All of the sessions of the Congress will be put online shortly after they are completed. You can visit the Cape Town 2010 website to listen to or download them.
Justin highlights these two:
- Os Guinness and David Wells, “Global Gospel, Global Era: Christian Discipleship and Mission in the Age of Globalization”
- Tim Keller, “What Is God’s Global Urban Mission?
I agree — they are very helpful. Here are a few others worth pointing out:
- World Evangelization in the 21st Century: Prioritizing the Essential Elements of the Great Commission
- Missing Peoples: The Unserved “One-Fourth” World
- People at Work: Preparing to be the Whole Church
- Local Leaders in the Global Church
- An African Perspective on the Cross and the Gospel of Prosperity
And here’s one that I disagree a lot with: Poverty and Wealth.
Psalm 41:1 says “Blessed is he who considers the poor.” In his commentary on the Psalms, Derek Kidner points out: “The word considers is striking, in that it usually describes the practical wisdom of the man of affairs, and so implies giving careful thought to this person’s situation, rather than perfunctory help.”
Tim Keller draws out the implications of this in Ministries of Mercy: “God requires not only a significant expenditure of our substance on the needy. We are obligated to spend our hearts and minds as well. . . . We are to ponder the condition of the poor and seek ways to bring them to self-sufficiency. This takes a personal investment of time and of mental and emotional energy. God looks for a willing, generous heart, which freely helps those in need, and what we give with our hands is not acceptable without it (2 Cor 9:7).
So we are to be eager, not begrudging, in helping the poor and we are to give thought to how to do this in a way that helps bring them out of poverty over time, rather than merely doing a few things here and there.
Both of these are related. For if we are eager to help others, including the poor, this implies that we will give careful consideration to how we do it, even creating plans and generating ideas and initiatives to serve with insight in ways that help over the long term. And it means, when possible, we will ultimately seek to address root causes rather than give relief only — as important as relief itself is, all on its own.
Job is an example of this. In chapter 29 he mentions how he not only provided relief to those in need, but also “broke the fangs of the unrighteous and made him drop his prey from his teeth” (v. 17). As Keller points out in his article The Gospel and the Poor, the prophets also denounced “corrupt business practices (Amos 8:2-16), legal systems weighted in favor of the rich and influential (Deut. 24:17; Lev. 19:15), [and] a system of lending capital that gouges the person of modest means (Lev. 19:35-37; 25:37; Ex 22:25-27).”
So we should both seek to provide relief and have a view towards helping the poor become self-sufficient, ultimately seeking to address the root causes that keep people in poverty.
Lots could be said here about the various factors involved here and how to go about this, but I will mention one thing that is not commonly mentioned, at least in the church.
Many attempts to help alleviate poverty (whether in Africa, the US, or elsewhere in the world) have often been based on an inaccurate understanding of economics. As a result, they have often failed to have a last impact, and sometimes have hurt more than they have helped.
Consequently, I would argue that one of the most important things we can do if we are going to make an effective contribution to the solutions for global poverty is gain a correct understanding of economics. There is more that we need to do, of course, but gaining a right understanding of economics is critical for knowing how to direct our efforts rightly. A right understanding of economics, I would argue, is part of considering the needs of the poor (Psalm 41:1).
One of the most helpful books for this is Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics. Sowell’s classic is one of those rare books that helps put all the pieces together. And it’s helpful not only for thinking correctly about global issues, but also issues in our own country (which was his primary purpose in writing it; the sub-title of the first- edition was A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy).
I first came across Basic Economics in a bookstore in about the year 2000. It was shortly after that I made my first trip to Africa, where many of the things I encountered illustrated the economic principles Sowell discussed.
For example, in the country we were in, the government controlled the tea industry and the zinc industry (zinc was used to make the roofs for the houses). This was supposed to make tea and zinc more affordable. Instead, it actually increased the price and decreased the quality. Sowell’s book shows why this is so — namely, because the government monopoly on these items eliminated competition, and thus the incentive to keep prices down and quality up. The nation would have been better off if the government did not seek to control these industries, but instead allowed companies to be free to produce tea and zinc as they chose, thus enabling competition to keep prices down while preserving quality.
Now I’m back in Africa and encountering similar poverty — though not necessarily to the same degree as on my prior trip (which was to a different part of the continent). I think a lot in general about “what can we do about this? How can we help more, and in a way that makes a long-term difference?” And when I’m here, it gets me thinking about it even more.
Anyway, Sowell’s book is very helpful because the only long-term solution to poverty is economic growth — which comes through business and entrepreneurship. Foreign aid can be helpful, but businesses create goods and create jobs — and keep producing goods and providing income through the jobs year after year. Thus, business is the best long-term solution to poverty.
Yet, as Sowell illustrates, certain economic policies make it harder for businesses to start and grow. Furthermore, some of these policies that hinder economic growth actually seem sensible at first. And that’s why it’s so important to educate ourselves on economics — so that we aren’t guided in our thinking and initiatives by stage-one solutions that actually hurt more than they help, and so that we don’t advocate such solutions when they are promoted by others. We have to think beyond stage one.
When it comes to economics in general, here are two very helpful and easy to read books:
- Basic Economics, as I’ve mentioned
- Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
When it comes to economics and global poverty, here are some of the most helpful books I’ve come across:
- The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else
- When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
And here are some books I look forward to reading when I get the chance:
This is post 2 in the series: Suffering in Our Work and Everyday Lives
Selling your house and moving half way around the world to advance the cause of missions is suffering. But is selling your house to just move to another part of the U.S.?
What about having to drive to work in cold midwest winters? Or having your dishwasher go out? Or having 3 tight deadlines that you aren’t sure you can make? Or having to work an all-nighter? Or receiving 100+ emails a day when you have myriad other responsibilities to attend to as well? Or just plain not liking the carpet in your living room but not being able to afford to do anything about it?
Are those things suffering? After all, we should just be thankful to even have a dishwasher, right? And if you worked an all-nighter, well, that was your choice and you probably only had to because you weren’t managing your time well, right?
Most of these things are not typically considered suffering. In fact, many of us would be reluctant to think of them as suffering — haven’t we all heard people rebuke the guy who thought that being unable to start his car in the morning was “bearing his cross” (Luke 9:23)?
But in reality, these things are indeed real suffering, even though we often don’t recognize it. They are real suffering because they are real forms of hardship, pain, loss, and difficulty. Suffering is any form of loss, pain, and difficulty, regardless of degree. “Smaller” degrees of suffering do not cease to be suffering simply because they are small.
How do we know this? First, it’s a matter of definition. This is the very meaning of suffering. To suffer is to experience pain or hardship, which can be mental or physical. This is the way we commonly use the word and, although I hate to refer to Wikipedia or the dictionary, both reflect this meaning (Wikipedia | Dictionary.com).
Second, and more importantly, this is the only definition that accounts for the variety of things the Bible includes under the rubric of suffering. We see this in the certain general statements the Scriptures make on suffering, in the specific lists of suffering the Scriptures give us, and in the specific examples of suffering in Paul’s life. I want to look at these three things for the remainder of this post.
Post 1 in the Series: Suffering in Our Work and Everyday Lives
Today we are going to begin a series on suffering. We are going to look at the different types of suffering, how to endure suffering, what suffering looks like in our work and vocations, God’s role in our suffering, the effects of our suffering, and some thoughts on assisting those who are suffering.
Why this series? It came to mind a while ago when I was reflecting on a list of various types of suffering that Paul gives in 2 Corinthians 12:10. It struck me that most of the things in Paul’s list weren’t things that I typically even thought of as suffering. That connected with some other thoughts, which then opened up some very helpful biblical discoveries that have made a real practical difference in my day-to-day life.
As a result, one of the main points I’m going to hit in this series is that we are all suffering more than we know, because much of our suffering is not clearly recognized as suffering. This realization, in turn, gives us a broader view that makes it possible for us to see more clearly the substantial place of suffering in our everyday lives — and, therefore, how to deal with it (and help others deal with it).
Although there are many helpful things written on suffering, most of them tend to focus on persecution or the more dramatic forms of suffering which will likely happen to us all at some point, but which aren’t usually a main feature of our ongoing lives. As a result, we too easily file those truths away for “later,” failing to make the application to our lives right now — to the more routine hardships that we go through every day and which permeate the dominant fabric of our lives.
In other words, we fail to see all of the ordinary, everyday hardships of life as real suffering, and thus are left to navigate them without the amazing biblical realities that bear us up when we are experiencing more extreme suffering. My aim is to focus specifically (though not exclusively) on the everyday hardships that we experience and show how they are real suffering, what this means for us (and our work, family, and lives), and how to deal with them. (Thus, I almost called this series Suffering in Our Vocations.)
But How Does This Relate to Productivity?
Of course, someone might ask: “Isn’t this blog primarily about productivity and leadership — why are you writing a series on suffering?” The simplest answer is that productivity and leadership themselves involve suffering. Hence, if we are going to be effective in leading and working, we need to know how to navigate suffering.
But the better answer comes from understanding what productivity really is. A proper understanding of productivity requires that we broaden our understanding of productivity in at least two ways.
First, productivity does not just involve our personal productivity. Rather, there are four arenas of productivity. There is our personal productivity, of course, but there is also the productivity of our families, our organizations (that is, our workplaces, churches, and so forth), and society in general. In other words, productivity involves making our families, organizations, and communities more effective, as well as ourselves. Productivity involves life, work, business, and society–all segments of life.
Second, productivity is thus not simply about making ourselves more effective, but rather is about serving. We seek to be more productive so that we can be more effective in doing good for others. (For more on these points, you can see my post Broadening the Concept of Productivity, the About page or What this Blog is About.)
In the course, then, of our seeking to be productive (that is, serve our neighbor) in all areas of life, we will encounter many hardships. We need to know how to handle this covert suffering so that we can endure in our quest to serve and not “grow weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:9).
Since productivity is really about service and doing good for others to the glory of God, suffering is just as relevant to the subject of productivity as it is to the subject of loving our neighbor, for they are one and the same.
Posts in This Series
- Suffering in Our Everyday Lives: An Introduction
- Broadening Our Understanding of Suffering: The Various Types of Suffering
- Stealth Suffering: You Are Probably Suffering More than You Know
- What Suffering Feels Like
- How to Endure Suffering
- Suffering in Our Work
- Is God in Control of Our Suffering?
- God’s Aims in our Suffering
- The Results of Our Suffering
- Fighting against Suffering and Helping Those Who Suffer