When Helping Hurts

When Helping Hurts

By Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett

Missional Markers: Transforming Communities with Ministries of Compassion, Mercy, and Justice

Global Perspective and Engagement, Fruitful Organizational Structures, Culture of Godly Leadership, and Sacrificial and Generous Living and Giving

This book provides a wealth of guidance for a broad range of situations. Its principles are not limited to questions of physical intervention. They address leadership, compassion, and change. The values espoused in the book are consistent with those embedded in the Congregational Vitality Pathway.

The book has a solidly Reformed perspective on the world. Its comprehensive scope is typified in this quote: “Converts need to be trained in a biblical worldview that understands the implications of Christ’s lordship for all of life and that seeks to answer the question: If Christ is Lord of all, how do we do farming, business, government, family, art, etc., to the glory of God?” p. 45 Later they write, “…the central point of scripture is clear: as humans engage in cultural activity, they are unpacking a creation that Christ created, sustains, and…redeems.” P. 56 The gospel centeredness of their approach comes through in this quote, “Poverty is rooted in broken relationships, so the solution to poverty is rooted in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to put all things into right relationship again.” P. 73

Here are some definitions that help frame the whole discussion:

1) Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meanings.

2) Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.

3) Material poverty alleviation is working to reconcile the four foundational relationships so that people can fulfill their callings of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of their work.

One of the key ideas is that we often try to solve all the problems with economic answers to spiritual and relational issues. The book builds on a strong biblical basis of the relational damage caused by sin.

One chapter helps readers think through the best role for short term missions. Short term missions have become an industry and if not set in a greater context of mutual benefit and sustainable development, they can actually do more harm than good. I would not send out a Short Term Mission team without at least having them read chapter 7.

Another chapter identifies the difference between relief, rehabilitation, and development. The point is made that all of these are important, but they need to be used discerningly to be appropriate. We do relief for people; we do rehabilitation and development with people.

The book lifts up the cultural differences that can make us blind to operating in ways that are less than helpful. Sometimes, the process is the most important thing. “Participation is not just the means to an end but rather a legitimate end in its own right.” P. 136 In the west we look for productivity and efficiency. Not all cultures value these as highly. The authors point out that relational based assistance is slower and messier, but is often more sustainable.

Avoid Paternalism, “Never do for anyone what they can do for themselves.” You get a very different solution when you use an asset-based approach verses a need-based inquiry. One affirms in innate value endued by the Creator in every person. The latter assumes the ‘helper’ has more and better answers and resources and diminishes the worth of the person we are seeking to help. This is the classic clash between someone in need having too low of a self-image and the person with material resources have an over inflated sense of value or importance. The book calls the latter a God-complex. Both parties need to be open to giving AND receiving.

To be sure, this book will push established boundaries and ideas. Such points as healthy helping takes time to listen to people, to build relationships, and to jointly develop a plan challenge our cultural bent to believe we are the most developed culture and therefore we have the best solution. The book includes some humbling reminders, such as, “We are not bringing Christ to poor communities. He has been active in these communities since the creation of the world…” p. 57.

This book would make a great read for a deacon or benevolence team. It sets out principles that can be helpful in shaping a philosophy of missions locally and globally. The issue is not to create an excuse to not share our resources, but to invest our helping efforts in ways that use wise, sustainable stewardship.

This review only scratches the surface of what is in this book. Maybe the best endorsement I can offer for this book as a study resource is that we ended up with more people in the last class than we started with in the first class. No drop off due to boredom or irrelevance. Those who are interested in learning more can go to www.chalmers.org to get an overview of what is proposed in this book. The small group experience videos correspond to the six sessions outlined in the supplemental study which is available. You can go through this in six weeks, but there is so much more material to process and digest, I would recommend at least two weeks for each session.

FREE CHURCH FINANCE RESOURCE

FREE CHURCH FINANCE RESOURCE

Friends,

The RCA has received a grant from the Lilly Endowment for financial challenges facing pastoral leaders.  Ken Eriks is the project director and Irene Assink provides administrative support.

 

As part of that grant, the RCA has benefited from partnerships with such organizations as the Leadership Network, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA). Most recently, the ECFA has developed a free resource (ChurchExcel) for pastors and churches, providing up-to-date information on tax laws; practical sample forms, policies, and procedures; as well as making available webinars on-demand, eBooks, podcasts, and interactive training courses. The subscriptions for this amazing free resource are by individual and there are no limits to the number of subscriptions per church.

 

When congregations are in the process of preparing their yearly budgets; reviewing pastor housing allowance requirements; studying the effects of tax reform on pastor’s and churches; etc., the ChurchExcel resource could be helpful for them as well as pastors, church leaders, and finance teams.   

 

Ken and Irene are excited about the resources that are being made available to the RCA through these partnerships.  They have distributed the ChurchExcel information card through an RCA mailing but wanted to take the opportunity to share it with you as well.  Attached please find a pdf of the Church Excel information card; along with this link to the RCA custom landing page: www.ChurchEXCEL.org/RCA.  Feel free to attach to an email, website, electronic mailing, or whatever method you believe could be helpful to pastors and church leaders in your classis.  Any questions should be directed to Ken (keneriks@rca.org) or Irene (irene@lyndenfrc.org).

 

Along with that, I’d like to wish you all the very best in this holiday season and in the new year to come,

 

Laura

10 HEALTHY MISSIONAL MARKERS

10 HEALTHY MISSIONAL MARKERS

1. Centrality of the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16)

We believe that the Bible is the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine and conduct. Our preaching and teaching in all settings reflects careful preparation, relevance, and creativity. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to study and apply Biblical truth in ways that lead to a scripturally integrated life.

 

2. Life transforming walk with Jesus (John 3:3,30; Phil. 1:6)

We teach our people how to be attentive to Christ in all circumstances. Our people understand the radical nature of the message and mission of Jesus that continually deconstructs and reconstructs a person’s life. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to use a variety of spiritual growth resources, experiences, and settings.

 

3. Intentional evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20)

We are burdened for the spiritual condition of those who do not yet know Christ. We have identifiable pathways for evangelism to take place in our ministries. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to build spiritual friendships and know how to share their faith as God-birthed opportunities arise.

 

4. Transforming communities through active compassion, mercy and justice ministries (Micah 6:8)

We are burdened for the hurting people in our community and beyond. We have identifiable pathways for compassion, mercy and justice ministries to take place. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to see and address the hurts and the causes of hurt in our community and beyond.

 

5. Global perspective and engagement (Acts 1:8)

We raise the sights of our members beyond our congregation and community by developing a Biblical worldview and often pray for and reference global matters. We have identifiable pathways to support the cause of Christ globally. Our people are equipped and growing in their ability to participate in the global dimensions of our ministry.

 

6. Compelling Christian community (Acts 2:42-47)

We understand that our love for one another is a powerful testimony to the deity of Jesus. We love each other as we are, not as we should be. We share life together beyond the worship service.

 

7. Heartfelt worship (Psalm 138:1a; John 4:23)

We exalt and celebrate God for who he is, what he has done, what he is doing and what he will do. Worship reflects careful preparation to help give voice to many dimensions of response to God such as adoration, praise, contrition, lament, and commitment. People leave worship knowing something more about the heart of God and about their own hearts.

 

8. Sacrificial and generous living and giving (Romans 12:1-8)

We help people discover, develop and deploy their spiritual gifts. We regularly, graciously, and unapologetically teach on the importance of financial stewardship in the spiritual growth of the Christian. We have many examples of lifestyle choices being made on the basis of stewardship and the priority God plays in the lives of our members.

 

9. Culture of godly leadership (Hebrews 13:7)

Our leaders at all levels serve with character, competence, and conviction. A spirit of collegiality pervades, with our people trusting our leaders and our leaders trusting our people. We continually identify and train godly leaders for all dimensions of our ministry.

 

10. Fruitful organizational structures (Exodus 18:13-26, Acts 6:1-7)

We can articulate a compelling, Christ-honoring vision for our church. We embrace evaluation as normal and natural and work through conflict constructively. Our organizational structures are designed to be efficient at making decisions while at the same time building congregational ownership for those decisions.