3 Bad Charity Habits to Kick in 2017!

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by Shawn Duncan

‘Tis the season for kicking bad habits and resolving to live healthier. I don’t know what you are thinking for 2017, but a little less queso might be a good idea for me next year!

As you look at making changes not only in your personal life, but in your ministry as well, I would like to offer three steps for kicking the bad habits that make charity ineffective.

Make it mutual.

One major reason why efforts to serve those experiencing poverty are either ineffective or harmful is the lack of authentic relationships. The common paradigm has one group driving across town to bring resources to a different community who appears to lack those resources. This exchange is often done in a transactional, rather than relational, way.

The further the distance there is between those experiencing poverty and those who seek to help, the more ineffective and harmful the efforts will be. It is in the context of kinship - of true belonging - that superficial distinctions fade away between the “have” and “have nots,” those in need and those in plenty.

When we collapse this distance, mutual transformation begins to take place and real solutions to real issues become possible. If you are looking to kick the habits of unhealthy charity, start by building meaningful relationships.  

Engage the mind.

Another bad habit that harms charity is to engage the heart without engaging the mind. When we see painful symptoms of material poverty, we are moved to compassion and want to act on behalf of others. This is a good and healthy thing. It is a part of God’s own image stamped on us.

But compassion for the effects of a problem does not mean we have the ability to solve the underlying causes. Charity is too often content alleviating the symptoms of material poverty without working to disrupt what causes them.

If you are looking to kick the habits of ineffective charity, work to understand what is causing the symptoms and leverage the right skills and expertise to deal with it.

Start Seeking Shalom.

The final piece of advice I’d offer is an unapologetic plug for something we at FCS are super excited about: Seeking Shalom!

You can’t change charity on your own. You need to form a committed and strategic coalition of people who will work together to shift the paradigm in your community. An incredible resource to lead your community into this vital conversation is Seeking Shalom, an online curriculum we have developed that disrupts the traditional charity paradigm, builds a robust biblical framework for understanding poverty, and teaches five core principles for healthy and transformative charity.

Seeking Shalom offers the insights of over 30 thought leaders. We interviewed biblical scholars, those experiencing poverty, innovative practitioners, authors, and community development veterans. By experiencing six compelling online sessions, you will be equipped with the resources needed to change charity for good in 2017.

Learn more and enroll here.

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Our Recent Break-In

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by Jim Wehner

We had a break-in at our offices Sunday night. The damage was minimal, and the loss was limited. The thieves were focused on getting the toys we have been collecting for our Pride for Parents Christmas store. Fortunately, the robbery was interrupted. A couple of staff arrived at the offices late Sunday night after picking up toy donations from a local church Christmas party.  

The experience has led to a conflicted sense of vulnerability and thankfulness. My heart felt vulnerable because of the sense of trespass. It never feels good to have someone enter your space and do damage. The heart wants to ask questions of justification: “Who would do this?”  or “Why on earth would someone take toys that were donated?” This sense of vulnerability kept me awake until the early hours of that Monday morning.

Of course, my head could find a place for thankfulness. I am grateful no one is injured and no possessions were taken that cannot be replaced. I am thankful for a team of passionate Jesus-followers who know this is the time to lean into our calling. This is exactly why we are here. To bring the message of reconciliation to all places.

With that said, I am writing to ask you to lean in with us. We need to replace some toys that were generously donated. We have filed the necessary police reports and communicated with our neighborhood in case we might get a lead on the perpetrators. Nonetheless, we hope to fill the Pride for Parents store, even in the face of loss.

Let me be clear. This loss was not devastating. We lost a couple of large bags full of toys and some office equipment and tools. But  if you have the ability to assist us this holiday season with an extra gift for Pride for Parents or a financial gift to help with replacement/repair costs of the office equipment, we would be so grateful. We have also adjusted our Amazon Wish List to reflect the loss from the break-in.

Thank you so much for caring about FCS and our work! We know God has great things in store for our community, and we are looking forward to a terrific holiday season.

Sincerely!

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Places of Danger

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by Bob Lupton

Sarah could not believe it. It made absolutely no sense. Why would Yahweh require the human sacrifice of their only child? Their miracle child, the promised child of their old age! And yet her husband was unbending. Abraham had heard the voice of Yahweh, he said. And Yahweh told him to offer up his much-loved son Isaac as a sacrifice, had even specified the location where it was to take place – on mount Moriah (Zion).  

How could her husband be so sure? Sarah questioned. What kind of a God would demand such a thing? Other gods perhaps. But not Yahweh! Wasn’t it His miraculous intervention that had enabled them to conceive the child long past their childbearing years? What if Abraham had it wrong!?  

But Abraham showed not a hint of uncertainty as he loaded their donkey with food for the journey and enough wood for a sacrificial fire. If he had doubts, he did not express them to Sarah. Perhaps his confidence would somehow reassure her that Yahweh was good and could be trusted. But there was no peace in her soul – only unspeakable grief – as she watched her husband and their precious, innocent child disappear in the distance. “How could you do this?!” she screamed after them.

We know how the story ends. Yahweh comes through with an alternative sacrifice, Isaac is spared, Abraham is rewarded for his unwavering faith, and Sarah has the joy of seeing her son grow into a fine man. All’s well that ends well, right?

But does it always end well? This is the soul-searching question parents agonize over when they consider a call to move their family into a risky situation. Is this a call to sacrifice my children on the altar of my ministry?

Any parent who has faced the difficult decision of relocating their family into an unsafe environment has experienced the same kind of tension and uncertainty that Sarah and Abraham faced. Is this really a call from God? Will God protect us? What if my children get lured into drugs? Or worse.  

The positive outcome of the Sarah-Abraham-Isaac story makes for inspiring sermon material, but in reality, there are no guarantees. The “God-will-protect-you-if-you-obey-and-have-faith” theology has a spotty history. There are far too many tragedies to naively embrace it as a divine pledge.

When nervous parents have questioned me about this security issue, I have often responded: “There is no safer place than to be in the center of God’s will.” I believed this 35 years ago when I moved my family into a high crime neighborhood in inner-city Atlanta, and I believe it to this day. But devastating personal tragedies have caused me to alter my definition of “safety.” There is a difference between physical safety and spiritual safety.

Physical safety is obviously placed at greater risk on the front lines, where the forces of good and evil are in daily, visible conflict. In such places, there is additional need for protective measures – alarm systems, avoiding the “wrong” streets and “wrong” people, walking with a companion, a big dog. But all of the caution and precaution does not guarantee physical safety. There are still random drive-by shootings and unpredictable break-ins by desperate addicts.

But being “safe in the hands of God” is something altogether different. Immanuel (God with us) safety is the knowledge that no matter what happens, God is with us. Intimately. Inseparably. Immanuel safety is present in the darkest hour, when danger looms, when paralyzing fear seizes the heart, and even when tragedy strikes.

Immanuel safety goes deeper than physical safety. Physical safety can be shattered in an instant by one violent act. Immanuel safety cannot. Immanuel safety is revealed in calamity. Once experienced, it imbeds in the soul a deep confidence that nothing - no tragedy - can separate us from the presence of God.

But this is not what parents hope to hear. They want assurances of protection. They want a safety theology that promises “a hedge of protection” around their precious ones. I wish such a guarantee were available. The lives of the saints down through history, however, portray a very different reality.  

Many of those giants of the faith endured unspeakable hardship, torture, and martyrdom. And their families paid an awful price for their obedience. In our day, even the thought of subjecting our children to danger or pain violates every instinct of responsible parenting. It is understandable, innate. That is why it is so important to rightly discern the calling of God when placing our children at risk.     

We may not be promised physical safety when we follow a call into places of peril. What we are assured of, however, is that in such obedience we position ourselves and our family to witness the miraculous, unpredictable movement of God actively shaping history.

It is here, stepping out on the thin ice of faith, we learn to listen to the promptings of God and discern our unique role in the divine drama. Here, like no other place, we will encounter personally, intimately the living God. In mysterious ways, our struggle and pain are sanctified, transformed into an unshakeable faith, a deep knowing that God is and will always be present with us. And that He is good. In the final analysis, that is enough.    

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