Keeping Christ central
A weekly series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration
I was a bit nervous. Not the “please, Lord, don’t let my voice crack” kind of nervousness I battled in high school speech class (thank you, Miss Kowatch, for not laughing). This nervousness came because I knew the discussion at hand would be challenging. Maybe contentious.
I was meeting with the leaders of another organization to discuss spiritual impact. Their mission statement explicitly identified the goal of achieving spiritual transformation in the lives of those they served, but in both strategy and day-to-day execution, there was little agreement about what this actually meant. I was invited in for a day to ask questions and share ideas.
Later, it hit me at a new level how easy it is for us to desire to reach others spiritually without having a clear, unified definition of success from the Lord. Whether because of differing definitions of transformation or the challenge of measuring spiritual impact, organizations can default to the unspoken idea that if we do a lot of “spiritual stuff,” spiritual change will undoubtedly follow.
A few years ago, a friend and ministry leader was helping to lead their ministry through a similar challenge. Everyone involved wanted greater fruitfulness, but it wasn’t clear how to take steps together. He shared that their breakthrough occurred when they combined a process of earnest prayer and fasting with a transparent and honest evaluation of the following questions:
- What is the purpose of your organization (or church/family/personal ministry)?
- How do you define success?
- How do you measure success?
- How much success are you seeing?
- Are you satisfied?
- If not, what has to change?
The key was asking the Lord to reveal His perspective. And while the logic of this process seems so obvious, dozens of ministry leaders have shared with me that this type of approach has not often entered their organizational design, strategic planning, and ongoing measurement.
At HOPE we have been wrestling through these same questions, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we do not feel like we’ve arrived. But here’s what we’ve been learning about how to define success with spiritual integration.
First, we begin with the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:34-40) to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Saint Augustine said:
Anyone who thinks that he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbor, has not yet succeeded in understanding them.
This is the foundation of everything we want to be and do.
Second, we joyfully embrace the call of the Great Commission from Matthew 28:19 to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (ESV). Being a disciple was central to Jesus’ message and ministry. The word “disciple” is used over 230 times in the Gospels and 28 times in the book of Acts. As a network of Christ-centered microenterprise development practitioners, we believe this call to make disciples applies to all believers in all places at all times. With that said, we are careful to never coerce or incentivize those we serve to respond to the Gospel.
So our goals for spiritual integration hinge on loving the Lord with all of our hearts, demonstrating the love of Christ to all of our neighbors, and making disciples who love Him so much they are willing to sacrifice everything for His glory.
In my next post, I will share more about what disciple-making means and does not mean at HOPE, as well as some specifics about how we are evaluating our success in these key areas.