Tag Archives: Poverty

When Not Helping Hurts

10398604_75131031835_8299277_n[1]Listen, I am like you. I wanna help the poor. I wanna help the Urban poor specifically.

But I also read “When Helping Hurts” and “Toxic Charity”. While I loved those books and was extremely challenged after reading them, I felt somewhat how you feel afterwards.

1. I felt discouraged about the amount of work I have put into serving the poor.

And I also felt

2. Confused about the direction I should go now in my ministry, not desiring to have a toxic or hurtful ministry.

Listen friend, this is a short but sweet call to some of us who needed a kick in the butt from those books but also for grace that we need to continue on after we have found out that we weren’t doing it right.

1. I like you felt discouraged about thinking through on whether or not my past ministries among the poor had been hurtful or wasteful. When I say discouraged, I’m talking about a discouragement that kept me from wanting to strategize ever again on this stuff thinking that I was gonna screw up others lives.

But God has done a mighty work. In time of doing Urban ministry for some years and learning these lessons on the ground, I have submitted my past work under the hand of a sovereign God who works IN SPITE of us. I felt like I was the worst for a while. I was down and out. But God revealed to me through his scriptures that he has ultimate control and has had it the whole time.

The work done in the past he may have used to impact many people in ways I will never know until heaven. I don’t need to be discouraged about the things done in the past. While I learn my lesson in realizing that there are better ways to do it, I also acknowledge that there is a sovereign God who may have used those things for his glory, and I can peacefully move forward to a new stage of ministry.

2. Confused on where I should go now in my ministry.

I HATE screwing things up. There is a lot of psychology to all of that, but my initial reaction to WHH/TC was nothing. Doing nothing. Not wanting to mess up so not doing anything.

In time I have realized that that is the wrong reaction to all of this. Don’t be afraid to work among the poor. Don’t be afraid to reach out within an Urban community. Just do it with care. Take all that you have learned in thinking through these tough questions of concern for the poor, and let your work be intentional and well thought out. But by no means, Don’t quit working.

I have thoroughly enjoyed ministering within Urban communities. I have learned a million things and screwed up a million times, but as well, I have noticed how simply my being there can be good for the community. Don’t be discouraged but be ENCOURAGED that Gods hand may have worked in spite of strategy mistakes you made in the past but also in that you have learned from those mistakes and can minister in a more effective way.

Disclaimer: I LOVE the books, When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity. PLEASE read both. Just afterwards, consider this article.

Christians, Spike Lee has some words we need to hear…

When Spike Lee sounded off about gentrification while speaking at the Pratt Institute in honor of African American History month, many people cringed. Many people were frustrated. You can listen and read about the entire talk he gave here(Warning on Language).



I read a lot of people who were ticked off about how Spike Lee’s rant was racist, hateful and unneeded.

I liked what he said.

I’m glad it’s finally a conversation because honestly, this is how many people feel about gentrification. If you walk into many barbershops, you’re going to hear some honest opinions you won’t likely see in the New York Post or local paper. The things Spike Lee said are the same things that people have been saying for years but haven’t had a platform to express their selves.

Was what he said racist?

No. This was a man telling you how he feels after the mistreatment and disrespect his neighborhood has endured in recent years. Your neighborhood means a lot to you. Even after you have “grownup” and moved out of it, it still has a piece of your heart. When bad things happen in your neighborhood that is like bad things happening to your family(ie Spike referencing his dad having police called on him). Spike is frustrated like many other people.

What about all these White Christians?

John Perkins is a hero to almost anyone doing Urban Ministry. He wrote one of the textbooks for every person engaging an urban area. When Perkins coined the 3 R’s (Reconciliation, Relocation and Redistribution) many ministries changed strategies and decided to begin engagement in Urban area’s.

One of the R’s is Relocation. This has brought an influx of evangelicals moving into Urban communities. Some times it’s Missional Hipsters, Other times it’s Justice advocates. Regardless, you have a large community of people who aren’t familiar with an area moving in to bring positive change. There is some good that can come from this. But there is one concerning thing. What about the people who have lived indigenously in this neighborhood for years? How do they feel about all of this change?

Spike Lee’s “rant” needs to be listened to by every Urban-dwelling Evangelical. Whether or not your doing so Missionally or for the sake of Justice, you need to understand how some people do and can potentially feel in time. Understand and be more sensitive with the decisions you, your ministry/church and others moving in make so that you are not simply exercising your white privilege and power in a well-meaning but offensive way.

During the Holiday’s, don’t hurt the poor…A Call for Pastor’s and Church Leaders

Thanksgiving and Christmas are quickly approaching. It’s an exciting time of the year. Imagining gifts, food, friends and family. It’s a great time for many people. Many families have different traditions that involve some type of service to the poor. As well many churches and ministries have programs that are centralized on giving freely to the poor.

homelessforchristmas.comI have helped and orchestrated many different gift drives and turkey giveaways. I’ve always enjoyed being apart of them. It makes me feel good to give to people who need it. But one thing I have noticed is that I walk in to these events feeling excited and leave feeling somewhat uneasy.

I remember how frustrated I was finding out that many of the recipients of the gift drive were 3rd and 4th generations of recipients. I would carry Turkey’s and christmas gifts to brand new cars that caused me to wonder how someone in need could have a way nicer car then myself. I would experience the chaos and division seen between the “haves” and “have nots”. I started leaving these events more disturbed then encouraged. Then I would goto food pantries and clothing closets and I would leave feeling the same way as the holiday give-aways, disturbed.

Collecting rooms full of toys and games that were to be given to the poor feels good.  Giving a turkey out for Thanksgiving seems nice. Handing out canned goods causes many to feel happy about themselves. But eventually one must look at this large collection of belongings and question who recieves the glory in these programs. Is it God or is it all the people who have defined their generosity with this pile of things.

What is it like for the father who comes home to find his kids have toys for christmas and he didn’t do anything about it. He feels shame. He feels somewhat bitter about those who gave the toys and he is disgraced.

I am not against christmas gifts. I am all for getting gifts for my family and helping see other families have the capacity to do so. My problem is that in the process of our charity, we many times hurt those we are trying to help.

Pastors and Church Leaders, as our churches begin to use this time of year to show compassion to the less fortunate, we must ask a few questions.

1) Is our program or event weakening those we are serving?

2)Is it fostering dishonest relationships?

3) Is it deepening dependency?

4) Is it eroding recipients’ work ethic?

(Questions from Bob Lupton’s “Toxic Charity”)

I would like to challenge Pastors and Church Leaders to start asking these hard questions and have a Vision to do greater things. Greater doesn’t mean neccesarily spend more money. Envision reaching the poor in the community spending less money while putting in more time for relationships. I know, you’re salivating. This is what pastor’s love. I’d love to see churches using their resources to serve the poor in ways that build healthy relationships and not rob the dignity of those who already can feel weak.

It takes a decision to change things. Start asking the hard questions about whether or not our program is effective. Then after that start brainstorming about ways to do programs that are relationship focused. Seek to do things that empower the poor. Walk alongside them and strategize for them to become more self sustaining. Help them purchase gifts. Help them purchase turkeys.

“Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people.”

-Toxic Charity

For more information, Check out:
Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

Is Mercy Irresponsible?

It’s one of those incidents where you hope to yourself that you can avoid this person. You hope they don’t talk to you. You hope that they either exit the room or bother someone else.

But once again you get put in this predicament, a fork in the road type of feeling. As he begins talking and slurring words that are destined for a request, you try hard in your heart of hearts to know how to get him away from you immediately.

To add to it though, we were in a meeting at a fast food restaurant and people could hear that we were talking about planting a church. So now our Christianity was on the line. We had to show that we were followers of Christ. So we bought the guy a meal. As he went to the register to order, we could tell by the cashier’s conversation with him that he came in quite often. His story started to replay in our minds. We started to feel like the victims of a scam. Or maybe more appropriately, enablers.

Homelessness On The Rise In New York CityThis scenario is something that many of us recognize and understand from our own experiences. We have helped people to find them using the same story in the same place with different victims. Many of us can tell stories where we showed mercy to people and were dismayed to see that we were only one of many “helpers”. In essence, our gift or contribution began to feel more like money going into a ponzi scheme.

At least when a crooked televangelist sells you a prayer towel for $100, you get the towel and the feeling that God might be happy with you.

What do we do with Mercy? Is it irresponsible to give money to people who have schemed their way to it? But then again, would I have given it to him if he walked in smiling, saying, “Hey, wanna give me some money?”

A lot of my friends ask me about how extreme Jesus’ demands of following him are. Selling all that we have and giving it to the poor. Feeding, clothing and housing the homeless stranger. These are extremely difficult things for many of us. But I believe one of the reasons he demands so much out of us is because he knows that we’ll constantly try to hold something back. He has given his entire perfect life in the place of our broken lives. When we error, one thing for sure is that most of our errors won’t be because we give too much. Most of the time, our errors will be because we don’t give enough.

A lot of people are just now discovering the problems with how mercy can end up bringing a negative impact. There is a book titled, ‘When Helping Hurts” that gives much detail to stories and the difficulties people have found in showing Mercy.untitled

Was Jesus wrong when he said to sell all you have and give it to the poor?

Will we eventually end poverty?

Who receives more when someone helps someone else out?

Mark 10:17-22

17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words [a]he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

Something Deeper

Mercy can seem like an irresponsible idea. But when you realize that mercy not only helps the person receiving, it also helps yourself. You show mercy because we have all at times needed Mercy. We have had immediate needs that needed immediate help. In this though, we should seek wisdom on when and how much to show mercy.

Jesus’ statements towards our generous giving shakes things up. It shatters our world of control and stability. But if he was telling the rich young ruler to give so that the poor are rich, the story would have been different.

Notice what he say’s following “give to the poor”.

“And you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Jesus wants us to kill our idols and focus on his glory. His kingdom. You’ll have treasure in heaven. Quit allowing these things to become idols in your life. Money keeps you from me. Kill that idol. You’ll have treasure’s in heaven. Come! Follow me!


Jesus desires us to be his followers. It’s best for us. ‘Stuff’ has become a barrier between us and God.

We don’t give to the poor just because they are in need. We are in need of giving. We are in need of being freed from the bondage of stuff. Materials. Money.

It’s hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God because Money has become his god.

Give to the poor. But know that through giving, you’ll receive way more than the recipient will.

Kobe Bryant visits Skid Row in Los Angeles

Firstly, I am always Kobe over Lebron. I don’t know if I’d say Kobe is the 2nd greatest but Kobe is the best ball player that has played in my adult life(imho).

Here is a video of him visiting the homeless in skid row, LA.

Very interesting I gotta say.

But no Mr. Bryant, you can’t prevent homelessness.

Yes, you can drop 81 points against a NBA team. Yes you can get 5 NBA chips and plenty of decorations within your career as a basketball player. But ultimately, to declare that you’re going to end homelessness is as bold as saying that I will prevent corruption and sin from existing in this world.

Homelessness will always exist because all people are sinful and that effects unjust systems and governments that keep people in the cycle of poverty.

So Kobe, do work among the homeless. Help out as many people as you can. Change the way you live life. But also, don’t think too highly of yourself that you’re going to swoop down and be the source of salvation for every homeless person on skid row.