“None of us is beyond the task of missions…the question is not whether or not we will be working to spread the gospel around the world, but what role we will play in this.” – Francis Chan

I have recently been writing, and finally finished (!) a training program that helps churches and organizations understand the Assets-Based model of community development (ABCD). It is the same model that is promoted in the book, When Helping Hurts, and what I’ve encouraged Parkway to follow in their outreach, both locally and abroad. In July, I was given the opportunity to speak to several hundred people from the American Baptist denomination and our international partners regarding this model and received enormous encouragement and support.

What I found most incredible, and if I’m honest, a bit frustrating, was the comment, “Why haven’t we heard about this before?” My initial response was, “I’m not sure.” As I talked with folks further, though, I learned that they all had great intentions and tried to read as much as they could about “doing” missions outreach well. Some had even read When Helping Hurts! What they had never heard, though, was a clear explanation, or maybe some concrete examples, of ABCD working and changing lives.

It all came back to intent and outcome. Good intentions…unhealthy outcomes. Some good things had happened, sure, but in the majority of the cases none of the projects were sustainable and the communities where the projects were applied certainly were not left more whole and empowered. So back to the question of, “Why haven’t we heard about this?”

My guess is that most have heard but simply not known how to apply the principles. Our model for ABCD is clearly in the Bible with Jesus’ example. Walking alongside people, empowering them, helping them to come up with answers on their own (not having to DO FOR everyone but rather walking with them as they came to the truth). This model of teaching a person to fish, as opposed to just handing them fish, takes more time but is ultimately sustainable and replicable. It helps a person to have dignity, ownership of a project and recognition that God created them with unique and special abilities. And for those who walk alongside, simply “being” and not “doing,” it shows us that we are all on the same playing field…each of us in need of God’s mercy and grace.

The ABCD model takes time, patience, endurance and trust that the finances we place in the hands of our local partners is being used well…even when OUR hands aren’t on the money! The reward for this method, though, is beyond measure. Lasting relationships are built, lives are permanently changed, people and communities are empowered and Christ is reflected.

My final question for you is: Now what will your role be?