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

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

3. Everyone Is Called To Go, And Some “Go” Here

Local outreach is part of our missions strategy at the Summit because we recognize that there are people right here in Raleigh-Durham who are far from God, and Jesus commanded us to go and make disciples of all people. Groups like the homeless and the prisoners may not naturally be in the places we live or work, so we’ve got to go to them.

If you read through the book of Acts, you’ll notice that for the early church sending was the role of the church as a body, and going was the role of the individual members. Everybody did both!  Under the great commission, every Christian is called both to go themselves and to send others through the local church.  For many of us, the place we will “go” is right here in RDU—to the homeless, the prisoner, and the disconnected youth. In fact, I’d say that if you’re a part of the Summit (and you’re not actively preparing to go to a church plant), you should probably fall into this category.

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