First, the International eNews of Newfrontiers has just been published. Do you receive it? It is a newsletter which ‘visits’ four nations each month to bring updates of what is going on in and through Newfrontiers churches. To view it or receive this regularly click here.
Having briefly seen the benefits which the gospel brings to Christian development I would like to look at some of the characteristics of the secular NGO or aid agency and of the church. Obviously I have to make some sweeping statements in such a short treatment of the topic and there are many exceptions to the examples I quote, but here goes!
Some of the distinctive characteristics are typically:
- Quick Fix
- Staff mobility
- Gospel impact > transformation
- Integral part of the community
These characteristics are not mutually exclusive; there is considerable overlap on occasion. But let’s look at them in a little more detail. First, the secular agency.
There is no doubt that many NGOs and aid agencies have a very high level of expertise. This is seen most conspicuously when a crisis or disaster occurs and our televisions show us people of great dedication going rapidly into a disaster area with relief, responding to life-threatening situations caused by earthquake, flood or war. Indeed, such contexts are probably always handled best by specialists of this sort. The church rarely has the expertise to bring rapid response to major disasters. At best the church may be able to bring compassion and help to people in its immediate locality in event of it being in the disaster area.
For the longer term crisis however, the church may have a positive role to play. Such is the case with the Newfrontiers churches in Kenya who have regularly taken relief supplies to thousands in Samburu as droughts have repeatedly occurred over the years. Being an integral part of the community (as will be highlighted in the next blog) they are uniquely equipped to focus help where it is most needed.
Resources and size
The size of an agency is frequently many times larger than any individual church or group of local churches. This provides the ability to be able to gather resources – financial, material or personnel – which are needed for many interventions into a community. The secular agency also has the ability to raise funds more widely than is normally possible for the church since many donors do not give funds to religious groups for fear they will use such funds for proselytising.
Next time we will look at the other characteristics related to the secular agencies