Challenging the Charity Mindset

ALun.pngPs Alun Davies writes on going deeper than the surface-level ‘charity mindset’ of missions to becoming people of justice that will change the world....

ACCI Missions & Relief is able to have an incredible impact across the world due to the engagement, support, passion and commitment of the ACC movement. Last year over $9 million was raised to assist a multitude of people and projects, and every year the impact we collectively make continues to grow. 

Last year alone – our Field Workers were able to make the following impact:

• 9,216 leaders trained (50.8% increase on 2010 annual figures),

• 33,915 children assisted (166% increase on 2010),

• Over 78,000 community development beneficiaries (225% increase on 2010),

• 53 churches were planted,

• 5,598 salvations,

• 1,082 water baptisms, and

• 1,237 baptisms in the Holy Spirit


How can we do more?

Untitled.pngWhile the ACC churches are incredibly generous in their support of missions, there is a limit to the amount of finance we can give. Therefore achieving more is not simply a matter of raising more funds. It is about critically evaluating out methods and approaches to missions and ensuring that we are strategically using our resources to tackle root causes and implement long-term solutions.

The greatest obstacle to achieving this is the ‘charity mindset’ in missions. Under the charity model, we respond to immediate and observable needs that people have by providing food for the hungry and material goods for those facing desperate circumstances. For example, if we hear about a village with 100 starving children in a developing country, we respond by launching a campaign to raise the money to start a feeding program. In other words, we focus on addressing the symptoms, but ignore the causes.

My vision for missions is that we focus on solving problem, not simply throw money at the problem. This means we need to look beyond the immediate issue and ask ‘WHY are children hungry’?

The best contribution we could make to the village of starving children would be to address the root causes of poverty. An example of a long-term solution would be to invest into resourcing and equipping the community to generate sufficient food or income to feed themselves and their own children – which in many cases can be achieved using the same money that would otherwise be spent on providing them with food.

Are we willing to change our habits and practices so we can focus on justice and address the root causes?

Because when we operate out of a charity mindset, we fail to address the underlying causes of the issue and we run the risk of perpetuating the problem and reinforcing dependency, feelings of inferiority and powerlessness, all of which deepen someone’s experience of poverty. 

A Justice Mindset

Proverbs 13:23 says, "An unplowed field produces food for the poor, but injustice sweeps it away." 

The Bible tells us that injustice is at the root of poverty, and therefore resolving the root causes of issues such as poverty requires us to move beyond charity and pursue justice.

If children need food, what we need to do is deal with theinjustices that cause the children to be hungry.  If children are in danger of exploitation, we need to deal with the injustices leading to their vulnerability and commodification.

In order to establish a new mindset and approach to missions founded upon justice, let’s examine the biblical plan…

 “For I, the Lord, love justice..." (Isaiah 61:8)

"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

The word of God through Micah is that we should "do justice", that is, practice justice, not just accept it as an idea. Biblical Justice is not a concept we just adhere to or discuss, it is a behaviour we must adopt and practice.

Justice must be at the core of all we do. It must be one of our foundational values reflected in our policies and practices.

How Do We 'Do Justice'?

The gospel is good news that brings wholeness - a spiritual, relational, physical and emotional wholeness. In the same way, missions must be holistic - spiritual, emotional and social. Our responsibility in missions goes beyond starting a church. Rather, we need to bring holistic change to communities.

We need to "do justice" by addressing injustice.

This usually includes FOUR KEY ACTIVITIES :

1. Advocacy – in order to identify and challenge structural causes of injustice and inequality.

  “Speak up for the people who have no voice,for the rights of all the down-and-outers. Speak out for justice!Stand up for the poor and destitute!” (Prov 31:8 MSG)

2. Education – to equip local people with the skills to break cycles of poverty, improve their access to safe employment, improve their decision making and critical thinking skills, improve their access to literate and post literate learning materials, and enhance their confidence to engage in decision making sites.

3. Intervention to transform inequalities between people and give communities or individuals opportunities to affect positive change in their lives and futures. This means talking with the people, to discover their self-determined hopes and goals.

"Because I delivered the poor who cried, the fatherless and him who had none to help him. The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy….I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor and needy; the cause of him I did not know I searched out.And I broke the jaws or the big teeth of the unrighteous and plucked the prey out of his teeth."  (Job 29:12-13, 15-17 AMP) 

4. Prevention – to reduce risks and vulnerabilities and enhance community resilience to shocks and crises in order to negate the necessity of resorting to negative coping mechanisms. (e.g. trafficking, irregular migration, unsafe employment, child labour, sex work etc). This means stepping in and working with governments.

In order to truly change the world, we need to first change our charity mindset to missions and start taking a stand for justice. It is when we direct our resources and energy towards tackling the root causes of injustice that we can do more than we’ve ever done before.

"...Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That's what I want. That's all I want." (Amos 2:21 MSG)