March 15, 2013 § 2 Comments
1. Resource paternalism: Believing that more money will solve the problem.
2. Spiritual paternalism: Believing we’re more spiritually mature.
3. Knowledge paternalism: Believing we are the teachers and they are the learners.
4. Labor paternalism: Doing work they could do.
5. Managerial paternalism: Taking charge when we don’t like the pace or content of their work.
Paternalism is a form of pride and control. True partnership is not possible until these attitudes are repented of and replaced with humility and faith.
From the book When Helping Hurts as quoted in Western Christians in Global Mission.
February 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Good intentions don’t guarantee good results.
The opening chapter of Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (and How to Reverse It) by Robert Lupton begins with a suggested “Oath for Compassionate Service.” I’ve modified it slightly to apply to cross-cultural ministry where, just as in the relief and development work that Lupton addresses, well intentioned gifts and support often do more harm than good.
Could these principles help?
- Never do for local Christians what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves. Don’t preach and teach when they can or could.
- Limit one-way giving to emergency situations.
- Empower local Christians by encouraging ministry activities that are locally sustainable, and use grants and gifts to reinforce what they’ve already achieved.
- Subordinate self- interests to the needs of those being served.
- Listen closely to those you seek to help, especially to what is not being said. Serve rather than control.
- Above all, do no harm.
I wish these principles could be easily applied, but in a globalized, interconnected, and interdependent world it’s more complicated than the oath suggests. It’s an art, not a science. Humility is essential. At all costs, we must do what is best for the health and growth of others, and not be driven by the need to validate our organizations, strategies, or programs. Unless a kernel of wheat dies, it cannot bear fruit.
In general, fruitful and growing cross-cultural ministries are characterized by relationship before program, partnership rather than employment, listening before speaking, and self-sustainability over dependency.
January 21, 2013 § Leave a Comment
It just might.
Here are some initial thoughts on the topic I posted on my personal Facebook page, and I hope to explore this further as time allows.
“While tithing isn’t law, I do believe giving should be systematic (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:5). I like to think of it as a spiritual discipline like prayer and fasting (or as Jerry Bridges calls the disciplines – an instrument of grace. See 2 Corinthians 8:7). Without being systematic and deliberate in our giving, we’ll always find that other obligations and desires squeeze out whatever we might have been able to give. Being systematic allows us to make conscious decisions based on faith, and most of us will find that we’re able to give far more than we thought we could.
“John Piper says that any middle to upper class American is probably “robbing God” if only giving 10%.
“I find that by giving at least 10% there is not only the joy of giving and the encouragement of watching God provide, but as an instrument of grace I’m freed from anxiety and control of money. Even in the old covenant, tithing was a means of participating in the community of God’s people and the life of God (Deuteronomy 26:1-15).
“But I still think that even greater attention these days needs to be placed on how churches use money. This was the epiphany I had studying the topic this past week. In order of importance, giving in a NT church should be 1) helping the poor; 2) spreading the gospel beyond the local community; 3) encouraging and facilitating the ministry of teaching in the local community.
“My challenge to pastors, elders, and other leaders is to make sure that the gifts their churches collect each week are reflecting these biblical values. Doing so would probably require us to entirely restructure how we do local ministry (we’d have to make adjustments concerning buildings, programs, and staff), but that might not be such a bad thing.”
As those who have been “released from the law so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code,” (Romans 7:6) I don’t teach tithing as a requirement of believers. It’s too limiting. Those transformed by the gospel will generally give much more.
December 29, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Top 5 posts from 2012:
- 5 reasons you should do one-on-one discipleship
- Luke 6:27-36: Uncommon Love
- Jesus was an introvert
- Galatians 5:22-23 and what Rihanna taught me about the fruit of the Spirit
- James 5:7-11: Patience and the courage to do nothing
And the most popular post of all time remains: Leadership Secrets of Mother Teresa.
December 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Reading Jesus’ response to a man in an inheritance squabble made me think of the ever-closer fiscal cliff. To the man who wanted his brother to divide an estate, Jesus responded, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” (Luke 12:14) Would Jesus respond the same way if Boehner or Obama asked him for help? (On a personal note, I had to ask myself how Jesus would respond to child support disputes, rising costs of health insurance, or mission funding debates.)
We don’t know if the man’s case was legit, but we do know that Jesus used the opportunity to warn the crowd of the greatest danger to their soul.
The greatest danger isn’t poverty or the misappropriation of funds.
The greatest danger is greed in its varied forms (12:15).
Jesus goes on to tell a story about a man whose business does far and beyond what he expected (and it wasn’t due to his hard work – “The ground produced a good crop”). To protect his profits, he builds larger barns. Seems like good business sense. But what on the surface was responsible business was masking a deeper danger. Luke 12:19 says, “I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.’”
There’s a part of me that would love to be in a position to say this as well. But money can be dangerous to the soul.
The NIV isn’t as clear as other translations, but the man in the story isn’t simply talking to himself. What he literally says is, “I’ll say to my soul” or “I’ll say to my life, ‘You have many good things laid up for many years.’” In other words, “You won’t need to depend on God for many years. You’re set.” God responds using the same word. “This night your life will be demanded from you,” and “Do not worry about your life.“
I don’t believe Jesus condemns the man for having stuff. But he’s condemning the man for thinking the the stuff is life.
So what does this have to do with the fiscal cliff? I’m not convinced that the agenda of either the left or the right would be Jesus’ concern. He’d see a much deeper danger lurking in the debate. His concern should be mine.
My primary concern must be to “seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Luke 12:31) So how do I know if I’m seeking his kingdom? (It’s easy to say, harder to do.)
- Do the wars between the left and right make me angry or afraid? Then I’m probably dangerously invested in them. “Do not be afraid …” (12:32)
- Am I living generously? “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” (12:33)
- Am I giving more time to knowing my God than I am to supporting my political position? “Consider …” (12:24) and “Consider …” (12:27) What would my internet history reveal about the things I’m considering?
At the end of the day, this is a matter of faith (12:28) and the orientation of my heart (12:29). The danger is that I might not think it’s really that important.
October 3, 2012 § 2 Comments
Disciple-making is burdensome when it becomes about programs and priorities. It’s incredibly liberating when it’s about perspective and potential.
New perspective: Seeing God. How would going to work tomorrow be different if you could see God’s glory there? How would you feel about your neighborhood if you could see the Spirit moving up and down the street, house to house? What would you do differently if you could see God reaching out in love to rioting crowds in Libya or Pakistan? He is the light which enlightens everyone (John 1:9). He’s there. We just have to see Him.
New potential: Believing God. God will use you to reveal His glory, embody His grace, express His love, and recruit for His kingdom (Luke 5:11).
So don’t worry so much about implementing a program or reorganizing your (or – God forbid – someone else’s) priorities. Through Scripture, prayer, and perhaps the wise counsel of others further along, you will begin to see God in the most unlikely places and people. And even more incredible, you will see your potential to be the catalyst for God’s kingdom in those places and people.