NYC Pastor Carter Conlon: Praying for Compassion to Serve Others in a Me-Centered Culture
‘It’s Time to Pray,’ the New Book by Times Square Church Pastor, Highlights That God’s Children Are to be More Concerned About Other People Than Ourselves
NEW YORK—Patrick Henry shouted, “Give me liberty, or give me death.” The next generation shouted, “Give me liberty.” The present generation shouts, “Give me.”
These are the opening lines from a recent commentary in The Christian Post from New York City pastor Carter Conlon, who leads Times Square Church in Manhattan, an interdenominational church with over 10,000 people in attendance who represent 100 different nationalities.
Conlon, who is releasing his newest book, “It’s Time to Pray,” next month, says humans—and yes, even Christians—can be prisoners of their own hearts in this me-focused culture when it comes to serving others.
“We are all born, without exception, selfish in the core of our beings,” Conlon writes in “It’s Time to Pray.” “This self-focus is entrenched in our sinful nature, and though there are compassionate people in society, the general human tendency is not to be focused on the well-being of other people.”
Compassion is the focus of God, he says. In the same way, as God’s children, we are to be more concerned about other people than ourselves—and not only those we call friends or who agree with us.
“I have always believed that it is impossible to claim, ‘I am in Christ, and Christ is in me,’ and not be lovingly and compassionately invested in the physical, spiritual and emotional health and well-being of other people—no matter who they are,” Conlon said.
As an example, Conlon relayed a story about a speaking engagement with 60 “lifers” at a New York prison about 20 years ago. Leading the worship was David Berkowitz, the infamous Son of Sam who committed six murders from 1976-1977 in New York City. He is serving six life sentences and has asked to never be paroled. Behind bars, Conlon says, Berkowitz has become a wonderful Christian man who ministers to his fellow prisoners.
Conlon, a former police officer, stood in front of the 60 “lifers” that night and told them: “I’m not here because I’ve got nothing better to do. I’m not here because I’m a do-gooder. I’m here because God loves you. I’m here because you can be free, even if you never leave these walls. Your prison is not built by men; your prison is a matter of the heart, and you are captive because you don’t know the love God has for you. You don’t know the freedom Christ died to give you.”
When Conlon finished speaking, he made an invitation, and about eight men came forward. The pastor hugged each of them as they wept.
“Loving ourselves and giving ourselves preeminence in life automatically means that our relationships with others are a form of religion that lacks the power of God,” Conlon said. “Any faith based on the life of Jesus Christ within us must be lived for the benefit and the sake of other people. We can know in large measure the heart of God for people.
“I remember the story in Mark 8 where Jesus led the blind man away from the village of Bethsaida in order to restore his sight, which I think represents leading people away from a culture that confines and even tries to hijack the love of God and give credit to humankind for the things that God does,” he continued. “It’s all about me, myself and I—with no room left for God. The man’s sight was only partially restored at first. It wasn’t until God touched him the second time that he saw clearly. That’s how it often works in our walks with God. He continues to touch our eyes and our hearts as often as needed until we see clearly and love willingly, sincerely and genuinely.”
Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of founding pastor David Wilkerson who launched Teen Challenge and wrote the best-selling book, “Cross and the Switchblade.” Conlon was appointed senior pastor of Times Square Church in 2001.
Conlon continues to be a voice for God far beyond the pulpit of Times Square Church by speaking at numerous conferences across the country and around the world. His weekly radio spots air on 1010 WINS, the nation’s longest-running all-news station, and his one-minute devotional and 30-minute program, called “A Call to the Nation,” are currently syndicated on over 350 Christian radio stations worldwide. He is the author of several books, including “The 180 Degree Christian,” “Fear Not” and “Unshakable.”
“It’s Time to Pray” is published by GPC Books, an imprint of Times Square Church’s partnership with Charisma House. Charisma House has published books, including 14 best-sellers, that challenge, encourage, teach and equip Christians.
For more information on “It’s Time to Pray,” visit www.ItsTimeToPrayBook.com.