Thoughts on building up the Body of Christ

It has bothered me for a long time: Something Cane Caldo has said more than once and in various ways:

Awhile back there was a lot of conversation about the merits of posting anonymously versus writing under your legitimate name. The reason I don’t is because I don’t want Cane Caldo to be a subject of conversation at work. If that happens I’ll eventually get fired. They’ll just stop hiring me; not because I did something wrong, but because I work with a lot of women who–after hearing about what a modernist can only interpret as misogyny–will express a vague unease about me; they just would feel more “coooomfortable, you know?”, with someone else. My direct managers will happily comply with a suitable replacement.

But, honestly, the issue is that we here are–for the most part–of the conservative bent of mind, and conservatives conserve nothing as much as grace and respect. They hoard it, really. Consequently, I have zero faith that any of you would or could find me another job.

This inherent unhelpfulness does not just extend to jobs–I distinctly remember Cane (and others) pointing out how unlikely fellow Christians are to help a young man find a wife.

Basically, there is a refusal to help grow and develop men into the patriarchs we expect them to be. And then we castigate men for not meeting this standard on their own, ridicule them, and cast them down farther while demanding they rise before we help them.

It’s insane and satanic.

Thankfully, there are positive signs. I’ve been able to help some people in various ways in real life, and have both myself and other bloggers in my blogroll regularly respond to questions from men looking for advice or guidance. Vox Day regularly posts opportunities for jobs, connecting those looking for quality workers with those looking for a company that won’t fire them for their beliefs.

But when I think of Christians banding together to help one another, the model that comes to my mind is Mennonite Your Way.  Basically, it is a directory of Christians that open their homes to other Christians that are traveling. As a member of a large family, I remember making use of it when we traveled. Interestingly, despite being called Mennonite Your Way, it seems to have good participation from other groups–the three times I can remember using it we stayed with a Mennonite farm family, a retired Baptist preacher and his wife, and a very rich Roman Catholic attorney and his wife.

I wonder if some similar kind of directory could be made that involves modified barter exchanges–exchanges where every “transaction” is a gift, and receives nothing in return, but every receiver gives, and every giver receives.  For example, perhaps Bob is an electrician who needs several trees removed from his property. He makes his posting, which asks him what he can give (electrical work), and what he needs (tree removal). Steve, a local farmer, needs a welder. He logs on and sees that Bob needs some trees taken down, which he has the equipment for. He goes over and takes care of Bob’s trees. Meanwhile, Bob noticed that Larry, a local welder, needed some electrical work done in his shop, and takes care of that. Larry looks at the directory to see what he can give, and sees Steve needs a welder. He delivers an older, smaller welder that still works but he doesn’t use anymore to Steve.

No money changes hands, and every “transaction” is a one-way gift rather than a two-way barter. That’s with only three people. The more people participating in a general area, the better for everyone. Sort of a barter Craigslist for Christians where you freely receive and freely give.

I think this could be done, but in order to do it I would need the help of someone who knows how to design the web side of it. If you have the skills, and are interested, let me know. We would also need people who are willing to be charter members, the first to give away their various skills and services, and to talk it up in their churches and help get more members. If you have any interest, or improvements on my idea, I’d be happy to hear from you.

If we can create an attitude of giving and building up the Body of Christ, it will go far beyond the work and possessions that are given. It will change attitudes and perspectives, and lead to more giving and building up. It will lead to more young men being built up into men, more young women being build up into women, more families being built up.

It all starts with asking what you can do for your neighbor and brother in Christ.

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19 thoughts on “Thoughts on building up the Body of Christ

  1. This is a freaking awesome idea.

    There’s a similar system called “health share” groups which are an alternative to health insurance. Just Christians deciding to join together to pay for each other’s health care costs. Exempted from Obamacare, too!

    But I run into this little thing called “sin nature” and immediately consider how some would abuse the system, taking advantage of the generosity of others while giving nothing back. That creates the possibility of some people burning out on the idea.

    1.) A rating system, perhaps, so that leechers eventually get tagged and can’t post needs until they’ve given back in some way?

    2.) A means to insure that feedback in the system on someone who helps out is logged quickly (such as can’t post for help if you haven’t given feedback on folks who helped you).

    Hmmm. Thoughts on how to determine who “us” is vs. the general public?

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  2. @KPP:

    Good points. Here is what I envision: Two types of accounts, personal and verified. Personal accounts will not have the privilege to post a need until they have met 5 needs. They will then be promoted to level 1, where they may post a need for every 2 needs they meet. After they have met 10 needs, they are promoted to level 2, where they are allowed to post one need for every need they meet. Level 2 accounts that meet 5+ needs a month for 4 months in a six-month period, and post less needs than they meet over the same six-month period, will be promoted to level 3 and have all need posting restrictions removed and will be encouraged to post the needs of friends and neighbors. This status can be lost, though I haven’t figured out the exact criteria for that yet. Verified accounts require emailing a scanned letter signed in blue ink by a priest or pastor stating that the account is to be an official ministry account of the church. Verified accounts may post unlimited number of needs, but are prohibited from posting church needs (sign, gutters, furnace). Instead, needs must be those of community members or parishioners. However, Level 3 individual accounts may post church needs.

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  3. I’m both intrigued and skeptical that it will work at the church level. I wonder how much territorialism would factor into this – would churches decline to participate in fear that other churches will “poach” their members? Sadly, I’ve known many pastors who decline to get involved in wider church activities for just that reason.

    I think the individual level is the target, honestly.

    For level 3, status could be lost by not following through with ratings, getting low ratings from others, etc.

    In today’s litigious society, the user agreement should have some sort of “hold harmless” clause, as well as some language that disputes are to judged by the church and not courts of law.

    I wonder if this would be viewed by the IRS as “bartering” which has a whole tax category in itself.

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  4. @KPP

    But I run into this little thing called “sin nature” and immediately consider how some would abuse the system, taking advantage of the generosity of others while giving nothing back.

    This is the problem with conservatives. No sooner is a plan devised then our thoughts turn to how to protect ourselves from others benefitting if we don’t benefit. So instead of a flawed-but-working plan, we start a Conservative Standoff where one person can’t ask for a need until he’s met FIVE needs. Usually, people who have a need have a lot of them. Poor people, for example, are the most in need, and the least able to meet five needs of others.

    Abusers of any system will be found out, and they can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis if the earnest users pay attention. Attention is another cost that will have to be given before it can be received.

    As for the website idea as a whole: I wonder if it might work better if it were specific to a church, and then each of us implemented it at our local church. So, one could setup the domain “meetingneeds.org”, and then each affiliate had a microsite “FBCHouston.meetingneeds.org”.

    Pro-tip I accidentally discovered: “Needs Exchange” would be a terrible domain as it could be read as “Need Sex Change”.

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  5. Here’s another way to think about it:

    Rather than a marketplace of trading, the goal would be to create a community of giving.

    If this is to be the goal, then as long as giving is occurring, it is a success, right? People who can give, should. Those who can’t, won’t. Along those lines: Create the incentive the other way around and reward the givers. Punishing abusers is often a waste of time because there are always more abusers, but encouraging the faithful rewards the whole community.

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  6. @Cane:

    This is the problem with conservatives. No sooner is a plan devised then our thoughts turn to how to protect ourselves from others benefitting if we don’t benefit. So instead of a flawed-but-working plan, we start a Conservative Standoff where one person can’t ask for a need until he’s met FIVE needs. Usually, people who have a need have a lot of them. Poor people, for example, are the most in need, and the least able to meet five needs of others.

    But, if you look again, you will see that one need not meet any needs to have a need met. He must meet needs before posting needs, but that requirement is for a different reason. To have a need met, he simply needs to go to his church, and let the local body of Christ that he is a part of know about his need. That is why there is no limit on posts by verified accounts. I specifically want to involve, rather than exclude, churches.

    When Jim Smith signs up, he signs up to meet needs. He doesn’t even know that his account will ever gain posting privileges. He signs up to give. However, he is rewarded for his giving by increasing ability to draw attention to the needs of his friends and neighbors.

    When Joe Clark needs help, he goes to his church. Three days later someone he doesn’t know shows up to help him. Joe wants to know why this stranger is helping him, and the stranger tells him about the site. Maybe Joe wants to give back and signs up for an account. Maybe he doesn’t. Either way, the system works.

    As for the website idea as a whole: I wonder if it might work better if it were specific to a church, and then each of us implemented it at our local church. So, one could setup the domain “meetingneeds.org”, and then each affiliate had a microsite “FBCHouston.meetingneeds.org”.

    If a local church is not already caring for its members, a website won’t change that. But if it is implemented geographically than the talent pools and abilities of various churches overflow to each other. Perhaps most of the electricians in Smithville attend Emanuel Lutheran Church, while the businessmen predominately attend St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church, and the majority of local farmers attend Smithville 5th Baptist Church. If these three churches participate, needs will be better met overall than if they each run their own site. This is especially true of small churches, which are disproportionately likely to both have members in need and also to have members willing to meet others needs.

    EDIT:

    Along those lines: Create the incentive the other way around and reward the givers.

    I am more than open to suggestions on how to better reward givers.

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  7. UPDATE

    I now own http://www.buildingchristsbody.com and http://www.buildingchristsbody.org (meetingneeds.org, suggested by Cane, was not available). I have contacted a friend in Knoxville, TN and another in Chattanooga, TN, both of which have several contacts that are active in various area churches. I am hoping to get 3 churches and 100 or so individuals on board in each city to start out. I think the proximity of these two cities to each other makes them ideal charter cities.

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  8. @MN

    But, if you look again, you will see that one need not meet any needs to have a need met. He must meet needs before posting needs, but that requirement is for a different reason. To have a need met, he simply needs to go to his church, and let the local body of Christ that he is a part of know about his need.

    Gotcha. I’m not sure that the level system is necessary, but perhaps I am not seeing the whole picture. Regardless, I think it’s awesome that you’re taking a shot at it. You can always adjust as needed.

    Three days later someone he doesn’t know shows up to help him.

    One thing to think about is security. Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs for a reason: a helper, a witness against false accusation, a deterrent against attack, for accountability, etc. My guess is that, if the website gains traction, well over half the requests will be to help women.

    (Meetingneeds.org was just a placeholder for whatever name you chose.)

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  9. @Cane:

    One thing to think about is security. Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs for a reason: a helper, a witness against false accusation, a deterrent against attack, for accountability, etc. My guess is that, if the website gains traction, well over half the requests will be to help women.

    Any suggestions? I don’t really see any way to address this other than a written reminder to givers to be circumspect.

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  10. Rambling thoughts follow:

    Definitely send them out in no less than pairs; whether to fix plumbing at Paul’s or Paula’s. If your website organizes the help, then you would probably be legally liable; not to mention share some moral responsibility. I’d make that a stipulation of using the website; especially if strangers are showing up at someone’s house, etc.

    That brings us back to women; whom men will feel more inclined to help even if helping those means helps them divorce or live without their husbands. Abusing the website for personal gain is one thing. It’s another to be wielded against a husband or father.

    I’d advise against sending out mixed-sex couples unless they were married to each other, or part of a larger group. Depending on the help needed, more workers might be better. (Workers at all day job could use some cooks, for example.)

    So far I’ve been picturing short-term help with clear goals: fix plumbing, mow lawn, etc. A businessman might need long-term help; which is a whole different animal. In such cases, it might be beneficial to facilitate regular meetings of a group (within a geographical area) instead of sending over an accountant every two weeks; for example.

    Essentially, I see this website as a kind of training wheels for local churches. There’s no replacement for being neighbors. As you said: Meeting needs is something they should be doing already, but perhaps don’t know how to go about, or lack the confidence. A system could provide them some stability until they gain the confidence. Once they get up and going (IF they get going), they won’t need the website.

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  11. @Cane:

    There’s a lot to think through here, I appreciate the help.

    Definitely send them out in no less than pairs; whether to fix plumbing at Paul’s or Paula’s. If your website organizes the help, then you would probably be legally liable; not to mention share some moral responsibility. I’d make that a stipulation of using the website; especially if strangers are showing up at someone’s house, etc.

    I see two distinct kinds of needs being met: goods and services. Of the two, goods are far easier. Blankets, clothing, and even groceries can be dropped off simply. Heck, they can even be ordered on Amazon by the giver. Services, on the other hand, are tougher but allow the giver to give more of themselves.I’m thinking a “2-person minimum” rule would only need to apply to services, but in any case I would want to encourage givers to act as a family unit.

    That brings us back to women; whom men will feel more inclined to help even if helping those means helps them divorce or live without their husbands.

    I see no reason why the composition of the family in need should be revealed in the posting.

    “Family of 4 needs groceries for one week. 445 Smith Lane”

    “Need lawn mowed. 328 Elm St.”

    “Need clothes for baby boy, size 3 mo. 4565 County Rd. H”

    Abusing the website for personal gain is one thing. It’s another to be wielded against a husband or father.

    I agree. But the only defense I can think of at the moment is the person who runs the church account, who actually knows the person in need and makes the post.

    So far I’ve been picturing short-term help with clear goals: fix plumbing, mow lawn, etc. A businessman might need long-term help; which is a whole different animal.

    To start with, we will only list specific, one-time needs of goods or services. We have to start somewhere, and later recurring help can be considered. Church account administrators will b instructed to make each post as specific and limited as possible. So, for example, if a family needs blankets, a weeks worth of groceries, and clothes for a 3 mo old girl, the administrator would make three separate posts.

    Essentially, I see this website as a kind of training wheels for local churches. There’s no replacement for being neighbors. As you said: Meeting needs is something they should be doing already, but perhaps don’t know how to go about, or lack the confidence. A system could provide them some stability until they gain the confidence. Once they get up and going (IF they get going), they won’t need the website.

    I hope it can become more than training wheels. I hope it can expand who each person sees as his neighbor from those who go to his church to a wider swath, and in doing so build bridges between churches.

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  12. I agree. But the only defense I can think of at the moment is the person who runs the church account, who actually knows the person in need and makes the post.

    For sure. I meant that should be emphasized alongside other posting-rights regulations.

    Access to personal info–even addresses–should be restricted to those who are actually committed/assigned to help that particular person. One reason is privacy. Another is tracking so that 14 bags of groceries don’t end up at a porch on Elm St., and none on Oak Dr. nor Plum Rd.

    Another reason is sort of linked to privacy, but is really a bit about paranoia. The weirdos who are going to participate in this radical program are like us: Weirdos. Just as with many of the home schooling pioneers, they are going to be fundamentalist/gun-toting/prepper-types. They will participate if they hear about it, but they must reasonably trust that they can fly under government and activist radar. Independent Baptists, SSPX-ers, hard-core SDAs, old school Church of Christ-ers, etc.

    I like how Samaritan Healthcare runs their service.

    http://samaritanministries.org/how-it-works/the-need-process/

    Basically, every member commits to sending $X a month to another SH member who has submitted a need (medical bill) to SH. Every month, SH sends a letter to each member. Included is the address of one or more members’ needs. SH never touches the money; it goes straight from one member/family to another.

    Say a family membership is $250. If Larry has a medical need, he sends SH his bill for $1000. Then SH sends a letter to four families, and they each send their gifts directly to Larry.

    We are members of a similar program called Christian Healthcare. The only real difference is that we send the money to CH, and they disperse it as needed instead of us sending money to a particular person. There are several of these healthcare services now, and I would recommend them as a resource for brainstorming.

    I hope it can expand who each person sees as his neighbor from those who go to his church to a wider swath, and in doing so build bridges between churches.

    My friend, if you manage to bring together those groups (Independent Baptists, SSPX-ers, hard-core SDAs, old school Church of Christ-ers, etc.) in real life, and to good effect, you will have done something worth noticing. As modeled by homeschoolers and Christian healthcare sharing programs, it can happen.

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  14. Cane said: ” Another is tracking so that 14 bags of groceries don’t end up at a porch on Elm St., and none on Oak Dr. nor Plum Rd.”

    Perhaps a “Claim This Need” button? Once a need is claimed, information can be shared and the need becomes unavailable for others to claim.

    Maybe have a “Need Met” button on the back end to close out the need on the site once it is met. Either the meet-er or the meet-ee could close out the need.

    How do you get the cool quote inset on this thing?

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  15. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2015/08/18 | Free Northerner

  16. @KPP:

    I think that system would work well, but the need should be closed by the poster.

    To do the quote thing: put the word “blockquote” in the weird parentheses < > at the beginning of the quote, and put /blockquote in the same marks at the end of the quote.

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