2023 fmcusa general conference

July 25-28, 2023

GC23 News

Commit to 40 Days of Fasting and Prayer

September 26, 2022

Gerald Coates

Gerald Coates

Gerald Coates is an ordained elder who serves as the strategic catalyst for global collaboration on the Free Methodist Church USA Executive Leadership Team and as the director of global engagement for Free Methodist World Missions. He previously served as the senior pastor of Moundford Free Methodist Church and as the denominational communications director.

By Gerald Coates

In 2002 I was asked to travel to Butuan, Philippines, on the island of Mindanao. I was scheduled to teach for three days at the Light and Life Graduate School of Theology. Before the teaching began, my wife, Jan, and I were invited to dinner with then-Bishop Jim Tuan and his wife. They had also invited Light and Life Bible College President Boy Encarnado and his wife, Bebe, and Asia Pacific Free Methodist Missions Association Executive Director Polly Ho to join us. During dinner, Polly asked the bishop, “What is your vision for the Free Methodist Church of the Philippines?”

I remember Bishop Jim Tuan’s comment as though he said it yesterday: “My vision for the Free Methodist Church in the Philippines is that every pastor would fast and pray 40 days and 40 nights.”

I was 42 years old and the administrator for Free Methodist Communications. I had 16 years of pastoral experience and a total of about 30 days of cross-cultural experience. In the U.S., everybody was talking vision, mission and values, but I had never heard of anything even close to what Bishop Tuan said. I found the vision of the bishop of the Philippines compelling. In my lifetime, I had heard very few people advocate fasting and prayer as a regular means of grace.

The Philippine church didn’t just have the vision of their leader. They did it. Pastors in the general conference fasted and prayed 40 days and nights. They are still doing it. Every year, the bishop in the Philippines and many of the pastors go through a 40-day fast.

The majority church is still a fasting people. When Jesus was asked why His disciples did not fast, He answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast” (Mark 2:19–20). Seems to me from Jesus’ words, now is the time we should be fasting.

World Growth

So what happened in the Philippines in the past 20 years? The Free Methodist Church grew from 18,058 members in 2000 to 35,741 members in 2021. (They nearly doubled.) What has happened with the rest of the majority world Free Methodist Church? World membership has more than doubled, and membership in the developing church has tripled. Could it be there is a connection between fasting, prayer and the advancement of the kingdom?

_

“We may have more money and better education than most places in the world, but there are many places in the world where their walk with Christ is a great example to us.”

_

While membership of the majority world Free Methodist Church has more than doubled in the past 20 years, Free Methodist membership in the United States has declined by 7%.

I think it is fair to say we need the majority world church to be our spiritual leaders. We may have more money and better education than most places in the world, but there are many places in the world where their walk with Christ is a great example to us.

I’ve noticed some things about the majority world church.

The majority church values and practices:

  1. Dependency (on God and one another).
  2. Travailing fasting and prayer.
  3. An uncompromising stand on the Scripture.
  4. Caring for the weak and vulnerable.
  5. Making disciples who make disciples.

The global church has so much to share freely with us. They know for certain — so much better than we know — how to lean into the power of the Holy Spirit. We need them to open our eyes to see our blind spots.

A Vision for the FMCUSA

I wonder if it is time for a Bishop Jim Tuan kind of vision for the Free Methodist Church USA. What would happen if before our upcoming General Conference in Orlando next year, every clergy and lay delegate would fast and pray for 40 days? What if those of us who are not delegates would become the fasting and prayer backbone for General Conference 2023?

_

“Would you consider fasting one day a week for 40 of those weeks?”

_

We fast and pray not to somehow manipulate God, but for God to shape us into His likeness and carry spiritual fervor as Christ-followers. There are 42 weeks until General Conference begins. Would you consider fasting one day a week for 40 of those weeks? Maybe the Lord would call some to an extended fast of four days, 10 times over the next 42 weeks. And perhaps, the Lord would call a few who would consider 40 days and nights of fasting and prayer.

Regardless of how the Lord might speak to you, be obedient and ask the Lord to set our hearts ablaze with the Holy Spirit.+

Gerald Coates

Gerald Coates

Gerald Coates is an ordained elder who serves as the strategic catalyst for global collaboration on the Free Methodist Church USA Executive Leadership Team and as the director of global engagement for Free Methodist World Missions. He previously served as the senior pastor of Moundford Free Methodist Church and as the denominational communications director.