As we were wrapping up our board meeting my very first day on the job, Pastor Mark Driscoll recounted with me a conversation he’d had with Pastor Rick Warren. “Don’t go to solve but to serve” was Pastor Rick’s counsel to this newly birthed organization. I didn’t know it at the time, but those words would eventually shape the core values of Churches Helping Churches.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
We have much to learn about serving local churches, but a few values have already become the core to who we are:
Lead by listening
Our plans are born out of conversations and relationships with local pastors and their churches. During my first trip to Haiti, I ended up driving a random Haitian man home because he happened to be on my way to a meeting.
After I explained our active involvement in rebuilding churches, he was adamant that people should not be given food for their labor but cash. He went on to explain that the history of slavery made Haitians hypersensitive to non-monetary compensation. It made complete sense.
When we understand a local community’s strengths and assets, needs and frustrations, our response becomes more meaningful and relevant.
Jesus, knowing other people’s thoughts, entered into conversation. Even when it was painfully obvious that the men were blind, he asked them what was wrong.
And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
Lead from behind
In the eyes of the affected communities, the local church must be the hero. They lead, we empower. This brings lasting and sustainable fruit as it strengthens the churches’ relationships with the community and gives ownership to the local leaders.
Jesus’ strategy was not that he would live on earth for eternity and perform every baptism of every believer. He paved the way through a perfect life, brutal death, and victorious resurrection. Then, his disciples carried on the work that he already began.
Lead with long-term vision
Once out of emergency mode, we don’t make short-term relief decisions at the expense of long-term development. Our strategies seek to foster progress at the infrastructural level of a community. There were 10,000 relief organizations in Haiti prior to the earthquake. There is no shortage of relief now; there is a shortage of development. There’s a shortage of work around what assets in the community can be used to address the needs of that community.
During a long period of exile in Babylon, the Lord spoke through Jeremiah of his ultimate plan for a future and for good.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
This greatest difficulty with all of these values is that they produce results, albeit more slowly. It takes time to teach someone to fish rather than catch fish and give it to them. I asked Dr. Jean Dorlus, president of the Evangelical Seminary of Theology in Port-au-Prince (STEP), if Haitians must own the efforts, even if it means things go more slowly.
“Yes,” he said immediately. “Sometimes slower is better.”
I pressed, “Even if it means things never happen at all?”
This time he hesitated. He thought and then responded, “Yes.”
Our goal is not to fix these countries and places and their governments. Our goal is not to simply be a channel for charitable contributions.
Our goal is to go and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ and bear with them as they reel and mourn in the wake of disaster. Our goal is to encourage and build up these communities physically, but more importantly, spiritually as a body of believers. This work takes time, patience, and investment. But we’re fixed on an eternal God and a timeless truth, and we will not faint.featured, Haiti, mission