Sunday, April 12, 2009

Smart Snakes and Holy Birds

What makes us effective--our programs and strategies, or our character and personalities?

I guess that depends on your answer to the following question: Effective at what?

There are plenty of jerks out there running very "cool" programs and people flock to them. If by "effective" we mean we are able to attract a crowd, then character flaws can be covered up.

If by "effective" we mean transforming people by God's grace into the likeness of God--then I don't know if that could happen (except in spite of us) unless we have a godly character and personality. Why is that? Well, Jesus gave us the answer:

"Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5

Jesus didn't command us to bear fruit. He commanded us to remain (abide) in him. His promise is that we will bear fruit if we do. Bearing fruit for God is not a command to be obeyed, but a promise to be fulfilled by God when we obey the command of staying close to Christ and rooting ourselves in him. So, you could say that the fruit we bear--we are not even the ones who are bearing it. However, it is Christ bearing fruit through us.

So for all the thoughts about strategies, approaches and programs... it is not worth very much if our hearts are far away from God and we have not stayed close to him.

Does that mean we throw away all strategic thinking? No, I don't think so. Jesus also once said...

"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." Matthew 10:16

Unfortunately, we are often only one or the other. Good and naive, or, smart and corrupt. But Jesus would have us to be good and smart; holy and shrewd; pure and wise. Certainly, we will be the most effective if we are pure in heart as we walk closely with Christ and use the wisdom God granted us to do the best we can. Being holy isn't an excuse for being lazy. And being clever will never replace the need to depend on God to make the change we want to see happen.

I have a very good friend who is one of The People here. He is unlike any other I have met. He understands the deep things of God and of this world. And he was encouraging me to stay strong and not be too discouraged--that God himself had called me to serve in The Location.

I told him, "Every day I struggle against two things. One is not being smart enough and the other is not being good enough." And I wasn't talking about salvation or making myself pleasing to God--I was talking about making a difference here in The Location.

Everything is set against us here. No one is rolling out the red carpet for us to do either business or ministry. Certain parties do things against us (steal land, money, assets, or lie and cheat) and we have no recourse. No one is on our side even though the law technically should be. There is corruption. There is a warped view of wealth and people. There is an especially warped view of outsiders and Christians. There is false-teaching. There is jealousy and infighting among those we aim to help. There are harmful approaches being undertaken by other workers that pull many well-intentioned people in the wrong direction. There is injustice. There is spiritual oppression.

So, I told my friend that I cannot waste time complaining about how things aren't the way they should be. I need to accept the fact that they are the way they are. Now it is up to me to figure out, taking the situation into account, how to be effective in spite of it all. It is not an easy task. I'm still learning a whole lot. I need to become smarter and wiser.

But before that, I must be good. I must be Christ-like. I believe I can only be like Jesus when I am seeking him and his ways. When I rely on him he helps me to love as he loved. When I read his Word he shows me how to view people as he views them. When I pray he helps me to quiet my heart and put my trust in him.

I'm a lot more effective when I do that.


  1. Wow. That's deep, dude. I like it.

  2. Keep up the good fight, Koffijah. I think if you follow the instructions you talked about here, God will honor your work. I find myself often wanting to rally against certain methodologies instead of doing my very best to offer a Christ centered alternative. I was pretty fired up yesterday when I checked my mail to find a full color, 8-1/2" x 11 post card (printed on both sides) for a new church plant in our area. It's not because we consider another church "competition" - we honestly don't go there. What bothered me was the fact that the sermon topic for Easter Sunday was "SEX ROCKS!" I went so far as to black out the name of the church and take a picture of it, because I wanted to blast them on my blog, but I grudgingly decided against it. (Read: my husband told me not to.) I did go to the pastor's blog, only to discover that his last gig was the youth minister for Joel Osteen's church. Which explained so very much...