Ten Take-Aways from When Helping Hurts

Christ Fellowship was planted in downtown Bowling Green over 5 years ago. We weren't planted here by accident or because the rent was cheaper in this area of the city. From the moment God began working on our heart to plant the church, we had a desire to reach people from all walks of life. This includes those who are materially poor in our city. We just didn't realize from day one that we could help in a hurtful way.

This summer our church spent 6 weeks doing the When Helping Hurts Small Group Experience. It's a study that looks deeply into how to care for the materially poor and how to do this in a way that helps rather than hurts. The study really opened our eyes and here are ten take-aways from our study:

1. We need to get low. I used to think that if you just made the gospel a priority then you would be doing meaningful mercy ministry. As long you use the gospel to help people with their problems, it would be enough. But this is simply not true. God's people need to be humbled if we are ever going to truely help the people of our city. We have to see that we are just as needy and broken as anybody that we will ever serve. The gospel brings hope to them and us too! We are not the heros. Jesus is!

2. We need to look for the image of God. Everyone that we will encounter in our city, or in Eastern Kentucky, or in Haiti is made in the image of God. All people are filled with dignity and worth because God has put his mark on his creation. So we don't look for the negative. We look for grace and worth in each set of eyes. 

3. We need to focus less on deeds and more on relationships. The problem with the Bible Belt is that we can strive to keep ourselves busy with deeds. While we feel good when we do this, we miss the people in front of our faces. Ministry is all about people. So we need to quit asking what are we doing and start asking who are we getting to share life with in this city. 

4. We need to ask and listen more. Too often we want to be the ones with all the answers. So we go into reaching the city ready to speak and share the gospel. But sometimes God wants us to be quite and listen. Sometimes he wants us to hear the desires and dreams of our neighbors. Because if we leave time to listen, we help them come to the answers to.

5. We need to grow in compassion. My fear heading into this study was that we would be less compassionate than when we started. I thought we would just find easy ways to tell people no and to not help them. But this study gave us a bigger picture of compassion. A new desire to not just to the easiest thing to help someone in the moment, but to do what is best for the whole person.

6. We need to think larger than physical needs. When a person asks for help from the church. We are often so blind to greater needs than physical needs. We just do the easiest thing and hand someone a food box or a used jacket. This summer we started thinking holistically about individuals which is simply seeing that people need help physically, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually.

7. We need to get past crisis mode as well as the people we are helping. It's sad to say but we treat every issue like it is a crisis. All of our solutions tend to be helping with an immediate need when really a person need rehabiliation and development in their life. This means that instead of handing food boxes we need to help budget. Instead of giving money for bills, we help train people for jobs.'

8. We need to watch how we talk. One of the most dangerous things in a church can be it's vocabulary. We have to learn to speak about our neigbors as though we are a part of them. Seeing our city as "our city" and "our community" that we are trying to help together. Rather than speaking about "this community" or "those people" that need help from "us", the special ones. 

9. We never need to underestimate the power of community. God gives gifts to his church to reach the people of our city. We need to realize that God is not wanting to shape the city through pastors alone. Business men, stay-at-home mothers, doctors, fast food employees, teenagers, factory workers and everybody in between has a role in loving our community. We should assess the gifts of people and use those gifts to advance the gospel.

10. We need to never get past the gospel. At the end of the day our church can grow in our understanding to help people, mobilize more workers in the field, improve people's lives on earth and yet not help eternally. The last thing we want is a man with a new job, who can handle his finances to die and go to hell. Our greatest desire has to be to help broken people become whole people in the gospel. To see people captured by the good news of a Savior who died on the cross to mend what is broken through his shed blood - so captured that this good news shapes the rest of their lives.