Wednesday, October 27, 2004...coming clean
If you haven't already, please read the post entitled "Scenerio #2" before proceeding.
OK, this scenerio really wasn't hypothetical for me. I was in this situation a few years ago. Obviously, that experience has greatly shaped my opinion on the issue.
At first, when problems started to arise, I held that this was just like a secular job, and as long as I did not expect more than that, everything would be fine. I could carry on doing my work, while disagreeing with how the agency operated in soliciting and distributing donations. However, that just became too aggravating and I eventually left. Before leaving, I made my disagreements known to the president, staff, and a board member I was close to. None were supportive or understanding, so it was a difficult departure.
It is my view that para-church organizations - including Christian humanitarian agencies - rarely, if ever, glorify God. I don't say that lightly; I have been deeply involved in several of these organizations in the past, and I do not doubt the sincerity of a great many of the believers who serve in them. This is why I would not go so far as to say that they never glorify God. But if we want to do God's work, shouldn't we do it God's way? God gives us a very specific blueprint for how the local church should be operated. We have no such blueprint for operating para-church organizations. As a result, these organizations have a freedom to write their own rules so to speak. When anyone mentions a discrepency from the Biblical model, they just say "But that's only intended for the church; we're not a church..." I find this a cop-out since there are no para-church organizations in the Bible. It is like if the Bible described in detail how to teach children in schools, and then, thinking there was a more effective way to teach children, people formed a new institution called a noodle and ran it their own way. They would not be accountable to any of the criteria for schools since they are running a noodle.
I think it requires more faith to do things God's way, and trust Him with the results. I also think it's only when we start to apply this extra element of faith that we begin to glorify God. For instance, instead of having an attitude of "Let's all work together to end poverty and disease on the earth..." (man glorifying attitude), we must learn to say "Let's visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and keep ourselves unspotted from the world." (James 1:27). There is plenty we can do to help those in need within the confines of the church and individually. We must trust God to use our efforts and those of all His children everywhere to accomplish His purposes. If God wants to wipe out poverty and disease, He is quite capable to do that and doesn't need us to show Him how. As hard as we try, we all know deep-down that we could never do it anyways. It would seem from Mark 14:7, that it is not the Lord's intention either: "For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always."
So to answer the question of whether Christians should work in such an organization, I would just say you need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and, as with a secular job, there could come a time when you need to leave because of your convictions clashing with the job requirements. At my job, it got to a point where I was no longer comfortable answering the telephones and telling people on the other end that this was a Christian humanitarian agency, when I had no clear idea of what that really meant, and I didn't find their practices very Christian at all. Personally, I will stick with secular jobs in the future, and when it comes to ministry involvement, I will find ways to serve under the authority of my local church. On that note, I would applaud any local church forming its own humanitarian agency, that was subject to the authority of the church.
I have purposely left out the details of what I found objectionable at the agency where I worked for fear each one of those items could branch off into a whole separate discussion. I hope that lack of detail has not made this post too vague to be understood. If you feel you need those details to get the point, please mention it in a comment, and I will oblige.