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Week 2: First things first

Worship in Congo

Keeping Christ central

A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration

Let’s face it: Christ-centered poverty alleviation attracts a can-do, action-oriented crowd. If you are reading this blog, chances are you’re the kind of person who believes that following Christ comes with responsibilities for the “here and now.” You believe in a world that can be more just, and you take seriously the call to be ambassadors for Christ. At HOPE, these convictions are a driving force behind our mission of “investing in the dreams of the poor as we proclaim and live the Gospel in the world’s underserved communities.”

Coming from the right foundation, these intentions to act as agents of reconciliation are good and God-honoring. But as our president and CEO, Peter Greer, explained in The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, a misplaced desire to accomplish things for God can lead to soul-damaging consequences, both for those we serve and for us.

A few years ago, Gordon MacDonald wrote a helpful article titled “The Dangers of Missionalism.” In it, he defines missionalism as “the belief that the worth of one’s life is determined by the achievement of a grand objective.” The key idea here is “worth.” Now most of us know better than to say that we should base our worth on what we do for God, but that doesn’t always make it easy to avoid this subtle trap.

At HOPE, we desperately want to help others find a dignified path out of extreme poverty and, in the process, see souls reconciled to God eternally. But as important as this calling is, the Holy Spirit has repeatedly emphasized how crucial it is that the greatest commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” come first in our personal lives and organizational identity. Independent of anything we do for God or others, union with Christ must come first.

In Philippians 3, Paul explains in beautiful language that everything in his life was “counted as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus [his] Lord.” He experienced something with Christ that was so compelling, so life-changing, everything else paled in comparison. This connection was the driving force in his life of mission and fruitfulness. But sadly, we can easily find ourselves disconnected from Christ, busy doing many things for Him but missing the vitality and power that only He can bring.

So in an effort to assess where we are with this, let’s consider three reflection questions:

  • Am I truly satisfied in Christ today, regardless of my busyness or sense of accomplishment?
  • Am I more prone to think about God, His character, and the wonder of the Gospel, or are my thoughts consumed with my activities and myself?
  • Do I talk more about the person of Christ or what I do for Him?

DeVern Fromke sums this up nicely in his book Ultimate Intention: “Christ, who becomes our life, will not allow us to pursue divine purposes in our own power. We are not called to production but to participation in His life and pursuits.”

May we find our life and worth in Him today and then, in joy, do all that He has prepared in advance for us to do.

Matthew Rohrs


Matthew Rohrs joined HOPE as director of spiritual integration in 2010. He counts it a privilege to help HOPE fulfill its core objective of honoring and obeying Christ in all aspects of its work.

3 responses to Week 2: First things first

  1. But at the same time, being content in Christ is equally as important as fulfilling the Spirit led mission. As Paul wrote, “compelled to ……..” (fill in the blank) is where the joining of faith and mission become real (as James wrote as well).

  2. I’m really challenged by this post. It is very true that most of the time we are absorbed by our busyness of ‘helping’ others in Jesus’ name but do not have personal time with God. We have become like a branch which is detached from the stem, or a power grid which is not connected to the power generator. So, it should begin with us before we reach to others.

  3. Wow, thanks for this post. I am truly convicted by some of the things said in this blog, in particular that ‘union with Christ must come first’… and that we must remember that we are first and foremost called ‘to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ It reminds me of the Lord’s exhortation to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2 in which He says: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” (Revelation 2:2-4, NIV). This correction brings us back to our first love, and from here, the mission of Christ can flow freely -with power from Christ at our core.

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