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Thursday, June 28, 2012

"Love Without Walls" (Laurie Beshore)

TITLE: Love Without Walls: Learning to Be a Church In the World For the World (Leadership Network Innovation Series)
AUTHOR: Laurie Beshore
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012, (160 pages).

This book tears down vertical walls and builds horizontal bridges. It erases the mental barriers of "I can't" by replacing them with "In God, we can." Instead of trying to make needy people feel needier and dependent on handouts, Beshore argues powerfully for a change of "giveaway" mindset toward an empowering mentality. Far too many churches have adopted a "giveaway" culture that essentially disempowers the poor and the needy from helping themselves. The major disconnect is often the helpers, despite their good intentions, seeing people as problems to be solved rather than as people to relate with. This is the crux of a walled outreach. Such outreaches more often than not puts one's ministry and one's mission primary, and everyone else becomes secondary.  As a result, many church outreach programs feed into a "culture of poverty" which unfortunately causes a "lack of a sense of self-fulfillment, and a lack of a sense of hope or a sense that things can get better." Thankfully, Beshore goes on to provide renewed understanding of how outreach can make sense to the helpers and the people to be helped. One such initiative is the four-step "development funnel."

The first step is "Expose" where volunteers are need to take a fresh look at the usual excuses for not doing any outreach. When the convictions are there, busyness is not an excuse. Neither is lack of qualifications, or uncertainty about what to do. When one knows the whys, one will creatively find out the hows.

The second step is "Enfold." This means partnering with a member of the people we are trying to help. Not only is it able to help churches and ministries gain a deeper first hand understanding of the real needs and solutions, it gives churches a chance to build relationships and disciple the leading members of the community.

The third step is "Engage." This means that volunteers learn how to engage and when to disengage. When engaging, one learns to take ownership in learning and in relating. In disengaging, one learns how to let the people learn to help themselves. Through encouragement and engaging, one connects with the community meaningfully.

The fourth step is "Empower." This remains the key purpose of any outreach program. We cannot simply sit back and relax after firing a bullet of goodwill. We cannot behave like bombardier pilots who instead of "Bombs away," call out "Food and clothing dumped away!" Empowering people requires a sharing of biblical principles of why we do what we are doing. It is a process of learning, of giving, and of sharing.

My Thoughts

I am all praise for this book. It is small enough to read through quickly but my advice is "Don't." The book is soaked with much painful experience and valuable tips for outreach that we need to spend time soaking in learning experience. Patience is needed to understand the communities we are trying to help. Leadership is needed to navigate the highs and lows of outreach efforts, of recruiting people, and of training future leaders.

The constant refrain I am hearing is this. Outreach is not about programs. It is about people. That is why we must place relationships before any giveaways, involving people up close and personal instead of isolating them as Me-Giver, You-Receiver relational dichotomy. It takes a change of attitude to say that we, the potential givers, are actually the biggest beneficiaries of outreach. This ought to humble us to build more bridges, and at the same time tear down our walls of isolation. Only then, can we truly say our love is true. Outreach is about building bridges with planks of love. We cannot look at the gulf before us and get discouraged into non-action. Instead, we need to realize how deep God's love is for miserable old me, so that we can share the love of God, as one beggar showing another beggar where to find food.

Beshore's book needs to be read by anyone interested in outreach. For that matter, if a Church is made for the benefit of others, I believe it is required reading for anyone who is a leader in any Church. My praises for this book are not only filled to the brim, it is overflowing with gratitude to Beshore and the powerful ministry of Mariners Church.

Rating. 5 stars of 5.


This book is part of a blog tour with EngagingChurchBlog that runs from 25-29 June 2012, and is provided to me free by Zondervan without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

1 comment:

  1. Conrade - Thanks so much for posting this review! I couldn't agree more.