The past week has been filled with interviews and Africans (not necessarily in that order) – amazing, passionate, high capacity followers of Christ in both. Throughout the week, God has placed person after person squarely in my path, as ambassadors of Philippians 2:3-11. I have seen the physical embodiment of verse 3 in particular, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than your selves.”
Interviewing… not necessarily something where I’d have great anticipation for personal spiritual insight and reflection. However, as we met with candidates for missions staff, I was blown away by servants clearly committed to Christ, by leaders clearly prepared to follow, by lives where passion intersected with service, and spiritual gifts intersected with compassion for the world. I was blown away by ambitious selflessness.
“Ambitious selflessness?” I’m glad you asked! In his blog, “A Spreading Goodness” (spreadinggoodness.org), R.N. Frost defines ambitious selflessness as “to care for another’s success with an energy and devotion that surprises the recipient… a spreading goodness.” As we interviewed candidates this past week, I was the surprised recipient of the spreading goodness of Philippians 2 in action, and for that I am truly grateful.
And that was not the only time I was the surprised recipient of spreading goodness. I also had the opportunity to spend time with three incredible African leaders. We brainstormed about the future of African pastoral leadership, the realities of resource poverty vs. spiritual poverty, and the meaning of true partnership. As we looked ahead to a future with hope, I asked them, “How can Resurrection better partner with churches in Africa?”
Their answer came in stories and anecdotes over the next hour – stories filled with humility, anecdotes filled with humor. Their gratitude humbled me, as they reminded me of the ministry of our presence with them in teams and in prayers, in word and deed, in hands and feet… a spreading goodness of sharing Christ and serving others. And in them, I saw a humility that considers others better than your selves–Philippians 2 in action. That is African spirituality. For me, that is Africa.
As I envision the hymn of Philippians 2: 6-11, a hymn of Christ’s humility, I not only hear the beautiful, lilting songs of Africa, but I also hear the heartfelt and faithful prayers said together this week as we concluded interviews. In the end, both the interviews and the Africans reminded me of what it means to be Resurrection. In the end, they were Philippians 2 in action: “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Resurrection is not only a place that encourages ambitious selflessness, but also a place of spreading goodness. It is all around us – in faithful worship, in volunteer service, even in our walls. They do talk after all. Our walls remind us not only of our purpose and journey, but also our vision: “Changing lives, transforming communities and renewing the church.” In other words, ambitious selflessness…Philippians 2 in action.
Rev. Cayce Stapp serves as the Beyond KC Missions Pastor at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.