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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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Business for the Glory of God by Wayne Grudem

25/03/2012 Comments off

Thank you to christianaudio.com’s audio reviewer program for the opportunity to review this audio.  A humble blessing as usual!

One of the things that has always caused consternation with me about ‘church’ was the separation between ‘leadership’ and ‘laity’, or the professionalization of the ministry.  I will never forget driving to a ministry commitment with a newly invited friend, and about half way to our location, he started weeping.  When I asked him what was wrong, he said, “no one has every let me get into the game, thank you.”  Somehow it had been communicated to my friend that unless he was a pastor, went to seminary, and a part of ‘leadership’ he could never ‘get into the game’ of doing real ministry.  Given that 99% of the population is not in ‘full-time’ ministry as felt by my friend and many others, a treatise reminding us that business can be done for the glory of God is a refreshing change.  On top of that, renown author Wayne Grudem is one that can cause us to take a moment and pause on this topic acknowledging that scripture makes no divide between sacred and secular.

Does the Bible teach on the moral goodness of business?  Can I have a business, work for someone else, or do business with vendors for the glory of God?  Is business, employment, making a profit, competition, and meetings, something that can be done for the glory of God?  Wayne Grudem captures this misnomer regarding business and points us back to scripture.  An apt legitimizer of our secular days which can be redeemed looking toward restoration.

This book when it was originally released (2003) so moved me that I also invested in the Logos version so that I could readily share it with and invest in others.  Having this in audio form was a refreshing reminder to take application onward to implications.  The narrator was interesting, coherent, and enthusiastic about the material and author.  It was evident in inflection, timing, and meditative pauses to get you thinking.  Due to my current employment and being part of a team, it has been a good mission field to take study, prayer, and ‘church’ to real life and join Christ in what He is already doing in the day-to-day. 

  
This work was interesting to me, it inspired, and enlightened me in many ways.  As usual, Wayne Grudem makes you think, holds your attention, while presenting in a cohesive and yet appealing manner.  Refreshing also in that Grudem successfully conveys Biblical truth into the everyday.  I would highly recommend this work to others, with all world-views.

I Am a Follower: The Way, Truth, And Life of Following Jesus (It’s Never Been About Leading) by Leonard Sweet

20/01/2012 Comments off

Published by Thomas Nelson

Thank you Booksneeze.com for the opportunity to receive this work and review it

Leonard Sweet does it again, a meditative analysis of the current professionalization of ministry, addressing the leadership-laity divide and reminding us to be thinking Christians rather than ABC (already been chewed by others) Christianity.  The first time I was confronted with this contemplative Christianity was with John Piper’s Brothers We Are Not Professionals.  When I read Piper’s book I was was in my first year at seminary and I changed my major to an Masters of Divinity in Pastoral Counseling and started working on my NANC certification.  Many turning points later, “I Am a Follower” brought the same timely conviction and gospel-centered reminder that I was ready to hear. In short, an attempt at a summary, one could say this work is about the ‘function’ versus ‘form’ of what it means to be a disciple… a Follower versus entrepreneurial leader.  A fresh and engaging paradigm shift away from leadership classes, coaching, seminars, and webinars so saturating the church today.

Some challenging quotes,

The Place:

Somewhere in the back in the past half century, we diagnosed the churches problem as a crisis of leading, not a crisis of following.  It’s as if we read Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship and decided we’d rather talk about something else entirely. 

We have come to believe that we have a leadership crisis while all along we have been a drought of discipleship.  The Jesus paradox is that only Christians lead by following.

That’s our problem.  The church has become just what Eisenhower predicted:  a place where everyone is trying to get everyone else to do what they want don but don’t want to do themselves.

The Truth:

We are commissioned not to begin a new ministry but to carry on Christ’s ministry on earth.

God does not ask if we are able.  God asks if we are available.

Until we die to the idea that we are somehow ‘ahead of’ or ‘above’ the community of faith around us, we will continue to be frustrated in our attempts to have authentic community that combines real relationships with real discipleship.

Titles are dividers

The ideology of leaders as shepherds does not let God be God.  It is based on the notion that Jesus can’t possibly lead by Himself, so someone has to do it for Him.

The Life:

Disciple makers are above all nudgers.  Rather than preach or pressure, they gently nudge those they meet toward a God who is already active in their world and in their lives.  Nudgers are followers making followers.  Nudge disciples make disciples; they are not followers making leaders.

You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

End of Construction.  Thank you for your Patience – on Ruth Bell Graham’s headstone.

The leadership paradigm of sages and gurus is a solipsistic celebration of ‘people with answers’ who easily hide behind a façade of success and a mask of entitlement.  Sages and gurus give advice—or, more commonly, market it.  But they rarely have any intention of sharing a live with those they give advice to.  A followership community, on the other hand, is an authentic fellowship of disciples bound together by the incarnate Spirit of Christ.

Leadership literature says, “Seek balance.” But did Jesus live a balanced life?  Of did Jesus catch people off balance and leave people unbalanced on the path of a harmonious life?

Jesus was less about giving the right answers than He was about getting His disciples to think about the questions—and sometimes wanting them to marinate in the questions without reaching any definitive answers.  He did not negate the Law, be He went beyond the Law.  Jesus taught in parables, metaphors of living that called for followers to make life decisions holistically.

This book was timely and very interesting to me.  It challenged me, inspired me, and enlightened me even as I struggle with my own selfish ambition.  Sweet made me think long and hard about what it means to be a follower versus the selfish need to lead for my glory. The format and outline held my attention, however I wish the footnotes were on the actual page, flipping back and forth for the great references for further study broke up the flow of reading in my opinion.  I thought Leonard did a great job of presenting this material in a cohesive, yet appealing manner.  I am also convinced that that the author successfully challenged the moral relativism of our idol factories and successfully conveyed Biblical truth.  I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in remembering first things… the main thing.  Excellent read!

The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20 http://www.esvapi.org/assets/play.swf?myUrl=hw%2F40028016-40028020(ESV)

946387: I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus
By Leonard Sweet / Thomas Nelson

"Leadership" has become a runaway obsession for those who are called to equip the body of Christ for service in the Kingdom of God. The concept of "followership" is all but lost in the wake of this leadership fetish, a near hypnotic obsession. Jesus’ clear call, and the pattern of New Testament leadership, are actually found in a pattern of followership. We’ve been told otherwise but when it comes to a movement in our churches, our families, or the workplace, everything rises or falls on followership.

Sweet proposes an intentional shift from leadership cults to followership cultures. He critiques the issue of leadership obsession but focuses on reigniting a passion for the "follow me" theme found throughout the gospels and the entire New Testament. Building on a set of metaphors/images, he stirs the imagination by showing what it means to be a follower of Christ and explains the vital cog that followership and the first follower play in helping others enter into the Kingdom of God.

I Am A Follower moves readers:

  • from leaders that are over to followers that are among
  • from sages and gurus to scouts and guides
  • from Saul’s armor to David’s sling
  • from having the right answers to asking the right questions
  • from architects to gardeners

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!

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