Conference Transcript

I thought I’d post the transcript of the talk I gave at the conference this week. (Of course, it won’t feel the same without Beth’s video’s playing before and after!!)

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One of the things you get to do when you start a church, as many of you might know, is rethink many things that we do and try to do them better than the church has done them in the past. (Of course, we’ve probably messed up more things than we’ve improved!)
Anyway, as a church we wanted to be involved in a global cause and realized that there are two things that Christians have typically done in the area of missions and development that present problems.
The first one is that we spread ourselves too thin. It’s like we hit twelve nails one time rather than hit one nail twelve times – and drive it in.
The second is that we don’t realize the destructive potential of compassion.
We can’t even get churches to collaborate with each other in a recreation spot like Bend, Oregon — how do we think we’re really going to change complex socio-political and religious issues half way around the world with two week trips once a year? And when we drop into these places with our money and our influence we often create jealousies, dependencies and rivalries that do more harm than good.
I remember reading about the soldiers that liberated Concentration Camps after WWII. The first thing they did out of compassion was to give the starving survivors their food rations – not knowing that this would kill them due to the extreme nature of their starvation. As crazy as it sounds, compassion can kill.
If you’re driving along the streets of Burundi and throw an empty plastic water bottle to a five year old (they use them as toys) and then he gets immediately pummeled by three bigger kids – your compassion has done more harm than good. If your financial gifts to a pastor in a village are too extravagant for the context and you destabilize the economic and political equilibrium, create a celebrity, bring disunity and overshadow the spiritual focus of the gospel – your compassion (although rightly motivated) has done more harm than good.
The problem isn’t compassion, but how it is channeled.
So as Antioch sought to get involved in global causes we wanted to both go deep and give smart.
The problem we found was that the big organizations who have on the ground projects and do a really good job of missions and development, don’t have the time or energy to talk to small churches like us.
And if we call our own number and go it alone, we ignore the complexities of cross cultural engagement and don’t benefit from the knowledge and experience of those working on the ground.
So the options were either to sit on the bench or go it alone.
Through a crazy series of circumstances, we started a collaborative effort with World Relief called World Relief NEXT designed to reach the next generation of believers and to harness the power of creativity and collaboration.
World Relief gave us a platform to own a cause – to go deep and give smart.
They gave away ownership, allowed creativity and began a dialogue on how to partner in different ways with the North American church. We gave away control and the desire to be at the center of engagement. In short, we committed to serve those who give their lives to serving in a third world context.
When you come up on an accident scene, you don’t push the EMT out of the way in your desire to help the victim. Rather, you offer to help the EMT or doctor – to get a bag out of the ambulance or keep the crowd back. Likewise, we should offer to serve instead of asking those on the ground in foreign countries to serve us.
Meaning has become the new fashion statement. We all want to move from awareness of the world to direct engagement – hands on work. Passion, however, doesn’t qualify someone to be a doctor. Passion, without education and capacity, also doesn’t qualify someone as an expert in cross-cultural engagement.
World Relief NEXT is designed for collaboration… for helping churches engage through the act of working together with missionaries, relief workers and African pastors and leaders already engaged in the Africa Great Lakes Region. It is about win / win solutions. It is about partnerships and creatively helping one another in our shared passion and God given calling to help the world’s most vulnerable.
There’s a card in your conference pack that you can fill out and bring by our table to either find out about owning a cause through World Relief or how you can become a World Relief NEXT partner church – we’d love to see this creative and collaborative venture grow to include and bless other churches.
We’re going to show you a video of the Congo now, which is our cause.
Many people don’t know that more people have died the last decade or so in the Congo from war related causes than anywhere in the world since WWII. 800,000 people died during the genocide in Rwanda and we vowed to never sit by silently again in the face of such horrible death, injustice and oppression. However, 5.4 million have died in the Congo since that time due to the aftermath of that genocide – Hutu and Tutsi rebel groups, as well as a dozen or more rebel groups fighting over the vast mineral wealth of Eastern Congo.
We believe that the God who is big enough for us to give our lives to the cause of justice and the God who ought to be big enough for Christians to collaborate together, is also big enough to bring change and healing to the Congo.

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