Temptations of Pathway 4
The principal temptation to be fought on this pathway is the failure to undertake the work in a “ministry with” paradigm, as opposed to a “ministry to” paradigm. For example, if the church has targeted an economically distressed community, it must guard against its talented, fast-paced, powerful members running roughshod over community residents in so-called “helping” initiatives. As Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert explain so well in their recent book, sometimes such “helping” actually hurts. The biblical approach to effective community outreach is one based on shared power, mutual respect, and equal dignity.
As in Pathway 2, believers with significant vocational power to draw upon must do so without an over-inflated sense of their own importance, and with a genuine regard for the different skills sets those they are serving bring to the table. A great practical way to cultivate this is for church leaders to ensure the involvement of the community residents. Leaders of a targeted neighborhood initiative must engage the residents of that neighborhood, learning what their desires and dreams for the community are. Community residents must be involved in the design, implementation, and evaluation of the initiative. Church leaders mobilize parishioners to come alongside the local residents to assist them in advancing their dreams by drawing on their own particular vocational assets, knowledge, and networks. Similarly, when the focus is on an issue rather than a place, Christians stewarding their vocational power should partner well with the people most affected by that issue, and seek their input into diagnosis, prescription, implementation, and evaluation.
Finally, church leaders on Pathway 4 can also help congregants to avoid the temptations of paternalism or superiority by taking care to point out the mutually beneficial character of ministry. They should intentionally remind their flocks that the people being served are those serving are as different from one another as they might initially believe. They should emphasize that both sides will learn much from another and that God’s desire is to see both transformed.