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The following coincides with a book I am releasing this August, called Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches that Send, in which I talk about how to engineer your church or Christian organization for effective multiplication and sending. Sending capacity, not seating capacity, should define a church’s “success” in mission! If you are interested, check-out or pre-order here!


Jesus’ vision of the church was not a group of people gathered around one anointed leader, but multiple leaders going out in the power of the Spirit. It’s a claim that very few of us take seriously: Jesus literally said that that a multiplicity of Spirit-filled leaders would be greater than his earthly, bodily presence (John 14:12).

Can you imagine the power of a church in which ordinary members know what it means to be filled with the Spirit of God and led by the Spirit of God? God’s plan to glorify himself in the church never consisted of platformed megapastors, cutting edge art, or expensive buildings. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things in themselves, but the real power in the church is found the Holy Spirit moving through ordinary people as they carry his presence into the streets.

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This is the last of a four-part series on local outreach. We’re sharing the ten “plumb lines” that guide our local outreach philosophy, as explained by Matt Mig, our Pastor of Local Outreach. Be sure to also read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

9. The Best Way To Avoid Paternalism Is To Seek Friendship.

Paternalism happens when someone who has authority or resources restricts the responsibility or choice of another person in the perceived “best interests” of that second individual.  It is the result of defining our neighbors by their situation or need instead of by God’s design for them.  These unhealthy relationships can occur when we enter into potentially positive relationships like mentoring or coaching without valuing the other person, and even a well-meaning church can accidentally fall into this trap when working with people in material need.

In the book Toxic Charity, Bob Lupton describes the shame and embarrassment an unemployed father feels when materially rich church members provide gifts to his children that he can’t afford and the dependency that misguided aid can create in entire communities.  Paternalistic attitudes often result in services that temporarily alleviate material need, but do nothing to help someone discover who God created them to be.

We’re all susceptible to this trap:  it is the “default setting” for prideful people who happen to have more of something than the person next to them.  We must actively try to befriend our incarcerated or homeless neighbors. It won’t just happen on its own. Building relationships of real equality between people of unequal power isn’t easy, but there are a few habits we can develop that can help us to avoid the trap:

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This is part 3 of a four-part series on local outreach. We’re sharing the ten “plumb lines” that guide our local outreach philosophy, as explained by Matt Mig, our Pastor of Local Outreach. Be sure to also read Part 1Part 2, and Part 4.

6. Discipleship (and Development) Happens In Relationship.

Yesterday we shared that the value of a local outreach program is directly related to the quality of relationships that result from it.  In part that’s because we recognize that people grow as disciples in community with other followers of God.  It’s also because social and economic development most effectively happens in the context of a relationship as well.  Experts often talk about development as the process of leading an individual down a path that starts with a need for emergency assistance and ends with stability.  The path looks something like this:

Emergency Relief » Rehabilitation » Development » Self-Sufficiency

You could think of a similar path of discipleship for someone who’s currently far from God:

Spiritual Apathy » Seeking God » Growing Disciple » Disciple-Making

This illustration is not perfect, but the two paths lead a person to become who God created them to be—a fruitful disciple, both materially and spiritually.  The point of a local outreach ministry is to walk with a person down both paths at the same time. Historically, the church has done one or the other, leading us to either powerless social justice or ineffective evangelism. But a gospel-centered local outreach ministry does both, leading down the first path by the demonstration of the gospel and down the second path through the proclamation of it. And walking down either path with someone requires a relationship.

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