Monday, October 31, 2011

Making an Impact

"I realized I'm not supposed to be pursuing impact, I'm supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have....We're not called to be a people of vision, we're called to be a people of revelation. God speaks and we follow."
- Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales on the lessons he learned after the failure of his company, Big Idea.

Today's "typical Christian" is not a white westerner in a megachurch, serving in the food pantry and giving generously to missions. It's not someone who applies business models to the church and creates five year plans and programs with goals and target dates. None of this is necessarily wrong - it can even be helpful - but it's certainly not "typical".

The "typical Christian", statistically speaking, is a poor woman from Africa, Asia, or Latin America. She's probably never been in a large congregation, and might even worship outside. Her church likely doesn't have a food pantry, but she willingly shares the little food she has with those who come to her in need. Like the widow who gave her last coins, she gives beyond generously - she gives sacrificially. She doesn't create plans and programs because she is just trying to do the next thing in front of her to care for her family and others God sends her way. She just loves Jesus with her whole heart, whatever the cost.

I think that I can learn a lot from this "typical Christian".

I am by nature a task-oriented person. That's a good thing - God made me this way for a reason. But like anything else, it is only beneficial when exercised under the control of the Holy Spirit. For many years, my task-orientation was completely controlled by my flesh, and the result was selfish ambition. When God gripped my heart with the message of His grace, it took a while for me to recognize the temptation to simply Christianize my ambitions. Slowly, He has taught me the lesson of John the Baptist: "I must decrease, and He must increase."

But when I read Phil Vischer's quote I was caught off guard. He's absolutely right of course - pursuing God is more important than pursuing impact. He asks us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness - not our impact! He doesn't need my ministry for Him more than I need Him. Yet sometimes it's easy to give into the temptation that some ministry or other - a phone call, an email, a blog post - needs to be prioritized over intimacy with Him.

Of course, balance is called for because sometimes we can get legalistic and miss a Divine appointment just to check off a box. I'm not saying that God will never prompt me to interrupt my quiet time to minister to someone. But the key is listening to His Spirit. He wants me present with Him - in intimate relationship. My husband and I have a weekly date - he doesn't want to spend it watching me do dishes even if I tell him it's for him. I talk to my mom on the phone frequently - she cherishes those times when I'm not doing something else in the background. Just being present with Him is part of seeking Him. It helps me reject the pride that says I need to minister more than I need to be ministered to.

What I learn from this "typical Christian" is that the biggest impact I will have will be the one that I don't even realize I'm making. God is doing amazing things in the "Global South" - the non-western part of the church. He's using ordinary people to reach entire people groups, just because they pray passionately, share His word faithfully, and trust Him implicitly. The simplicity of it all is beautiful.

So often in the West we allow our plans and programs to take the place of His Spirit. We allow our desire for impact and vision to turn into a desire to be in the "inner circle" and to feel significant. That wasn't the example of Jesus. He went to the outcasts. The poor. The suffering. We are called to join Him "outside the camp". It might not look very impactful. But it will be Kingdom-centered, and when we seek Him enough to join Him there, the impact will be more than we could ever imagine. And when we simply read His Word and obey it fully, we will find indeed that His revelation goes beyond anything we could ever envision.

No comments: