By Will Haag
Pursuit of productivity is one of the biggest stumbling blocks inside the Evangelical church in America. Whether pursuing dynamic marketing strategies, or building orphanages in Nepal, Christians far too often fall prey to a productivity and results-driven mindset. This attitude affects the way we give, the way we live, and the way we love. Sadly, this approach to Christianity actually hinders us from loving those closest to us as we unintentionally look past them in our attempts to make a real difference in the world.
We do it to ourselves. We tell people that if they aren’t called by God to “stay,” then they should probably “go.” Successful missionaries come home on furlough with amazing stories regaling revivals in their host countries. Super-saints are quietly expected to serve at their local church, volunteer at their kid’s school, and devote time and money to the local food bank. Even local church pastors regularly cast visions entailing the radical transformation of entire cities. None of this is bad, per se, but if productivity is the underlying motivation behind our efforts to love the world, this approach has as much potential to hamstring a Christian’s effort as it does to encourage him toward relational and sacrificial love for the few. In other words, we may end up loving nobody if we’re too busy trying to love everybody.
This isn’t a simple problem of orthodoxy versus othropraxy. It’s a foundational issue related to why and how we try to do what we do. It’s a matter of understanding the importance of community, relationships, and Trinitarian worldview. The Trinity matters because Jesus defines ultimate reality in relational terms (John 17:3, 1 Peter 3:18, Galatians 4:5). People are not ushered into heaven on the basis of knowledge and confession alone; rather, people are joyfully adopted into the kingdom of God through the family of God.
If we work from this model when loving others, we start to see a picture of how God wants us to operate in this world. Namely, he wants us to introduce people to him by sharing him (God) with them. This happens when people feel loved on an individual basis, and it happens when we feel free to build long-lasting relationships. We are freed to love individual people after we realize that God has a general call for everyone in the church (See aforementioned key tenants of the Christian faith: worldwide evangelism and universal call to love everyone), as well as specific plans for individual Christians (Ephesians 2:10). Stated plainly, some of us will reach a lot of folks, and some of us will reach a few. Are you ok in either category?
Housewives are not megachurch pastors! Both can be holy and effective. The right question to ask isn’t “How many?” The healthy and helpful question is “How well?” Are you where God wants you, doing what he wants you to be doing, and loving those he wants you to love (Acts 17:24-27 sheds light on the providence and particularities behind individuals’ lives)? Perhaps we should spend our new-found freedom focusing on quality while we let God worry about the quantity.
Will grew up in the Pacific Northwest and returned to Washington after a season of serving in the US military. When he is not attending classes at Multnomah University in Portland, he enjoys everything outdoors. Among his favorites are snowmobiling and spending time at the family cabin in Eastern Washington.