When talking about efforts to alleviate poverty and its effects, do results matter? Or is measuring results better left to conversations about the bottom line in the corporate world? At times, the church’s relationship with the idea of effectiveness can seem confusing.
Here at the Lupton Center, we do believe that results, or a visible, long-term trajectory towards flourishing, matters very much. Still, I receive a lot of questions about this prospect. Those queries often go like this: “But, if someone who is hungry gets fed, or if someone under a bridge gets a bed for the night, isn’t that enough? Isn’t that success?”
Our answer at FCS would mimic an infomercial. “Yes! But wait, there’s more!”
The Lupton Center began because so many of our friends and coworkers discovered that they had a passion to impact their community but did not know how to serve in ways that were truly beneficial to their community. They wanted more than the near-instant results of a full belly or rumpled bed. They knew how to help engage immediate need, but did not know how to engage for long-term impact. It’s this mentality - this hope that more is possible - that we strive for at FCS.
Ultimately, we seek both acts of compassion and calls for long-term, holistic development. We think, at best, they work together for the good of a neighborhood. When a friend or neighbor is facing a momentary crisis, we respond generously to the call to serve, to give, to love in that moment. It isn't about long-term impact or solutions; it is just about compassion and generosity. This reflects "cup of cold water" kind of neighboring. It’s really important and produces a direct and immediate result.
We have seen in our community, though, that fulfilling the royal command of loving our neighbor means that we have to do more than momentary acts of generosity. We have to seek those deeper changes that will prevent the same crises from arising over and over again. The Bible calls us not only to be good Samaritans, but to also untie the yoke, to loose the chains of injustice, and to set the oppressed free. Passages like Isaiah 58 are calling for holistic, system-wide change (or, results). This exhortation causes us to believe that God wants people to thrive. We want that too! To get there, we need to confront the oppressive forces of chronic poverty while not neglecting acts of compassion.
We’re so excited to partner with our neighbors and be led by God in both the instantaneous moments of mercy and the longer haul of seeking the result of a flourishing neighborhood.