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Keeping Christ central

A series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

This fall, I had the pleasure of gathering with colleagues and friends from the Christian relief and development community at three different conferences.

I love learning and meeting new people at these events, but this year one observation really blew me away: We typically think of generosity in financial terms, but so many of these leaders are radically generous in sharing their life’s work. It was like they had a bullhorn and were shouting, “Here’s my life’s work—take it and use it however you can!”

For most of the world, innovation is viewed as intellectual property to be fiercely guarded rather than shared. While there is nothing wrong with profiting from hard-earned expertise and diligence, treating one’s knowledge and experience more like Wikipedia than a classified government secret proclaims a different Way … a way of unity, joy, and freedom.

The number of people I know who fit this description goes far beyond Christian organizations and outstrips my space to acknowledge them. So this got me thinking: How can we move away from a posture of protectiveness and choose to open up our lives and work in radically generous ways?

I offer five principles to help us.

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Mosque

Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

*For security reasons, the name of the country in this story has been omitted, and names of individuals have been changed to protect their identities.

On a sparkling day in late August, I sat in a dusty African courtyard with HOPE’s new field coordinator, Pastor John. We met to discuss a pilot program that HOPE recently launched in an area of this country that has historically been highly resistant to Christianity.

As Pastor John and I transitioned to the business of the day, an intense looking man dressed in traditional Muslim garb approached our table. Pastor John greeted him warmly and said,

Please meet my friend, Yayah. He’s a sheikh.

I wasn’t quite sure what to think. I knew that the word “sheikh” was a term of honor typically used for senior Muslim leaders. As we greeted one another, Pastor John laughed. “He doesn’t look like a pastor, does he? He was a sheikh, but now he serves as a volunteer in our savings program.”

Yayah broke into a broad smile and shared that his journey toward Christ began years before. Continue Reading…

Cross

Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

In a recent staff devotions, I asked our team a simple question: “How many of you have thought sometime today, ‘God really loves me’?”

Everyone in the room had John 3:16 memorized, knew other verses about God’s immeasurable love, and could chime in on “Jesus Loves Me” in the time it takes to say flannelgraph. So every hand shot up, right? In actuality, four hands out of 30 went up. Only four.

And this isn’t unique to HOPE. In asking this question to dozens of followers of Jesus, I hear the same thing:

I just don’t think much about God’s love for me on a daily basis, and if I’m honest, I struggle to believe it.

This struggle isn’t usually due to lack of information. We know God’s love led to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. But our conviction that God’s love secures our salvation doesn’t always translate into confidence that He really wants us near Him today. It’s like we are playing the old game of “He loves me”—pull off a petal—“He loves me not”—pull another one, laughing at our foolishness even as we hope for some feeling of certainty.

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Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

It’s a question I’m asked often:

Aren’t you basically providing financial incentives to get people to convert to Christianity?

At HOPE, we’re passionate about combining two objectives some view as unrelated, even dangerous: 1) promoting sustainable poverty alleviation and 2) clearly inviting others to love and follow Jesus Christ. But at the same time, we are careful not to trick, mislead, or coerce anyone into making a false profession of faith for the simple reason that Jesus didn’t.

In John 6, Jesus is being chased around the Sea of Galilee by a large crowd. He’s healed terrible diseases, fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes, and taught with great authority. Things were going so well the crowd was planning to make Him king by force. In modern language, Jesus was a rock star.

What would you have been thinking if you were one of the disciples? “Surely this is the moment. You’ve got them eating out of your hands … literally! Use your power to make them follow you.”

But in one of the countless ways Jesus defies expectations, He doesn’t capitalize on His fame. Desiring true disciples over admiring crowds, He proclaims harder—even potentially offensive—teachings. The result?

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Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

You could feel the excitement in Roger’s voice.

“I think this might be the one. Significant leadership in a multinational bank—check. CPA license—check. Speaks the local language and English—check. Active in his church—check.” Everyone silently wondered, “Did we finally find the needle in the haystack?”

The position in question was CEO of one of our African microfinance institutions, and we felt the heat to get this role filled ASAP. The program needed leadership. The Central Bank required a technically savvy CEO. HR wanted closure. Everyone wanted him to be the right fit.

And then someone asked,

Does he have a demonstrated passion for making disciples and guiding our spiritual integration efforts?

Aside from our personal connection with Christ, there is nothing more critical to fulfilling our mission than hiring the right staff. Each new team member either deepens our Christ-centeredness or distracts, dilutes, and discourages it. This is especially true of leaders but applies to every role from top to bottom.

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HOPE Rwanda

Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

  • In Asia, one HOPE client led 38 people in her rural village to Christ in two years.
  • In the Philippines, another woman built relationships with over 100 people who now come with her to Sunday church services.
  • A woman in California with only a second-grade education has started discipleship groups that are now reaching hundreds in her community.

If we’re honest, stories like these produce a mix of emotions for many of us. On one hand, we’re encouraged, inspired, and thankful. But in that same moment, there is often a subtle whisper:

I could never do that.

Do you ever feel that way? That stories of amazing transformation must come from uniquely gifted people who have figured out just the right methods to share Christ?

At HOPE, spiritual impact comes as God uses staff and clients to reach others. And just like you and me, these men and women realize they are imperfect messengers. They have family challenges, financial pressures, and personal battles with sin. The enemy works hard to tempt them to think, “I can’t really help others follow Jesus. I can’t be bold. Someone else, someone better, should do that.”

But freedom, boldness, and multiplication are exactly what God desires.

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