All posts tagged “Peter Greer

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Book Review: The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good

In recent years, conversations about charity and community service have begun to focus more and more on the ways in which charity can be toxic and helping can hurt. We’ve been reminded that when it comes to international relief and development, good intentions are not enough. These are timely and crucial reminders—timely because there are more nonprofits starting up than ever before, and crucial given the weight of the problems they are aiming to address. Those sparking these conversations (at times rather provocatively) have helped countless individuals, churches, small nonprofits, and large NGOs to more faithfully walk with the poor without doing harm.


The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good, the new book from Peter Greer (@peterkgreer) of HOPE International, has some obvious parallels with books like Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts, but while these existing works focus primarily (though not exclusively) on the harm we can do to others despite the best of intentions, Greer’s book turns our attention inward, asking us to consider the ways in which charity and community service all too often set us up to fail as people—as husbands, wives, fathers, friends, and most significantly, as followers of Christ. The point is not to remain permanently fixated on ourselves, of course; instead, we closely examine the inner workings of our hearts from time to time precisely because who we are shapes what we do, and what we do inevitably impacts others, for better or worse.

Though some aid bloggers and critics (and some pastors, for that matter) are given to rather uncharitable jeremiads against what they perceive as the status quo—thus risking the loss of trust among those who find themselves indicted by their screeds—Greer avoids the same counterproductive reaction by writing a book that from start to finish is consistently winsome and characterized by humility, while addressing difficult truths.


Rather than prescribing specific one-size-fits-all fixes, Greer instead appeals to pain points we’ve all experienced, and he shares what has helped him as he has wrestled with them along the way. Among these themes are the dangers of throwing oneself so entirely into the cause that only leftovers remain for loved ones; of justifying moral lapses “for a good cause”; of living with a sacred-secular dualism; and of failing to build relationships marked by accountability.

Greer’s honesty about the ways in which he has learned these lessons the hard way is refreshingly disarming, and will give many readers the courage and freedom to face up to their own failures and to grow into the kinds of servants and leaders God has created them to be.

From pastors to social workers to globe-trotting humanitarians, and all sorts of others in between, this book is essential reading for those serious about cultivating lives of integrity that matter for those they seek to serve.

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Repaso: Japan photos; fighting poverty, continued; coffee culture in Guatemala; ecclesial hope; Stott on social action

1. Japan in photos a year later
The Big Picture photo blog has a collection of the iconic photos from the earthquake and tsunami of a year ago, and what those same spots look like today. The water has receded and most of the debris has been cleared, but it’s clear rebuilding will still take time.

2. Best ways to fight poverty
Two or three weeks ago I blogged about Christianity Today’s cover stories on tackling poverty. Not surprisingly, CT’s coverage garnered some debate over what actually works and what doesn’t when it comes to development. Yesterday, CT posted eight follow-up columns, including one by Mark Galli, one of the original writers. Those weighing in include Christian NGO big wigs like Rich Stearns (World Vision US), Peter Greer (HOPE International), Stephan Bauman (World Relief), and Franklin Graham (Samaritan’s Purse). See all the responses here.

3. Coffee culture in Guatemala
A lot of good coffee comes from Guatemala; most people know that. But what is the country’s coffee drinking culture like? James Fredrick writes for Tico Times about how things may be changing — the introduction of Starbucks and other specialty coffee shops mark a significant rise in domestic coffee consumption which could boost standards of living for growers, but the gap between those who can afford a $3.50 cappuccino and those who pick the beans remains vast.

4. Seven reasons to be hopeful about the church
It’s no secret that many these days “love Jesus but not the church.” The church comes with baggage; why not just cultivate a private walk with Jesus and not bother with the seemingly endless messes in the church? Because the church is still the bride of Christ, and Jesus has no plans to part ways with her. Adam Jeske writes for InterVarsity’s blog with seven reasons to be hopeful for the church.

5. Love needs no justification
Skye Jethani points us to John Stott to help us navigate the ongoing evangelism/social justice divide:

Atonement-only advocates demand that advocates of social justice justify their efforts. And justice advocates demand atonement-only advocates justify their emphasis on gospel proclamation. But, using Stott’s logic, if evangelism or social activism is flowing from a heart of love and compassion, than neither must be justified. Love is its own justification. As you engage this issue in your own community, do not get snared by the false dichotomy that declares either evangelism or social justice must be superior. Instead, let’s affirm whatever work God has called us to, whether that be proclaiming reconciliation or demonstrating it, as long as his love is found to be fueling it.

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit: The Big Picture]

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Repaso: The future of aid; US military in Latin America; GOP & Hispanics; 100 best employers; faith-work issues; and Accord Network videos

1. The future of aid
Reuters AlertNet has a really cool multimedia feature running right now with stories, videos, polls, infographics and more exploring the future of humanitarian aid. I could spend hours exploring everything there.

2. New US military bases in Latin America
The Just the Facts blog (focused on Latin America and US foreign policy toward the region) has a Google Map showing all the new military bases the US built in Latin America in 2009-10, paid for with money from the counternarcotics budget. Seeking to curb the drug trade may be necessary, but given the region’s history (and US military involvement behind the scenes and otherwise), this is something worth keeping an eye on.

3. The GOP and the Hispanic vote
Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and current brother of W, has an op-ed in the Washington Post, encouraging Republicans to consider how they might earn the Hispanic vote – something none of the GOP front-runners seem particularly interested in doing:

[W]e need to think of immigration reform as an economic issue, not just a border security issue. Numerous polls show that Hispanics agree with Republicans on the necessity of a secure border and enforceable and fair immigration laws to reduce illegal immigration and strengthen legal immigration. Hispanics recognize that Democrats have failed to deliver on immigration reform, having chosen to spend their political capital on other priorities. Republicans should reengage on this issue and reframe it.

4. 100 best companies to work for
Yesterday I went to hear Christopher J.H. Wright speak on the topic of “Saints in the Marketplace.” In a nutshell, he emphasized the fact that God created work, that he audits it, governs it, and redeems it. I’ll post full thoughts on the talk next week, but in the meantime, here are some great examples from Fortune of businesses that create great places to work. When thinking Christianly about business, this certainly isn’t the only indicator to look at, but it’s one worth highlighting and affirming for sure.

5. Faith-work distortions and possibilities
Lukas Naugle, who I recently met over a cup of coffee here in Phoenix to discuss business and the common good, has an essay in Comment about the integration of faith and business, and some of the common pitfalls of those trying to connect the two. It’s a great read, and a hugely important topic, specifically taking a look at two books on the subject.

[I]t can be tricky for an average businessperson to figure out how he or she should do business for the glory of God and the common good. Folks who run into this problem exist in many places—I have met them over coffee, investment pitches, and at conferences. Of course, there are some very positive stories and examples out there, but those who haven’t gained a full-orbed view of the integration of faith and business are still the majority, and they come in various shapes and sizes. Here are some of the faith-work Frankenstein’s monsters I’ve met.

6. Accord Network’s forum videos now online
The Accord Network, serving Christian groups working in the fields of relief and development, has posted videos from a number of the presentations at its Developing Excellence Forum, held last November in Baltimore. Main session speakers include Scott Todd (Compassion International, 58: Campaign), Peter Greer (HOPE International), and Tony Hall (former US ambassador). Additionally, videos from the Transformational Development Summit, sponsored by my friends at Eastern University, include Bryant Myers (Fuller Seminary, World Vision International), Stephan Baumann (World Relief), and others. It’s a wealth of good stuff.

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit:]