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This is a summary of the abovementioned book written by Robert D. Lupton

My comments are in italics.


When relief does not translate to development in a timely way, compassion becomes toxic.

What he is saying is that development should be the primary focus and not relief. Give a person relief for a season and they expect it as a right rather than an entitlement. Relief doesn’t give a step up it is just a hand out.

We need to empower those we wish to assist.

Concept of religious tourism: the thought behind the concept is that it isn’t really for those the mission team serves, but to advance their own needs via tourism. Within six to eight weeks most short term mission trippers return to the same assumptions and behaviours they had prior to the trip.

It's a little bit harsh but unfortunately I’d have to agree that it is the rule generally with real change the exception.


  • Empower those being served

  • Engender healthy cross cultural relationships

  • Improve local quality of life

  • Relieve poverty

  • Change the lives of participants

  • Increase support for long term mission work

This is what the goals should be.

What can happen?

  • Weaken those being served

  • Foster dishonest relationships

  • Erode recipients work ethic

  • Deepen dependency

Unfortunately, I’ve seen what can happen all too often.

In spite of the moving testimonies of life changing experiences by returning short-termers and the occasional example of full time missionaries who point to a mission trip as the catalyst for their calling, there is no evidence that missions as a whole has benefited from the rise in short-term service.

I don’t agree entirely with this statement. It ignores the God factor in what can take place in short-term missions.

Most work done by volunteers could be better done by locals in less time and with better results.

This is absolutely true. If the locals were given the dollars to do the work that is spent by those who go on short-term missions, perhaps the kingdom of God would advance much faster. The locals actually know their environment, much more than the Westerners who through money seek to control what they do.

Market place skills and theological skills used within ministry.

They seemed more concerned about saving souls than saving people.

This is probably true for the most part. But the statement doesn’t include the eternal truth that our time on this earth is brief when compared with eternity. That is why people are so keen to save souls.


The Gospel is actually about the whole person and that is why salvation and economic development go hand in hand.

What struggling pastor can resist the temptation to accept a steady salary and generous church income in exchange for hosting visitors, organizing volunteer work, and staffing funded programs?

It is a harsh reality generated from a rich financial culture.

Naïve ‘vacationaries’ spending millions of dollars travelling to his country, creating a welfare economy that deprives people of the pride of their own accomplishments_ all in the name of Christian service.

This comes from Westerners thinking they are greater than those that they are seeking to serve. Welfare dollars never develops pride of accomplishment.

Clearly defined rolls and expectations are needed within a partnership model.

Giving is no simple matter, not if giving is to be redemptive.

A helping hand up and not a hand out is what are needed. The redemptive Gospel and development go hand in hand because they minister to the whole person.

I had never noticed before how a father is emasculated in his own home in front of his wife and children for not being able to provide presents for his family. How a wife is forced to shield her children from their father’s embarrassment. How children get the message that the good stuff comes from rich people out there and it is free. I became painfully aware that not all charity is good charity.

Indeed toxic charity. I’ve been guilty of it myself.


Alms giving are Mammon’s perversion of charity.  It affirms the superiority of the giver.

Charity can reduce from a heart attitude of expectational states of gratitude to an expected state of entitlement. There can be unhealthy character of dependency.

Wherever there was sustained one-way giving, unwholesome dynamics and pathologies festered under the cover of kind-heartedness.

This is so true. People need to be able to invest in their own destiny which generates a sense of ownership and pride of accomplishment.

Doing for rather than doing with those in need is the norm.

When the customer is needed to ensure the business’ survival there is equity of power. Parity is the higher form of charity.

Pity is a powerful motivator. There is no simple or immediate way to discern the right response without a relationship.

Is food the greatest need of the poor of the poor in our society? Poor nutrition is certainly a problem, yes, but not starvation. During four decades of urban ministry I could not recall one starving child.

Africa. The question I have is this. We always see the ads on TV of the poor mother and hungry malnourished children and what has changed over the last 50 years? I was seeing the ads as a boy and I’m 63. Clearly, mechanisms for development aren't in place often due to political and religious insecurity.

For some reason healthy people with hearts full of compassion forget fundamentals when it comes to building relationships with those they attempt to serve.

The essential thing is to provide a mechanism that fits in with their compassion and enhances the quality of those they seek to serve.

Relationships built on need are seldom healthy.

In practice however rarely are recipients members of the disbursing community in the Western church. And as cordial and as genuinely friendly as givers may be, the poor remain on the outside. Resources are owned by insiders. Rules are devised by those in control.

If trust is essential for building relationships and making enterprises run effectively, then we have to find a way for outsiders to become insiders. Recipients must become insiders, authors of the rules builders of community.

But the overwhelming majority of our mission trips are to places where the needs are for development rather than emergency assistance. And development is about enabling indigenous people to help themselves. So true, this is my focus.

Page 69 questions the motivation of the mission trip. The question is, is it really a church junket. Will a week’s mission trip that you go on significantly change people?

Money follows vision they have rightly concluded.

You should never jump through hoops to obtain funding dollars. Once you start jumping through hoops it is possible to lose sight of your vision and surrender control to those funding the projects. It is better to lose the funding dollars and be supported by those who are prepared to believe in you and the mission statement you are trying to fulfil. (My quote not the book but it would seem to agree).

Is the church enabling missionaries to minister, or are the missionaries serving the needs of the church?

Perhaps he means the needs of the church with respect to self-satisfaction that we are doing what God wants. The question becomes are we just ticking a box to make us feel good. He who pays the bills calls the tune.

The numbers of people volunteering in church outreach programs doesn’t measure effectiveness but is just a measure of activity.

It should be about specific, measurable and lasting change. When the vision is right people respond to the challenge.

Everything depends upon the lens through which we view reality. Differing views may be legitimate but seldom compatible.

Bottom up community transformation Vs the concept of top down. That means transformation is more likely to be successful if the recipients of programs own it and are key players in the implementation of it. If they are empowered by it, rather than entrapped by it. If it brings transformation from bad cycles to a positive outcome resulting in a lifting of self- esteem.

10/10 if it can be done.

Turf can be jealously guarded by indigenous communities. It takes time to develop trust.

An example of toxic charity:

The African mosquito netting manufacturer that was put out of business due to well-meaning charities that handed out millions of free nets.

Overhead percentage and cost per client even though are indicators of efficiency are hardly the right measures of effectiveness when empowerment is the goal.

  • Is it yielding good returns?

  • Is it consistent with our passions?

  • Does it reflect our values about relief vs. development?

  • Is it invested on the cutting edge?

  • Are recipients assuming greater levels of control over their own lives or do they show up year after year with their hands out?

  • Is leadership emerging among the served?

  • Are their aspirations on the rise?

  • Is there positive trajectory?

Innovation and risk taking are at least as important to the world of compassion as to the world of business.

Where a people assume their subsistence is guaranteed, hard work becomes neither a necessity for survival nor a means to escape poverty.

If I know I’m going to receive a handout, why bother about being productive.

Community development is a discipline, a school of thought, a unique approach to transforming under-resourced neighbourhoods or villages.

Always look at existing assets rather than deficits.

In other words look at the solution of how to get over the wall rather than what bars the way.

Community is defined both as place (neighbourhood or village) and human relationships (networks or cooperatives).

Many programs are based on deficiencies not capacities. Services displace the ability of community organisations to solve problems. They divert money away from the poor to service providers.

Attentive listening communicates worth, legitimate employment gives (some) meaning to life.

Made in the image of God, we are created with a sense of intrinsic worth. And anything that erodes a rightful sense of pride and self-respect diminishes that image.

Need does not constitute a call. The massive number of needs will attempt to lure you to them, only to pull you off course, consume your schedule, and deplete your energy and resources. Focus your efforts in one or two areas that have a compelling interest to you, that maximise your effectiveness. Defining your involvement allows you to concentrate your best energies strategically.

Serving people is distinctly different from developing people.

A need is an entry point but it isn’t an ending point.

Without visionary drive and persistence a mission that begins well can run out of gas when the work becomes tedious and the results slow in in coming. Identifying and joining energies with a trusted visionary leader increases the chances of lasting impact.

Is giving to support “lifestyle” poverty really helping recipients, or is it enabling them to remain in their present condition?

To effectively impact a life a relationship must be forged, trust built, accountability established. And this does not take place in long impersonal lines of strangers.

Our work has to count for something of lasting value.

If there is one take-away message that this book can offer to those in service work or supporting it, it is this: the poor, no matter how destitute, have enormous untapped capacity; find it, be inspired by it and build upon it.

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