In gearing up for our VJN workshop and Meet-Up at tne Vineyard National Conference next week, I’ve been reading Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton this morning. He candidly unpacks the detrimental effects of responding to chronic needs as if it were a crisis. Result? Reading toxic dependency, deception, and disempowerment. For example, he highlights how Christian culture in America has by and large responded to hunger as if starvation were the #1 problem that the poor are dealing with. However, in his four decades of urban ministry, he “could not recall one starving child.” (Lupton, 56) And yet, why is it that so many churches gravitate to initiating or partnering with food distribution or feeding programs as their main avenue of serving the poor?
He quotes the director of a community food bank, made up of several churches working in partnership, who candidly gets to the heart of the matter:
“Because it’s easier!” the attractive lady blurted out. “It costs less in time and money to run a food pantry, and that’s what the churches want! Churches want their members to feel good about serving the poor, but no one really wants to become involved in messy relationships.” She spoke the truth I had dared not name. (Lupton, 57)
Lupton shares this story not to condemn, guilt, or harangue the hundreds of thousands of church folk who work or volunteer to distribute food to those who are hungry. The compassionate impulse to serve is a sign of God’s imprint upon our hearts. However, I deeply appreciate how he uncovers the truth that building relationships based on “mutuality, reciprocity, [and] accountability” simply take a lot more work. So, how do we go from what most of us know to meeting this challenge of building towards authentic relationships and empowering people to get their basic needs met?
I’m really excited to dive into questions like this next week with any of you who can make it!
Come by the VJN table in the lobby, attend our Children and Youth workshop, and join us for the meet-up. We already have 60 people pre-registered for the meet-up!
See you there,
Children and Youth Workshop– Wednesday, July 17 @1:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m.:
Pt 3 RESCUE: Bringing Hope to a Generation at Risk. A panel will discuss how we can rescue those trapped in poverty, violence, slavery, abuse and hopelessness. Led by Cheryl Pittluck and Vineyard Justice Network.
VJN Meet-Up– Thursday, July 18 @3:45 p.m.-5:00 p.m. in the Connection Cafe (Compassion Warehouse): Do you already work to fight human trafficking, to end poverty, or engage with creation care? Come to network with like-minded Vineyard pastors and leaders as well as learn about the mission and goals of the new Vineyard Justice Network (VJN). Please R.S.V.P. for the meet-up here.