I’m experimenting and meddling with my current blogging schedule (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) by doing a Monday edition of Charlie’s Church of Christ. Hope you can handle the disruption to status quo!
I’ve been intending to write this for a month as the follow up to this guy, and the kick in the pants I needed was delivered by a post by M. Scott Boren. He wrote a book about small groups being more than Bible studies to instead be “missional.” Interestingly he doesn’t just mean small groups should serve soup at homeless shelters or do evangelism outreaches, as he sees the church too focused on projects rather than people.
Though I’m all for the church being agents of change in justice and equality, I’m not a big fan of trying to carry out the commission to take care of the poor through programs and ministries.
From what I’ve seen church programs turn the people in need into clients, complete with applications, background checks and the like. By putting them into a client role it creates, purposefully or not, an unhealthy power differential as clients are automatically below us and at our whim. Though such an arrangement can often inspire humility, it can also feel like the organization or program is dangling money and resources over the client’s head.
That may sound like a minor complaint, but I think that Christians should be lifting people up to a more empowered humanity and not be treating the poor like the rest of the world does – as beneath us. Christians love to talk about helping disadvantaged people, but we prefer to place them as clients rather than brothers, sisters or partners.
I think we create this power differential because it helps insulate us from having any sort of emotional or relational connection. We get to go home satisfied that we fulfilled a Biblical command and keep our middle class life clean sterile.
I am in favor of the church focusing on being missional – but in a much more personal and relational way. I think our emphasis on programs and ministries to do these jobs is a product of mega-church mentality that structure and efficiency oriented. It’s efficient, for sure, if our job is redistributing resources, but our job is far more communal.
As I’ve concluded previously, dealing with disadvantaged and the widows and the orphans is difficult. I don’t have answers as to how we should do all of this, and some of the things I think are best are very difficult (give personally, not to an organization that funnels the money). So I offer this as some commentary, and I for sure want yours.