I grew up in Spring Arbor, Michigan, where Dad was employed by the Free Methodist university. When I was a teenager, our church experienced an amazing revival of the Holy Spirit that continued for about two years. Not only was I filled with the Holy Spirit, but our entire youth group was forever transformed. God became real! God’s presence was manifested in undeniable ways. How could we not respond in faith and obedience?
Toward the end of the revival, retired missionary Rev. Alice Taylor preached in our church. When she asked for a public response from any who heard God calling them to “full-time Christian service,” I joined the river of young people flowing down the aisle. As I walked forward, I thought to myself, “Well, this means I’ll be a pastor’s wife or a missionary or a Bible school teacher. I don’t know which of those three it will be, but I say yes.”
I’m sure the reason I could only imagine three options for a girl called to ministry is that I had never seen or heard of a female pastor. Later I learned there were a few, and the denomination would soon fully ordain women, but my first understanding of my call was certainly limited by my lack of role models.
I embarked on a 12-year journey of verifying and clarifying my call—reading about early Free Methodist women preachers and evangelists, considering arguments for and against women’s leadership in the church, discussing the issues with my professors, and learning to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. I knew I needed to come to the place where I would embrace ordination as an act of obedience, regardless of the opinions of others. God was gracious to confirm my call eventually in a way that permanently banished doubt and fear.
During 17 years of ministry in three local churches, I enjoyed the privilege of exercising leadership with very little opposition. Because I was secure in the knowledge that the Lord had appointed me, I could allow the few who disagreed to find another church without much drama or stick around and be convinced my ministry was of God. I have often thought of how God authenticated his servant Joshua in the eyes of the people and have asked God to take care of that for me. He has.
My eleven years as Director of International Child Care Ministries gave me a national and international platform and a broad and deep view of the denomination. I believe the Lord used that wonderful privilege as preparation for this new season in my life. When Bishop Keith Cowart and Bishop Matt Whitehead and I were elected on the first ballot at General Conference in 2019, in my heart I breathed the same prayer I’ve prayed a thousand times, the words of Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be done unto me according to your word.”
These first two years of serving as a bishop have been eventful, to say the least! We are living in a time of chaos, division, fear, and global suffering. Yet I have the calm assurance that God has called me, like Esther, “for such a time as this.” I’m honored to serve the church in a leadership capacity and to collaborate with many fine and devoted leaders. My daily goal is to abide in Jesus, the Vine, so that I bear much fruit, good fruit, fruit that lasts, and fruit that brings glory to God.
Bishop Linda Adams | FMCUSA