Friday, 4 September 2015

The Community Project Problem

Compassion is a great thing, it is a natural response to the brokenness we see in the world, it is human and to lack it makes us less than human, but beyond that it is also Christian.  Given that our Father is the Father of compassion, that Jesus responded to need and suffering with compassion, how can we not be people who are compassionate?  But there is a problem with compassion when it leads us into unthinking action, when we respond in a knee jerk fashion to the problems that have stirred up that compassion in us.  Or when we simply act in ways that sustain patterns of suffering.  We want to help, we see a need, we see something we can do and so we act.  But we are also called to act wisely, to steward our compassion so that it produces the best outcome.  Compassion that leads to wrong action can in the longer term do more harm than good.

Mixed in with that is the desire we have as churches (I'm presuming there is one) to alleviate suffering and love our fellow man.  We want to do so in a way that clearly demonstrates our love for people and whereby we become channels of God's love to others.  I wonder if this co-mingling of compassion that longs to just act and the desire to do so in a way that shows God's love causes us a problem when it comes to community action.

Does it lead us to set up projects rather than serve people?  Does it result in us establishing models with clear recipients and givers, where the power imbalance is clear and self sustaining?  Does it stop us from establishing sustainable community developing projects rather than church led dependence inducing acts of service?

Here's my internal struggle as I'm thinking and wrestling through this.  As a church we want to love and serve our community in ways that lead people to see God's love for them and that creates in them a hunger to come and meet Jesus.  But we need to do so in ways that build community, that shows the gospel truth that we are all broken, that we aren't in any way lording anything over anyone.  We want to help in ways that equip and enable the community to do for itself what it needs to, supporting and training individuals and providing initial impetus and possibly capitol but which ultimately leads to self sustaining, community creating, need serving long term projects.  But my natural fear in doing so is that as the community is involved and takes ownership of such things our gospel motivations may somehow be lost to others.  Whilst partly that battle is with the inner control freak, above all it reminds me how quick I am to forget the relational nature of sharing the gospel, as people from church in the community serve alongside other community members that gospel will be seen and spoken.  As we serve in this way it is a demonstration of the equalising and uniting power of the gospel to break down class barriers so prevalent in our community.

My hunch is that struggle will continue to raise its head as we look to take this forward.

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