Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We Need To Put Love to Work!

 I had an interesting juxtaposition of events recently.  I was at a conference put on by the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation and the theme was Guilt & Shame.  I was also at a Reformation Day service put on by some of the churches of my Presbytery (Tennessee Valley).
    One of the worst things that can happen to you is to be asked to give a testimony of grace at a Guilt & Shame conference.  Anyone looking at your name on the schedule should know immediately that somewhere you have royally messed up.  Yes, I was the one giving such a testimony.  The only good thing, well the beginning actually of many good things, is that your sins are no longer hidden.  Let me just take a moment to shout a little bit about the cross, the mighty cross, the blessed blood of Jesus, for the expiation of sin, for being dressed in the righteousness of Christ. OK, thanks for the moment, now back to my subject.
    The reason I connect the two events, one the guilt & shame conference and a Presbytery gathering, is that I realize how difficult it really is for Teaching Elders to live out our ideal of accountability.  I am speaking of the dynamic Teaching Elders experience as they seek to stay faithful to Jesus and their vows, primarily of holiness, and the dogged persistence of the sins that so easily entangle them.  It is difficult because by conscience we are to be sensitive to our own sins, and not just condemn those in others.  In doing so we also are faced with the reality that the Presbyterian system is a system of courts in which discipline is exercised, or is supposed to be.
    With all this current Gospel celebration going on, by which I mean constantly using the word Gospel in our sermons, and proclaiming that this now means we can be transparent and vulnerable with each other, I am wondering if we really trust each other in our Presbyteries to own up to our sins?  Unfortunately I have been at several Presbytery trials, sometimes public confessions of sin, and seen discipline exercised where brothers have been stripped of their ministerial credentials, sat down from their pulpits.  It was not unfortunate that the Presbytery was acting, only that it had to act.  I don't think I have ever been at one where the guilty party wasn't truly guilty, and the Presbytery wasn't earnestly trying to help the individuals concerned.  Nevertheless, it was painful to experience, and there was a certain amount of godly fear involved, as in "there but for the grace of God go I."
    I have been close to some who were disciplined, I have been close to some who should have been disciplined, I have even been a prosecutor at one of those trials.  Sometimes I have heard from such individuals that they would rather step down, and they did, without ever owning up publicly to their sin because the experience of a Presbytery trial was something they could not face.  Whether that was because of the humiliation, or because they felt Presbytery was too harsh, or that they could not trust the brothers with the care of their soul I do not know.
    That is of course part of the problem.  Presbyteries are not simply charged with caring for the souls of Presbyters, they are also charged with protecting the name of Jesus and the purity of the Church.  It is what makes the position of Pastor (Teaching Elders for those PCA purists) so special and so precarious.
    One of the issues in the dynamic of Pastors being accountable is the relationship they have first with their own Sessions.  This can be a wonderful relationship, or it can be one of conflict and discord.  My realization is that there is a danger when our Ruling Elders love us too much, and forgive our sins too readily, because they don't want to lose us.  Yet, it is important I think for a Presbytery to not dissolve that relationship, or interfere in it, too quickly.  I am saying that some Pastors can be salvaged and not simply booted out.  If they have a loving but strong Session I think Pastors can be rehabilitated and wonderfully continued in ministry.
    I also think it is so important that Presbyteries work on building trust between the brothers.  Our system almost seems to take pleasure in not trusting anyone.  We have committees to check on committees.  We teach and believe in our own total depravity.  Yet, if we don't trust each other with our souls, and are too careful about our jobs (this is what we do and how we pay our bills and feed our families and experience esteem and status) then we will hold on to our secret sins and not open up so we can get help.  Our system cannot be reduced to a system of "gotcha."   We have to put love to work.  I was so happy to be at that Reformation service because I happen to like the guys in my Presbytery.  Some of them scare me to death because I am not as holy as they are, as theologically astute, or as strict in the BOCO, but I believe I love them, and I think they love me.  I don't like having sins to confess, but I would be dead if that were the case. I do like having the joy of forgiveness, and brothers who understand the struggle.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


    I am thankful that I am writing this without being in the circumstance of grieving, or anger, in having just lost someone to murder.  I am writing as an observer of a fairly consistent dynamic within our American culture.  I am speaking about our propensity toward killing each other.
   I have written previously, with anger, about the killing of our inner city young people, especially our young men.  Some of my anger has been about the relative silence on this subject by national leaders, even well known civil rights leaders, who become incensed  when they see racial injustice or police brutality. While agreeing that we should always be angry about injustice I don't like us to be silent about what is proportionately much worse than, what is today, relatively isolated incidents of racial killing.
    I would like us to have some sustained anger over what is happening way too frequently in our country.  It is difficult to go very long in time without seeing another story in the news about a domestic or employment related killing.  These killings are often multiple killings or shootings, and the perpetrator often kills himself or commits "suicide by cop."  We are a nation of blood, more than we like to admit, and it seems to be everywhere around us.  Yes, there are certain neighborhoods that don't have nightly drive by shootings, thank God some of those still exist.  True normalcy would be an answer to David's prayer in Psalm 144:14, "...that there be no cry of distress in our streets."  Yet there is no neighborhood exempt from murder because it happens wherever people live or work together.
    Often the scenario is a woman who has recently separated or divorced from her boyfriend or husband respectively.  We seem to have a substantial amount of men in our society who cannot handle the fact of their woman leaving them, and they threaten that if they are left they will kill the woman, her (or their) children, her parents, and anyone who gets in the way.  How does our society create such men?  What is the culture, the psychology, the spiritual bankruptcy that fosters such proclivity?
    It is interesting to me that such situations often happen when an "order of restraint," injunctions or some kind of legal restraining order has been issued.  Facing jail, even the presence of police, does not seem to prevent angry males from stalking and hunting down the female they feel has destroyed their life.  This is "maleness" off the chain, where a man will let nothing stop him to accomplish his mission.
    This is also a glimpse into the weakness of men, the profound depth of feeling worthless, powerless, and emotionally emasculated.  Men cannot abide it and they will reduce themselves to their lowest common denominator, which is to be physical and to take physical action.  This kind of thing happens on the job when employers and supervisors and those who seem to have control over a worker, usually male, face that angry male worker (now holding a gun) who will not endure the insult to his life being dominated, and in his mind destroyed, by others.
    Ego weakness in our society is a prevalent disease.  In the ghettos it is quick offense at being dissed, sometimes territorial or group competition; juvenile idiocy dressed up as being tough.  In the suburbs it is more hidden behind the blank looks of men who marry, work, and feel like they are nothing in a world of women who have minds of their own or employers who decide to call them extraneous.
    Obviously having lethal means translates into more lethality.  Without so many guns we wouldn't have so many murders or suicides.  I love guns; love holding them, love firing them.  There is something powerful about holding one and having one.  I know they are dangerous.  I would kind of like people to think of me that way, that I have the potential to be dangerous.  I'm not a bad shot either.  I love cowboy movies, I love action movies, I even love the sort of vigilante revenge movies where the abused guy finally comes out the winner in the end.  I am such an American.  None of that makes, or can make me, manly.
    This is the problem, and unless we deal with it we will continue to have a scourge of quiet, strange, unknown individuals who one day become infamous because they kill everyone that at one time they said they loved, or knew, or worked with.  We keep being surprised by such things when we ought to start dealing with some of the sources of the problem.
    I don't think the problem is simply trying to outlaw guns, and if anyone wants to rid the country of all the illegal guns and keep criminals from having them, or the clinically insane from buying them, I will be thrilled and supportive.  I don't even care if you want to register my guns.  The government knows I own a car, and I can kill you with that too.
      I don't think the problem is strong women.  Women who can out talk men, or who have more education than men, or who seem sometimes to get away with all kinds of things because our society still thinks of them as the victim even when they can be the evil engine of things gone wrong in a relationship, family, or at the office.
    I don't think the answer is homosexuality for those who can't figure out their sexual identity, or need love but are terribly intimidated by the very difficult obstacle of figuring out how to live with someone of the opposite sex.
    I do think the answer is very traditional, and in absence of that it must be religious.  I divide those things because I do think God Almighty gave the world a lot of common grace when he established the family.  This is a fairly consistent picture (though with plenty of failed men in history to make one think those examples give the lie to my opinion) of traditional cultures and the historical family.  Men who work, who take a wife and are shown respect by that wife, who raise children and teach them to respect their parents.  There, that is pretty much it.  Oh, I know we want to add affection and love, building up self esteem.  Yes, those would be great additions if they didn't already come with the package, but historically it usually did.  It is a sad commentary that some think a patriarchal culture oppressed women, usually inferred by someone's own personal experience, but traditional families didn't create so many murderous boys.
    That atmosphere usually produced boys who could reduplicate what they had grown up in.  Muslim cultures do the same thing except where those that particularly oppress their women and girls and keep them ignorant.  Those cultures develop masses of insecure men, and those men murder and kill their wives, daughters, and infidels.
    Cultures do not stay consistent.  Cultures often suffer from cultural disintegration and both the cause and effect of that is family disintegration.  One can redefine the word family to keep up some form of political politeness, but as families fail so do neighborhoods, societies and nations.
    I mentioned religion, and as I am a Christian I know that Jesus redeems and makes new what was once broken and perverted.  God can make men men again, and if ever that was needed in America it is today, when weak men go on killing sprees to somehow prove to themselves they are still powerful.  They are in fact broken men who can still take action, like in horror movies where the hand has been cut off but it still is chasing you down. They are in fact not real men, not worthy of the name, not men who know love and how to give it.  Males who instead have a consistent assurance, with the confidence that even if their world falls apart they are rooted by their heritage and have hope in their future.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Would Help You But We Haven't Built Our Program Yet

  Maybe you have read, "When Helping Hurts" or "Toxic Charity"?   I certainly hope you read those very helpful books with the desire to be merciful.  I hope you have not read them either looking for excuses not to help, or coming away from them deciding not to help those in need.
    When all these good books have done been read we are still left with the Book that trumps them all and that of course is the Bible.  The reader might wonder why I would think you could read the books mentioned and not be willing to be merciful.  The problem lies not in their intent or the desire of their authors, but the confusion that may result when we think of what is good, better, and best when it comes to mercy.  The trouble may be in attempting to do things perfectly so as to delay doing anything at all.
    My hope is that those who practice mercy in more than occasional moments, those that are seeking to build a Deacon's strategy or an organized mercy program will remember mercy while they organize mercy.
I know that you may read or hear, "it would be better..." and no doubt if you have the time, resources, training, intelligence or whatever you need to build a program or ministry that helps people be self sufficient, move from dependence to independence, etc. it will in the long run be better for the folks you try to help.  The only problem of course is that the person who needs help might starve by then, or freeze to death, or fail to get the medication they need for their diabetes.
    One of the problems those of us who want to effectively help poor people over the long haul have seen is that well meaning but not well thought out programs have often fostered dependency, and that often leads to cynicism in both the giver and the receiver.  We want people to aspire to something better for themselves, we want them to move from a culture of survival to a culture of life and stability.  We want their value system to change so that they will become producers, owners, builders, makers, and ultimately generous people who share with others in need.
    While learning, thinking, and struggling to build such ministries and programs people can still overwhelm us with their immediate needs.  Some of those needs are emergencies, some are real, some are legitimate, even life threatening issues.  It is in this very space that Deacons and mercy planners have to build a strategy of response and not hide behind a community development strategy that only works for the long term.  Let me put it bluntly, if you let children go hungry then you are not being merciful but mean.
    This is the place of ministry that I advocate for local churches, while those same local churches build deeper and wider strategies of mercy that leads to development.  Some of those strategies are non-profits, 501(c)3 organizations, Individual Development Account programs, food cooperatives, savings schemes, job training, housing ministries, etc.
    This emergency response is tough because it always happens on someone else's timetable, just when it seems most inconvenient for ourselves.  If we think ahead we might actually be ahead by planning emergency response before it hits us.  This is true for Disaster Response as well as for local church members and members of our communities that need someone to appeal to for help when in immediate, sudden, or emergency need.
    Now if someone has an emergency every month, say about the end of month when they have run out of food, and you keep responding like it is an emergency then you are hurting yourself and them.  Pretty soon after meeting their real or first emergency you need a budget conference, then you might need to give some life counseling.  Finally you need to build a long term strategy for them so you don't become the "candy man" and they begin to get hardened to using you as their life preserver, and you begin to resent them.
    I confess that I think many of us are lazy, but maybe I am just projecting my problems onto others.  At the same time we Christians often have sensitive hearts and want to help people, especially in those moments when we feel self righteous about those other Christians who don't help anyone (OK, I'm getting a little sarcastic), but we have got to face some hard facts about ourselves, the reality of our busy lives, and the real needs of poor folk.  I want us (not just you but myself as well) to be able to move on a dime, to respond quickly and wisely, and to have the resources ready to make that move and make that response without permanently screwing the people up we are trying to help.
    It takes some planning and foresight to make that happen while our laziness resists our getting that done.  In addition our sensitive hearts will get us into a trap of guilt and bad response.  This wouldn't matter if we had the option of just building programs that did everything just the right way for poor people.  My point here is that you will not always have time for that luxury, and you don't have permission from God to close your ears to the cry of the poor either.  When people need mercy they need mercy, not your educated opinion that what is best for them in the long run is a program that hasn't been built yet.  Do both, pray, think about what you are doing, work on doing it better, and remember to be merciful in the right way at the moment of need.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Is The Wife Called Too?

    Most of our urban church planters are married.  This doesn't have to be so but most pastors do tend to get married before they begin their pastoral ministry.  Each family is different and each context is different but many of the dynamics are the same in inner city church planting and ministry.
    It is not surprising that some of our families live in dangerous neighborhoods.  It is not surprising that some of their homes and cars are broken into and they experience being robbed.  It is not surprising that the public schools where they raise their children are usually at risk schools or maybe we should just say, terrible schools.  It is not surprising that their children are at risk of getting into fights, or getting mugged or robbed, while playing right in front of the house.
    There are other dynamics among our church planters as well.  Some of them are not paid very much, or certainly not enough.  Some of them don't see a lot of fast growing fruit as they deal with some very dysfunctional individuals and families.  Some of them suffer from a support system that is not always that supportive, they may give money but they constantly criticize that more isn't being accomplished.  Some of them suffer from self doubt, some of them suffer from family problems that could occur anywhere, but in this context those problems can be crippling.
    What happens when they have a handicapped child, or that handicap is emotional or mental?   What happens when the wife is depressed, or the planter struggles with depression?  What happens when the wife questions her calling, the planters calling, and the call to this kind of ministry?
    In the assessment of church planters the wife is also questioned as to her sense of call, her commitment and agreement with the call of her husband.  Now, one can theorize that wives are not the one called, just the husband.  She just needs to be a good wife and mother and take care of her family, some might think.  Not in the inner city, not on the mission field.  Maybe in a comfortable middle class and stable church setting a wife can feel the luxury of her own career, her own life apart from the church, but not in the inner city.  There planters are called not just to a job but to a context.
    This is not to say that wives can't have their own job or career; that is a family decision  Whether the wife works in addition to the work of her home she is called to be with her husband in a common mission in a common context, and that context is all defining.  Some can try to live outside their area of mission, that will make things tougher and sometimes will make it impossible.  Some can try to live as if they are in a bubble, like some missionaries do overseas, and stay in a compound and never expose themselves to the life of the community they are called to reach.  This is both in-genuine and hypocritical and the people where you live can see your lack of faith and your lack of love for them.
    How can we preach to the poor to have faith in their context if we never enter it, how can we preach trust in the Sovereignty of God in a violent community if we refuse to engage it?  One might say I am asking a lot.  To the contrary, I am asking the impossible.  I am asking parents to go against all of their own intuitive responses to danger and threat, which is to protect our children and to shelter them and give them all we think is the best.
    In cross cultural churches that pursue the poor we often see parents make this life style choice at different points, usually when a child complains about the Sunday School, youth group, or is attracted to more middle class youth groups in other churches.  We see parents abandon their altruistic ideals that they had when they didn't have kids.   This makes perfect sense, but it doesn't help the inner city, and it doesn't fulfill the mission of those called to it, and in fact it discourages the rest of us who stay.
    My feeling is that wives of church planters and missionaries are called just like their husbands, they need to be commissioned like their husbands, and they certainly need to be prayed for along with their husbands and children.  They are partners in the ministry and their intuitive feel for relationships, their compassion, their insights, even their anger at what is wrong is helpful to their men and to the church they are seeking to plant and grow.
    Is the Gospel call to the unreached, the poor, the dangerous, the antagonistic only to single people?  If the call comes to those who are married everyone in the family will suffer for it.  I use the word with respect, because we are called to add to the sufferings of Christ, we are in fact joined to them as we are joined to Him.  Is it fair to bring our children along in such bad circumstances, to expose them to violence, racism, poverty, fear, etc.?   No, it is not fair, only right and obedient.  And in a certain respect, the only safe thing to do when God calls you.  Is God weak, has he forgotten his children, is he unable to provide and protect?   He is our rock, our strong tower, and "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." (Psalm 91:1)   I remember a certain woman named Elizabeth Elliot who took her young daughter and lived among the tribe that killed her husband.  Wow, talk about context.
    Each family has to make wise and prudent decisions on schooling their children, on putting bars on their windows and alarm systems, on knowing who they can't trust in their house.  Everyone in a war zone learns "street sense" or you don't last long, everyone suffers some trauma, and many will exhibit some forms of PTSD.  It comes with the territory, and that comes with the call.   So, ladies especially, if God called you to the man, and if God has called you to a place, be there!  Be there in the confidence that Jesus never takes us anywhere that he isn't still in control of the storms that rage all around us.  When you got in the boat with Jesus it should not have been the boat that gave you confidence, nor in the placid waters of the moment but in the Master of water, and earth, and sky who sails with you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Don't You Hate to Feel Guilty About Not Evangelizing?

  I have met some men in my life who have really fascinated me when it comes to Evangelism.  Without a doubt I can say I have been blessed to know them.  Men like Kennedy Smart, Bill Iverson, Jim Duffecy, Art Williams, Grover Willcox, and Henry Krabbendam.  They have been instrumental to win my family to Christ, to model what an Evangelist is and does, to mentor me, and at times to intimidate me.
    If you know Bill Iverson you would have to call him a force of nature.  He can delight you and make you terribly uncomfortable at the same time.  If you are caught with him in public you have to be ready because at any moment he will start talking to a stranger, ask them a riddle or pose a question, and then while he is joking with them steer the conversation to Christ.  If you are his friend he will try to enroll you in some new scheme in winning the city to Jesus, or changing the denomination.  I love him dearly, and though at times I confess to getting protective of myself when he communicates with me, I wonder how come there are not more like him.
    In these last years Bill has been on a kick about how many people in one church it takes to bring in a new Christian.  He cites statistics that show after you add up all the people who died or left a given church in the last year, and then add those who not only made a profession of faith but actually joined that church, it is embarrassing when you compare the amount of members with those who have been added.  Numbers like 50 for 1, or even 200 for 1.  Then he goes further and talks about how much money a congregation puts into itself, and then divides the number of new people into that overall budget figure.  Isn't that just irritating?
    I have some suppositions about the state of the Evangelical church in America, and I am wondering if they are true.  I am wondering that if when a church planting network parachutes a church planter into a city, with the money for a praise band, large facility, and good programming that it doesn't really actuate into a mass conversion of unsaved people but more a sucking sound of saved people from dying churches, which will now surely die?  I am wondering that even though there are small percentages of unsaved folk who get saved around a new church plant, built on transfer growth, that we are not really making much of a dent among the unsaved or in the culture?  I am wondering if we have created an illusion (maybe a self-delusion) of speed, size, and power for what is really a retreat into mega "Fort Apache"s where we feel safe, but don't really change the community, the city, or the culture?
    I am wondering how many church planters actually do programmed evangelism?  I am wondering if church planters and pastors, and even Christians for that matter, have any idea of the disproportionate effort we are now experiencing between "speed" and "depth?"
   Now this is just my personal speculation and would be happy to see someone else write a book about it, if anyone would read it, but it seems to me we have moved from the"Dale Carnegie' school of evangelistic method to the "Starbucks" method.  I mean moving from the Bill Bright type of packaged salesmanship and marketing to the present concept of forming a long term relationship with someone and bringing them along in philosophical discussions until they not only get it, but want to get it.
    We have broken away from speed so we could experience a more honest depth.  This feels much better, except of course for the souls who are speeding on to hell.  Personally I find the prepackaged presentation often distasteful and artificial, sometimes manipulative.  I find the "no presentation" worse.
I mean, if it is true that people do go to hell who don't know Jesus, that they are lost without him, that their lives don't really come to full meaning without a relationship with him, then why is our comfort level so important?
    As a pastor I felt it important that our congregation have some basic method or program for systematically getting the Gospel out.  We built our programming on children in the inner city, so we could meet them and then meet their families.  We did open air Bible clubs in their neighborhoods and essentially preached to them, in very simple Gospel messages, the Gospel.  Everything else was built on that.  Many adults came to Jesus in our church by coming to the morning worship service, and I was certainly glad for that, but that was not our programmed approach.  We did not attempt to train everyone in a systematic method, but we did offer training in how to share your faith.  Was I satisfied with my effort or with that of my people?  Oh no, we certainly could have done more, with better results.  My joy is that we never ceased to do something.
   I have seen inner city missionaries go into neighborhoods and attempt to build discipling relationships over the years.  Good, but not good enough.  Too many people, too little time.  I advocate both speed and depth, absolute honesty and never manipulation,a willingness for vulnerable relationships and bold confrontation and presentation.
    I don't think I can be indicted on simply trying to save souls and not caring about bodies or the wholeness of human beings.  We have preached, taught, trained and modeled mercy (both charity and development) for too long to be found guilty of not really caring for people.  Jesus cares for real human beings, body and soul.  He takes care of all of me; I trust him for my daily bread and my eternal life.
But I realize several Biblical truths, and I know I need to realize them more intensely everyday; that to those who are perishing we are the smell of death (and people really are perishing in their sins into an eternity of separation from God) and, that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.
    I was with Bill Iverson this morning at breakfast, and he is still at it.  Still reaching out to the lost, still wondering where the Church is, and when it will it come to its senses that it will shrink and die unless it recaptures a fervency for sharing a saving Gospel.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Local Church and Non-Profits

    Over the years we have started or spun off half a dozen non-profits from our church.  The first two did not remain tied to the church.  They certainly went on to do good work but in my opinion there were personal and ideological differences about them that affected our ability to support them.  I think they would have been more effective if they had stayed connected with the church.
   Along the way we have come to some conclusions about how non-profits should relate to the local church. Here in Chattanooga we have a very large non-profit community.  There must be hundreds of them.  Most of them depend on raising money to survive, as do our own non-profits.   We decided after the first two experiences to try and keep a church connection with each non-profit that we started.
   Let me tell you how we stay connected and then let me tell you why.  When we establish a non-profit we ask that the by laws or charter spell out that at least 51 percent of the Board Members be members of New City Fellowship.  The Elders of the church approve the nominated list of these members, as well as the other Board member names that are submitted.  We encourage the Director to have a close relationship with the pastor and to meet with him on some regular basis for consultation.  We don't want the pastor to serve on any of the boards, we don't want the Elders to do any management of the organization.  The non-profit is a legally separate organization.  We want the church to make a substantial contribution to each of the non-profits, and some get more than others due to their own history and relationships with the church.  Legal connection will not guarantee influence, but money sure helps.
    We ask that the other Board Members be Christians, a member of some Evangelical church, and hopefully indigenous to the neighborhood.  Some of our boards seek members who have some vocational connection, a gift mix that will help them, and the commitment and energy to help them both govern and raise money.
    As with all boards our non-profits have gone up or down depending on the faithfulness, industry, ingenuity, and unity of their boards.  The skill of the director, his or her integrity, their passion and pursuit of support, and their ability to grow in organization excellence all play a factor in whether or not the organization is successful.  Some directors were just not fitted for the role, some did not stay long enough to really learn their part, and some were lazy.  Others were well fitted and worked hard, and when that happens it is exciting to watch.
    We sought to keep the non-profits connected to the church because we learned something from our first two experiences.  We learned that there is ideological drift when it is a self-perpetuating board.  We learned that raising money concerns affect how an organization stays, or does not stay, true to its purpose.  We learned that personalities of directors can be problematical, and that integrity can be compromised.  We learned that having a group of Elders available to handle disputes between a director and his board can be helpful.  We learned that having someone to which to make an appeal can be helpful.  We learned that sometimes organizations need an emergency bail out to survive.  We learned that the local church is a grass roots organization and that indigenous control is more important than money connections.
    Why would we ever ask anyone else to help support such non-profits if they are connected to the church?      We ask anyone and everyone to support them, without apology, because all of the non-profits we have started exist to help people in the neighborhood, city, and world and not the members of our own church.  None of them were started or are maintained because they form an essential service to our church members but to the poor, the unreached, the marginalized in the broader community.  We know that many churches appeal to the outside community to help build their buildings or help them with their budget.  We see nothing essentially wrong with that, and many benefactors have given to churches that they did not attend or were not members of, but our non-profits do not exist to help New City Fellowship.
   Do we ever refer the clients or participants to New City for worship or church services?  Of course we do, but not exclusively, and many or most of the folks who use these non-profits never attend New City.  We encourage all the folks to get into a church, and if one is nearby them or they have a relationship with that church we encourage their participation.  Many faith based non-profits say they do that, although we don't see much fruit from such claims.  We never withhold services from the people our non-profits help due to their attendance at our church, the services are given to all without discrimination.
    Many Christians are not used to a church that actually helps people outside of itself except by sending mission money or teams, we do it by creating entities that are needed and missing from the community, for the benefit of the community and the glory of God.  We happen to have a view that churches need to be a city set on a hill that collectively does good works in their community so that people will give glory to God.  In more affluent communities such services as we  provide are not necessarily needed, but they are needed among the poor.  They also need to be directed by people who have a vested interest in that community.  We don't want the government, foundations, the business community, or any outside group to have veto power over the direction and course of these non-profits.  We certainly appreciate their help when they can give it as true help, as a servant, and not an outside dictator.
    New City has sought to share the ownership of its non-profits by asking the Presbytery to license and support them.  The Tennessee Valley Presbytery has a procedure for licensing mercy ministries and adding them to the mercy budget.  We have sought to have Board Members from other churches, to include non Presbyterian congregations.  The non-profits have hired staff from other churches as well.
    There is nothing inherently anti-Biblical for a faith based non-profit to have no connection to a local church. It does however foster a climate of competition with local churches, so that some people never enter a church or become part of it but only experience ministry from and through a non-profit or para-church organization.  This is not Biblical discipleship.  There are even those who think the only effective ministry is from a non-profit.  We certainly don't claim our non-profits to be perfect, and in fact have suffered from many struggles including poor management, ineffective fund raising, and lack of training.  Yet we think our ministries are some of the best in the city for really reaching people who have need, and giving them an organic connection to the only Biblical organization mentioned in the Bible, and that is the church, the Bride of Christ.