapel Society website: The bottom two photographs are also found here.

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Martin Boehm … following the horses…

Farmer_plowing_in_Fahrenwalde,_Mecklenburg-Vorpommern,_GermanyMartin Boehm had been chosen the preacher by lot, but this was not an easy task for him.

Boehm lacked confidence in his preaching skills. Indeed, it was written that he would “stammer out a few words and then be obligated to sit down in shame and remorse.”

He agonized over this for months, and after much prayer, came to the realization that he wasn’t even, truly, a Christian. One day as he plowed his fields, he knelt at the end of each row to pray, and the word “Lost, lost” continually hovered over him. Finally, halfway through the row, he broke. Falling to his knees, he cried out, “Lord save, I am lost!” The verse immediately came to him, “I am come to seek and to save that which is lost.”

Boehm wrote, “In a moment, a stream of joy was poured over me. I praised the Lord and left the field.” And from that day, preaching became a joy—a passion—and he zealously spread the message of salvation to which he had been oblivious for so long. He wrote, “This caused considerable commotion in our church, as well as among the people generally. It was all new.” Lives were transformed. The Great Awakening had come to the Mennonites.

When we who are given responsibility for the flock of God find it a struggle, and feel that the requirements are beyond us, perhaps we could benefit from stopping to pray after each row we plow. Perhaps we will likewise find the renewal we seek.

Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Sometimes when we plow for the Lord we need to stop and pray. This is not “looking back” but looking up, and looking forward to what is needed for God’s work to be done well. Often, a key element which frees the Holy Spirit to act in a situation is for the pastor to open up spiritually and become a better, more spiritual person. Often, the pastor must go first.

And the view of the world behind the horses is not always the best. In this work we are often very familiar with the rear end of God’s people.


First quote in italics is from “The Story of Boehm and Otterbein” from

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Martin Boehm … part 1

It’s good for us to know our history and our ancestors:

Martin Boehm was born in 1725 just south of Lancaster, Pa. He was the son of a Dutchman, and the grandson of a Swiss who had become a Mennonite while working in Germany (did you get all of that?). He married a Swiss immigrant, Eve. Four of their children died as children. The only surviving child, Henry, spent 64 years as a Methodist minister, part of it as a traveling companion of famed Methodist bishop Francis Asbury, and died six months after turning 100.

Martin Boehm became a minister in 1756 at the MMartin Boehmennonite church in Byerland, Pa. But it wasn’t the usual path to the ministry. In those days, when a church needed a new pastor, persons from the congregation were nominated for the position, and each nominee selected one of the Bibles standing before them. Only one Bible contained a slip of paper with Proverbs 16:33 written on it: “The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.” Boehm chose that Bible, and presto!, he was a pastor…


Five years later, when the Mennonite bishop died, Boehm was chosen—again, by lot—as the new bishop. At age 36. In that role, he participated in Great Meetings, as they were called—three-day events attended by several hundred people, sometimes held in barns, in orchards, or outside. Whole communities would find the Holy Spirit descending in power and changing everything.

The Great Meeting we know most about occurred on May 10, 1767, at Long’s Barn in Lancaster, Pa. Bishop Boehm spoke in the barn while some of his Mennonite pastors preached in the orchard outside. Boehm told of his plow-side conversion. As the sermon ended, a Reformed minister named William Otterbein rose from his seat, hugged Boehm, and declared, “We are brethren.” Our denomination’s name is based on Otterbein’s impromptu words.


The information above in italics is from “The Story of Boehm and Otterbein” from

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I’m not good with green and growing things. I’m not a gardener by nature. But I understand pruning. And I think that we need to understand it as well, because I keep hearing misinterpretations of what pruning must be like.

The scripture is here:
John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.

Some very clear points:
First, God is interested in fruit. God prunes so that we can bear fruit; it is not God’s desire to harm us but to benefit us.
Second, what is pruned away is what does not bear fruit. It is burned.
Third, what is pruned is not what we want to keep. It’s what we don’t need. It holds us back. It prevents us from achieving what we hope and dream and work to achieve.

As I began to think about it, I realized that pruning in my life would be like going to sleep and waking up the next day less 100 pounds of fat.
My doctor might like me to lose more, but there it is. If I do it the human way, that means months of years of dieting and months or years of exercise.
But if God prunes it from me, then it’s not by works but by grace. God does the heavy lifting, and I can let go and surrender to God.

What isn’t fruitful isn’t going to last anyway. It’s wasted. It’s going to be gathered up as dried up, withered branches and be burned.
We might as well let God have it, let God prune it, let God take it away from us. Why would we want to hang on to it?
Let go of what needs to be pruned and surrender to God’s cleansing.

1 John 1:8 has a grim warning: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
We all need some pruning!

1 John 1:9 has a beautiful promise: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I’m sure that you have prayed for forgiveness. But have you prayed for cleansing? Have you prayed for pruning?
Have you prayed that God would simply wash from you mind, from your emotions, from your behavior, from your habits, from your finances, from your relationships, anything that is unrighteous – anything that is not right?
HE is faithful and just … and he can do what we cannot in our own lives and with our own strength.

So when you are troubled and feel overwhelmed, that life is out of control and your energy is draining away … pray for cleansing. Pray for pruning. Let God work, so that you can be more fruitful.

SOURCES:  The photo “Pruning” is by Peter Prehn via the Creative Commons License.


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For stronger faith, pray stronger prayers…

Lent, 2016

As we move through Lent toward Easter and beyond to Pentecost, I’m hoping and praying for a significant, positive, meaningful change in the spiritual climate of our churches. We are spiritual … but Methodists are not about staying the same or maintaining the status quo. We are about growing spiritually and “going on toward perfection” – we are about making progress as we follow Jesus. And so I’m hoping for a “rise to walk in newness of life” experience for each of us as we go through Easter. Resurrection is not just an event in Christ’s history, it’s an event in our history, as Paul says, through our baptism: Rom 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

The old slave spiritual says it well:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? …
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? …
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? …
Were you there when God raised him from the dead? …

The passage in Romans answers with a gigantic YES – you were there.
And because you were there, you have the opportunity to experience your own resurrection, your own new beginning, your own new birth: so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

How do we come to feel this newness of life? How do we cause it to happen? Why is it seem more rare than commonplace and everyday?

I think the place for us to begin to grow in this is that third line of the spiritual:
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
If we can open up our hearts and let us feel some of what it felt to the early disciples to see Jesus on the cross, to lay him in the tomb, and to be surprised on Easter morning, I think we would also tremble, tremble, tremble.

So how do we open our hearts and get to trembling with the authentic emotions of a disciple facing the cross and the tomb and the joy of Easter?

One first step: let’s cause our prayers to be more powerful. I’m a very practical guy, and so my prayers are often very focused: Thank you, Lord, for this food. More is not necessary; more is not helpful. Help me, Lord, during this hospital visit. Bless this sermon, Lord, so that it will bless your people. Short and sweet is my habit in prayer. I am focused on the task ahead.

But Thank you, Lord, for this food is not a very powerful prayer. It’s not going to change my life or yours. What would happen if that – a life changing faith – was the focus of my focused prayer? Answer: God would answer that prayer! What could happen if we began to pray as regularly and we give thanks for our food – three times a day – that God would bless us as followers of Jesus to “rise up and walk in newness of life?” God would answer that prayer!

This is the heart of having a personal daily “Quiet Time” – it begins with this sort of prayer that rededicates our life to Christ. This is the key in the lock that opens up the narrow gate to new life. My wife and I have a custom in Lent … we keep a copy of three prayers of high commitment on our dining room table, and pray one at breakfast, one at lunch, and the third at supper. As we do, we can feel a stirring in our hearts … and I think you would, too. See you in worship this Sunday!

Pastor David Kueker


The Centering Prayer: Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature. Help me to serve you as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

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Footwashing Services – John 13:12-17

In John 13, Jesus tells us to follow his example – by washing feet.

John 13:12 When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

In their culture, footwashing was a great comfort, and routinely done for an honored guest by the lowest servant in the house. The only surprise was that it was Jesus, the Lord, who washed their feet.

To follow Jesus’ example by literally washing feet, however, is perceived differently in our culture and crosses boundaries normal to our culture – most folks don’t like others touching their bodies, including their feet. Many would consider it an invasion of privacy and an unwanted intimacy.

So how do we wash feet today?

The only way I’ve been able to do it is symbolically. I’ve conducted “remember your baptism” services where an individual dips their hands into waters of the baptismal font, makes a washing motion, and then their hands are dried by the person waiting in front of them with a large towel. Then they take the towel to dry the hands of the person behind them. I am the first person to hold the towel and the last person to be helped to dry their hands.

Drying wet hands is a long distance from washing feet, but it’s as close as the blue collar culture I serve can tolerate.

I’ve sometimes done this at Easter Sunrise, where people come forward to the communion table down front, and in sequence…
– touch the cross, remembering the crucifixion.
– touch a large stone, remembering the resurrection.
– wash their hands in the water, remembering their baptism.
– rise up to walk in newness of life (dry hands), a resurrection metaphor (Rom 6)
– rise further to take the towel and be of service, following Jesus’ example.
– make room for others to also serve.

How do you celebrate this command of Jesus? How do you wash feet in a service of worship?

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Young Pastors and Ambition – My Confession

Opening issue, from a Facebook friend: My heart is heavy today for the young pastors of our church who have passion, energy, conviction, talent and deep calling and are told (not so much by words but actions) “wait your turn and when you’ve proven (e.g. behaved, towed the line, made your mark) yourself you’ll move up…”. Church, I’m not sure they’ll be with us long enough for us to see where God is calling them to be.

My response:

There are a lot of quick answers one could make in this conversation, but I would like to gather some more information.
Who is not being given a chance?
What is their passion which is not being utilized?
Why are they making plans to exit?
Will the exit truly lead to a better place for ministry?

I can only speak of my own experience here.

1. I’ve been a full time UMC clergy my entire working life – 36 years now. In my youth my values were hard work over a foundation of ambition. I envied others and what they had. I coveted their churches and resented anyone who received what I perceived as “the good churches.”

I was married to someone whose values were similar. Achievement and honors were necessary to prop up self esteem and hold back shame. After 23 years of struggling to be good enough and successful, our marriage ended. I couldn’t provide her with what she needed to feel good about herself.

At age 61, I’m old enough to call that ambition a sin in my life. I deeply regret my desire even now to compete with others and win over them on the field of battle to win the Bishop’s favor.

I’m ashamed of the anger I still feel sometimes when I read over the list of new appointments … because I am not receiving that place of honor. It embarrasses me now more than it torments me.

2. I think that I understand the feeling expressed by the young, the middle aged, and the older clergy, that they have been “passed over” and their talents unrecognized and unrewarded, especially by those in power.

This offers a prime opportunity for those in authority: sow kindness. Recognize and affirm the good in people around you. And for me, could I refocus my attention from the hierarchy above me, and focus on the people around me (who are my appointment) and begin to recognize and affirm the good in them? Sow, reap.

3. A few years ago as an antidote to my coveting and ambition, I began praying the Wesley Covenant Prayer on a daily basis. It will change your life.

Not as a challenge but as a sobering word, if you think your current assignment is the result of the hierarchy blessing their cronies, handing out the best jobs to people whose theology they like or who suck up to them, and consequently depriving you of greatness … you may be right. People are fallible and denominations are political entities.

But if you think that they are Lord over your life … you are in need of a paradigm shift. There is a reason why you are where you are … be a part of the vine (John 15) and be fruitful there.

Jesus is Lord; he is aware of the appointment list.

Vines do not leave. If you’re in the ecclesiastical rat race, you’re not being a vine. Vines do not spend much time on resentment, but rats can rarely think of anything else. After most of my life trying to be a successful, popular and highly admired rat, I consciously decided to try to be more of a vine.

Specifically, I spent an entire DMin course seeking God’s will and trying to determine if it was God’s will that I remain in a denomination that is so highly distracted, almost ADD, with regard to my core values, which are to work to fulfill the Great Commission.

My conclusion, for me: you can’t be “a part of the vine” and leave. You can be transplanted – good symbol for itineracy – or you can be pulled as a weed. But vines fulfill that old Benedictine vow of stability.

This helped me greatly and freed up a lot of energy.

4. I’m reminded of these words from Paul in Phil 4: 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.

As the years go by, these words seem to grow in power for me. I’m not there yet.

5. If you are ambitious and want recognition despite all the caveats above, I would suggest making a study of what actually causes churches to grow and also how to prevent the conflict which sabotages growth.

If God is able to make disciples that make disciples that make disciples through you, the church where you are assigned will grow numerically. This will open many doors.

There is a God given reason why you are where you are. You are not a failure because you are there, nor would it be easier or a snap if you were somewhere else. Put your hand to the plow and tend your own field is the best advice I could give myself or anyone.

Again, these are the sermons I give myself. I am sadly an example of what I warn against.

6. A ommentor shared about the difficulty of moving from parish appointments to special appointments in teaching in higher education, back and forth. My reply:  I can see how a special appointment would certainly raise difficulties. I’ve been very candid above about my covetous ambition, which was primarily resentment for not being sent to the coveted church appointments – a serious ego problem.

When I set aside my ego and review my seven placements since 1980, however, I am astonished at how well these appointments worked for me. I had influence on two of them or there was some sort of tether/location restriction, and they were the least pleasant. For the other five, when I was thrown up into the wind like a feather, I landed in a place of beauty. I was sent out to places I would never have considered, or known about, and in each case it was deeply meaningful and rewarding, albeit not in a way the world envies.

I am likewise convinced that the Cabinet didn’t actually know me, personally, that well. I learned about 25 years in to speak very clearly to my DS in writing, in my annual report about my goals and gifts.

But I truly do believe that what’s been good is that God does rearrange the details for our benefit and that without knowing explicitly, the Cabinet did indeed discern for me an excellent place to live and serve each of those seven times.

I would honestly have to say, however, that I was also one who was optimistic, quick to see the benefits of a place and the people, and desiring to make the best of it. I was fiercely loyal to the church to which I was appointed. And so, I am not dissatisfied about where I’ve served; rather, it’s been a blessing to rest in the appointment system and not worrry about “my career plan” or my next promotion.

Others of course may have widely differing experiences. I have felt betrayed by a DS once, but it still did work out for my benefit. Others may definitely have been treated unjustly, and as a white male I likely have avoided some of the stress that falls on some.




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50. Receive God’s power—Luke 24:49.

What are the commands of Jesus Christ which we need to obey? In disciple making, Jesus commanded the following in Mat 28:20: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” What are the commands?

This is an anchor post, the purpose of which is to begin a conversation.

Command: 50. Receive God’s power—Luke 24:49.

What is the command? What does it say?

What would we observe?

What do they mean?

How shall we teach them?

Who needs to hear this?




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49. Teach disciples to obey—Matthew 28:20

What are the commands of Jesus Christ which we need to obey? In disciple making, Jesus commanded the following in Mat 28:20: “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” What are the commands?

This is an anchor post, the purpose of which is to begin a conversation.

Command: 49. Teach disciples to obey—Matthew 28:20

What is the command? What does it say?

What would we observe?

What do they mean?

How shall we teach them?

Who needs to hear this?


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