First Things First


At the Texas Baptists' Annual Meeting, I taught a workshop on "Advocacy As Evangelism." During the workshop, I shared how advocacy could be a tool for evangelism and community transformation.

At the end of the workshop, a gentleman asked if I was promoting advocacy for advocacy's sake. I was prepared for the question, because lately I have been giving a lot of thought to the idea as my generation considers justice and community engagement a part of discipleship. Advocating for justice and promoting community engagement represent an expanded view of discipleship, but sometimes I am concerned my generation has become self-righteous in our pursuit of these ideals.

We have become self-righteous about our desire to see justice in the same way other generations judged their fruitfulness in committee service or Sunday school attendance.We are all about serving the poor and loving our neighbor in practical ways from food pantries to job training programs and ESL classes. These are important things, but without the indwelling of Christ's Spirit they are just good things, not God things.

Having spent a couple of years in the secular nonprofit world, I know a lot of great nonprofits that do wonderful work. But what distinguishes our work as believers? As the CLC?

I hope it's Micah 6:8. This verse is the compass by which the CLC plots the course of our work. Everyone knows what a compass is. Before we had Google and Apple Maps and cell phones, people used paper maps and compasses to help them make sure they were headed in the right direction.

For the CLC, Micah 6:8 is our north star, we are always striving to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. The "walk humbly with God" portion of the verse is critically important to our ability to do the other two. If we are not intentional about our personal walks with the Lord we cannot credibly, courageously, and consistently practice the other two.

Micah was speaking to the Israelites in his day and age, but I believe it is word for us today. During Micah's time as a prophet, religion was pre-eminently a matter of obligation toward God that consisted mainly of proper performance, but Micah makes religion an inner experience which determines the whole sphere of human activity. True religion isn't about actions or rules but relationship. Our actions -- whether pursuing justice, advocacy, kindness, or mercy -- are the outgrowth of a deeply personal relationship with the Lord.

We have to be careful to keep things in their proper order. As my best friend's mom always says, "You got to keep the main thing the main thing." For Christians, Jesus is the main thing. Our fruitfulness is in direct correlation to our time spent cultivating and growing that relationship through personal prayer and devotion. Every day we have to be praying and seeking His will for our lives through His Word.

At the CLC, our work through the Hunger Offering, advocacy, and community ministries are part of the practice of discipleship. We encourage churches and leaders to join us in this practice. But our practice is followed by our position in Jesus Christ.

Related articles: A place to stay, a path to restoration / How 25 chickens transformed a family - a Texas Baptist Hunger Offering Story / Texas Baptists mobilized to influence lawmakers at 2017 Advocacy Day