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.