Wednesday, September 11, 2002


Read the sermon... There is still much more

I brought along some friends today. They started a program called Mission Year. They call upon young people to take a year off from school, perhaps between college and graduate school, perhaps taking off a year just to get some perspective. Ideally, I think it is great between sophomore and junior year to take a year off. What we do is put these young people together in small groups, six to a group, five groups to a city, 30 young people there in the city. There are about 25 of these young people starting up a program in Chicago. They rent a house. They live together in community. They connect with the church, but they don't exercise leadership in the church. They sing in the choir maybe or they go to the services, but they don't exercise leadership because they're going to be gone at the end of the year. They spend about 15 or 20 hours a week at soup kitchens, AIDS hospices, old folks homes, tutoring, going into schools and saying to the principal, "I have 15 hours a week. I can come in here and help any teacher you want during the school day."

They impact the community with a presence. Then, they spend 20 hours a week getting to know people in the neighborhood. Knocking on doors, saying, "Hey, we're here in the neighborhood. Don't get nervous, I am not trying to a lay a trip on you or convert you. I just want to pray with you. Will you let us pray with you? Pray God's blessing on you."

Whether the people are Jewish of Agnostic or Islamic, it doesn't make any difference. Nobody says no to a prayer. Usually you'll get, "If it makes you feel any better, go ahead." "We don't have to come in. We can do it right here on the doorstep."

Then we ask the next question, "Do you have any special needs? Anything we should hold before God as we pray?" It is amazing what people will say. "My husbands lost his job. Will you pray he gets another one?" "My son's on drugs. He gets worse every month. Could you pray for him?" "I've got a daughter who is pregnant for the second time and we don't know what do to with the first one." And then we pray.

You say, "That's it. You pray?" When we all get back to the house, we go over the cards of the people we visited. "Here's a guy that needs a job. The YMCA runs a job placement service. Let's call them and tell them to do something, to send someone over that house. This girl is pregnant. The Catholics run the crisis pregnancy center. Let's tell them about this girl and have them send someone over to visit. That boy that's on drugs, let's call Team Challenge." We find that if you work in the city, you don't have to invent new programs. The programs are already there. The problem is that the people who desperately need the programs don't go.

You know seminaries, without exceptions, have a Field of Dreams mentality. Remember the movie Field of Dreams? "Build it and they will come." Build the building and the program and they will come. And that is all they do, tell us how to design programs. They never tell us how to market.

In reality, you've got to go out there and connect people with the ministries and that's what we do.

I got off the Bart Transportation system in Oakland, trying to find the teams that are in Oakland. There are six of them in Oakland and I wanted to meet with them. They were all getting together this Methodist church and I couldn't find the church. I asked these two ladies, "Can you tell me where the Methodist church is?"

One of the ladies said, "Yeah, just up the street there." The other one said, "No, no, no. He's talking about that other church around the corner." Then she added, "He's talking about that church where they pray for everybody."

What an interesting concept, a church that prays for everybody. I have heard them say about church, "They have great preaching." I've heard them say about a church, "They have a great youth program or a great social action program or a great music program." You've heard all those things about churches. When was the last time you heard them say, "There's a church that prays for everybody in the neighborhood." Maybe it's time to clear out a lot of the stuff and make room for a house of prayer.

Are there tears in your eyes yet?

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