By Shawn Duncan I would like to offer a recommendation for Bob Lupton’s new book Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like if We Cared About Results.
To tell you why I think this book is so important I first need to talk about a crazy trick your eyes and brain like to pull on you.
First, A Word About Your Brain
Have you ever looked up at a clock and sworn that the second hand lasted for at least two seconds? It's weird, huh?
Good news - you're not crazy! What you are experiencing is your brain's response to a saccade. You see, when your eyes rapidly move from one object to another your brain should register for a blurry image. Instead, your brain instantaneously edits the blur out and replaces it with a duplicate of what your eyes land on. This is what creates the effect of chronostasis - time standing still.
So what I should see is:
my book---then blurry stuff as I look up to the clock---then the second hand lasting a second.
However, my brain does a fancy edit so that what I do see is:
my book---then the second hand---then the second hand again.
So, one second registers as two. I told you you're not crazy (at least not for that reason).
Why am I talking about saccades and chronostasis, and what does it have to do with charity?! Well, just give me a second (or two!) and I'll tell you.
Whether it is with clocks or more serious matters of human relationships and social issues, our brains love to erase blurry complexity and give us simple categories. It makes the world easier to process. Our brains get tired trying to sort through complexity and nuance. This category-creating habit leads to dichotomies, that age-old and too-often exercised assumption that things can be parsed into two contrasting sides.
My point? We need to start embracing the blur.
A commonly accepted dichotomy pits business and ministry against one another. Our acceptance of these simple categories is partly to blame for why the greatness of our investment in charity is not matched with great results.
I know I’m guilty of this! You know…business is about cold numbers and calculations, a ruthless pursuit of the bottom line. Ministry, however, is personal. It's about relationship, compassion and heart. Results is about success and applies to depersonalized business practices. Ministry is about our motivations and intentions, good people giving sacrificially to do good works.
Now, A Word About the Book
What the charity world needs more than ever is people courageous enough to challenge what we think is good about our ministry models and to highlight the redemptive nature of the business practices we have ignored. Dr. Lupton is one of those courageous people. And his latest book, Charity Detox, is the place where he does just that.
I’m not going to summarize the book for you, though you can listen to my interview with Bob about some of its key points (see link at the end). What I am going to do is tell you why I think this book is so important.
In this book Bob asks us one of the most important questions concerning our charity efforts: do we care about results?
In other words: Are we interested in seeing families thrive or are we just interested in distributing resources to them? Are we content measuring volunteer activity or do we actually want to measure outcomes?
Dr. Lupton, speaking from forty years of experience in neighborhood experiencing poverty, is compassionate enough to tell us the bad news about traditional models of charity - they are not moving the poverty needle. People, families, and communities are not being moved out of poverty through our service efforts, programs, and mission trips.
But, thankfully, the book does not leave you there. Actually, only one chapter states the problem. The rest of the book moves you through a story that is as challenging as it is compelling revealing that there is a better way. Using some of the best practices of business that are successfully being applied in contexts of poverty, this book shows how we can chart a new course…and actually make a difference!
If you want to see families experiencing poverty thrive, are willing to face the hard truths about ineffective models and are eager to learn about better paradigms, this book is for you!