Inward or Outward?
Over the next few days (unless of course Elijah comes) we are going to be sharing pictures, posting blogs, and trying to get some organizational work accomplished for All Things New. The main focus of our blogs will be to cast vision for 2017 for our organization so that everyone connected with All Things New can know what we hope to accomplish in the future. If you are in any way connected to us, which you are because you are reading this, please stay up-do-date with this vision casting initiative. Vision casting is important for everyone in an organization as it provides accountability, asks for feedback, and helps to ensure that we know where our time and donations go. Vision casting is more than a simple statement, it is more than a board meeting, more than an action plan, and it is definitely more than making occasional comments about where you hope your organization will end up. Vision casting is steadily and prayerfully seeking after GOD’s will for an organization and then sharing with everyone involved. It includes seeking input from trusted people inside and outside of All Things New, having board meetings focused on the future, and using the past as a guide for where we will go. Vision casting provides a sense of direction for everyone involved and I hope that you get a sense of where GOD is leading All Things New through this series of blogs. In the near future just look for blogs whose titles begin with the phrase “ATN Moving Forward.”
There are a couple of other blogs, including this one, that will precede our vision casting series. This particular topic came to mind while we were in Haiti and it has been on my mind since then for a variety of reasons. It came to mind as I was having conversations with a few people who came down on a trip to Haiti and they commented on how it could be beneficial if some of the organizations in our community worked together to accomplish certain goals. They were, of course, correct but as you may know bringing organizations together can be a lot like herding cats. Actually, herding cats is much easier, so it is probably more like herding octopi while living in the Sahara desert…It just doesn’t happen. It does not happen for a variety of reasons. Many organizations are seeking to accomplish specific goals and have no desire or passion to help or join those who do not share their vision. Those organizations who are seeking to achieve the same goals generally have different visions or ideas for how to accomplish those goals which make it difficult or impossible to truly work together. Finally, especially in the nonprofit world, it is important to be able to show donors and supporters the difference that your specific organization is making and it is more difficult to do that if you are working with others. These are not good reasons to not work together but they are all reasons and they work together to hold back collaboration. Everyone who comes down to Haiti to work long-term (including myself) uses clichés like “I don’t want to reinvent the wheel” and then ultimately proceed to do exactly that. We tell ourselves that we are not “reinventing” the wheel but that we are creating the “monster truck tire” while others are working with the 12 inch bicycle wheel, but that is not really the case. The truth is that the longer we work in a certain field, live in a certain place, or work towards a certain goal, the less we look for help and the less we seek to help others. This is the opposite of how things should work. This is not a universal principle by any means, in fact we have received help from numerous organizations and we seek to help others when possible as well. It does, however, point to one thing that we see across many different fields (including churches, ministries, nonprofits, etc.) and that is an inward focus.
Have you ever noticed how when an organization or church begins to struggle or face issues they almost inevitably begin to focus inwardly? Think about times when you have seen churches, ministries, and nonprofits face financial hardships or lose key leaders or members, the first thing we do is focus inward. We begin to shut ourselves off from others and begin to really focus on what “we” need to do to fix “ourselves”. I had a professor in Seminary who made this argument:
“The more your church seems to struggle the more your church should give.”
What do you think about that statement? His point was that when things seem to be going negatively the best thing a church could do is to give more of its money to others, focus more of its time on serving outside of its walls, spend more of its time in prayer, and share more of its resources with those who need it. This does not negate the idea that problem-solving is important or reviewing the reasons it got there are vital, but it does urge us to fight against our natural inclination…selfishness. Selfishness, for those of us who strive to serve Christ as our Savior, is the exact opposite of who we should be and what we should strive for. When we begin to focus on ourselves we lose sight of who we are supposed to be as Christians and that idea funnels down to who we are supposed to be as an organization.
I am not writing this because All Things New has a specific struggle right now. I am writing this because I never want to be one of those people, one of those families, or one of those ministries who forgets who we are…Followers of Christ. As followers of Christ our job is always, first and foremost, to keep our focus outside of ourselves whatever that may look like. As an individual that means that I always need to keep my eyes open to the needs (physical, spiritual, emotional) of others. As a family we have to fight to keep Christ at our center no matter what else comes up (financial issues, kids growing up, lack of time, etc.). As an organization, we have to be willing to seek after GOD’s leadership and to never back down from what we have been called to do, we have to offer our help and partnership to others in our area who seek to follow Christ, and we have to be a part of our community and meet the needs of the people where we are. If we ever seem to be focusing too much on ourselves (inwardly rather than outwardly) you have our permission to call us out on that. All Things New exists to worship Jesus Christ (the first phrase of our mission statement) and we cannot do that if we are focused on ourselves.