Leadership carries unusual challenges, including a risk of alienation – from one’s colleagues, from those one serves and even from one’s friends and family. Trust, intimacy, vulnerability, uncertainty – all these become harder to enjoy under the pressures of leadership. The people involved with the Foundation address these unusual challenges by helping leaders befriend each other using the context of small groups of peers, often made up of both one’s natural allies and one’s opponents or competitors. Over time, by sharing privately and focusing on the precepts of Jesus rather than on their immediate problems, strong bonds are formed, many of which last a lifetime. Most importantly, in this process, hearts are changed, wisdom is gained and the situation often improves.
“I hold the precepts of Jesus as delivered by Himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime that have ever been preached to man. I adhere to the principles of the first age.”
Promoting Small Groups
Fundamental to the work of the Foundation is the nurturing of small groups of friends who share their lives by praying, eating together, and enjoying fellowship which builds a trusting community. The people involved provide opportunities for individuals of different backgrounds, political parties, religions and ethnicities to meet in private. Over time, hearts change and benefits flow to all those involved in the little groups. As a result, people begin to take a greater interest in those less fortunate in the community, such as the widows and orphans. Surprisingly, when people in these little groups learn to pray together, trust each other and like one another, many who otherwise would have been alienated from religion and politics and other divisions find common ground.
“Whoever is spared personal pain must feel himself called to help in diminishing the pain of others. We must all carry our share of the misery which lies upon the world.”
The Apostle John wrote, “The more that fellowship extends, the greater the joy it brings to us who are already in it.” (1 John 1:4, J.B. Phillips version)
Small groups are the primary vehicle to build lasting personal friendships. It’s in meeting together on a regular basis that we learn to love each other. Jesus is quoted in John 13:35 as saying it this way: “by this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you love each other.”
Certain simple factors are necessary for such groups to succeed:
- nothing said is repeated outside the gathering,
- no advantage is taken over another’s revealed weakness,
- no fixed hierarchy or authority structure is mandated,
- and the safety to “struggle together” and wrestle with personal challenges is preserved at all times.
Privacy distinguishes these small groups from many other interactions in modern life. It is important for men and women to have a place where they can share their thoughts and feelings without feeling a judgmental spirit against them. Providing such a venue meets this special need of most people. The Foundation has no memberships, other than small group participants who are invited to join as a “member” of that group. Beyond that, there are no rituals, dues or any other dimensions of formal membership.
Assisting with the National Prayer Breakfast and other Gatherings
The National Prayer Breakfast was started in 1953, when the Members of Congress invited President Eisenhower to join them for a fellowship breakfast “in the spirit of Jesus”. Because of the warm environment of that first gathering, the breakfast has continued each year, with members of the prayer groups in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives as honorary co-chairs. Annually, the House and Senate groups encourage the invitation of people from every state and many nations to join with the President of the United States for this special time of fellowship and prayer together. The breakfast typically is attended by more than 3000 people of many races, cultures and faith traditions. To make the National Prayer Breakfast possible, a group of dedicated friends from around the world volunteer to provide organizational support.
Men and women involved with the Foundation are also helping other people of various religious, educational, and secular organizations who are planning community, state or national events or retreats in many places throughout the world.
Examples of this include groups that meet in Japan, Germany, Norway, Brazil, and other countries who hold events and/or retreats which are similar to The National Prayer Breakfast. All of these groups and organizations are independent of each other.
A core belief of many participants in the work of the Foundation is advancing reconciliation wherever possible. The Bible teaches that each person is called by God to reconcile with Him through faith in the power of the death and resurrection of Jesus. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18). With hearts so changed by that recognition, there is a responsibility for each of us to live our lives reconciled to God and to each other. Sometimes divisions run so deep that without the intervening power of the Spirit, no human effort can succeed.