How to make the right choice in supporting mission

2014-01 IMG_5654 frozen waterfall ice pattern-crop (Large)
During the recent freeze, this little flower-like ice crystal formation appeared at the base of the falls – right in the middle of all the rushing, splashing water – and remained there for the better part of the next day.

After my previous post “EuroMaidin Dreamin‘ (on such a winter’s day)”, I am making plans to visit Ukraine soon. More on that to come.

In the meantime, a good friend wrote me (along with several other “people he respected”) to ask about how he “should be investing in God’s Kingdom.” He said he was convinced that he should be making a commitment, including giving, but didn’t know how to “evaluate a seemingly unlimited number of truly worthy opportunities.” And he said he wanted to find “ways of helping that make things worse and not better.”

Here’s how I answered. It also explains the heart behind what we do. And why I’m going back to Kyiv, Lord willing, very soon.

I’m assuming you’re talking about your own personal  investment/giving/engagement. I might add some other dimensions about how a congregation could strategically evaluate and pursue their vision in mission.

But as far as what I personally invest in (in funds or effort) I think about a few things:

Impact – what do I see that, with a little investment, can not only accomplish something in the short-term, but create the sort of impact in others which might ripple out or multiply? Is this reproducible, and how easily? Will success look more like addition or multiplication?

Kingdom: Does it develop, empower and release others into Kingdom work, or does it primarily enhance a particular segment of the body or “brand” of church or mission to the exclusion of others?

Results/Prospects: This is often factored out as not being real “spiritual,” but I think it’s always worth considering. If there’s a “track record” available, how does it look? I don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver in my own work, so I want to avoid investing in works that do just that. Apart from that, CHARACTER is an issue… always. Connected with this is PASSION – does the person or work in which I seek to reflect seem to be done out of passion, or because it’s “something that ought to be done”?

Also, I know there are particular things about life, mission, ministry, etc. that excite me. It’s work finding someone who is both passionate about and effective in areas with which I also share a deep concern.

I have a burden for works of compassion – but also a deep concern that much of what gets put under the umbrella of “compassion” is closer to pity, which is disempowering and condescending and unworthy of support. Work that connects with direct empowerment of local persons, particularly the working poor and those “on the margins” (and those willing to serve and develop them) is important. But merely tossing money in the general direction of poor folks is both prone to abuse and inefficiency (how much actually gets where it needs to be?) and can engender dependency.

So I look for folks who can both talk the talk and walk the walk (“reflective practitioners,” I call ’em) who are able to engage in areas of passion holistically – so that their success involves transformation (not just “bettering”) on all relevant levels. And only the Gospel does that, so I want to know how it’s different from “sanctified social work.”

Those are the first few things that come to minds.

One other thought: The world is experiencing change at an ever-faster pace. Reliance on “tried-and-true” tactics and strategies are less and less likely to bear fruit in the future. So I look for people or organizations that are always learning, open to change, and that are already thinking today about what needs to be different next season. I used to think that our having learned Russian was sufficient to show that I had “made the adjustment” to the “culture” to which we were called. Nowadays, by the time one has “adjusted” to the mission context, it will have already changed.


Hope that makes sense. As you suggested, this is just “gut response.”

What do you think? You don’t end up like Buridan’s Ass, who, failing to find a way to choose two equal piles of straw equidistant from him, starved to death. So what criteria do you use to evaluate between all the possibilities before you to make a difference?

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Michael Pollock says:

    Great and timely thoughts, thanks Jim! Mike

    Michael V Pollock Cell 443-797-7093

  2. Dee Volkert says:

    Here are a couple of missions that fit your criteria: getting folks together to make shoe parts out of what Americans put in the trash-fabric scraps & plastic milk jugs. Provides fair trade jobs & shoes for those who need them most. artists being passionate about art & healing those rescue from sex trafficking & easy for everyone to contribute to. Check them out 🙂

    1. jimbaker2012 says:

      Thanks, Dee. We got to meet the guys from Arts Aftercare at last year’s Justice Conference. They are definitely the “real deal.” Their motto: Do what you love to undo what you hate. Gotta love it!

      1. Dee says:

        We held and art/music event at our church in Coventry and raised enough for two boxes. A humble start but a start none the less.We hope to make it an annual event.

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