Wellbeing Partnerships

 

Why isn’t the church more concerned with people’s wellbeing? I come from a tradition that is only really concerned with getting people’s souls to heaven. Any other concern for a person, for their economic, social or physical wellbeing is then seen as of little significance when compared with the urgent task of saving their soul. To my mind this leads to a church that is content to stand on the sidelines of people’s lives and shout about impending judgement and salvation. Any involvement in the everyday concerns of the people around is then always under threat of becoming contaminated by the ulterior motive of getting those people saved.

Setting the ethics of evangelistic techniques aside I have another problem with this view, which is that I no longer believe in souls (at least not in the sense of non-material substances that have a separate existence from the body) or heaven. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe in a salvation, but because my hope is in the resurrection of the whole person, my understanding of that salvation is of the renewal of the whole person. The gospel is the good news about human wellbeing.

For this reason, our church recently partnered with a couple of people from our community to put on a wellbeing festival in which we choose a broad definition of wellbeing. We were able to promote and celebrate the work of charities and community groups, of the kind you would normally expect to be represented at a wellbeing event. But to these we added artists,  musicians, circus performers, gardeners and craftspeople. I was thrilled with this diversity since, to my mind, no conception of human wellbeing — and therefore of the gospel — is complete unless it encompasses the fulness of human experience.

I believe, therefore, that the church needs to be developing expertise in mental health and other aspects of wellbeing. I believe the church needs to engage in issues of poverty and justice. But we also need to acknowledge (and be thankful for) the work of organisations and individuals outside the church who are already labouring in these fields and that have developed a great deal of expertise in them. I believe we not only need to acknowledge them, but we also need to work with them.

In short, churches need to be developing wellbeing partnerships. Very few churches have the resources to be effective in all these areas and those churches that do would be guilty of duplicating the work of others and taking resources such as public funding away from them. Rather than competing against these organisations or abandoning this particular sphere of the work of the kingdom altogether, churches need to create partnerships with them. 

Wellbeing partnerships will take different forms in different places according to each location’s particular needs and each congregations particular skills and resources. In principle, however, they will entail the sharing of resources and facilities, supporting ventures and outreaches and promoting activities. Hospitality is an important virtue and I see wellbeing partnerships as the church showing hospitality to institutions and organisations whose work enhances the lives of individuals and communities.

I also believe this arrangement to be a more accurate reflection of Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God. In the kingdom parables Jesus doesn’t see the kingdom as acting on the world from outside. Instead he announces a kingdom that is integrated into the world; a kingdom that is effective in transforming the world because it is mixed into its culture and institutions as yeast is thoroughly mixed into dough. The church is not to stand apart from the world, creating its own institutions in order to advertises its brand: “Today’s act of charity is brought to you by …”.

Wellbeing partnerships enable the church to be embedded into society and so to engage authentically in charitable works. To do so not for their advertising potential, but because people matter and people matter to God.

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Valleys WellFest

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Accompanying the Heartbroken*

I well remember the blind panic with which I received news of a death in the community in the early months of becoming a minister. Questions would shoot into my skull as though fired rom the gun of an arch tormentor and, finding no answer to exit through, would bounce around loudly and sadistically. How should I be? What should I say? What if I mess up? What will people think when I’m exposed as being incompetent?
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Identity Theft (2).

Failure is a challenging experience for today’s westerner. Our culture demands that success must be achieved no matter what. The form of that success doesn’t matter so much. It’s not really that important if we achieve our goals on the rugby pitch, in the boardroom or in the pulpit. What matters – what is vitally important – is that we succeed. Within this culture failure is experienced as being deeply troubling. It undermines us; it calls into question our identity. Continue reading

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Identity Theft (1)

 

Our sense of self is derived from the story we create out of our experiences. To put it another way, our identity emerges from the story we tell ourselves about what has happened for us. I’ve written about this in previous posts, so don’t want to dwell too much on it now. What I want to do is focus on how this story – our own story – has elements in it that fail to convince even us. Parts of it seem to portray us as being all too sadly lacking in certain areas, meaning that our identity can become a problem. Continue reading

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Anger (3)

Forgiveness as an Expression of Anger.

My aim here is still to argue in favour of the much maligned emotion of anger. I want to celebrate it and encourage the experiencing of this emotion for the simple reason that it is vital to our flourishing. So far (Anger (1) and Anger (2)) I have been concerned with defending anger and suggesting ways in which we can manage it. All along, however, my purpose has been to arrive at this point where I try to highlight what I think is an important, but overlooked use of our anger: forgiveness. Continue reading

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Anger (2)

Feeling The Pain.

In my last post (Anger(1)) I argued that anger has a vital role to play in the life of a flourishing human being. But unless I want anger to become the equivalent of those salads you get with every Indian takeaway – good for nothing except making you feel guilty for ignoring it – I need to give some indication of how anger can be managed without it becoming the destructive force we fear it to be.

My starting point for this is to suggest that we need to become aware of the ways we might use anger that are actually working against and not for us. As with all difficult emotions our initial response can be to try and get away from our anger, and the first two responses to anger I mention below are ways some of us use to do this. The next three responses are also unproductive, and therefore ways in which we fail to respect either the anger we feel or the relationship within which that anger has been provoked. Continue reading

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