Disturbing the comfortable & comforting the disturbed.

Staff thoughts and life lessons about poverty, injustice, leadership, religion and other social issues in the world today.

When not helping hurts more

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 3 minute read

I have been part of the international relief and development community and discussion for about 13 years now. And for all of the right reasons, there has never been such a huge discussion and focus placed on not doing harm when we are trying to help the poor. All the buzz words right now have tipped the scales toward considering “best practice” to maximize our aid effectiveness.

You can find countless books, articles, and conferences all pontificating about sustainability, dependency, asset based development, local participatory considerations, aid effectiveness, not hurting when we help, not sending western volunteers and there are many good thoughts in all of this thinking. I advocate for many of the same considerations.

I think there is a huge however to all of this that I’m not hearing anyone say.

While we sit around and conference about how not to screw up our help, there were 24,000 children that died today because they didn’t have a bowl of rice, or a cup of clean water, or $5 for anti-malarial medications, or $10 for a hospital visit to stop an infection.

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I’m flawless?

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 2 minute read

Apparently I am, and that is the gospel. The gospel is not only that I’m going to heaven. (And, doubtless, it is good that I am spending eternity with God as a result of the gospel.) But, for the here and now, the Good News is that because of the cross, I’m flawless.

I grew up with this notion that, while I was saved by grace, I had to behave right and religious in order to keep God pleased with me.

I learned that if I behaved right, I was blessed with His presence in my life. And if I sinned, He was displeased and would withdraw His presence from me. I knew that my good works didn’t save me, but I was taught that I had to keep my salvation by doing a list of things and not doing a list of other things.

Apparently not.

Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ. How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

Galatians 3:2–3 NLT

My sin no longer separates me from God, because in Romans 8 nothing in all creation separates me from God. If that is true, then I can’t separate myself from God. We have bought into the idea that Christianity is all about behavior modification.

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Heart-check questions for the professionally religious

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 3 minute read

Notwithstanding what self-absorbed motives we are trying to beat down in our hearts, a temptation of the professionally religious is to do our best to present the best spiritual image we can. We may tend to know the right things to say, but how consistently does saying the right thing reflect the real core value motives of our hearts? Here are some probing questions that have helped me dig out myself:

  • For whose benefit, really, do I lead or serve?
  • What is my first reaction when someone else is credited with my ideas or thoughts?
  • What is it that I secretly feel my experience or role entitles me to over anyone else?
  • Do I look for opportunities for people to see me as a servant?
  • Do I get defensive and aggressive when someone treats me like a servant?

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Size does matter

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 3 minute read

Most of us know enough to say that size does not matter. And while we know it shouldn’t matter, let’s be honest, it actually does. We ask the size question in various ways. “ many attend your Sunday service now?” “What’s your program attendance?" Or, “How many staff do you have?” “What’s your annual budget?”

As soon as these kinds of questions are asked, our biggest task is to hide the wide-eyed look of insecurity to pretend we don’t care about being compared to something. Some of the thoughts that can go through our heads include “Maybe I’ll round up to make it sound better.” “Maybe I’ll give a range that includes the attendance at the Christmas Eve service.” Depending on who is asking, maybe I’ll say something about the good things happening in people’s lives.

“Jesus knew that the Pharisees had heard that he was baptizing and making more disciples than John” (John 4:1). Evidently, the professionally religious really do care – even in Jesus day – about size. They are concerned about someone else in town getting more of the spiritual action than they get. They are trying hard to hide their indignation that another pastor seems to be attracting more people to his church. When another leader is asked to write the spiritual column in the local paper, for instance, the professionally religious think, “Why don’t I get asked to do that?”

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The temptation to be relevant

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 5 minute read

For the next three chapters, I will be borrowing from Henri Nouwen. His book “In The Name of Jesus,” based on the temptation of Jesus, targets three temptations of the professionally religious. His short book, written more than twenty years ago, is one of the best works I’ve read in my study of leadership, and it deserves to surface again. I will simply do my best to summarize. I have identified other temptations that plague the professionally religious and will highlight those in following chapters.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights, he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, people do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Matthew 4:1-4 (NLT)

Nouwen makes the point that by being tempted to turn rocks into bread, Jesus is being tempted to be relevant. He is challenged by Satan to respond to the perceived need at that moment while ignoring the greater need.

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The big deal about buildings

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 3 minute read

Before embarking on a building project, I think ministry and church leadership should ask themselves some hard questions. Gone are the days of “if you build it they will come.” I think I’ve heard all the arguments and reasons that people should support a building or capital project. We usually appeal to something outreach related. Something like, “We want to use our building for outreach in the community, so we need to do this building project.” That might sound altruistic, but I have never heard of a church growing because it has a really nice or newly renovated building. I have never heard someone’s conversion story go like this: “I turned my life over to Jesus because the church on Third Avenue has a nice building.”

While most churches do open their buildings to the community for various events, I think building projects primarily benefit the people who already attend. We do it to have more comfortable, attractive, and convenient places for us to worship. I also think many of the professionally religious champion building projects because of what it potentially communicates about their leadership. Building projects give the appearance that there is a lot going on—that the leadership must be drawing more people and generating momentum. I’ve seen it in countries all over the world; the professionally religious use the size of their church buildings to broadcast how “big” a leader they want to be viewed as.

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The scariest thing Jesus said

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 2 minute read

In Jesus’ first sermon, there are three verses that, for me, are the scariest things Jesus ever said. Apparently, it is possible to work for Him my whole life, have an incredibly effective and powerful ministry, change people’s lives, be used by the power of the Holy Spirit, and still not spend eternity with Him.

Not everyone who calls out to me, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, “Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.” But I will reply, “I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.”

Matthew 7:21-23 NLT

I would have thought that if I could speak for God, cast out demons, and perform miracles I would be pretty safe. I would assume that I would be pretty tight with God to have this kind of impact. God and I would have to be really close if I could walk around and perform miracles. Apparently not!

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Hypocrites and blind guides

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 7 minute read

I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to hear the sting of Matthew 23 the first time it was spoken.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

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Looking for reverend perfect

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 3 minute read

I don’t know of one great man of God in Scripture that would get hired by most churches today. He wouldn’t fulfill the profile nor meet the expectations that people have of the professionally religious. Abraham helped himself to the house help when he didn’t see how God was going to fulfill His promise. King David, a "man after God’s own heart,” wouldn’t make the short list because of his murderous and adulterous past. Moses had a temper issue that caused him to kill an Egyptian as well as an apparent speech impediment that would have made him a terrible preacher. John the Baptist was simply too weird. Peter was a loud mouth who wasn’t dependable and Paul, prior to his being transformed by Jesus, was guilty of killing believers and having little patience with people like Mark.

We live in a time and culture that is unfriendly and often hostile toward leaders, and in particular, spiritual leaders. Leaders can’t be perfect enough to avoid the mistrust and antagonism of a hypercritical society. One of the many consequences of this pattern is that leaders find it very difficult to feel the freedom to be human.

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Why again did we start?

Thoughts by Dave Blundell – 7 minute read

I wrote this article just as HFL was getting started. We needed to communicate why we were so compelled to start a new organization when many already existed. After 12 years it still remains the fuel for our fire. We say some things a little differently now, but reason we come to work every day is still the same. And now...we have 12 years of changed life stories as evidence that this is all worth it.

Why does Hungry For Life exist? Why do we do what we do?

HFL exists because this world is starving spiritually and physically, and the two are intimately related. 

Spiritual starvation in developed nations significantly contributes to physical starvation in developing nations.  People are hungry for life.  All around the world hunger pains are seen and heard.  

In places on earth where there is enough food to eat, the hunger is of a different sort. Outside the ‘church’, there is a generation of people wondering what this life is all about, thinking that there must be more to life than living and dying.  The hunger inside the Christian community is a hunger that quietly questions if our experience of God is really what He intended.  We keep attending church but we are not sure why.

More and more the contrast between the 21st Century North American Church and the 1st Century New Testament Church is causing people to question what ‘Church’ really is. 

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