This past week, in our leadership group that meets every Thursday morning, I shared what I believed was the most significant moment for me as a leader during the past year.
The lesson was about “Leadership in Turbulent Times.” Our churches face huge challenges today and we must face those challenges boldly as the church of Jesus Christ. So leadership is a key priority. The following happened in September of last year at our monthly meeting.
Rev. Young Jin Cho, District Superintendent in Arlington was leading our daily worship. As part of his message he confessed his failure as leader. He said: “Our churches are not growing in numbers or in faith so I am fasting before the Lord and asking for forgiveness and a new direction for our churches and for our district.”
His message was given with such sincerity and humility it was obvious we were all touched. I could literally feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in the room. What Young Jin said out loud echoed what many of us felt inside. Our churches were not having the impact within our community that was needed. How could we do better?
Near the conclusion of the service as the last hymn was being sung, Bishop Kammerer came forward and knelt at the altar in prayer.
I found this gesture moving not because I had never seen her pray but because of her genuine act of humility by placing herself at the altar before God in a way we had not witnessed before. It was as if God was in the room preparing her and us for what was to come.
Following the worship service, the Bishop started our meeting by asking us to join her in fasting for the direction of our churches. She asked us to fast for one day each week for the remainder of the year and during that fast we should pray for God to guide us and work in us and to strengthen our leadership and our spiritual life with God and among each other.
It was a simple request to seek new direction from God through fasting and prayer but for some unexplainable reason, this time was different. I was moved because we were no longer simply doing the work of the leadership body.
We were agreeing to humble ourselves before God in fasting and prayer and turn the leadership back to God. We were a cabinet setting direction for the 1200 churches of the Virginia Conference. But, this time, we were the ones who needed to listen… to God and to each other.
This time, we would no longer be relying on our brains, our political connections or our leadership ability.
This time we were being asked to lay ourselves humbly before God and pray for God’s leadership… not our own.
This time we were being called to use our spiritual resources to fight a spiritual battle.
Over the next few months, I struggled with fasting and prayer one day each week. But in the midst of the struggle, I saw a vision for our church and for our district. In the midst of the struggle, I saw the reassuring presence of God reminding me:
Christ is still head of our church and God is still in control of creation.
In my devotional reading today, I came across this amazing story.
As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.
Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41)
While the disciples panicked, Jesus remained calm and in control. Christ was in charge even in the midst of a storm.
We are in the midst of a storm today.
Our community is crying out for spiritual leadership. We no longer want to be like the panicked disciples in the boat crying out: “Don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”
In the midst of our storm, I learned a lot from our Bishop. I found answers as I joined her in a time of fasting and prayer. I experienced God’s calming presence and I received affirmation of the same calming presence from many of you.
In the midst of our storm, we can refuse to panic.
In the midst of our storm, we can rely upon God.
In the midst of our storm, we can fast and pray before God.
In the midst of our storm, we can confidently look forward to Christ calming the winds and the high waves of water. We can know that God is still in control.
In the midst of our storm, we should anticipate our churches being in the middle of the solution not cowering in the boat.
In the midst of our storm, will you join me, by using the spiritual resources God provided for us… not for my sake but for the sake of our churches and our community?
1 Timothy 4:13 – “Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers and teaching them.”
Today, as you prepare for worship, know that spiritual resources are at your disposal. When you read Scripture, encourage the believers and teach… you are unleashing the almighty power of God.
When you fast and pray before God you are allowing God to work within you as a leader.
So today, I will pray before God and for you. This week, I will resume fasting and praying one day per week and encourage you to join me.
We live in the midst of a fierce storm.
But we serve a mighty God who can calm the winds and the waves. God is still in control.
I will be praying for you today. Better yet, may we pray for each other and for our churches and community and for our world.