Five things I think I think about TG, Part I: Nonprofit as Church Renewal Movement

Each Monday, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King publishes a fantastic five-page website column on football. My favorite page is always the fifth one, in which he lists the ten things he thinks he thinks that week about football, life, and coffee. (Go figure about the coffee.)

It’s a great journalistic technique, this idea of listing things one thinks one thinks. After all, King can say all kinds of things without hopelessly committing himself in the particular direction of his comments; at the same time, if his instincts turn out to be correct, he can claim to have been the first one to have brought up the idea.

So, in that vein, this week I want to share with  you some of the areas of research on which I’m working in Transformational Giving.

Don’t worry–it’s not esoteric stuff. Far from it. It’s all quite foundational. A lot of it is percolating in my brain as I begin to formally apply TG to a local church context. Inevitably TG will take any good Christian nonprofit there, to thinking through how we as Christian nonprofits interface with The Mother Ship.

So as you read these posts, I want to especially encourage you to post your comments in reply. Agree. Disagree. List three examples. Offer alternatives. Construct. Destruct. But whatever you do, don’t use the words ‘donor’, ‘friendraising’, or ‘wealth identifier overlay’.

My first ‘Things I think I think about TG’ post this week deals with the purpose of the nonprofit organization. I think everything about TG–and much related to church and nonprofit health in the future–hinges on us getting this right.

It’s certainly possible (and we have five decades of proof in this regard) for a nonprofit to be financially and even programmatically successful in ways that either don’t aid the church’s maturity or, worse yet, actually inhibit it.

I’ve written about the risk of idolatry inherent in nonprofit work, and I’ve written about how enamored I am of Willie Cheng’s idea that nonprofits should always surge towards extinction.

Now I’m pondering a thought about the purpose of the Christian nonprofit, namely:

The Christian nonprofit is called into existence by God as a church renewal movement in the cause which it is called to champion.

I think I think that if we adopt this idea, we get a wholly different set of success metrics:

  • Getting big wouldn’t be viewed inherently as a good thing or even as a goal; in  fact, we’d view it with a certain amount of suspicion. After all,
  • The real metric of success would be the degree to which the Christian nonprofit successfully re-embedded care of the particular cause back into the church.
  • We’d definitely be measuring not only ROI but RII, and
  • We’d know exactly when to go out of business, namely, when the church gets back in business and on firm footing in relation to the biblical cause God has given us to harangue the church about.
  • Could that be what God has in mind when He calls us to found a nonprofit?

Nonprofit as church renewal movement. What do you think you think?

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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6 Responses to Five things I think I think about TG, Part I: Nonprofit as Church Renewal Movement

  1. Suzanne says:

    I’m with you! Last week I was talking with a Christian nonprofit about TG and a question the ED brought up was, “Do I want to play a role I’ve always expected the Champion’s local church to play?” He continued, “I’m beginning to realize that in pursuit of a transformational gift I am playing the role of the transformer in a Champion’s life instead of the local Pastor…don’t know how I feel about that yet.”

    The tension he feels makes complete sense. Shouldn’t the church have a role here? I think I think yes! Imagine Christian nonprofit leaders investing their time going to churches to equip them and teach them about “Cause X” and working together in strengthening the church body’s walk with Christ through their involvement in it.

    Some of what I’m seeing now is churches wanting to get their congregation involved in causes/”good works” but the way it’s being done is let’s do Project X, now it’s Project Y, now it’s Project Z. Nice things are happening, but in my view, there’s limited transformation that can occur in an individual when this is the extent of their involvement.

    • EFoley says:

      Great point, Suzanne. I think one of the main problems with the “Project of the Month Club” approach at churches is that it misses the central point Ephesians makes as to why we walk in good works anyway: because God has prepared them so that when we walk in them by His grace and in His power, we are shaped in the image of His son. The purpose is ‘divinitarian’ if you will, not humanitarian.

  2. Matt Bates says:

    Suzanne’s touched on an important point: the nature and purpose of the church needs to be understood before we can (re)position the parachurch to help it. But that’s a big topic, and a long way from tips and tricks to make your outer envelope teaser copy sing.

  3. Pingback: How NOT to do friend raising « Transformational Giving

  4. Pingback: We get letters: When is it OK for a nonprofit to ask for money to meet a need? « Transformational Giving

  5. Pingback: The Best Gift Your Nonprofit Can Give the World: A Viable Plan to Go Out of Business | Transformational Giving

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