As I write this, I'm sitting in a hotel room overlooking Kansas City. I'll be heading into the Kansas City Convention Center soon for the start of ICOM (International Conference on Missions). There will be church leaders, pastors, directors of large missions’ agencies, missionaries serving in challenging places around the world, and your "average" church goers who have come to this conference to deepen their faith and understanding of missions.
I've been to a lot of conventions through the years, and I mean a lot, and I've reached a point in my life where I'm no longer interested in trying to "network," gain influence, or impress people. Yes, I used to do that, partially because of my own insecurities and wanting to gain approval from others. I cloaked these emotions by saying I was doing these things to have a greater Kingdom impact or wanting to maximize my gifts and potential for the glory of Jesus Christ. You know, the religious answers we church leaders give to disguise our own deficiencies.
So, if doing Kingdom work--that is serving our Lord Jesus Christ and being on His mission--is not about networking, gaining influence, or trying to impress people, then what is it? Glad you asked. I woke up this morning with this question on my mind, and then I read Psalm 112. Being a person in alignment with God's mission and His Kingdom work goes much deeper than what I used to think. The psalmist describes this in two parts which are applicable to all of us, whether we're church leaders, missionaries, or those living out our faith daily in the marketplace.
First, we are to have character. "Blessed is the one who fears the Lord" (v. 1). "His righteousness endures forever" (v. 3). "Even in darkness light dawns for the upright" (v. 4). "His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord" (v. 7). To whom or what do you turn as the source of your identity? Your job? Money? Power? Appearance? Gifts/talents? All of these leave us in the midst of insecurity, because we can never be assured we have enough money, power, looks, talents, etc. Those attributes are frail at best, although the world promises they deliver us satisfaction. But, as Mick Jagger use to sing, "I can't get no satisfaction." Those who fear the Lord are placing their trust in the Lord and will possess a heart that is secure (v. 7). This person fears no bad news (v. 7), because the source of contentment, peace, joy and fulfillment comes from "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27).
Second, we are to have commitment. The person on mission for Jesus Christ who is doing Kingdom work "finds great delight in [God's] commands" (v. 1). "Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice" (v. 5). "He will never be shaken" (v. 6). "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor" (v. 9). It's one thing to say you are a person of character. It's another thing to prove it. Commitment is character in action. If you don't follow through, you are demonstrating a lack of commitment and shallow character. If you honor your commitments to serve, be generous, and just, you are demonstrating Christ-like character, and you will never be shaken.
I just finished the book, The Great Evangelical Recession by John S. Dickerson. His thesis is that the American Evangelical Church is spiraling downward because we are viewed as being hate mongers who are divided, who are losing the next generations, and who are spiritually bankrupt. How do we turn this around? By being people of character who are committed to love God and our neighbor by humbly serving them. How should we conduct ourselves in the hostile host culture in which we live today? The Apostle Peter answers this best when he wrote, "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God. . . . For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men" (1 Peter 2:12, 15). Let's be people of character who are committed to doing good which will in turn provide a greater Kingdom impact than networking ever could.