How Are We Made Whole?

by Kelly Kapic and Brian Fikkert February 25, 2020

On March 20 & 21, join us as Brian Fikkert shares insights from his books at the Mercy Conference.  Learn more from this video of Fikkert and Kelly Kapic describing the books, and register for the conference here.  The video is transcribed below. 


About ten years ago, Steve Corbett and I had the privilege of coauthoring the book When Helping Hurts and God blessed that book beyond our wildest imaginations.  But despite that, we continue to pepper with all kinds of questions—very specific questions.  Missionaries will say, “some worm has infested our village in Africa, what do we do?”  A daughter will say, “I’m giving money to some ministry in Tibet, should I keep giving them money?” A church will say, “we don’t even have any relationships with poor people what do we do?”  All these very specific questions.

The challenge is, people think they want answers to the specific questions, but we're not really qualified to give those.  Nobody is.  But we can talk about wisdom.  We need wisdom: wisdom from God, wisdom from his word, wisdom from experience.  

We need to know what God is trying to do in the world and how he's trying to accomplish it because if we can understand God’s story, we can jump into the stream of God’s story and be more effective than we would be if we’re swimming upstream.

There's a lot of false stories going on.  A lot of ways in which we sometimes even talk about God that aren't very helpful. For example, we encourage people to get saved but all we mean is make a decision. Believe in Jesus and then live 30, 40, 50 years, and die and go to heaven.  But we don't have a good answer for what all of this is about.

We don’t really know how to live in the world.  We don’t know what human flourishing looks like.  We don't know how to achieve such flourishing.  Yet is our message to poor people is come be just like us even though we don’t know what we’re doing.

The statistics of how we're doing culturally in North America in terms of happiness and relationships in community—the data’s not good.

It's amazing. Even though income in America continues to rise, all kinds of measures of happiness are declining, mental illness is exploding, and western civilization isn't flourishing.  But we’re asking the poor to join us in this false story.  We need a better story.

This is where theology comes in. Theology sounds like a scary word, but it's like if I tell the group of my students, “the first person who goes to my house and touches it gets $500” and I have a really excited student who immediately jets out of the room super fast, it seems impressive. But if they don't know where my house is, if they didn't stop to ask, they're just going to get exhausted and never get there.

We have to know where we're trying to go and how we can get there both for ourselves and for people who are poor. This book, Becoming Whole, is very theological, accessible to laypersons, but very theological—helping us to dive deep into God’s story.  In that sense, it's a prequel to When Helping Hurts. The operating system behind it so people can have the wisdom they need to adjust to the very particular circumstance they’re facing.

But it isn't just theological, is it?  We’re trying to be practical, both in this volume and the one that comes after it, A Field Guide to Becoming Whole. We’re trying to be concrete.

In A Field Guide to Becoming Whole we explain many more principles than we did in When Helping Hurts and so in that sense it’s the sequel to When Helping Hurts.  We want to help people move effectively forward in ministry.

We really do think how we imagine ourselves, how we imagine God, how we imagine relating to one another affects everything. It affects our lives, it affects our communities, and we want to be faithful.

Many of us think that the goal is to turn Uganda into the United States, or to turn poor inner cities into suburbs, but that's not the right goal.  The goal with all these places is to look more like the New Jerusalem. The goal all of us is to become whole, and that's what these books are about.

© 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church.

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) and provide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Tenth Presbyterian Church.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Kelly Kapic and Brian Fikkert. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org