Dr. Hal Knight Celebrates Retirement from Saint Paul

When you think of a teacher that had an impact on your life and learning, who comes to mind? For many students over the past 29 years at Saint Paul School of Theology (SPST) that teacher has been Rev. Dr. Henry “Hal” Knight III. Since 1993 Dr. Knight has taught Wesleyan studies and evangelism courses at the school. For 20 of his 29 years there, he held the role of E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism (E.S.J. Professor), a position funded by a grant from The Foundation for Evangelism.

The Foundation staff and E.S.J. Professors have been privileged to work with Dr. Knight throughout his tenure. His passion for growing the Kingdom of God through teaching love of God and neighbor and participating in God’s mission in the world has had a lasting impact!

At the celebration of Dr. Knight’s retirement from SPST on April 26, Jane Boatwright Wood, President of The Foundation for Evangelism, offered congratulations and commendations saying,

“…we recognize that Hal’s influence extends far into the Methodist world … [Hal,] we celebrate your leadership, expertise, and efforts to equip ministers who now serve around the world. You embody the heart and soul of the Foundation’s God-sized vision.”

Jane Boatwright Wood, President of The Foundation for Evangelism

Former students and colleagues shared in congratulating this seasoned professor whose calming presence has a way of helping and honoring people without uttering a word. They described him as a “bridge builder,” having once brought together a cohort of diverse scholars from the Methodist, Pentecostal, and Conservative Holiness traditions. “Gracious” was the word that came to mind when students thought of him, because his response in difficult times was always prayer and compassion.

Dr. Knight’s commitment to the Wesleyan renewal of the church has inspired many students and fellow professors in their own ministries. One student shared that Dr. Knight helped her find joy in knowing and loving Jesus, igniting her passion for changing the world. He introduced her to John Wesley (having come from a Disciples of Christ tradition) and helped her form her own theological identity.

After hearing of Dr. Knight’s retirement from full-time faculty, another former student, Rev. Jeff Goetzinger (now pastoring Mitchell Chapel and Little River United Methodist Churches) shared,

“You know, going into seminary I had this notion [of evangelism] that we had to go out and recruit people as opposed to building relationships. That’s what Dr. Knight really helped me to see. He opened [my] eyes to a new understanding of evangelism.”

Rev. Jeff Goetzinger, former student

Dr. Knight has written and collaborated on many books on Wesleyan evangelism that have made their way onto the syllabi of seminary and Course of Study students across the United States. One colleague noted that his writings are prolific and cited over and over again at theological conferences, in articles, and in papers. Two of those books have become recommended resource for local church evangelism in the Wesleyan community, Transforming Evangelism – The Wesleyan Way of Sharing Faith and Transforming Community – The Wesleyan Way to Missional Congregations, co-authored with fellow E.S.J. Professor Dr. F. Douglas Powe who reflected,

“I have been fortunate to co‐author two books with you that continue to be used as a Wesleyan evangelism resource in congregations. Both of those collaborations have been high points in my career. My hope is that in a small way I can pay it forward in touching the lives of others as you have touched mine.”

Rev. Dr. F. Douglas Powe

Several current E.S.J. Professors credit Dr. Knight with helping them in their own formation and work in evangelism. The Foundation for Evangelism presented him with a book of tributes from fellow E. Stanley Jones Professors. Rev. Dr. Daniel Shin at Drew Theological Seminary provided this heartfelt greeting to Dr. Knight,

“I had the joy of reading your work on my own and then with my students. We have all benefitted from the outstanding scholarship, wisdom, and a deep sense of integrity you have brought to the field of evangelism and to the broader world of theological education. Through your long and distinguished career, you have impacted countless students, pastors, and people in both the U.S. and around the world, and your influence will continue to ripple across time and space.”

Rev. Dr. Daniel Shin

In the months following his retirement, Dr. Knight has agreed to share select writings from his “Consider Wesley” series at Catalyst. We look forward to sharing those refreshed writings on our website.

Saint Paul School of Theology posted the full video of Dr. Knight’s retirement celebration on YouTube .

From Frustrated to Fruitful

Grace UMC hosted a cookie decorating class that welcomed several newcomers.
Photo courtesy Grace UMC

By Rev. Dr. Heather Lear, V.P. for Grant Administration

A teacher’s main hope and goal for their students is that they find creative ways to adopt and apply the material taught – long after class is dismissed. For me, I also sincerely hope that the relationship continues, and students see me as a resource in their next stages of ministry. That is what I find so special about the work of the E. Stanley Jones (ESJ) Professors of Evangelism, the Foundation’s longest-running grant program. So many students of ESJ Professors talk about how they apply their evangelism professor’s teaching in their ministry, and some continue the relationship even after graduation! ESJ Professor, Rev. Dr. Mark Teasdale, who was my teacher and advisor during my Doctor of Ministry work, has had such an impact in my life. In fact, he and I still work together training future pastors and church leaders.

When Rev. Mary Beth Eberle signed her church up for the Evangelism for Non-Evangelists webinar series in Spring 2022 that Mark and I were co-leading, she did so because she already knew the instructor. Mary Beth had taken an evangelism class with Mark at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary to fulfill the evangelism requirement for ordination. She was appointed to serve Grace United Methodist Church in Jackson, Tenn., in July 2021 to help lead them through a season of renewal. The webinar series, to her surprise and delight, engaged about two-thirds of the congregation -including the youth and young adults- either directly or through discussion groups based on the webinars and book.

At the conclusion of the webinar series, Mary Beth invited me to come to Grace UMC to observe, reflect, and apply what they had learned in the webinar series. Together that Sunday morning, we worked through how to apply the tools Mark and I introduced during the webinars, and we began brainstorming opportunities and next steps. This will be a major investment and process for Grace UMC’s leadership, but they are ready to do the work! After our session together, Mary Beth said,

“This season has underscored how easily we can slip into autopilot and proceed without being intentional about why we do what we do as a church.  I also really appreciate the tools that our experience has given us to evaluate our efforts.”

Through this process at Mary Beth’s church, several themes have emerged. Before she arrived, the congregation had been told that what they were doing was wrong – they needed to implement the next, newest thing.  Weary of gimmicks that have given no fruit, the new approach used by Mark’s book and webinar is refreshing. Mary Beth reports it is helping the church learn who they are and how to share what they love with other people.

“I love that this approach enables and empowers the whole congregation to share God’s goodness with their neighbors.  From a leadership standpoint, I know which areas to strengthen and emphasize in to help my folks be confident, effective, and respectful.  We need to work on spiritual conversations, on understanding what we believe and how it is good news for our neighbors, and on really owning the foundation of our faith.”

Rev. Mary Beth Eberle

As a teacher, coach, and co-laborer in Kingdom work, this sense of ownership and empowerment is what continues to drive and inspire me, and I am grateful to be in a position and be part of an organization whose mission is to support these gifted leaders, engage and empower laity, and equip local churches to share the love of Jesus in word and deed!

I think Mary Beth’s and her church’s experience really speak to The Foundation for Evangelism’ catalytic impact through the E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism. In her words:

“I have confidence we can plan discipleship and events for the life of the church always with an eye to outreach and transformation, even when the audience may be primarily our own congregation.”

Will You Keep the Never-Ending Fire Burning?

By Dr. Charles E. Kinder, President Emeritus

There is an endless fire that was ignited in the first century A.D. It is burning today and will be burning as long as the world exists. It is the holy fire of God which was felt by two disciples of Jesus who were on their way to Emmaus after the death of their Lord. (Read Luke 24:13-35) The risen Christ drew near and walked with them, but they did not recognize Him. He asked about their conversation. They shared the things that had happened to their Lord. They told Him about the crucifixion and the empty tomb. They were obviously confused, so Jesus talked to them about prophecy concerning the Messiah. When they stopped for the night and were preparing to eat, Jesus held up a loaf of bread, broke it and blessed it. That is when they knew who He was. The Lord then vanished from their sight. “They said to each other, ‘Weren’t our hearts on fire when he spoke to us along the road and when he explained the Scriptures for us?” (Luke 24:32 CEB)

Pentecost Fans the Flames

After Jesus had ascended, His followers were gathered together. There was the sound of a powerful rushing wind. “They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire, alighting on each one of them.” (Acts 2:3 CEB) The Apostles were set on fire spiritually and began telling everyone about the resurrection.

Paul Carries the Torch

It amazed me when I discovered the connection of three men across eighteen centuries. The first was a man named Saul, a Jewish leader and Pharisee who had a burning desire to stop this story about a resurrection.  He was on his way to Damascus with a company of men to arrest some followers of Jesus when he was made blind by a great light from Heaven. The living Christ spoke to him and his heart was set on fire with truth (Acts 9:1-19). He became the Apostle Paul who wrote most of The New Testament.

Martin Luther Kindles the Flames of Reformation

The second person in this line of holy fire was sixteen centuries later. Martin Luther, a Roman Catholic Priest, was studying Paul’s letter to the Romans. The following verses started a fire in his heart: “Since it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace…” (Romans 5:1-2) This kindled the flames of the Protestant Reformation.

John and Charles Wesley Get Fired Up

Two centuries later the line of fire reached the third person.  John Wesley was a Priest of the Church of England. He was desperately searching for a way to know that his sins were forgiven and that he had eternal life. His Moravian friends invited him to a meeting at Aldersgate Street in London. While a layman was reading Luther’s Preface to Paul’s letter to the Romans, Wesley reports, “I felt my heart strangely warmed”. The Bible verses that touched him were the same ones that fired up Luther.

After the heartwarming experience Wesley identified with the following scripture: [God] makes… His ministers a flame of fire.” (Hebrews 1:7 ESV) His brother, Charles, had a similar experience three days earlier. They became an evangelistic team that God used to bring a spiritual awakening to the British Isles which, according to some scholars, prevented an uprising like the French Revolution.

The Fire Spreads

Do you see the line of fire moving from the Apostle Paul, to Martin Luther, to John Wesley? The Holy Spirit spread this spiritual fire from one servant of God to another in the distant future. It is amazing that the fire of God burns its way to persons yet to be born. The same fire that burned in Wesley’s heart moved across the ocean to the colonies in America and across the new world by the circuit riders. It has continued on through the years and it now burns in the hearts of our pastors whose hearts are burning with the same holy fire. Do you feel the heat? Does it warm your heart? Can you sense the passion of the movement God started when the Wesley brother’s hearts were ignited? Are you thankful for this great movement of God and that you are blessed to be a part of it? Let’s so live and give and serve and pray so that we will help keep the fire burning.

Rev. Dr. Charles E. Kinder is President Emeritus of The Foundation for Evangelism. He was instrumental in growing the ministry of the Foundation from 1977-1989, during which time programs such as The Harry Denman Evangelism Awards, Discover God’s Call, and the E. Stanley Jones Professors of Evangelism were begun. Dr. Kinder is a retired minister from the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. He and his wife/partner in ministry, Phyllis, live in North Florida.