I have had a simple prayer on my heart of late -- "God, break my heart for the things that break yours." This past Saturday and Sunday I spent the weekend with Pastor Mike Slaughter at Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church outside of Dayton, Ohio. I spoke four times to his congregation and the "Change the World" conference their church hosted.
After the final session of the conference, I got to see a little bit of Mike's heart for the church. We were about to walk out of the sanctuary when he stopped me. Their worship hall was filling with homeless folks, former prostitutes, alcoholics, and drug users. It was their Saturday night recovery service. Each week hundreds of people in recovery, who would never think to darken the door of most churches, gather to worship, pray, and support one another. Mike grinned a big midwestern pastor grin and said, "Man, if this just ain't the heart of God, I don't know what is."
Over the course of the weekend, almost 1,000 conference attendees and regular church goers made decisions to let their hearts be broken by the things that break God's heart-in response to an "altar call" after every service. Commitments ranged from getting involved with advocacy for the homeless to a change in career. Here are a few that stuck out:
"I will become a nurse and serve underprivileged kids."
"I will pray more and teach my kids the power of prayer."
"Mentor single moms."
"Participate in home restoration for the poor."
"Begin a center for women victims of domestic violence, including legal, medical, and employment assistance."
"I want to do photography for the poor and show what is happening in the world."
"Give hope to my students who have been homeless and support those students whose families will be without income when GM closes."
"Contributing to help the situation in Darfur and against the sex slave trade."
"I will consider adoption."
"I will meet with the leader of my church to unite a group of committed Christians."
"I will participate in homelessness awareness on my college campus."
Seeing commitments like these are a powerful illustration of God's people seeking to change their hearts, lives, churches, neighborhoods, cities, and the world to reflect God's own heart. Within three years Katrina hitting New Orleans, this church had sent 42 teams to work and to serve in that city. We serve a God who cares about the sex slave trade, the GM plant that is closing, the orphans waiting to be adopted, and the poor that are among us. We serve a God whose cares, concerns, and vision are broader than any of us can imagine.
What else struck me from so many of the responses was that their roots were all in faith, in hope, and in love. In sharp contrast, the world teaches and marketing firms have capitalized on the fact that in our broken human nature, we often make decisions and priorities based in fear. And it is these decisions based in fear that actively tear apart our churches and rip them from their roots in Christ.
When false prophets proclaim apocalypse and ask us to live by fear and not by faith, we can rest assured knowing that "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind."
As we consider priorities for our nation and approach a critical election, I pray that this will be a time of reflection for us all -- a time to allow God's "perfect love to cast out all fear." I pray that all of our prayers will be to seek the heart of God and that, in turn, our hearts will be changed.