1. I LOVE to read…fiction. Cry the Beloved Country, The Brothers Karamazov, Wuthering Heights, Harry Potter, Fellowship of the Ring
, Hunger Games…and it would take multiple posts to go into all the reasons I think a good story is actually an amazing way to enter into a good discussion about God, the author of the greatest story ever, a story that we get to be a part of…but I digress.
2. I don’t so much love to read non-fiction (unless its a biography…i.e. a story about a person’s life). Especially when it comes to “church-y” non-fiction (the Bible not included in this category, of course, although my favorite books happen to be “story”…Genesis and the gospels!). Pete LOVES to read church-y non-fiction. He’s already talked on this blog about some of his favorite authors…Bonhoeffer, Nouwen, Willard, etc. I can’t even count the number of books Pete has read about leadership, discipleship, Christian ministry, church planting, etc. He’s awesome. (I did convince him to read Harry Potter, by the way, and he’s glad he did. Just saying.)
Well, everyone, I just made Pete fall in love with me even more because in the past month I finished not one but TWO non-fiction church-y books and I ENJOYED them. Seriously enjoyed them. But now my brain is constipated. I really want to review them for you, but it’s late and some really smart people have already reviewed the first one I want to talk about…so I’m just going to direct you to some reviews and then share just a few things I learned from the book.
First…When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert. If you are at all passionate about ministry to the poor, this is a must read, in my opinion. I was challenged, but also encouraged, by this book. There are quite a few reviews of the book out there by various bloggers. One such review is by Kevin DeYoung…if you want a good general overview of the book you can read his 3 part review: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
1. It’s really hard to read a book like this and not feel like I personally need to refocus on simplicity and generosity.
2. I love that the authors have a balance in the book between the realities that poverty is a result of both broken systems and broken individuals. They highlight the need to work for justice in broken systems and redemption in broken individuals. (read…social justice and evangelism…they go together, they really do…)
3. The authors define poverty as existing where one or more of the four foundational relationships for each person are broken: a relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation.
4. One of the central points the authors address in the book is that “one of the biggest problems in many poverty-alleviation efforts is that their design and implementation exacerbates the poverty of being of the economically rich (their god-complexes) and the poverty of being of the economically poor (their feelings of inferiority and shame). (p. 65)
5. Poverty alleviation is the ministry of reconciliation: moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation. (p. 78) (In my opinion…this would be something we ALL need, which I think is one of the points the authors are trying to make.)
6. Material poverty alleviation is working to reconcile the four foundational relationships so that people can fulfill their callings of glorifying God by working and supporting themselves and their families with the fruit of that work. (p. 78)
7. There is a distinction in the type of alleviation measures we should take in different situations. The authors elaborate on the differences between relief (urgent and temporary provision of emergency aid), rehabilitation (seeking to restore people and their communities to the positive elements of the pre-crisis conditions), and development (process of ongoing change that moves all people involved–both helpers and helped–closer to being in right relationships. “The key in development is promoting an empowering process in which all the people involved become more of what God created them to be.” (p. 105)
8. And the kicker: “One of the biggest mistakes that North American churches make–by far–is in applying relief in situations in which rehabilitation or development is the appropriate intervention.” (p. 105)
9. The authors go on from this point to give more great examples and principles for helping without hurting, but all of the principles take TIME, are PROCESS oriented, RELATIONALLY driven, and are NOT QUICK FIXES. We so desperately want quick fixes. I love quick fixes. But that is not helpful in most cases in poverty alleviation.
Read the book! Let me know what you think. Ponder its implications. One of the things I really love about the book is that the authors are concerned about poverty everywhere…not just in the Majority World, but also in the US.
Next up…remember, I read TWO books…I’ll be trying my very best to review some things from The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch