Cyvil Burks had just finished reading a book about John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, when he attended bi-district training in Oklahoma City for Certified Lay Speakers.
His knowledge of Wesley and United Methodism was enhanced at the event, especially through the teaching of Henry Knight III, a professor from Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo.
"This was over the top to have someone like Dr. Knight come and share with us things about Wesley and our denomination," Burks said.
"It gave me a deeper understanding of how our faith began. Things Wesley talked about that seemed extreme for his time are what we need today—like holiness, how to conduct our lives to represent Christ in a way that is above the world’s standards. Wesley was not a casual Christian."
Burks attends OKC-First Church, where he is a member of the Pastor’s Prayer Shield. A psychotherapist, he is the clinical director for Positive Changes in Oklahoma City. He was among 81 people registered for the autumn bi-district training at Oklahoma City University.
Participants were from 10 of the 12 districts in Oklahoma Conference. The program was made possible through UM connections (the Conference Board of Laity’s Lay Speaking Ministries, OKC North and South Districts’ lay leadership, Saint Paul School, and OCU’s Wimberly School of Religion).
Burks also appreciated resources handed out at the event. He saw his personal story in the stages of Christian growth that were examined. Plus, "you make good friendships" at training events, he noted.
Formerly a Lay Speaker, Burks had allowed his certificate to lapse. Then he again "felt the tug of God on my heart," he said, and last year attended two related courses. He has been involved for more than a year in the Prayer Shield at First Church. For that ministry, prayer teams meet to intercede for the pastor and the people during the sermon.
Burks said prayer is about listening and being sensitive. He listens for opportunity to ask: Do you have a need? Can I pray for you?
Pastor Mark McAdow urged First Church members to focus their prayers along their daily routes to work. "Each morning as I go to work, there’s an entire block I pray for," Burks said.
Both Burks and his wife, Diane Glass-Burks, are well-practiced at listening beyond the church walls. Both are therapists. Their formal training and prayer practice find good use even when vacationing. They minister together as they travel the West by motorcycle. They pray with people along the way.
"I don’t always see the answer to prayer. It’s more about walking in the love that’s been given me by our Father," Burks explained. "With Wesley, it was about understanding what your walk was built on and how to progress forward."