She often was overlooked. People, sensing a disability that they couldn’t quite place, weren’t sure how to engage in conversation with her. The most comfortable thing for them to do was to ignore her, so they did. Yet she continued to show up to youth group and church on Sundays almost every week. She spoke of God’s love for her and her family with certitude and awe. She noticed how people treated her differently, but she never criticized or complained because she thought the best about people. Church leaders were polite to her, mostly, but they didn’t take her seriously. How could they? Would she ever lead a small group? Disciple a future “someone”? Become a platformed worship leader? She was dismissed and limited before she even started. I watched this all—far too long—before I began meeting with her for coffee.

Too often, it is easy to allow the current culture to affect our thought patterns and decisions. Instead of filtering culture through a lens of faith, our unchecked culture shapes how we live out our faith. In the US, we want “the biggest bang for our buck,” or a “good return on our investment.” The temptation for leaders in the church is to take these clichés and apply them to the way we do ministry; we begin to look for the “cute” and “influential” to disciple and invest in, believing these people will be successful leaders. And perhaps they will be.

I just don’t see Jesus doing this.

Instead, Jesus loved people from all kinds of backgrounds without any agenda but love. He spent time with the religious, the uneducated, the powerful, the outcast, the wealthy, the underemployed, the sick, and the young. Jesus wasn’t interested in what you could do for him—he was simply interested in you. Just you. You were the entire point. The only point.

As we pray for movement in our faith, I want to challenge us to not allow our culture to restrict the way we follow Jesus, especially if we find ourselves leading a team or ministry. Instead of spending time with someone because we think we’ll have a good “return,” let’s spend time with people because they are beloved by God. Because they bear God’s image. Because they’re important to God. In doing so, we can shift our mindset entirely on what a good return even looks like. Maybe the return isn’t leading someone that will have a grand ministry someday. Maybe it’s simply loving someone well and pointing them to Jesus, so they can love their own people well and point them to Jesus, too. Maybe it’s about the mutual shaping in the process as we learn from one another with humility. Maybe it’s about dying to our own dreams to make room for God dreams that are both higher and lower than our own. That’s the kind of faith that will transform—first us and then those we lead.

Movement Step: In what ways has culture impacted the way you live out your faith? Pray and ask God to show you if there’s an area in your life that needs to be recalibrated to the Gospel message.