Indicators of achievement and seeking the best

 

Expanding on the above vision, mission and activities, indicators of achievements can be introduced.  Moreover, while unconventional in the development of logical frameworks, possible warning signs – alerts – can also be included, if only to emphasise the positive.  (For further information and pointers to articles, various references to other parts of this paper are given in the pdf version available as a download).

 

When looking at indicators of achievement and possible warning signs, detail on what the organization could be doing in conventional thematic terms, outputs and services has not been included.  Indicators along conventional lines are generally well-established and documented, and associated evaluations of project achievements are relatively straight-forward and accepted.  The results of conventional evaluations are obviously critical to the organization and its supporters, but they often fail to embrace the wider undertaking of Christian relief and development work and its contribution to transformation.

 

Where the aim is holistic transformation of the community, integral mission in all its Christian fullness, such changes though readily seen, are much more difficult to measure. Unfortunately, evaluators tend to measure those things which can be easily measured and ignore the more important factors that cannot.  Hence the aims of the project itself can get distorted. More fundamentally still is the question of what we mean by ‘development’.  (Woolnough 2008, pgs 134-143)

 

The more important matter is that whatever area of work the organization engages with – which is normally tied to its specific mandate, articles of association, memorandum of understanding and so forth – it seeks to participate in God’s mission and adopts an appropriate framework of actions to reflect this.

 

... mission is not primarily about going.  Nor is mission primarily about doing anything.  Mission is about being.  It is about being a distinctive kind of people, a countercultural, multinational community among the nations.   (Peskett & Ramachandra 2003, p123)

 

So all our missional efforts to make God known must be set within the prior framework of God’s own will to be known.  We are seeking to accomplish what God himself wills to happen.  This is both humbling and reassuring.  It is humbling inasmuch as it reminds us that all our efforts would be in vain but for God’s determination to be known.  We are neither initiators of the mission of making God known to the nations nor does it lie in our power to decide how the task will be fully accomplished or when it may be deemed to be complete. But it is also reassuring.  For we know that behind all our fumbling efforts and inadequate communication stands the supreme will of the living God, reaching out in loving self-revelation, incredibly willing to open blind eyes and reveal his glory through the treasures of the gospel delivered in the clay posts of his witnesses (2 Cor 43:1-7).  (Wright 2006, p129,130)

 

What kind of mission are we attempting to accomplish?  Are we forging ahead using only human methods while leaving the biblical principles of mission behind?  Incarnational mission requires sacrifice, humility, flexibility and love.  If we omit these elements, we are not suitably engaged in God’s mission.  (Ma 2005, p116)

Clear evidence is required that an organization is on the right track, that it is properly engaging in His mission, that it is seeking to accomplish His will.  Without clear evidence, there can be no assurance – the organization will be open to challenge, and will likely go off course, especially when difficulties arise: more often following those who are in opposition, those who shout the loudest.  Organizations need some means of divine testing:

 

... a test not of claims as such but of evidence on which valid claims could be made.  We may put it like this, within the terms of the vision itself: a person may claim to possess every building skill and qualification, but the plumb-line applied to the wall will soon reveal whether that claim is valid or bogus.  It must be exactly the same with the people of God: they may well claim every heavenly and spiritual blessing and qualification, but the plumb-line of divine testing applied to certain assessable aspects of their lives and persons will soon show with what reality that claim is made.  (Motyer 1974, p161,162)

 

Thus the evidence will be shown in the aspects of the lives of the people that make up the Christian organization, that form the church.  In particular those who have authority, those who bear influence, those who have power and persuasion.  The motive behind all they do must be one of love:  love for God and love for all people in accordance with His Sovereign will.  Thus, at the end of the day an organization’s accomplishments will not be measured by the short-term results of its activities or by its longer-term outcomes.  In contrast, success will be measured in terms of an organization’s striving to be right with God, to be in obedience to him.

 

It is perhaps good to remind ourselves that from God’s perspective, we will be measured not in terms of outcomes but in terms of obedience.  As Samuel reminds us: Obedience is better than sacrifice.  (Vencer 2002, p52)

 

How can we be sure we are doing the right thing?  Know the Father’s Will – through prayer and meditation in the word of God.  (So 2008)

 

The praise of the church is what energizes and characterizes it for mission, and also serves as the constant reminder that we so much need, that all our mission flows as obedient response to and participation in the prior mission of God.  (Wright 2006, p134)

 

Because our role is to be faithful and obedient, in contrast to being successful, we must modify our ambitions and redirect our praise. (Myers 1998, p45)

 

Development is not an accelerated process of change but obedience to the Lord in stewardship of creation and love for neighbour empowered by the Holy Spirit. (Consultation report 1996, p395)

 

And the alternative to obedience is disobedience.  There is no middle ground – a Christian either obeys or disobeys.  Christian organizations that are not submissive to His Spirit, will in the end separate themselves from God, they will become powerless and ineffective in His mission.  Whilst the Sovereign and Almighty God will still use the organization to serve His purpose – the relationship will be one of divergence rather than partnership.  Motyer (1974) looks at the example in the Book of Amos:

 

“He turned to be their enemy” (Amos 3:9-15).  We have forgotten that our God can turn and become our enemy (Is. 63:10) and with all our talk of taking care not to fall into the power of Satan we have become blind to the much more dangerous possibility of falling out of the power of God.  We dismiss it, ignore it or forget it to our peril. Why ever is the individual believer powerless against his foes, or why is the whole church powerless?  Is it because God has lost his power?  No, but because we have lost His power.  (Motyer 1974, p79)

 

 

Logical framework

 

Indicators of achievement

Alerts- warning signs

Vision/goal

To participate in God’s mission to restore all creation to wholeness.

 

Gods mission - falls outside scope of conventional measurement

 

Mission/purpose

Faithful witness in word and deed to God’s redeeming love and work

Organization’s staff, supporters and partners revealing a new way of living and working, according to kingdom ways and values.

 

Organization’s staff, supporters and partners involved in action bearing witness to God’s redeeming love.

 

Activities and outputs

Actions and the resultant products or services by the relief and development organization

 

A growing, vibrant local church engaging with their community in social action and witnessing to the Triune God.

 

A tendency to grow a local or international NGO presence, which is outworking its own relief and development programmes through the local church or others.

 

People of other faiths and no faith having a greater awareness of God’s presence.

 

Steering clear of societies and nations where the church isn’t particularly active or present.

Staff and partners taking courageous and prophetic stands against greed and corruption.

 

Selfless concern for all people of all faiths and no faith, showing favour to the poor and marginalized.

 

A local church stewarding its resources (however little) to good and transparent effect.

 

A local church dependent on foreign funds for basic existence.

An empowered local church and community.

A local church and community disempowered, especially when bypassed, however urgent the poverty response or need.

 

Viewing obedience to God as a measure of success.

 

Focussing on outcomes and results as a measure of success.

Keeping focussed on vision, the best – even though it may mean missing “opportunities”.

Responding to opportunities that look good, at expense of vision.

Having a balanced approach to seeking the kingdom present and the kingdom future.

Having a focus on one aspect at the expense of the other.

Recruiting personnel, prioritizing a person’s relationship with God.

Recruiting of personnel prioritizing a person’s qualifications, skills and experience in relief and development.

 

Acknowledging that the Holy Spirit is at work at all times.  That we are dealing with the visible and invisible.

Having a tendency to avoid the spiritualization of things.

 

Engaging with and strengthening the local church wherever it exists, however weak or in need of transformation.

 

Viewing the local church as an obstacle.

 

View witness of God as an essential component of all activities

Seeing witness as an option.

Recognizing that God works within His church and beyond His church.

To consider the presence of a local church as a pre-condition to operate in.

 

Seeking and building upon God’s presence in other faiths and secular situations. Recognizing that Jesus of Nazareth has gone before us, and God is present in all societies, in all situations. 

 

Viewing other faiths and secular situations as a display of God’s absence.

 

Strategizing and planning as at war with exigency

 

Strategizing and planning as in peace time, with vacillation.

Involving personnel from the front line in strategy and planning of all aspects of organization’s life

 

Making plans and then seeking verification and support from those at the sharp end.

Recognizing that faith in itself can lift people out of poverty

Seeing poverty reduction largely in economic terms.

Viewing persecution and challenges as positive indicators of achievement.

 

Viewing troubles as failure and avoid risks.

Viewing adverse conditions and evil as permitted by a Sovereign God

Seeing evil as an authority outside God’s control and achievement of purpose.

 

Acknowledgement that however little God provides, it will always be enough.

 

Seeking increasing resources as a means to accomplishment.

Having an open mind on working with public monies and other secular sources of funding.

Avoiding certain funding streams through preconceptions

Working while at prayer – an attitude of prayer in all things.

 

Praying while at work – a top and tail prayer attitude to guide and bless the things that are done.

 

Praying with urgency and expectation

Taking a casual approach to prayer – without resolve.

 

 

Seeking the best

When developing and outworking strategy, it is easy to be diverted from the goal/vision.  Christian relief and development organizations often struggle with the tension between seeking the “New Jerusalem” here on earth, and the Kingdom of God.  The resultant NGO strategy to reduce poverty is thus frequently orientated toward the organization outworking its mission through human endeavors, that is to say what is achievable by them, rather than a statement orientated toward God outworking His mission (missio Dei) through the organization.

 

Forcing “Jerusalem” to happen: The greatest temptation to evil that humanity ever suffers is the temptation to make “Jerusalem” to happen by human means.  Human means are absolutely indispensable in the world as it is.  That is God’s intention.  We are supposed to act, and our actions are to count.  But there is a limit on what human arrangements can accomplish.  The alone cannot change the heart and spirit of the human being.  Because of this, the instrumentalities invoked to make “Jerusalem” happen will always wind up eliminating truth, or mercy, or both.  World history as well as small-scale decision making demonstrates this.  It is seen in the ravages of dictatorial power, on the one hand, and, on the other, in the death by minutiae that a bureaucracy tends to impose.  It is well know how hard it is to provide a benign order within human means.  For the problem, once again, is in the human heart.  Until it fully engages with the rule of God, the good that we feel must be cannot come.  It will at a certain point be defeated by the very means implemented to produce it.  Gods’ way of moving towards the future is, with gentle persistence in unfailing purpose, to bring about the transformation of the human heart by speaking with human beings and living with and in them.  (Willard 1998)

 

Temptation to do something different and what seems good comes in many forms.  It can especially come with: an offer of financial assistance or other resources; an opening for power and authority; or in response to a genuine call from those in need.  Jesus of Nazareth was in this position during the Temptation (Luke 4:1-13).  He was offered the chance to do away with hunger – at a command he could have turned stone to bread.  This was something that the people were hoping of God.  Jesus of Nazareth was also offered the opportunity to rule all nations – a world where perfect justice would have ruled with no more injustice or persecution by the Romans in authority.  These events would have brought to fruition what his followers and supporters of were waiting for, were anticipating: it would have been seen as an answer to the prayers and calls of many, especially the poor, the oppressed, the most vulnerable in society.

Yet Jesus of Nazareth turned these down, things that looked good but were temporal and not of the Triune God’s mission.  Christ Jesus chose the Cross, a choice that was considered by those closest around him as a disaster at the time, a time of utter despair, but turned out to be the greatest hope for all humanity, for all creation.

 

The dilemma of going for something that is good which may usurp the best, is powerfully presented in Caird’s (1963) commentary on Luke, and copied in the abstract below:

 

The temptations of Jesus are the sequel to his baptism.  Conscious of a unique vocation and endowed with exceptional powers, he must set aside all unworthy interpretations of his recent experience.  He has heard a voice saying, “Thou art my Son”; now he hears another voice, “If you are the Son of God…”, and he must decide whether or not it comes from the same source.  Three times he makes up his mind that the voice which prompts him to action is that of the devil.

For many modern readers the mention of the devil invests the story with an air of unreality and even of superstition.  Let us grant that the devil is a mythological figure.  But myth is not to be confused with legend or fairy-tale.  Myth is a pictorial way of expressing truths which cannot be expressed so readily or so forcefully in any other way; and there are at least five such truths which are safeguarded by belief in a devil.  (1)  Evil is real and potent.  It is not just the sum total of individual bad deeds, but a power which gets a grip on human life and society. (2)  Evil is personal.  The very distinction between good and evil can arise only where there is free choice to obey God or to rebel against him. (3) Evil is distorted good.  In a world which God has created good, evil exists only by perverting the good gifts of God.  The devil himself is a fallen angel.  (4)  Evil masquerades as good.  The devil is the “slanderer” who misleads men by telling them lies about God.  (5)  Evil is the enemy.  The armchair sociologist may tell us that certain deplorable types of human behaviour are “normal”, because they occur regularly in his statistical surveys; but those who love the people concerned know better.

 

But can a good man really be exposed to temptation like the rest of us?  The man who turns back at his garden gate knows nothing of the strength of the gale in comparison with the man who battles his way through to his destination; and he whose destination is on the mountain tops knows more than others.  Even so, the good man who resists temptation knows more about its power than the weakling who submits to its first onset; and the saint knows most of all.  It is unlikely that Jesus ever felt any temptation to do the things which are commonly regarded as immoral or antisocial.  But that does not mean that his temptations were the less real or the less powerful.  All temptation is to do what is attractive, and the subtlest and strongest temptation is to do what appears to be good.  The strength of a temptation is in proportion to the attractiveness of the goal. A man of fervent and dedicated spirit, feeling himself called to liberate the oppressed and to establish the reign of justice and peace, would be open to three types of temptation: to allow the good to usurp the place of the best, to seek God’s ends by means alien to God’s character, and to force God’s hand by taking short cuts to success.  And these are the three temptations of Jesus.

 

Jesus was hungry: by experience he discovered what hunger can do to a man, forcing his attention ever to the immediate and material need and dulling his senses to all the higher claims of life; and he learned sympathy with the multitudes who lived on intimate terms with hunger.  Yet did not God provide for his children?  Was it not his will that they should be fed?  Would it not be proper for the Messiah to give full rein to his compassion and devote himself to meeting this most clamant of all human needs?  The Messiah was indeed expected to give bread from heaven, as Moses had done long ago (John6:30); and to a nation accustomed to privation the most popular picture of the messianic age was a great Banquet (Isa. 26:6-8).  It is good to feed the hungry, but for the Messiah, as for others, the good can be the enemy of the best.  To give priority to man’s physical needs is to strip him of his dignity and make him one of the beasts that perish.

 

Next, in ecstatic and imaginative vision, Jesus is caught up into the air (the matter-of-fact Matthew has him ascend a mountain) to see stretched out beneath him the kingdoms of the world which God has given him as his inheritance (Ps 2:8).  They are his by right, but how are they to become his in fact?  Over all this territory imperial Caesar reigns.  What could Jesus not achieve were he on Caesar’s throne?  How simple then would be his task of world-wide mission!  Among the Jews there was a party known as the Zealots who expected the Messiah to be a conqueror who would lead them in a war of liberation, and there were scriptures which endorsed their view (Ps 2:9, Zech 12:7-9).  Were they perhaps the practical men, the realists who would get results while the visionary was still dreaming his dreams?  It is good to be realistic, but the greatest reality is God, and true realism is to believe that only God’s purpose is worth striving for and only Gods methods can achieve it.  The devil claims that all worldly power has been delivered to him, and Jesus does not dispute his claim to be able to give it to whom he will; but he cannot receive this power at the devil’s hands.  He has come in the name of God to wrest it out of the devil’s keeping (see Luke11: 14-23).  The paths of this world do not lead to the kingdom of God, and to pin one’s faith to worldly wisdom or authority is to worship that which is not God.  To worship God is to trust him and leave the results in his hands.

 

But how can men be made to recognize the efficacy of such faith?  Still in the same spiritual exaltation Jesus imagines himself on the pinnacle of the Royal Porch of the Jerusalem temple, overlooking the sheer drop of the 450 feet to the Kidron valley below. All things are possible to him who believes.  If he were to cast himself from the pinnacle, could he not trust God to bring him safe to the ground and so to provide spectacular proof of the power of faith, which would compel men’s assent?  But to test God is the opposite of trusting him.  He who asks for proof has not learnt the meaning of faith.

 

Each of these three temptations attached Jesus not at a point of weakness but at his greatest strength – his compassion, his commitment, his faith.  In each case he recognized that he was dealing not with God’s will but with the wiles of the devil.  Each of the devil’s proposals he rebutted by a quotation from Deuteronomy, finding a parallel to his own experience in the trials of Israel in the wilderness (Deut 8:3, 6:13, 6:16).  Reminded of the divine authority with which he has been endowed, he replies by asserting his humanity: “If you are the Son of God…”, “It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” “He puts himself under the authority of scripture and so under the authority of God.  His role is to worship and serve – to be, in fact, the Servant of the Lord.

 

Luke tells us that the devil departed from Jesus for the time being.  Jesus had won an initial victory, but these same temptations were to recur throughout his ministry.  The insistent demands upon his compassion, the enthusiasm that would make him a national hero, the suspicion that required a sign from heaven – all this was to end only with the mocking cry, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:37).  (Caird 1963)

 

Interestingly, the things that Jesus of Nazareth was tempted with would also meet the physical goals and aspirations of the many relief and development organizations and other aid agencies of the world, and indeed satisfy the poor.  It would have resulted in a world without hunger and a world with perfect rule and justice.  But it would also have been a world where people would have had no future hope beyond the present, where death would have had the ultimate victory.  Jesus of Nazareth defeated death on the Cross, once and for all.

 

 

   
 

DISC

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