Theology 101

In Order To Do Good, You Have To Know How

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In a book called The Church and Work by Sweeden and Cartwright, I found the following quote:

How can you love your neighbor if you don’t know how to build or mend a fence, how to keep your filth out of his water supply and your poison out of his air; or if you do not produce anything and so have nothing to offer, or do not take care of yourself and so become a burden? How can you be a neighbor without applying principle—without bringing virtue to a practical issue? How will you practice virtue without skill? …The ability to do good is not the ability to do nothing. It is not negative or passive. It is the ability to do something well—to do good work for good reasons. In order to be good, you have to know how—and this knowing is vast, complex, humble, and humbling; it is in the mind and of the hands; of neither alone.

Being a Good Neighbor

At Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML), we believe that being a good neighbor means four things. You have to have:

  1. Compassion (concern for the misfortune of those around you)
  2. Capacity (to be able to do something about the situation, with time, treasure, or talent)
  3. Competence (to do whatever it is that you want to do well, without creating dependence)
  4. Courage (to love outside of your comfort zone)

In December 2017-2019, we were doing research in northern Ghana regarding Discipling Marketplace Leaders. Prior to that, we did research from 2013-2015 in Kenya. And, Lord willing, we will do another research study in a couple of years again, probably for a longer period.

Why? Because that’s what it means to be a good neighbor. We need to know that what we are doing is good work for good reasons. We need to increase our competence, and the only way to do that is through study and evaluation. Iron needs to sharpen iron.

“In order to do good, you have to know how…”

This isn’t optional, in my opinion. Love demands it. Being a good neighbor demands it. Stewardship demands it. Too many ministries have spent too much time and too much money doing things that have not resulted in transformation, but rather in keeping people busy. We do things that feel good rather than things that do good. We measure activities rather than impact. We measure attendance rather than transformation.

“…and this knowing is vast, complex, humble, and humbling…”

Don’t get me wrong. Measuring impact not easy. It can be scary and challenging and disappointing. You find out what worked and what didn’t work.

But it’s in those difficult questions that progress can be made.

Editor’s note: This article was adapted from the author’s personal blog. Republished with permission.

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