By Jeff Finley
Edward Kenneth “Kenny” Martin has served as a pastor of Free Methodist congregations in Missouri, Maryland, Indiana and his current home state of California, where he’s now leading the Kingdom Cathedral church plant in San Bernardino. He is a member of the denomination’s Board of Administration, and he’s well-known for other roles such as camp evangelist and Oakdale Christian Academy Board of Trustees member.
“I am very passionate about what God has placed inside of me as I work in collaboration with the leadership of the Free Methodist Church nationally and globally,” Martin said on a new episode of “The Light + Life Podcast” in an interview with host Brett Heintzman.
Martin is one of eight Free Methodist Church USA bishop nominees being considered by delegates who will vote during General Conference 2023, which will be held July 25–28 in Orlando, Florida. According to the denomination’s Book of Discipline, “The General Conference shall elect by ballot two or more traveling elders as bishops to serve as the pastoral overseers of various areas of the denomination who shall constitute the Board of Bishops. … The number of bishops to be elected will be established by General Conference action and remains in effect until changed by a subsequent General Conference action.”
“What would excite me the most would be the opportunity to serve the church with the grace and giftings God has blessed me with.”
“If I were to be elected to serve as one of the bishops, what would excite me the most would be the opportunity to serve the church with the grace and giftings God has blessed me with, which would complement the other bishops who are also elected,” said Martin who added that, according to the APEST assessment based on Ephesians 4:11, he is an apostle and teacher while the CliftonStrengths assessment credited him with the top strengths of connectedness, delegator, learner, achiever and belief.
“I’m also excited to be able to use my giftings with the prophetic mantle God has placed on my life to serve the church. God has given me this apostolic, prophetic gift. It is the prophetic proclamation that releases God’s power to bring change,” said Martin, who cited Amos 3:7. “It says, ‘Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servant, the prophets.’ I believe the Free Methodist Church globally needs a prophetic voice that speaks to nations.”
Quoting 2 Peter 1:20-21 (NKJV), he said, “‘Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit,’ and we’re talking about igniting a Spirit-fueled movement, so I’m excited about this possibility and this opportunity to serve the church in this capacity as a bishop where significant decisions are made. We need a prophetic voice sitting at the table.”
When asked about the greatest challenge facing the Free Methodist Church as a denomination, Martin replied, “I believe there is not just one greatest challenge we face, but several challenges that are important, which could work against us and will keep us from being where God wants us to be as a denomination. First, I believe one challenge is staying focused.”
“Secondly, I would add another challenge is the importance of true diversity in all levels of the church. If we desire to reach all people, especially in the USA, we must model and mentor those whom God has called and sent to be a part of the Free Methodist family,” Martin said. “The third challenge would be the church not receiving the apostolic, prophetic gift that God has given those who have used it to function within the church [in] decency and in order, in full submission to God and full submission to His church.”
“It is my hope that we would follow through with what God has spoken to us that we might see a harvest in the kingdom of God.”
If elected bishop, “I would, by the grace of God, lead these challenges alongside our bishops, superintendents and leadership team by engaging our churches and bringing us together as one with the mind of Christ,” said Martin, who believes all Free Methodists should have “ownership and input in the working toward the common goal of the strategy outlined in our Free Methodist Vision Frame. … It is my hope that we would follow through with what God has spoken to us that we might see a harvest in the kingdom of God.”
When asked about a challenge he faces, Martin said, “One of my personal challenges is I love what I do. I call it ministry-holics. I enjoy what I do. I enjoy pouring into people mentoring, modeling and developing leaders. My challenge is like most high-capacity leaders because we enjoy what we do, so I have to be careful how I manage my time to make sure I get proper rest, self-care, soul care because what is most important is family care. My family is my first ministry. Family first, so I lead through it with accountability persons in my life who I meet with consistently.”
Truth and Love
Heintzman asked Martin, “Do you fully align with our traditional sexual ethic — believing that marriage and sexual union are reserved for one man and one woman,” and “how do we learn to really love our neighbors regardless of sexual orientation and yet minister the truth of the gospel to them?”
“I completely agree and align with our traditional sexual ethics, believing that marriage and sexual union are reserved for one man and one woman as outlined in the Scripture,” Martin replied. “Through my experience as a pastor and as having relatives in my family who identify with a particular sexual orientation, the key word is love. We are called to love all people.”
Martin shared about lesbian neighbors who visited the church he pastored in St. Louis.
“They were welcome just like everyone else who entered the church. There was one incident where the two women were publicly displaying affection that was inappropriate in the church. I simply spoke to them in love, and they received it,” Martin said. “There was another couple who came to church, and I was not aware of their lifestyle at the time, but they attended regularly and consistently. I would just be preaching and just sharing the gospel, and by the love of the people and the Word of God, they accepted Jesus Christ and became leaders in the church and best friends with [my wife] Estelle and me.”
“We learn from Jesus. We don’t condone or judge, but our focus is doing life together and making disciples.”
Martin said he knows some people “who struggle with their identity, but they love the Lord. I depend on the Holy Spirit’s conviction and the power that can change anyone. Our responsibility is to sit with them just like we are called to sit with all people and to love them into the kingdom of God. Jesus sat with sinners, and we should do the same. We learn from Jesus. We don’t condone or judge, but our focus is doing life together and making disciples.”
Free Methodist Future
When asked what he sees ahead for the denomination, Martin said, “I do see on the horizon God’s preferred future for the Free Methodist Church.”
Martin referenced reading Acts 17:6 (AMP), which includes this phrase: “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too.”
“… God is bringing our heart together as one, and I just want to see it with my very own eyes.”
“That is my prayer: that the Free Methodists who have turned the world upside down have come here to us. It is the kingdom agenda. It is Jesus’ assignment to us, the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. I also see on the horizon, especially in the USA, multiplication of disciples expanding the kingdom of God,” said Martin, who also expressed belief that “God is bringing this denomination together with the diversity that we have that is turning the world upside down. … God is bringing our heart together as one, and I just want to see it with my very own eyes.”
Martin said he joins the “church in prayer as we gather at GC23, and may God be with us to ignite a Spirit-fueled movement. As we gather, this is what’s really on my heart and as we seek God, I pray that God will call us to a time of just being alone with Him.”
Heintzman asked about any God-given visions, dreams or words about being a bishop nominee or for the church. Martin shared about Wesley Duewel praying with him during a class at the World Ministries Center. Duewel’s “prayer was confirming my call was in the Free Methodist Church,” Martin said. “It transformed my life. Wesley Duewel was an apostolic, prophetic voice — a seer.”
Martin said he sees “the apostolic call on the Free Methodist Church as we are the sent ones, the sent forth with the message that transcends and encompasses all cultures, social ethnic backgrounds, denominations and age groups.” He “interpreted Wesley Duewel’s prayer over me was not just for me, but for the Free Methodist Church globally that we are the sent forth.”