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Becoming Whole

by Brian Fikkert and Kelly M. Kapic

Becoming Whole challenges our presuppositions about what poverty is by looking at the whole story of the world through the lens of the Bible.  A key part of this book is a discussion of stories of change, or how different people believe that change comes about in their lives and circumstances.  Many middle-class Americans, for example, believe that change comes from “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” while lower-income individuals might believe that change is out of their reach entirely, and people in other cultures might believe that change comes from appeasing the spirits. 

By looking at the roots of these stories of change, we can begin to understand the worldviews of those traditionally considered the “helpers” and “recipients of help” and why there is often a clash.  Ultimately, we see that we are all broken people, in need of the help that only Jesus Christ can give as we are transformed into His image, and that we are called to walk with our brothers and sisters in pursuing that change.

This book uncovers two major viewpoints on poverty alleviation that are often unknowingly taken up by people in the West.  The first, Western Naturalism, doubts the existence or relevance of God to the working of the universe.  People are purely individualistic physical beings, and find happiness in consuming material things, ignoring the four key relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation that are key to our lives as people created in the image of God.

The second viewpoint, Evangelical Gnosticism, separates each person’s need for a Savior from their economic needs.  It is a sort of fusion of Western Naturalism and Christianity, but, sadly, loses the fullness of the Gospel.  In a way, this is similar to a common separation of Sunday from the rest of the week, in which Sunday is set apart for “being a Christian,” and the rest of the week is for living your life in the way you choose to live. 

When poverty alleviation programs separate becoming a Christian and saving your soul for when you die from the way you live your life every day, the transformation of the Gospel in the entire person is lost.  It is only in recognizing that Christ’s change in our hearts deeply impacts how we live each moment and make each decision that we start to recognize God’s story of change for us, and we can walk alongside others in pursuing change together.

Becoming Whole integrates theology, economic principles, and sociology in considering the theory behind how people and organizations pursue and promote change in the lives of the poor.  Its companion book, A Field Guide to Becoming Whole, expands on these concepts and applies them to ministry design principles which are easily applicable in real-life situations.  Stay tuned for a review of this book in the coming weeks!

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The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Reopening

Church Fuel has provided a helpful and detailed guide to help churches plan how to reopen safely.  We wanted to share it with you in hopes that it is of help. Here are some of the highlights. (You can view it HERE .)

  1. Form a reopening task force that will work together to make the important decisions and to implement them.
  2. Set a date for reopening. Remember, you don’t have to be the first!  Follow Virginia state guidelines and your best judgement as well.
  3. Outline phases for reopening. Church Fuel provides some good examples of reopening phases which you can adapt to your congregation and facility needs.
  4. Survey your congregation. You’ll want to know how many are ready and willing to return to gathering together and what their concerns are. Find out who is willing to bring their children, or not. Will you have a large number who want to continue joining virtually on Sundays?
  5. Communicate your decision to the public.  Post you clearly outlined plans on your website, on social media, and in a church-wide email. Consider a video to post. Communication is important even if you don’t have all of your plans set or a firm reopening date yet.  Let people know you are planning though!
  6. The guide also gives you some great ideas to prepare your facility as you reopen.  From signs, to sanitation, to a checklist for the cleaning team, they cover all the things you will need to think through before Opening Sunday.
  7. Church Fuel also helps you think through how to move forward with blended services, that is having a live service that is also broadcast or recorded for those who prefer to continue meeting virtually.

We all are looking forward to meeting together again with our respective fellowships of believers.  Reopening will be a harder decision than closing and should be done prayerfully and thoughtfully. In whatever way we meet as a body, we know that the Body of Christ is not defined by the walls of a building but by Christ in us wherever we are! 

Are you a good neighbor?

How would you answer this question?  Could you define in practical terms what it means to be a good neighbor from a Biblical perspective?

This short and practical online course will walk you through 5 ways to redefine a good neighbor and refocus your own life. Each units includes videos, Bible passages, and practical steps that will help you to map, assess and plan to put these new ideas into practice.

You will learn from the likes of Brian Fikkert, Steve Corbett, and Jerilyn Sanders at the Chalmers Center as well as real life examples.  The course examines the attitudes and perspectives of your heart.  You will be challenged in the area of hospitality to those of a different socioeconomic group than yours.  The power of proximity of space– where you spend your time and why – is addressed as well. You will learn how your church can be radically inclusive of people across socioeconomic lines.  What does your wallet – how you use money – say about your love for the poor?

This course can be taken alone or with a learning partner or group.  Walking through it in community would be the best approach toward change as you learn, pray, and act together. 

The course is available through the Chalmers Center and includes 8 short units.   For a group of 15, the course would cost $11.99 per person. 

Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road

By Timothy J. Keller

Pastor Tim Keller draws from the parable of the Good Samaritan to invite the reader into a deeper understanding of what it means to show Godly mercy to those in need.  Keller points out that as followers of Christ we are called to mercy as a sign of our faith.  By expressing Christ-based mercy we meet the felt needs through our deeds, needs that can be psychological, social, economic, and physical. We are motivated toward mercy only through the experience and understanding of God’s wonderful grace toward us sinners.

Pastor Tim Keller draws from the parable of the Good Samaritan to invite the reader into a deeper understanding of what it means to show Godly mercy to those in need.  Keller points out that as followers of Christ we are called to mercy as a sign of our faith.  By expressing Christ-based mercy we meet the felt needs through our deeds, needs that can be psychological, social, economic, and physical. We are motivated toward mercy only through the experience and understanding of God’s wonderful grace toward us sinners.

Keller addresses some uncomfortable aspects of the ministry of mercy such as balancing a lifestyle of giving – how much do you give and how much do you keep?  He highlights the Scriptural model of meeting the needs of fellow believers and balancing that with the need to meet the needs of the lost as a Gospel witness. Keller also discusses at length the oft debated topic of word and deed – how do we balance out the clear spoken message of salvation in Christ with the clear mandate to love others with our deeds. 

The heart of the book though is the second part.  Keller gives us some clear steps to apply these principles in our churches and communities.  As followers of Christ we must stop, look and listen before acting and caring, beginning with our immediate family and neighbors.  The ministry of mercy is not just for the church but for each individual.  Mercy can be a grassroots movement from individuals and/or a result of intentional teaching and motivation by leadership. Keller gives some guidance on organizing mercy ministry that involves the whole church and utilizes individual gifting. 

Mercifully ministering to those in need is a social endeavor that will bring us face to face with broken relationships, relief, social transformation, and justice.  To be most effective we will need to get involved with our communities, be intentionally public in your community, and build a vision statement before recruiting and training volunteers.  

Christ has called and equipped the church to be a light in a broken world, to love and care for the needy.  Ministries of mercy, while meeting felt needs, also meets the spiritual need we all have of a restored relationship with God our Father. 

“Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road” is a great resource for church leadership, or anyone in the church who feels the call of mercy, to take the next step in involving the whole church in this important work of the Gospel.

BLESS EVERY HOME

BlessEveryHome.com began in Kansas City in 1996 as a result of a Cru campaign to distribute the Jesus Film to every household in the city! Today this ministry of Mapping Center for Evangelism and Church Growth has the goal that, by the end of 2020, every home in America will be adopted by neighboring Christians who are committed to being a Light in their neighborhoods through praying for, caring for, sharing the gospel with, and discipling their neighbors.

You can sign up as an individual or as a church. When you sign up you learn the names of your neighbors on an easy to use map, and are able to track your relationship with them on an app or on the website. You also can receive daily emails with the names of 5 neighbors to pray for or care for that day.

As a church, you can encourage your members to sign up as well, and you are able to learn more about your church’s immediate community to pray for , care for and share with them. Churches can also receive free outreach materials such as the Jesus Film on DVD in 8 languages.

Loving the Stranger: Welcoming Immigrants in the Name of Jesus

By Jessica A. Udall

This book is short and simple, yet packed full of encouragement, Biblical truth, and practical ideas to reach internationals in our communities.

Jessica Udall addresses some of the common misconceptions and concerns that Americans might have about reaching out to internationals, such as “Won’t it be awkward?” (Probably.) and “What will we do together?” (Anything you do in your daily life!)

This is especially a great resource for someone wanting to reach out for the first time to his or her community, although it can be an encouragement for anyone working cross-culturally.

You can also subscribe to the author’s blog Loving the Stranger. (https://lovingthestrangerblog.com/)

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Helping Without Hurting in Church Benevolence

How does a church move from writing a check to healing relationships?

In this 150 page, practical book, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert walk us though the why and hows of creating a church benevolence policy and practice focused on changed lives.

Poverty is more than just a lack of material things, write Corbett and Fikkert. Poverty is broken relationships with God, self, others and creation and is best alleviated when we understand what poverty is and what the root causes are.

“If we misdiagnose the causes of their poverty or treat their symptoms rather than their underlying problems, we can do considerable harm to materially poor people in the very process of trying to help them.”

p. 18, Corbett and Fikkert

In this very practical and readable book the authors take the reader step by step to building a benevolence policy in the local church that focuses on transformation. They provide helpful tools and guidelines to put the policy into practice through intake procedures and action plans.

The reader is also guided through what is needed to build your church’s capacity for benevolence. This is not just a committee task but a whole church passion – to be ambassadors of reconciliation and change in the community. This is not a book to read alone, but with your whole leadership team.

  • Online Resources provided
  • 6 week online course coming soon at www.chalmers.org
  • 147 pages
  • Price range $10-12 online
  • Moody Publishers ©2015