Weekend Java Awards 04.24.15

Apologetics Award: “David Foster Wallace: There is No Such Thing as Not Worshiping” – If you’ve never seen this commencement speech by David Foster Wallace, these are truly some of the most insightful words you’ll ever hear from a secular writer/philosopher. Wilkinson’s summary of Wallace is fantastic.

Platform Building Award: “A Content Marketing Strategy for Creatives” – Not so into blogging and platform building? Here is a shortcut, for creative types.

Non-Fiction Award: “David Ogilvy’s 10 Pieces of Writing Advice” – Short and sweet, this memo from 1952 is chock-full of winning advice.

Fiction Award: “5 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Story” – Thank you to my friend Deborah for sharing this wonderful article with me, on why “Unbroken” didn’t work as a film…and what we can learn.

Preaching Award: “Two Tips for Preaching.” – Years ago, I would have argued against these two pieces of advice. Today, I would scream at you to follow them.

Christianity and Culture Award: “Twice Born’” – My good friends Bobby and Shelly Ross are starring in a PBS series highlighting their in-the-womb surgery for their daughter. This documentary is an amazing example of how Christians can impact culture, without explicitly preaching. Well done, good and faithful servants!

Reading and Literature Award: “Paul Was Inspired…Yet he Wanted Books” – This quote by Charles Spurgeon is fascinating, on the Christian duty to read.

Spiritual Life Award: “The God of Justice Hates False Reports” – Kevin DeYoung nails it on this all too common Christian practice.

Theology Award:Truman’s Lectures on Church History…Free” – One of the best ways to study theology is to study it’s history. Andrew Wilson spends a page convincing you to listen to these new, free lectures by Carl Truman on church history. I find it convincing.

Motivational Award: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” – MARK TWAIN

Fun Award:Yoda Identified in Ancient Medieval Manuscript” – You see this is what I’ve been trying to get across on this blog all along.

The Glimpse of Truth Award: “Flannery O’Connor and the Violence of Grace” –  TGC with a fantastic overview of O’Connor’s moral legacy.

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6 Communication Lessons I Learned from Re-Reading Mere Christianity.

Although I’ve read Mere Christianity several times in the past, this particular round I focused on Lewis’s technique – an angle I’ve not taken before. Although I’d remembered vague lessons about Lewis’s writing, I was struck particularly this round with how ingenious Lewis’s pedagogy really is.

There were several new observations about Lewis’s work I made this time around.

First was Lewis’s “coming alongside” approach to his work. Although Lewis was obviously an elite academic, he doesn’t come across as a snob. He doesn’t argue with critics, he responds. He speaks from his own experience by making use of the first person “I”. He is never vitriolic or polemic, and is honest when he is out of his league. He is never combative in his tone – he also endeavors to sound as though he’s sitting down with you for a fireside chat. His goal, as it is written in one of his old prefaces to the book, was to strike a balance somewhere between “radio” and “essay” (although, he later decided the written version was TOO radio, and formalized it a bit more).

Second, Lewis’s use of metaphor – Lewis does not make a single point without grounding it in concrete reality. This, in part, is due to his theory of language found in other works. Lewis believed that words only have meaning insofar as they relate to concrete realities: things we see, and do, and touch. If words don’t connect to those realities, the words are more or less meaningless. Because of this, Lewis finds it absolutely integral to inculcate his writing not with “theory” but “reality.”

Third, how Lewis presented his metaphors interested me particularly. Unlike most modern writers, Lewis would often not explain his point until he had illustrated it. For him, explaining a point without an illustration would be like making a pot without clay. First, Lewis spins our imaginations, then, he molds them toward his point. So, rather than extrapolate his points, he might do something like this:

1. Suggest an alternative, a problem, or a thesis.

2. Use an illustration with a transitional, “Here’s what I mean,” or, “Think of it like this.”

3. Explain the original suggestion using the illustration.

I’ve noted that this is peculiar to Lewis – it is the opposite of the way most modern writers go about things. First they explicate, then they layer on the metaphor. Lewis is the opposite.

Fourth, I’ve also noticed, in Lewis’s use of metaphor, how careful he was to explain the metaphor. Many modern writers, in attempting to imitate Lewis, throw poetic-type metaphor into their writing. But Lewis doesn’t merely ‘throw it in’ – he will often spend one or two paragraphs explaining: “Now the engine of the ship is like our soul,”, and go on to show how this corresponds to the reality of which he is speaking. He ensures readers cannot take his metaphor in the wrong way. It also goes to show the poetic thoughtfulness with which he chose each analogy – they were field tested, each one, and stood up on four legs, not one.

Fifth, I’ve noted the way that Lewis thought seems to correspond with the writing process itself. I don’t imagine Lewis walking around with these ideas in his head all the time. Rather, it feels more as though he sits down with a question and asks himself, “What does this mean? What is it like? What might people say in objection to it? What is the answer?” It seems for Lewis, like others, writing was how he thought things through. As both Augustine and Calvin have said, “I think as I write, and I write as I think.” Writing was not necessarily the result of Lewis’s thinking so much as its engine.

Finally, I think the genius of Lewis is in his stretching over backward to be as simple as possible. He doesn’t talk down to his readers, but he does talk in baby language. As he mentions in one of his old prefaces to the work, “I think of my readers as sheep, who will go any which way they choose with your words so long as you let them. The key is to be sure they have no other path than the one you’ve set out for them.” This is probably the pre-eminent lesson of Lewis. Lewis always attempts in his writing to choose (as per his advice to one young writer), the simple words over the complex. Everything he does is in service of simplicity.

In the end, Lewis’s technique is an outflow of his character. He demonstrates humility by refusing to “show off” – he is always, rather, aiming to make things as clear and simple as possible. He also demonstrates a humble spirit in his “coming alongside” approach (this is a phrase I stole from my publisher, by the way – something my editor has had to drill into me for the last year. It was good to see it in practice, here). He is an amazing thinker, and an amazing poet.

And although at many times in the book I found his philosophy, theology and apologetic falling flat, I couldn’t help but feel I was in the presence of a man who really knew Christ, and was expending all his mental energy to serve him. If there’s one thing to learn from Lewis, it’s this: no matter how impressive a thinker you are, don’t aim to impress. Aim to communicate. In other words: in your writing, aim to be like Jesus.

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Weekend Java 04.17.15

Apologetics Award: “A Demonstration of the Spirit’s Power” – What does it take to convince people to believe in Christ? Cleverness? Miracles? Wilson takes an often misused text to prove just the opposite.

Platform Building Award:11 Tips to Getting Your Book Published” -I appreciate the non-bias: “Remember that there are many ways to publish these days. No single route is inherently or necessarily better than another. Whether you self-publish or go with a trade or independent or academic press doesn’t necessarily mean much. It’s more important to find the best fit for your specific topic and circumstances.”

Non-Fiction Award: “Top 10 Confused Words in the English Language” – A very affective article, full of great advise.

Fiction Award:Anne Lamott’s 17 Pieces of Advice About Fiction and Life” – You will most definitely want to soak this in. 

Preaching Award: “Spurgeon Almost Quit” –”We would have it so happen that, when our life’s history is written, whoever reads it will not think of us as ‘self-made men,’ but as the handiwork of God, in whom his grace is magnified. Not in us may men see the clay, but the Potter’s hand. They said of one, ‘He is a fine preacher;’ but of another they said, ‘We never notice how he preaches, but we feel that God is great.'”

Christianity and Culture Award: “Bonhoeffer on Embracing Your Times’” –”In spite of that, I can only say that I have no wish to live in any other time than our own, even though it is so inconsiderate of our outward well-being.

Reading and Literature Award: “18 Literary Maps of the United States” – I sure hope these become T-shirts, soon.

Spiritual Life Award: “10 Principles for Christian Husbands and Fathers” – I feel very far from this, but I aspire to it.

Theology Award: “Yes, You Can Please Your Father.” –”Some of us have taken justification to mean we no longer have a dynamic relationship with our heavenly Father, as if God is indifferent to our sin and our obedience. But Scripture says we can grieve the Holy Spirit, and in Hebrews 12 we see that a father disciplines those he loves. God is not pleased when we sin. Or, as John Calvin puts it, God can be ‘wondrously angry with his children.'”

Motivational Award: “Winston Churchill’s ‘Work-Life Balance” – Once again proving there is no such thing. Although, this did inspire me to live more Hobbit-like: more naps, longer meals, better friends and longer books. 

Fun Award:The New Star Wars Trailer is Here and it is Amazing” – Yes it is. It is also very short.

The Glimpse of Truth Award: “The Christian Undergirding of David Brooks’ Moral Bucket List” – If you haven’t read Brooks’ recent NY Times article, you really should. Van Sloten shows how beautifully it reflects our inner moral compass, by providing Bible verses for each item.

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Keller’s 5 Ways the Gospel Transforms Your Work.

I’ll be honest: I’ve lived most of my life with a pretty low view of work. Being a pastor was fine – but I’m talking about NORMAL jobs, for NORMAL people. I thought, “Why would you be making widgets when you could be transforming souls?”

As it turns out, that attitude toward work is infectious. We pastors generally communicate in myriad ways that church is where the real work happens…we demand large hours invested within the church building, and do very little, if anything, to equip our parishioners to think through work specific issues.

This attitude has left many in the workforce feeling that the only justification for their work is their piggy bank. Recent studies have shown that very few Christians work any differently from their co-workers (see Amy Sherman’s Book, “Kingdom Calling” for the stats). That, of course, ought to be true in a sense. The way to be a good mechanic, after all, isn’t to plant tracts in the engine. It’s to FIX THE CAR.

But in another sense, the way a Christian works is radically different from those around him or her. The gospel ought to transform the way a Christian works from the inside out. How?

Here are five principles, taken from Tim Keller’s lecture at Redeemer Church to businessmen and women:

1. Faith gives you an inner ballast without which work could destroy you.

There are two potentially destructive outcomes in our work. We can succeed, in which case our work goes to our head. We start feeling as though our competence in one specific area of life entitles us to expertise in all areas of life, and look down on others without similar success.

Or, we can fail, and be devastated.

The reason for both of these is simple: without the gospel, our work is often our identity. Keller quotes from NY Times writer Benjamin Nugent, speaking of his transition into a writing career: “When I made writing who I was, it was warping,” he says, “It was conducive to depravity, and I mean the old Calvinist kind. When good writing was my only goal, I made the quality of my work the measure of my work…I couldn’t tell whether something I wrote was good or bad because I needed it to be good to be sane.”

The gospel frees us from work-as-identity syndrome.

2. Faith gives you a concept of the worth and dignity of all work without which work could bore you.

In past generations, work was seen as a necessary evil. For millennials and beyond, however, work is romanticized. If we’re not “saving the world”, using our gifts, and experiencing the mythological bliss of a thornless calling, we feel entitled to move on.

But the gospel dignifies all types of work, not just the visible jobs. Martin Luther famously pointed out that when God provides milk for us, it doesn’t appear out of thin air – He provides through the milkmaid. The milkmaid, then, is doing the work of God. The same is true for anyone doing real service for others, no matter how small or thankless.

3. Faith gives you a moral compass without which work could corrupt you.

We live in a funny culture. On the one hand, we teach our kids that there is no right or wrong. But when they cross the line (which we said didn’t exist), we punish them. We decry Enron executives, even though we taught them that morals are institution and culture specific. As C.S. Lewis has written in his Abolition of Man, “We castrate them, then bid the geldings be fruitful.”

The gospel teaches us that there really are moral standards which go beyond what we can “get away with” legally. We are competitive, but not ruthless. We increase wealth, but not without genuine service toward others. We seek the success of our company, but not by cutting corners. Christians go beyond the law at work – we seek to model Christ.

4. Faith gives you a new world and life view that shapes the character of your work, without which work could use you and master you.

One of the lies we’re told in society is that we can somehow bifurcate our religious beliefs from our workplace. On the one hand, this ought to be true for Christians: a good pilot doesn’t pronounce John 3:16 during an inflight passenger announcement. A good pilot lands the plane.

On the other hand, many professions require a deep understanding of human nature – a foundation which can’t be found outside of scripture. How do we educate children? How do we tell stories? How do we decided what is just? Without a biblical anthropology, we can’t think through these issues properly. The gospel allows us to escape the false narrative created by the idols of our workplace, by replacing it with the true narrative of human flourishing found in Christ.

5. Faith gives you a hope in the frustration of work without which work could harden you or crush your spirit.

Finally, the gospel assures us that there is something beyond our work. We will never accomplish all we want in this life. Those in law will never see the full vision of justice they strive toward. Those in art will never quite create the masterpiece they envision. Those in city planning will never see the city they dream about.

But there is a new city coming – God is renovating heaven and earth, and He will take our unaccomplished works, and accomplish them. He will see them through to completion. When we stand before him in a renovated heaven and earth, we will see the justice, the masterpiece, the city we had always envisioned. And, despite our frail and flawed efforts here, God will say to each of us: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things. Now I will give you charge of many.”

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Weekend Java 04.10.15

Apologetics Award: “Did Early Christians Believe in Substitutionary Atonement?” – A helpful answer from Michael Kruger.

Non-Fiction Award: “A Guide to Writing a Thesis/A Guide to Life” – A re-examination of a classic on how to write a thesis…these observations apply to any non-ficiton endeavor of considerable depth.

Fiction Award: “If Your Book is Boring, do This.” – I had to rewrite the first four chapters of my fiction book for this very reason.

Preaching Award: “Preaching Lessons from Steve Martin” – Yes, the comedian. Presentation Zen takes some speaking principles from Steve Martin’s autobiography; most of them transfer well into preaching.

Christianity and Culture Award: “20 Truths from Osborne’s ‘Thriving in Babylon’” – These observations on Daniel in Babylon will have increasing relevance to the church in society.

Reading and Literature Award: “12 Fantastic Facts about A Wrinkle in Time” – Did you know, for example, that L’Engle nearly gave up her writing career around age 40?

Spiritual Life Award: “The Most Important Thing My Parents Did” – Tim Challies with a great perspective on the heart of parenting.

Blogging and Platform-Building Award:9 Traffic Growth Principles from the Best in the Business” – Michael Hyatt is offering this handy little e-book in turn for a subscription. It’s pretty basic, but if you’re just getting started, it’s great.

Theology Award: “7 Unbiblical Statements Christians Believe” – Even if you don’t believe them, you’ve surely heard them…or like sentiments.

Motivational Award: “Why You’re not Writing” – And some very practical ways to avoid common distractions.

Fun Award: “A TEDx Talk Parody” – If you’ve seen many TEDx talks, this will be absolutely HILARIOUS…just don’t try to make sense of it.

The Glimpse of Truth Award: “Seeing Christ in Othello” – Some great observations from a teacher of literature.

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Weekend Java 04.03.15

Apologetics Award: “What Dawkins, Hawking and Harris Know About God” – As T. Keller has said: “The Bible says there are no atheists.”

Non-Fiction Award: “7 Habits of Highly Effective Writers” – With two writing degrees in tow, this woman knows what she’s talking about.

Fiction Award: “What Are Pinch Points? How Can They Make Your Book Easier to Write?” – If you don’t know the answer this, YOU NEED TO KNOW THE ANSWER TO THIS.

Preaching Award: “15 Itchy-Ear Preachers” – This is a three part series pointing out 15 ways we can preach to please men rather than God (Click ahead on the bottom for the next two installments).

Christianity and Culture Award: “What Christianophobia Looks Like In America” – Dr. George Yancey with some interesting findings on Christians perception in culture. Make of it what you will.

Reading and Literature Award: “A Maya Angelou Play is Finally in the Works” -“I haven’t been this excited by a project in a long, long time,” Leon said. “I don’t think there is another person like her in my lifetime or in the last 100 years of American artistry and literary achievement.”

Spiritual Life Award: “6 Needed Mind-Shifts for Your Fight Against Sin” – Kevin Halloran brings it in nicely, here. 

Blogging and Platform-Building Award: “7 Effective Tips to Grow Your Social Media Presence the Right Way” – A sevenfold application of the classic communication advice: “know your audience.”

Theology Award: “Adam Broke 10 Commandments in the Garden” – Clever, helpful, insightful. I liked this.

Motivational Award: “Leo Tolstoy’s 17 Rules of Life” – Both motivational and fascinating.

Fun Award: “8 Winners of the lg Nobel Prize whose work sounds funny but is actually serious…mostly.” Be entertained.

The Glimpse of Truth Award: “He began to grow disgusted with himself for waiting so anxiously for the promised arrival of something that had stopped being fun anyway. He didn’t even know why he liked it anymore.” – David Foster Wallace, “Infinite Jest”

 

Idol

Hello. I am an Idol.

Hello.

Don’t be afraid, it’s just me. I notice you’re turned off by my name: “Idol”.

It’s okay. I get that a lot.

But allow me to re-label myself: I’m your family. Your bank account. Your sex life. The people who accept you. Your career. Your self-image. Your ideal spouse. Your law-keeping.

I am whatever you want me to be.

I am what you think about while you drive on the freeway.

I am your anxiety when you lay your head on the pillow.

I am where you turn when you need comfort.

I am what your future cannot live without.

When you lose me, you are nothing.

When you have me, you are the center of existence.

You look up to those who have me.

You look down on those who don’t.

You are controlled by those that offer me.

You are furious at those who keep you from me.

When I make a suggestion to you, you are compelled.

When you cannot gratify me, I consume you.

No – I cannot see you, or hear you, or speak back to you.

But that’s what you like about me.

No – I am never quite what you think I am.

But that’s why you keep coming back.

And No – I do not love you.

But I am there for you, whenever you need me.

What am I?

I think you know by now.

You tell me.

 

 

A Sneak-Peek at My New Book: The Gospel-Centered Gospel.

A lot of quacking has been done over the last decade about how we need to have “gospel-centered” churches, with “gospel-centered” discipleship programs, and “gospel-centered” sermons.

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But – notice anything conspicuous in these suggestions? Yeah, you did: THE WORD GOSPEL ISN’T EVEN AT THE CENTER OF THESE GOSPEL-CENTERED SUGGESTIONS.

That’s why I’ve written my new book, “The Gos-GOSPEL-pel-Cen-GOSPEL-tered Gos-GOSPEL-pel”. It’s a radical new approach to the way we do gos-GOSPEL-pel centered ministry, based on the premise that, as D.A. Carson once wisely quipped, “People learn what you’re excited about.”

And guess what I’m exc-GOSPEL-ited about? Oh, wait. You don’t have to. Because the gos-GOSPEL-pel is literally at the literal heart of literally everything I do. So much for these radical, “Gospel-centered” approaches to ministry. I’m playing hard-GOSPEL-ball.

In my new book, you’ll learn amazing gos-GOSPEL-pel centered tactics for living, such as:

  • How to make gos-GOSPEL-pel centered cheeseburgers.
  • How to know when gos-GOSPEL-pel centered ministry is TOO GOS-GOSPEL-PEL centered (hint: nev-GOSPEL-er).
  • 7 aMAZING gos-GOSPEL-pel jukes that will literally bring every conversation, sermon, small group discipleship discussion, advertisement, workforce, potato-ole, Star Wars film, donkey-saddle, church building plan, novel, pre-millenial dispensationalist, and otherwise un-sanctified nouns to a gos-GOSPEL-pel centered conclusion.
  • Why obedience to the Bible is DUMB, because of GOSPEL.
  • And much, much more!

Because I’m so excited about this new book, I’m going to give you a gos-GOSPEL-pel centered offer: for every single dollar you send me, if you simply cross out the face of the president and replace him with the word GOSPEL, I will give you a FREE copy of my new book, “The Gos-GOSPEL-pel cen-GOSPEL-tered Gos-GOSPEL-pel.” That’s right, absolutely FREE.

Why? Because of the gos-GOSPEL-pel, that’s why.

PS – I was ORIGINALLY going to launch my new book in June, until I noticed that JUNE doesn’t have as many letters in common with gos-GOSPEL-pel as OCTOBER. For this same reason, I’ll also only be selling one-hundred and eleven copies.

I do apologize for any inconvenience.

 

Weekend Java 03.27.15

Apologetics Award: “4 Reasons Pastors Must Practice Evangelism” –In his final letter, Paul charges Timothy, his son in the faith, to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). By these words, the aged Apostle establishes the timeless standard for pastoral ministry, not only for young Timothy but for all pastors in every generation and in every place.

Non-Fiction Award: “Find Your Own Voice” – Christopher Hitchens on the relationship between writing and speech.

Fiction Award: “5 Simple Ways to Transform Quiet Scenes into Exciting Scenes” – Some great ideas from Darcy Pattison.

Preaching Award: “A Simple Guide to Reading and Applying the Bible with Jesus as the Hero – Esther” – This post is a GREAT example of the correct way to apply a Christ-centered hermeneutic. It’s both exegetically faithful and makes perfect textual application to everyday life.

Christianity and Culture Award: “DC Talk and the Influence of Faith-Fortifying Songs” – CCM gets a bad rap nowadays…but T. Wax shows reminds us of the redemptive side of the redemptive music era.

Reading and Literature Award: “Art that Only Appears When it Rains” – Literature takes all kinds of forms…even the kinds that only appear on rainy days.

Spiritual Life Award: “We Complain Because We Forget” – So true. I’ve thought about this one all week. 

Blogging and Platform-Building Award: “3 Secret Weapons I Used to Launch my Online Platform” – Jeff Goins on what it took to go from zero to hero in the blogging world.

Theology Award:Jesus Ensures the Great Commission Will Not Fail” – A helpful excerpt on the theological implications of the resurrection.

Motivational Award: “The Secret Part of Bravery People Struggle with Most” – Jon Acuff totally nails it with this one.

Fun Award: “The Best Owls in Children’s Books” – Owls are hot in children’s books: find out why, here.

The Glimpse of Truth Award: “Why Face to Face Contact Matters in a Digital Age” – Susan Pinker shows how community equals longer lifespans in a little, coastal mountain town. As Christians, we have another reason to be like these people: the impetus of the gospel.

9 Things You Need to Know About Solving World Poverty.

Over the last couple of decades, evangelicals have woken up, as a whole, to the dreary reality of poverty. We’ve had the light of scripture shine on this dark corner of our faith, and, as a result, we’ve been hard at work sweeping out the cobwebs. We’ve engaged on issues like sex trafficking, racism, clean water, and natural disasters.

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This is a good thing.

But like Lennie Small in “The Grapes of Wrath”, in trying to show our affection, we’ve often squeezed the puppy to death. Our heart for the issue, at times, doesn’t match the head knowledge required to solve it.

That’s the subject of Steven Corbett and Brian Fikkert’s book, “When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…And Yourself.” This book is essential reading for every Christians, but here are nine introductory principles of the issue:

1. Our Solutions to Poverty Typically Break Things.  

Imagine that Donald Trump walks into your church, sits in on the elder’s meeting, and just before the meeting concludes says: “Hey guys – great plans, but I say this church needs a POOL.” Guess what’s going to happen? That’s right – suddenly, the Spirit will lead the church to build a pool.

Why? Because we all assume Mr. Trump is going to pay for the pool.No, you don’t need a pool, and don’t want one, and can’t afford to maintain one. But if we follow that plan, he’ll probably be willing to foot the bill for some of our REAL needs. But then Mr. Trump leaves – he’s done his good deed for the year.

Here’s the kicker, from Corbett and Fikkert: We are Donald Trump. The average North American’s solution to poverty looks exactly like that. We come in with our plans and ideas, we execute, we leave, we feel good…and we wreak havoc on the world around us.

2. Poverty isn’t all about money.

Ironically, we evangelicals have bought into the secular idea that poverty is all about lack of materials. Our solution, likewise, is to give people material goods. Sounds good, right?

Wrong. Because poverty isn’t just about lack of materials. It’s about a lack of dignity. “While poor people mention having a lack of material things,” say Corbett and Fikkert, “they tend to describe their condition in far more psychological and social terms than our North American audiences. Poor people typically talk in terms of shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation, and voicelessness.”

3. Solving problems for people increases poverty.

Now, think about point #2. If poverty is as much about human dignity as material needs, are we really solving people’s poverty issues when we step in and solve things for them? No – in fact, we further the cycle of poverty, because that’s humiliating.

“Material poverty alleviation involves more than ensuring that people have sufficient material things;” say Corbett and Fikkert, “rather, it involves the much harder task of empowering people to earn sufficient material things through their own labor, for in so doing we move people closer to being what God created them to be.”

4. Both institutions and people are flawed.

When it comes to solving poverty, most of us are republicans or democrats.

We either: blame everything on corrupt institutions, or: blame everything on corrupt people. But the truth is, as Corbett and Fikkert say: “People affect systems, and systems affect people.” Solutions to poverty include solutions on both planes.

5. “You Believe the Health and Wealth Gospel.”

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from “When Helping Hurts”, it’s this: deep down, I believe the health-and-wealth gospel.

Let’s be honest: the reason we charge into impoverished communities with all the answers and solutions is simple: we think we did something right to be rich, and the poor did something wrong to be poor.

Of course, people in poverty aren’t angels. But neither are we: “…until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good. Our perspective should be less about how we are going to fix the materially poor and more about how we can walk together, asking God to fix both of us.”

6. True Solutions to Poverty Happen Slowly.

We in North America are typically pretty “results oriented”. We like to see things happen – and we like to FUND where we see things happening. But when it comes to solving world poverty…we just need to GET OVER that.

Or even better, we need to redefine our results: “Deep and lasting change takes time. In fact, fully engaging the poor in a participatory process takes lots of time…It might help donors if they remembered that creating decision-making capacity on the part of the poor is a return—arguably the chief return—on their investment.”

7. Solving Poverty is About Building Long-Term Relationships. 

Short Term Mission trips are nice, because we can put them in a pretty 2-week box, drop them off at the door of Summer, and check off our good deed for the year.

But poverty, ultimately, is about broken relationships: broken relationships with God, with one another, and with creation. Because of that, “fixing” the problem CAN’T mean throwing money at it – it has to mean helping people rebuild broken relationships with God and others: “…These things tend to happen in highly relational, process-focused ministries more than in impersonal, product-focused ministries.”

8. True Solutions Require Listening Before Responding.

Rather than charging into a situation with answers at the ready, holistic solutions to impoverished community begin by assuming the dignity of those to whom we’re ministering. One of Fikkert and Corbett’s mantras is: “Avoid Paternalism. Do not do things for people that they can do for themselves.”

Rather, they encourage the church to begin by asking dignity-increasing questions. These enable those in poverty to see how they can be part of the solution:

  • What are your goals and dreams for your life?
  • What strengths, abilities, and resources can you use to achieve those goals?
  • What is the first action you will take to use your gifts to achieve your goals?
  • By what date will you take this action?
  • How could we support you in achieving your goals?
  • Would you be willing to have a support person encourage you in meeting your goals?
  • When can we meet with you again to check on how things are going?

These questions take us from the role of reprimanding wealthy step-father to cheerleader, coach, and partner.

9. True Solutions Require the Gospel.

“Poverty is rooted in broken relationships,” say Corbett and Fikkert, “so the solution to poverty is rooted in the power of Jesus’ death and resurrection to put all things into right relationship again.”

Solutions to poverty that don’t ultimately point to Christ as the redeemer of the world won’t ever get to the root of the problem: the human heart. We need to present the gospel alongside our practical helps, not only because it’s good for people’s souls, but because Christ is the ultimate redemption of broken relationships, broken institutions, broken systems, broken Christians, and a broken world. He is the broken Savior, who unbreaks all systems – physical and spiritual – that he might reign over every facet of life.

Even Lennie Small.