• 41°

From Korea to Main Street

“Instead of worrying, pray.”  – Philippians 4:6

On the 14-hour flight coming home from South Korea, there was plenty of time to reflect on radical hospitality extended to us as Christians, daily 5 a.m. prayer services, the witness of passionate lay leadership, a continual emphasis on discipleship, a willingness to sacrifice much and continually relying on the promise: Jesus Christ is with us.

But how do we to apply what was learned in Korea to Main Street in America?

Once again, I turned to the scripture that guided me throughout the journey: “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.

For the next few hours of the flight, I concentrated on worrying less and praying more. I began to shape my concerns about our churches and communities into petitions before God. As worries began to fade there was a distinct feeling that God was there, listening. As more time passed, petitions became ideas and ideas bundled together became a vision. For a few precious moments on a crowded airplane there was a sense of everything coming together, and I felt a deep sense of peace.

I remembered serving a church during seminary where several parishioners struggled with addictions. Alcoholism was taught as a class, so I signed up. A requirement was to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Al Anon meetings. There I learned three valuable lessons: alcoholism cannot be fixed and your efforts can be enabling rather than helpful, you strive to influence rather than enable and before you can help someone else you must first help yourself.

How do I apply what was learned in Korea? First, I cannot fix the spiritual crisis that exists in our churches and communities. I can, however, be an influence ready to help when churches and communities are ready. I must concentrate on my spiritual crisis first, praying more frequently and with more passion. In other words: worry less, pray more and trust God for answers.

Beside my office, a Narcotics Anonymous group meets most every day. Like AA, the attenders are passionate about their recovery. One member described her group as: “A safe place to struggle with what ails you.”

Wouldn’t that be a great way to describe a church?

Our churches don’t need a lecture from me on 5 a.m. prayer, but they do need me to spend less time worrying and more time in prayer. They need more witness on what could be and less preaching on what was not — more encouragement and less judgment.

I need to learn how to help churches become “a safe place to struggle with what ails you.”