The Wildflower

I remember as a young child in Africa coming upon a wild tulip in the jungle at the side of the road. A cement block had apparently fallen off a truck and rolled down the embankment to the jungle’s edge. Now the stem of the wildflower was twisted and gnarled as it had struggled to grow from under the cement block. It had contorted itself first this way and then that, seeking the light of day, until it had at long last found the edge of the blockage. Once freed, it had taken off as best it could in an upward direction. Its struggle had produced a tulip, but it was stunted, small and weak, exhausted. A flower alive, but barely. Its early struggle to overcome its blockage had sapped its strength, potential and growth. Consider this illustration.

1.What are the top two “cement blocks” in the world of children that need to be removed? Explain your choices.
2.Where do you see yourself fitting into the effort to make this vision a reality?
3.What is one thing you can do/or might be able to do while on this trip to make the environment of the children you influence more suitable for their growth?

Too Small To Ignore, Dr Wess Stafford

Just Children: A Call to Arms

Stafford encourages us to become child advocates – those who will speak up for children. Read Luke 12:48.
1.What is your reaction to the statement: “A Church begins to die when it says, ‘They were just children’.
2.Do you feel like you’ve been given or entrusted with much? Explain.
3.What do you think might be demanded or asked of you by God in relation to children?
4.Given your social, intellectual, financial and spiritual resources, what might be the most significant thing you can offer as a child advocate?

Too Small To Ignore, Dr Wess Stafford

When Helping Hurts – Why did Jesus come to earth?

Why did Jesus come to earth? Most Christians have a ready answer to this question. However, there are actually nuanced differences in how Christians think about this most basic issue, and those small differences can have dramatic consequences for all endeavors, including how the church responds to the plight of the poor. Let’s examine how Jesus Himself understood His mission.

Jesus’ earthly ministry began one Sabbath day in a synagogue in Nazareth. Week in and week out, Jews gathered in this synagogue to worship under the chafing yoke of the Roman Empire. Aware of Old Testament prophecy, these worshipers were longing for God to send the promised Messiah who would restore the kingdom to Israel, reigning on David’s throne forever. But centuries had gone by with no Messiah, and the Romans were running the show. Hope was probably in short supply. It is in this context that the son of a carpenter from that very town stood up and was handed a scroll from the prophet Isaiah.

Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“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.” … The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:17-21

Read more from the first chapter of When Helping Hurts.

When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

McDevelopment: 2.5 billion people NOT served

Wanting to assist a village in Columbia with its rice production, a nonprofit organization gathered the villagers into a cooperative and bought them a thresher, a motorized huller, a generator, and a tractor. Rice production boomed, and the cooperative sold the rice at the highest price the farmers had ever received.

The project appeared to be a tremendous success. The nonprofit organization then left the village, but several years later one of its staff members returned to find that the cooperative had completely disbanded and that all of the equipment was broken down and rusting away in the fields. In fact, some of the equipment had never been used at all. Yet, as the staff member walked through the village, the people pleaded with him, “If [your organization] would just come help us again, we could do so much!”.

“The role of the outsider is not to do something to or for the economically poor individual or community, but to seek solutions together with them.” – Corbett and Fikkert

How does this effect the efforts or work of your ministry to others?

Read more about this topic from When Helping Hurts on Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox newsletter.

When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

North American Christians in the twenty-first century

Psalm 119:105, 130, Matthew 28:18-20, 2 Timothy 3:16, Timothy 4:5
…The dynamics just described are particularly dangerous for North American Christians in the twenty-first century. On the one hand, all of us have been heavily influenced by the modern worldview, which believes that human reason and effort are able to understand and control the material world without a need for understanding or relying upon God. As a result, we are very prone to putting our trust in ourselves and in technology to improve our lives, forgetting that it is God who is the Creator and Sustainer of us and of the laws that make the technology work. On the other hand, many of us are now being influenced by a postmodern worldview, which argues that absolute truth is not knowable: “What is true for me might not be true for you. What this Bible passage says to me, it might not say to you.” the influence of postmodernism is making many North American Christians fearful of engaging in evangelism and discipleship activities, lest they be imposing their culturally bound interpretation of Scripture onto other cultures. “Who are we to tell them what the Bible says?”While postmodernism has provided some helpful corrections to modernism’s overconfidence, shackling people from communicating the transcendent truth of the Scriptures is not one of them.

Do the ministries to the poor with which you are involved narrate that God is the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of the technology, resources, and methods that you are bringing? Or are you inadvertently communicating that the power is in the technology, resources and methods?

When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

He is reconciling all things

Read Colossians 1:16-17
The good news of the gospel of the kingdom is that Christ is not just sustaining all things, but He is reconciling all things. One day all of the assets – natural resources, individual, neighborhood associations, schools, business, governments, etc. – will be liberated from their “bondage to decay”. Jesus Christ created, sustains, and is redeeming assets in poor communities. As the body of  Christ, the church should seek to do the same.

When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

How Christ has motivated you to serve

Read I Peter 3:15 When you visit other cultures, people are curious and will want to know why you have come. How will you answer this? “to work on a building” or “to teach a class” may be appropriate answers, but perhaps there is a better answer.  Maybe this is an opportunity to articulate more than the obvious. Maybe this is an open door to share the spiritual dimension of your answer. Sometimes telling your story may include how Christ has motivated you to serve.

Before You Pack Your Bag Prepare your heart, Cindy Judge

Four Foundational Relationships

God established four foundational relationships for each person: a relationship with God, with self, with others and the rest of creation.

Stop and think: If poverty is rooted in the brokenness of the foundational relationships, then who are the poor? Due to the comprehensive nature of the fall, every human being is poor in the sense of not experiencing these four relationships in the way that God intended. Every human being is suffering from a poverty of spiritual intimacy, a poverty of being, a poverty of community, and a poverty of stewardship. We are all simply incapable of being what God created us to be and are unable to experience the fullness of joy that God designed for these relationships. Every minute since the fall, each human being is the proverbial “square peg in a round hole.” We don’t fit right, because we were shaped for something else. For some people the brokenness in these foundational relationships results in material poverty, that is their not having sufficient money to provide for the basic physical needs of themselves and their families.

Think back to a situation in which you have tried to minister to others. In what ways did your approach help both you and them to overcome a poverty of spiritual intimacy, a poverty of being, a poverty of community, and a poverty of stewardship? In what ways did your approach actually contribute to greater “poverty” in the four relationships for both you and them?

When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

We are not the reconciler: Jesus is

Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
We are not the reconciler: Jesus is. However, we are His ambassadors, representing His kingdom and all that it entails to a broken world, which leads to the following definition of poverty alleviation: 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.

When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert