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Toxic Charity Book Review–thank you Metanoia (Bill Stanfield)

05/05/2012 Comments off

This is the a rare review without an assignment from a publisher, this book was referred to me by Bill Stanfield of Metanoia, who is DOING (James 1:22 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F59001022(ESV) what this book talks about, I was referred to him through numerous non-believers in the Charleston area that are struck by what he is accomplishing (1 Timothy 3:7 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F54003007(ESV), and good book referrals are an evidence of God’s grace in a world of 140 characters of less.  Thank you Bill!

I heard someone say, we are so busy with our meetings, service projects, outreaches, and programs that believers cannot ever truly make an impact with their neighbor.  A few years ago I was convicted through reading When Helping Hurts, that there is something wrong with the way ‘ministry’, ‘charity’ or ‘benevolence’ work is done.  What I have realized since then, is that good intentioned believers may read a work like this (Toxic Charity or WHH) and like my years with trying to engage other believers with the presupposition of true biblical counseling, the eyes are opened for a short while, but later with the pressures of ministry, congregations, and depravity, it is back to the way we are used to doing it.  Back to the ‘Christian’ programs, back to the ‘Christian’ food banks, back to the short, quick fix, did-my-good-deed-check-my-box without a commitment.

Although TC is not as saturated with scripture as WHH and tends to be a little more caustic, it is still a new book in my arsenal of removing the haze from their eyes when it comes to rethinking making an impact with others.  This book was interesting to me, it challenged me, and enlightened me, that this topic is not going away.  Other believers are trying to wake up Christians as well, and it appears that maybe a few are listening? I think the thing that strikes me the most about these works is that many of the foundational principles are already in effect because of common grace, but in many instances, non-believers are convicted, apply, and see the implications better than routine believers.

What do I mean?  I think quotes will help with that;

Dependency.  Destroying personal initiative.  When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them. (3)

Our memory is short when recovery is long.  We respond with immediacy to desperate circumstances but often are unable to shift from crisis relief  to the more complex work of long-term development. (6)

Everywhere I looked, I observed the same patterns, from overseas church mission trips to the inner-city service projects of campus organizations.  Wherever there was sustained one-way giving, unwholesome dynamics and pathologies festered under the cover of kindheartedness. (35)

Churches want their members to feel good about serving the poor, but no one really wants to become involved in messy relationships. (57)

Relationships built on need tend to be short-lived. (60)

The local church is an institution with institutional needs.  It is important to understand this.  It begins with an informal group of like-minded people who come together for fellowship and worship, it evolves into structured organization with budgets and staff and buildings, and finally it matures into an enduring institution.  It functions like all other institutions—with stated mission and an intrinsic motivation to preserve and protect its own interests.  The lion’s share of church budgets are spent on meeting the needs of the congregation, not for the needs of the outside communities.  To earmark mission-trip expenditures as primarily for spiritual benefit of members would be in keeping with traditional church budgeting.  It is important to understand this so that we will not be disappointed by unrealistic expectations. (70)

And the number of church members volunteering in outreach programs measures only activity, not outcomes.  (76)

When leadership is committed to outcomes rather than activity, to measureable results rather than budget size or number of engaged members, changes in mission focus can be navigated with an acceptable level of disruption. (78)

For disadvantaged people to flourish into their full, God-give potential, they must leave behind dependencies that impede their growth.  Initiatives that thwart their development, though right motivated, must be restructured to reinforce self-sufficiency if they are to become agents of lasting and positive change. (102)

Experienced microlending organizations have identified three essential elements for successful microloans:  The borrower must have (1) an ingrained work ethic, (2) a demonstrated entrepreneurial instinct, and (3) a stable support system. (120)

Is your church engaged in community development ministry?  All answered in the affirmative.  But when asked to name their target neighborhood and there transformative goals, none was able to give a definitive answer.  All were in engaged in community service of various sorts, but none were focused on transforming a specific community. (133)

What is required to transform a deteriorating neighborhood is a geographically focused vision with measurable goals over extended time. (133)

In short, become an expert in your community.  Immerse yourselves in every aspect of community life.  Volunteer as appropriate, but make no long-term commitments.  Be interested, supportive neighbor for at least six months before attempting to initiate any new activity. (160)

Is there a way we can bring more human dignity to the process of exchange rather than simply using one-way giving?

Can we increase our personal involvement with those in crisis to assist them with housing, day care, or other support while they get back on their feet? (182)

Robert Lupton (author) does make you think about your activities with charity.  The material was well laid out, held my attention (lots of great application stuff in it as well), and the information was presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner.  I think more scripture, possibly from a creation, fall, redemption and consummation perspective might bring some more convicting applications, but also driving home implications of what is being suggested.  I would highly recommend this book to ANYONE (believers and non-believers)

076205: Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help
By Robert D. Lupton / Harpercollins Publishing

Public service is a way of life for Americans; giving is a part of our national character. But compassionate instincts and generous spirits aren’t enough, says veteran urban activist Robert D. Lupton. In this groundbreaking guide, he reveals the disturbing truth about charity: all too much of it has become toxic, devastating to the very people it’s meant to help.

In his four decades of urban ministry, Lupton has experienced firsthand how our good intentions can have unintended, dire consequences. Our free food and clothing distribution encourages ever-growing handout lines, diminishing the dignity of the poor while increasing their dependency. We converge on inner-city neighborhoods to plant flowers and pick up trash, battering the pride of residents who have the capacity (and responsibility) to beautify their own environment. We fly off on mission trips to poverty-stricken villages, hearts full of pity and suitcases bulging with giveaways-trips that one Nicaraguan leader describes as effective only in "turning my people into beggars."

In Toxic Charity, Lupton urges individuals, churches, and organizations to step away from these spontaneous, often destructive acts of compassion toward thoughtful paths to community development. He delivers proven strategies for moving from toxic charity to transformative charity.

Proposing a powerful "Oath for Compassionate Service" and spotlighting real-life examples of people serving not just with their hearts but with proven strategies and tested tactics, Lupton offers all the tools and inspiration we need to develop healthy, community-driven programs that produce deep, measurable, and lasting change. Everyone who volunteers or donates to charity needs to wrestle with this book.

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The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief by Larry Alex Taunton

14/12/2011 Comments off

Thank you Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to review this book

After a short term mission trip, the author and his family discern their hearts being knit to an HIV positive Ukrainian girl.  What transpires is the journey the Taunton family begins in the process of adopting Sasha – the main character.  Mixed with some insightful contextualization and historical narrative, the author weaves a blow by blow narrative and how a Christian worldview filters the arduous process of adoption in a foreign country.

The reason I chose this book was for the title and the quote;

Simply defined, the ‘grace effect’ is an observable phenomenon that life is demonstrably better where authentic Christianity flourishes.

I anticipated an evangelistic story in which relational dynamics over the long haul would result in a transformed life – a conversion to Christianity perhaps.  What I discovered was that the author was more impacted by the adoption events and his relationship with a famous atheist than this being a ‘how-to’ regarding relational evangelism. 

Mr. Taunton starts and ends the work relaying some background of his relationship with Christopher Hitchens in which we see relational dynamics and cordiality that is very inspiring and did much to disarm the traditional assumptions of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ in apologetic engagements.   There is much to be seen in this authentic relationship dynamic that reflects the author’s quote above and much that Christians could learn in engaging the culture with non-believers. 

The work was very interesting with both the conversations with Hitchens and with the ordeal of the adoption process.  It challenged, inspired, and enlightened me in many areas; the cost (materially, spiritually, etc) in the adoption process, but also I was impacted with the weaving of the authors reformed faith throughout the work. The format and outline of the book did much to reflect a struggle with a Christian worldview in a predominately atheist culture and friends.  The reflection of events to teach Sasha the alphabet was also inspiring as well.  The chapter opening quotes were fantastic and related to the subject matter and set a great meditative tone for the post writing of the chapter. 

I thought the author did a good job of presenting the information in a cohesive, yet appealing manner of a story.  I was also struck by the way the the author successfully conveyed Biblical truth throughout.  Scripture was used in context, hermeneutically accurate and relevant..  Although I was expecting a different type of book, and normally don’t read these types of books, I would recommend this book to others who are pursuing adoption in another country so that they could realize the cultural dynamics of other countries.  I think the author did a great job of showing that it is easy to take our freedom of religion – specifically Christianity in America for granted, and the freedoms we have to walk out our worldview and expect the same respect and how submitting to cultural dynamics actually wins in the end.  The included discussion guide I think is the best part of the work and would have perhaps, liked to have seen this weaved into the chapters versus an addendum – where the temptation is to be flippant versus engage it as part of the chapter.  It could have brought more to a meditative element to the quote above throughout the work.

554406: The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief
By Larry Taunton / Thomas Nelson

The 360° Leader–John Maxwell Book Review

15/11/2011 2 comments

You can lead from right where you are!  In John Maxwell’s new book, he outlines how to lead up, lead to the side and lead down from where you are in ANY organization.  “This fantastic book is based on the knowledge that good leaders are not only capable of leading their followers but are also adept at leading their superiors and their peers. 360° Leaders can lead effectively, regardless of their position in an organization.”

For years I have struggled to lead, always impatient with the dead silences, and for the most part, a reluctant leader tainted by bitterness of the solitary leading I have been a part of and this book gave me hope.  Why?  To me, I was reminded that leadership is influence and influence happens dramatically from the middle.  It is high stress, low recognition, intensive, and not the place many folks want to be in…until now.  I was so struck by this book as God has been working in my life to rescue my ambition for this past year, preparing me to realize that THIS is was what I was called to do.  This also showed me that much discipleship can occur from the middle that dramatically influences everyone in an organization.  This book was so interesting I also purchased the audio version so that I could redeem my commute!  I also took the assessment, which was very helpful to show that I have much to work on in the areas of;

  • Investing in relational chemistry
  • Putting completing fellow leaders ahead of competing with them
  • Giving rewards for results
  • Exhibiting a whatever-it-takes attitude toward helping my team and/or organization
  • Considering how decisions or events will impact people above, beside, and below me
  • Adapting to my leader’s personality while still being my genuine self
  • Being attuned to my leader’s weak areas but focusing on his/her strengths
  • Accurately evaluating opportunities according to my leader’s priorities
  • Praise the strengths and accomplishments of peers
  • Exhibiting a sincere motivation to help my peers succeed
  • Remaining friends with peer competitors
  • Seeking to collaborate with my peers to fill in knowledge and skill gaps
  • Embracing and enjoying acceptable humor with co-workers
  • Seeking to celebrate the differing strengths of my peers and seek to get to know them better
  • Not taking rejection of my ideas personally
  • Actively seeking out a cause for those who have disengaged from a task or a relationship
  • Encouraging followers by catching them doing something right
  • Adapting my leadership style according to what my people need
  • Considering what I have personally modeled before criticizing the behaviors of my followers (or my leaders)
  • Being strategic in rewarding outcomes I want repeated
  • Seeking to align pay with results achieved
  • Praising effort, but rewarding results

Some of these (especially the underlined ones) were areas I have been blind to and I can see looking back (starting businesses, planting churches, leading ministries, etc), if I had thought more about being intentional with them, I might have ‘lead’ better and not hurt as many as I have.  This book was very interesting to me and it challenged, inspired, and enlightened me on how selfish I really am and how patient people have been with me.  John Maxwell made really think about my ambitions and he held my attention well.  As with all of John’s books (and I have read quite a few of them) the information was impeccably presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner which gave me hope that leading from the middle is NOT something to avoid but embrace.  Although I was a little disappointed that there was not a lot of scripture in the book itself, but being acquainted with John’s writings, ministry, and life, it is very evident that much of this book is based upon biblical principles which successfully convey Biblical truth.   I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about serving and investing in others, not just for leaderships sake but to be a better witness for the Gospel.  If there was any scripture I was reminded of reading this book, it was;

Christ’s Example of Humility

2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F50002001-50002011(ESV)

Thank you Booksneeze for this investment in me, and by far this is the best book I have reviewed for you so far.  Thank you!

Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You by Andy Stanley–Audio Book Review

21/07/2011 2 comments

Thank you to Christian Audio Reviewers program for access to this audio!

Andy Stanley describes 4 obstacles in the life of a believer (and I would also propose non-believer too) of guilt, anger, greed and jealousy.  Through life examples and biblical references, we see how there is no disconnect regarding the prescription for these maladies.

I have wanted to read something by Andy for a while, however with this audio I found it hard to stay focused on the audio due to the narration.  Although the topic was enticing and engaging, the narration left something to be desired (and I gave it a fair shot by listening to it a few times before writing this review).

The audio did challenge me to revisit studies have have done on the 4 enemies and it was good for me to revisit my biblical counseling foundations in these areas in my life.  Although the author attempted to convey biblical truth I was turned off by the therapeutic gospel elements of the tone of the book.

I must confess however that the information was presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner and I can give Andy a charitable judgment in that I believe he was attempting to successfully convey Biblical truth.  I would not recommend this book to others because I believe that stories, reflections, or revisiting sin history do not take the place of confession (which he does address) or repentance and especially obedience to scripture when it comes to the 4 enemies.

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