The Chalmers Center is a great organization that understands poverty is about broken relationships, and that successful poverty alleviation strategies must focus on reconciling those relationships in ways that inspire individuals to change, not impose change upon them. The Chalmers Center has powerful resources for anyone serious about reaching those in poverty with the Gospel and should be a must for anyone considering missions or overseas work. Visit chalmers.org to learn more
This video is from the Chalmers Center, the institute that sponsors the When Helping Hurts book. It touches on the idea that instead of the Church in North America thinking it knows what local churches on the other side of the world need, and donating whatever they choose without asking so that those local churches are forced to take whatever we give, the North American churches should band together to support the efforts that local churches around the world already have in place. By asking communities what they have, want, need, etc., and listening to what they believe will work for them, we respect those communities and can come along side them with support they truly desire.
Empowerment: "I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit." Ephesians 3:16 NLT
This is from the CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) and it highlights one of their 8 key components of Christian community development: empowerment. The main idea is to focus on what a community has already instead of what it needs and then seeking to work with, not do for, residents as they strive to meet goals they set for themselves. Go to ccda.org to learn more.
Relationship with God: "You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever." Psalm 16:11 NLT
Sometimes it seems as though people think that Jesus died and is coming back someday to usher in His kingdom, and church is what we Christians do to kill time until the latter happens. But Jesus' death wasn't the end. His death isn't like money in a bank, that we withdraw only when we die so we can collect heaven as interest. His death had a purpose that people were able to start drawing the benefits of immediately. His sacrifice gave us the ability to have right relationship with God. When you accept Christ, you can begin to enjoy that relationship both instantly and forever. So in keeping your eyes set on the future glory of being in heaven with God, don't miss looking around you to the relationship He wants you to have with Him and with others. Jesus says," I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) Embrace the opportunity to grow closer to God each day and you will live a life that is deep, meaningful, and satisfying no matter what the circumstances.
Taken from the New Hope Community blog. To check out the blog, go to the New Hope website at newhopewestcovina.org
We’ve been talking about a Christian community, and last time we asked “how can we be Christian community?” This time, I want to ask “why is Christian community sooooooo important?” And again, I am passing on a quote from Harbor Presbyterian Church:“Why Is “Christian Community” Important?
We need community to be fully human. God said before the fall: “It is not good for man to be alone.” Adam was lonely not because he was imperfect; he was lonely because he was perfect. God has wired us in such a way that we cannot be what he meant us to be unless we are living in community. We need community for three reasons:
1. To Grow. We grow in Christ’s likeness
in community not in classes. Classes are important for conveying truth content,
but real change comes in community. Jesus and his disciples lived together, ate
together, experienced life together. Jesus modeled to his followers what it
meant to love God and neighbor in very specific situations. Community allows us
to “look over the shoulders” of mature Christians as they accept people who are
different, grieve the death of a loved one, handle unemployment, resolve
conflicts, grow old in grace. We need to live in community so that the gospel
can be passed onto the next generation.
2. To Serve. The quality of our community
is the real secret to finding our calling in life. God has given each of us
gifts—special abilities and skills—to serve him in the world and in the church.
But how do we discern what our gifts are and how to best employ them in service
to others? It is by living in a community of believers where we can discuss our
passions, test our gifts, and be encouraged, counseled and prayed for by those
who know us.
3. To Witness. “A city on the hill cannot be hidden.” The quality of our life together is a witness to the world. Jesus prays in John 17:23, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” Our unity in community is the main way that people will believe the gospel.” (From “Values of Harbor Presbyterian Church”)
The following is taken from the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) website. It is a list of core values/stategies they use in order to minister to the poor in ways that revitalize entire communities and effect lasting change, not merely make individual lives momentarily better. You can click on any of the words highlighted below in blue and they will take you to the CCDA website.
8 Key Components (of Christian Community Development)
Over the last forty years, practitioners of Christian Community Development
have distilled the philosophy into 8 Key Components. The first three are based
on John Perkins' original "three R's" of community development: relocation,
reconciliation and redistribution. Other components were later added by
Christians discovering ways to rebuild poor neighborhoods.
Relocation Living Among the People
Living out the gospel means desiring for one's neighbor and neighbor's family
that which one desires for one's self and family. Living out the gospel means
bettering the quality of other people's lives spiritually, physically, socially,
and emotionally as one betters one's own. Living out the gospel means sharing in
the suffering and pain of others.
Read more »
Reconciliation People To God
Reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel. Jesus said that the essence of
Christianity could be summed up in two inseparable commandments: Love God, and
love thy neighbor. (Mt 22:37-39) First, Christian Community Development is
concerned with reconciling people to God and bringing them into a church
fellowship where they can be discipled in their faith.
Read more »
Redistribution Just Distribution of Resources
When men and women in the body of Christ are visibly present and living among
the poor (relocation), and when people are intentionally loving their neighbor
and their neighbor's family the way a person loves him or herself and family
(reconciliation), the result is redistribution, or a just distribution of
Read more »
The primary goal of leadership development is to restore the stabilizing glue
and fill the vacuum of moral, spiritual, and economic leadership that is so
prevalent in poor communities by developing leaders. This is most effectively
done by raising up Christian leaders from the community of need who will remain
in the community to live and lead.
Read more »
Listening to the Community
Often communities are developed by people outside of the community that bring
in resources without taking into account the community itself. Christian
Community Development is committed to listening to the community residents, and
hearing their dreams, ideas and thoughts. This is often referred to as the "felt
need" concept. Listening is most important, as the people of the community are
the vested treasures of the future.
Read more »
The community of God's people is uniquely capable of affirming the dignity of
the poor and enabling them to meet their own needs. It is practically impossible
to do effective wholistic ministry apart from the local church. A nurturing
community of faith can best provide the thrusts of evangelism, discipleship,
spiritual accountability, and relationships by which disciples grow in their
walk with God.
Read more »
Oftentimes, many in ministry get passionate and involved in one area of need
and think if they solve this particular problem that all else will be resolved.
Christians, of course, often focus this area on a personal relationship with
Jesus Christ. Of course, the most essential element to Christian Community
Development is evangelism and discipleship. Yet solving problems with lasting
solutions is more than evangelism and discipleship.
Read more »
Empowering people as community developers meet their needs is an important
element to Christian Community Development. How does a pastor ensure that people
are able to help themselves after they have been helped? Oftentimes, Christian
ministry, particularly in poor communities, creates dependency. This is no
better than the federal government welfare program. The Bible teaches
empowerment, not dependency.
Read more »
The following is an insightful article by Bob Lupton, author of Toxic Charity, and the founder and president of FCS (focused community strategies) Urban Ministries. It deals with the topic of short term missions and the emerging truth that they can often do more harm than good.
For more info and tons of great resources, check out the FCS website http://fcsministries.org/
Asking the Right Questions about Serving by Bob Lupton June 2012
Planning a mission trip or service project? Want to make sure you are helping rather than hurting?
The following questions will help you determine whether your service will be transformative or toxic.
Whose needs are you serving?
You want this to be a meaningful experience for your group. But if most of your planning energy is being invested in ensuring that the event will be “a life-changing experience” for your members, this may be a clue that it is more about serving your group than serving the poor. This is a particularly difficult question for mission pastors and youth leaders since they are hired to minister primarily to church members. A well organized, spiritually-motivated, hands-on mission trip can be very satisfying to volunteers and yield moving accounts for back-home reporting. It is doubtful, however, that a “what-works best-for-us” approach will have transformative impact among those on the receiving end who are expected to accommodate to the schedules and preferences of their resourced visitors.
Is the proposed activity meeting a real need?
An African woman recently told us that as a child she never understood why Americans loved to paint so much. In preparation for the Americans’ arrival in her rural village her classmates were instructed to deface the school building with mud and stones so their guests would have something to paint. Her entire school building was repainted five times in the four years she was a student there. Extreme example? Perhaps. But unfortunately it is representative of the make-work projects often created to make compassionate volunteers feel good about serving. If a project is truly important to those being served, they will be first investors in that effort with their own leadership, labor and resources.
Is the proposed mission a top priority?
A group recently returning from Haiti recounted their experience of seeing mothers carrying infants wrapped in dirty rags and newspapers. Moved with compassion, the mission group purchased blankets and distributed them to the mothers. The following day the blankets appeared in the shops along the street, sold by the mothers to local merchants. Discovering the babies still swaddled in filth, the missioners were highly incensed – until it was explained to them that the mothers sold the blankets to buy food for their babies. Food, not blankets, was the higher priority. To determine the true hierarchy of need, enough time must be spent among the needy to understand the daily survival pressures they face. Repairing an inner-city widow’s rotting porch may not be as important as getting her water turned back on. Adapting our mission to the priorities of the poor is key to redemptive service.
Are the poor capable of doing this for themselves?
The poor are weakened when well-meaning people deprive them of the incentives and rewards of their own hard-won achievements by doing for them what they have the capacity to do for themselves. As one leader of a micro-lending ministry in Nicaragua lamented when describing the effects of US church partnerships, “They are turning my people into beggars.” Why get a loan to build their own church, the peasants reason, when the Americans will do it for them? Predictable by-products of such service include increased dependency, erosion of work ethic, and loss of dignity. Conversely, indigenous capacity-building is encouraged by joint efforts like co-investing, micro-lending and reciprocal partnerships.
How will you measure success?
Typically churches evaluate their service projects and mission trips by the number of volunteers involved, the activities performed, and the impact on participating members. Less attention is paid to the results on the receiving end of charity. If, however, preserving the dignity and self-esteem of recipients is important to you, then you will want to assess the amount of mutual collaboration, leadership sharing and reciprocity structured into your event. If your goal is to actually empower those you serve, you will focus less on volunteer activities and more on measurable longer-term outcomes such as leadership development, increased self-sufficiency, and educational and economic advancement.
Is it cost-effective?
The money one campus ministry spent on a spring break mission trip painting an orphanage in Honduras was enough to hire two unemployed local painters, two full-time teachers, and supply new uniforms for every child in the school. The cost of most mission trips is out of all proportion to the return on investment (ROI) when comparing it against the actual value of the service being performed. The billions spent annually on such junkets might be justified as a legitimate cost of spiritual development for church members but it lacks integrity if billed as effective mission strategy. Wise stewardship requires thoughtful assessment of the cost-effectiveness of mission investments.
A few suggestions to avoid mission toxicity.
Mission projects can be genuinely redemptive. The best ones are joint ventures with mature, indigenous ministries that understand both the culture and healthy cross-cultural partnering. A few reality-tested principles provide a “code of conduct” to guide invited volunteer guests toward sensitive, mutually transforming relationships:
*Never do for others what they can do for themselves (teach a man to fish).
*Limit one-way giving to emergencies (most needs are chronic, not crisis).
*Employment, lending, investing are best (use grants sparingly as incentives).
*Subordinate self-interests to the interests of the poor (is this for our good or theirs?).
* Listen to what is not being said (many needs are not immediately voiced).
*Above all, do no harm.
Interview with the authors of When Helping Hurts:How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and...Yourself.
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, is one of the essential books for someone who is interested in working with those experiencing poverty, whether in North America or the Majority World, or for anyone contemplating mission trips. It was written by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert as part of their work with the Chalmers Center, an organization focused on poverty alleviation strategies throughout the world. All profits from the sale of the book go directly to benefit the Chalmers Center's work. The book focuses on how to properly define poverty and uses the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach ,which seeks to maximize a community's strengths rather than focusing on its weaknesses. The book also identifies negative thought patterns "helpers" are prone to developing and offers new ideas on how to see those in need and ourselves, because "good intentions are not good enough." For those wanting to take an honest look at what research and what people in poverty say is actually working for them and what is not, this is a must read.
Go to http://whenhelpinghurts.org to find out how to become part of the Helping Without HurtingNetwork.
The following is from the Chalmers Center website. For more info, visit http://chalmers.org
How We Define Poverty: What is Poverty?
“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.”Bryant Myers
Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational DevelopmentPoverty is about broken relationships.Most Christians lack a biblical foundation for holistic ministry to people who are poor and fail to see how central such ministry is to the church’s mission. At the start of His earthly ministry, Jesus said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (Luke 4:43). The kingdom of God is the reconciliation of the entire cosmos through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:19). Jesus and his followers declared the good news of the kingdom through both words and deeds to the blind, the lame, the deaf, the mute, the leper, and the poor (Luke 7:18-23; 9:1-2; 10:9). As His body and fullness, the church is to continue Christ’s work of declaring his kingdom—in both words and deeds—to the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40). Unfortunately, the evangelical world has been paralyzed by a truncated gospel which reduces the reign of Christ to saving souls, thereby undermining the biblical concern for the whole person. A shift in thinking is needed to enable the church to pursue the whole gospel, for the whole person, and the whole world.
How we answer the question – What is poverty? – determines the solutions we propose. A misdiagnosis of the problems related to poverty results in remedies that are ineffectual and even harmful. Good intentions are not enough. Unfortunately, Christians often have faulty assumptions about the root causes of poverty and its solutions. As a result, we often end up hurting people living in poverty and ourselves in the process of trying to help them.
In order to help people in poverty we need to have a biblically consistent framework which conceives of poverty as being rooted in the effects of the fall on the four foundational relationships that God established for each person: relationships with God, self, others, and creation. When defined in this way, at our base level we’re all poor because none of us experience the fullness that God intended for each of these relationships. For the economically poor, these broken relationships often include shame, a marred identity, social isolation, and a lack of a sense of vocation that contribute to a lack of income. For the economically rich, these broken relationships manifest themselves in pride, selfishness, workaholic tendencies, materialism, etc. that lead to all sorts of individual and social ills. Unfortunately, when the economically rich interact with the economically poor, they tend to do so in such a way that exacerbates the shame that the economically poor feel, while also exacerbating the pride of the economically rich. Central to poverty alleviation is embracing our own mutual brokenness so that we can truly help others without hurting them and ourselves.
Freedom in Christ: Following Jesus' example of living free from being ruled by the world through trusting in God. (Luke 4)
There are many verses in the Bible about freedom. The Bible proclaims that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that the truth will set you free. It also warns us not to trade that freedom in for the heavy burden of unnecessary religious traditions, or to abuse it by using it as an excuse to act selfishly and hurt others.
So what does living freely look like as a Christian? In Luke chapter four, Jesus tells us why He came to earth and gives us a powerful example of how to live out the freedom we have through a relationship with God. Jesus is fresh from getting baptized and is "full of the Spirit". He goes to the desert where He is tempted by Satan, whom He resists by quoting scripture. After overcoming tempation, He is "in the power of the Spirit" and goes to a synagogue (church), which "was his custom," (part of His normal routine). He takes His turn reading from the scriptures and chooses to read what the prophet Isaiah said about the promised saviour God was going to send. Jesus read,“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He then declares to everyone that the scripture was fulfilled that day through Him. Some of the people are in awe, but many quickly turn angry and don't believe Him, saying He's nothing but the local carpenter's son. A mob forms and seizes Him and attempts to throw Him off a cliff to kill Him, and He simply "walked right through the crowd and went on His way." He then proceeds to go to work healing people, driving out demons, and teaching the people "with authorithy and power." The chapter ends with Jesus saying, "“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
Jesus shows us how having a relationship with God allows us to walk in freedom in the world. Because He interacts with God and allows Himself to be filled with the Spirit, He is ready to face temptation, which he resists by relying on the power of God's word. In trusting God for victory, He comes out of facing trials filled with power in Spirit. Jesus routinely spends time with God- going to church, reading scripture, praying- and because of this, God is constantly refreshing Jesus' Spirit. This allows Jesus to resist direct attacks from Satan, stand up in front of His hometown and declare in front of people He has known since His human birth that He is in fact the promised saviour, face rejection, keep calm admidst an angry mob wanting to kill Him, all while maintaing focus on carrying out the work God has given Him to do. Jesus' relationship with God allows Him the freedom to trust God and carry out His will instead of being ruled/influenced by the world and reacting in fear. By following Jesus' example we too can learn to let go of the chains of fear, sin, shame, hopelessness, etc. that the world has to offer, and boldly enjoy the freedom in Christ that God intended us to have.