Not Just a Soup Kitchen is David Apple's newest book for churches desperately seeking answers on how to do diaconal ministry effectively. It provides the practical tools and instructions Christians need to serve God effectively in ministry of mercy and compassion. The book doesn’t provide scholastic tools, but real life how-to information based on the experiences of success and failure. David will be holding a book signing at Tenth on September 21, at 1 PM in Reception Hall. Following is an excerpt from Not Just a Soup Kitchen, available for preorder now and in bookstores September 16, 2014.
Those who work with in mercy and diaconal ministry need safe boundaries. This is a priority. The alternative of having few or no boundaries is discouragement, spiritual fatigue and burn out. We must learn how to fulfill our needs on a daily basis through a healthy balance of giving to others while also receiving affirmation and support from others and from God. People who are involved in mercy ministry make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Personally, I’ve made some blunders. Early in my career I saw myself as a rescuer; I succumbed to the tyranny of the urgent and I had no safe boundaries to protect myself.
If we want to serve wisely, then we must learn to understand and respect our limitations. In order to love ourselves, we must set up reasonable boundaries. Our Lord tells us to do our best and to serve in a way that is pleasing to Him (1 Cor. 10:31) and that means being realistic and having common sense.
At the age of 24, my first year as a deacon, I thought I knew what I was doing. However, I could be easily manipulated and sometimes I provided assistance out of feelings of guilt. Many times I did not establish proper limits. The truth was I did not know what I was doing. I am reminded of an incident that now seems absurd, yet it happened. I was our church’s benevolence treasurer. One night, I received a telephone request from a stranger who said he needed help in paying his rent. The caller told me he was referred by my pastor and stated “I have to have the money by six o’clock tonight or I’ll be evicted.” He sounded desperate. After a few unsuccessful calls to verify his referral from my pastor—and not knowing I was being manipulated—I agreed to help him. I told him I could write out a church check to his landlord, but he said that his landlord only accepted cash. I told him that giving cash was not possible. He repeated his landlord’s need for cash-only until I relented and gave in to his request. I did not want to disappoint this person, this stranger, so I agreed to give him cash. And, not only did I agree to give him cash, I agreed to leave it in an envelope for him at a downtown bar! My desire to please this stranger overshadowed the need for common sense and wisdom. What I did, essentially, was feed the requester’s heroin habit (I read in the newspaper a few days later that he had been arrested for possession of drugs).
At that time, mercy meant giving. I did not consider or question the responsibility of the requester, nor did I think about how the money would be used. Giving made me feel good. I didn’t know then about being “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt.10:16). Today, I have learned to follow Jesus wisely and not be manipulated by guilt or the tyranny of the urgent. I have learned that not everything that cries the loudest is the most urgent.
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