In the past few days, I finished reading a book, entitled Who is My Neighbor? Being a Good Samaritan in a Connected World. Steve Moore, the president of The Mission Exchange, authored the book and has created a couple of excellent websites that significantly increase the learning value of the book. I read the book on my Kindle, but the book is also available for free, one chapter at a time, in PDF format from http://www.whoismyneighborbook.com.The book explores the meaning of the question “Who is my neighbor?” in a world where we are constantly bombarded by needs from around the globe. Missionary newsletters, mission websites, and mission e-mail blasts present us with a multitude of needs from every corner of the earth, to say nothing of what we see on CNN and read on Google News. For us as missionaries, because many of us live in countries where we encounter grinding poverty, misery and spiritual darkness every time we walk out on the street, we constantly face the question of our responsibility to the needs we see.
Steve Moore says that the answer to that question is not comfortable – our neighbor is not just those who are numbered in our circle of friends or even our acquaintances. In fact, Jesus calls us to reach out in love and service across boundaries and barriers to those who do not like us and cannot repay us. But the answer to the question is not so overwhelming that it needs to incapacitate us. Moore suggests that we can prioritize the needs we encounter by looking deeply at the passions that God has placed on our hearts. Identifying these passions will help us sort through the many opportunities in this world and understand what response God wants us to make to the needs around us. Here a second website developed by Steve Moore provides some helpful guidance – http://mypassionprofile.com/. The assessment provided on the website (free for readers of the book) guides us in identifying what passions God has placed on our heart, and the degree of passion that we feel toward those issues. As I completed the assessment, I was surprised which of the three passions I chose came out on top. I was also challenged to ask God to develop within me an even greater passion for these causes.
On the Who is My Neighbor website, you can find an interview with the author about what the book is seeking to accomplish. If you don’t have time to read the book now, at least listen to the interview. Our particular “assignment” as missionaries (e.g. church planting or theological education) does not automatically relieve us of our responsibility to respond to the needs of others who are not encompassed by our job description. Our neighbor is not just found among our non-Christian friends, the believers in our church, the people in our apartment building, or even the people of the culture and language we have adopted. But we cannot respond to all the needs we see, hear about or read about. Moore’s book helps us to focus our energies in those areas where God has linked our hearts to particular issues or interests.
I found this topic particularly relevant, not only for myself but also for mission leaders. Next week, I will be facilitating a training session for team leaders in Asia on the topic of intrinsic motivation. How do team leaders motivate their teams to be fully committed to the task God has given them? Extrinsic motivation (more money or threat of punishment) won’t work. A big part of the answer is identifying the individual passions of the team members, and making sure that the team goals are connected to those passions. When team leaders clearly understand the particular God-given passions of their team members and enable those teammates to function in assignments that connect them to their passions, a big piece of the motivation question will be answered. More on this topic in a future post.