Well, I’m back from Spring Harvest. Before you ask, it was fantastic. Even though the week seemed to be packed wall-to-wall with things to do (not great for an introvert like me), and even though some of the teaching slots didn’t engage me as much as others, it still met all of my expectations and leaves me sure that next year’s event will be at least as good, if not better.
One thing I noticed about SH2017 in particular was there seemed to be a very ‘missional’ feel, more so than most other years that I can remember. Over the course of the week, I heard the stories of quite a few people who have been to different places, either overseas or here within the UK, doing inspiring things in the name of Jesus. I read interviews and feature articles telling their stories, and I watched some of them come up on stage and talk to us about what they were doing.
Wherever they had been, though, they always came over as super passionate and enthusiastic about it all. I see their point; it was certainly inspiring to hear about the work of God in such places as these, and I believe that many people have been encouraged to go and do similar things all over the place through hearing about their endeavours.
However, I do get a little concerned when I think about how I for one respond to these sorts of stories. When I come away from hearing about them, a part of me starts to worry that I may not be doing enough for the Kingdom. People like these often come across to me as:
- very strong in faith
- confident that they are where God wants them to be
- following the Great Commission as closely as possible
- loving others in the most self-sacrificing kinds of way
- minimally concerned about their own safety
These are all things I would love to be true of me, and yet it sometimes feels like the lack of mission work on my CV is what’s keeping me back from them.
I’m not denying that mission work has its place. It was James who (in)famously described faith without works as “dead” (James 2:26), and Jesus did say that the world will recognise us by the things we do. And besides, looking at the broken world around us should make us want to do something about it. It’s obvious, to me at least, that simply believing in the message of the Gospel isn’t the whole deal; there has to be an action that the Gospel triggers in us. Thus, I recognise that this kind of work serves very important purposes, and I wish every blessing for those who carry it out.
But at the same time, I do wonder if some of us – not least of all myself – might be prone to idealising the act of mission work, or making out that there’s a certain amount that we need to be doing.
My ethos has always been: if you actively want to go and do this kind of thing, or if you feel God is calling you to do it, then by all means, go for it. But otherwise, don’t worry about it too much. There has to be some way you can act out your faith wherever it is that God has placed you at the moment. Although it’s easy to forget, the little things are just as useful for growing the Kingdom as the seemingly bigger things. The simple act of giving to your local food bank, inviting someone around for dinner (particularly if few other people have time for them), starting conversation with a stranger in the queue at the shopping centre, or just praying for somebody, goes a lot further than we often think.
And ultimately, it shouldn’t be so much about what we do as how we live. We are human beings, not human doings. If ever anyone asks me to summarise what I believe the Christian life should look like in ten words, I’ll show them Romans 12:12. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I definitely feel that if these three principles are the bedrock on which our lives are founded, the rest will follow. Our actions ought to be extensions of our lifestyles, not the other way around.