ChurchETHOS

Compassionate Moment

Posted in church leadership, cultural relevance, social justice, uncategorized by Nathan Creitz on October 16, 2009

I ran across this video recently from the Catalyst Conference and had some conflicting emotions as I watched it. As a communicator of God’s Word, I am intensely aware of the power of emotion and the importance of using it effectively (though I often make mistakes). Take a moment to watch this video (especially starting from 3:45) and get an impression and then rejoin me for thoughts after:

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made mistakes as a communicator so when I watch a video like this and comment on it I do so for my own learning experience (and perhaps my readers can learn from this as well). Let me also say that I have full confidence in the integrity of Compassion International and for everyone on the stage during this video. However, I think some steps could’ve been taken to avoid an awkward situation. This post is sort of like a case study for communicator’s.

Jimmy and Mark’s story was very powerful. I can’t imagine a more compelling story and I know the Holy Spirit was at work in this moment. Compassion International is a reputable organization and I have lots of friends who have attended Catalyst conferences. But after Jimmy meets Mark, I thought the way the MC handled this situation was distracting and misguided. Again, coming purely from a communicator’s perspective, I think we need to learn from this moment and be aware of the power of emotion. This was a powerful moment but at the end it felt like a commercial (even though he said it wasn’t. I’m always extremely sensitive especially to the way we ask for money even for a worthy cause).

Now, I know that hundreds of children got sponsored through this event, but my concern with this video doesn’t have anything to do with poverty. In fact, it doesn’t have anything to do with motives. I’m sure the people who coordinated this moment were hoping to persuade as many people as possible to sponsor a child and that they were doing so for the right reasons.

I don’t want to attack anyone’s motives, but I do want to caution about methods. To me the moment after Jimmy and Mark met I was longing for someone to whisk them off stage and then lead the crowd in a time of praise for the One who made all this possible. Of course, no one doubted that it was the Spirit who was working in that room at that moment, but it seemed to go way, way too quickly to a plea for money.

So, viewing this as a case study, I invite your insights. Should this moment have been planned differently? Maybe with videos or with more tact? Should someone have prepped the MC to feel free to go off script if the moment was too powerful to proceed? What lessons do we learn as church leaders about the power of emotion and our need to carefully consider what may or may not happen in a moment such as this?

You can also continue the conversation over at theΒ  Compassion Blog.

You can become a Compassion International sponsor here.

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78 Responses

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  1. Wesley Braswell said, on October 16, 2009 at 10.36 am

    Nathan,

    As a Compassion sponser, I can say with a clear conscience that the only goal of Compassion is to reach down and pluck just one more child out of poverty. They are always ranked in the very top as being a company that uses most of the gifts given to fund the missions they support. I think it’s something like 90% of the money received goes to fund the missions abroad. I can somewhat see your point about the emotion of the moment, but remember who is the audience (church and Christian leaders) at a Catalyst Conference. The appeal is to highlight the need and motivate to action. Jimmy would be dead if it was not for Mark. 23,000 childern just like Jimmy when he was young die every single day. We must take action. Compassion is one of those organizations that we can take action through. Maybe the emcee could have handled the situation a little better, but the messege must be clear. Take action today or a child will not have a tomorrow.

  2. Nathan Creitz said, on October 16, 2009 at 10.58 am

    You’re right and I agree that the moment between Jimmy and Mark was genuine and powerful. What an amazing moment. I had to stop the video to keep from losing it in public as I watched. I immediately shared it on facebook and then went to watch the rest of the video…knowing that I have a lot of friends on facebook that are skeptical about the church as soon as I saw how that moment was used I deleted my status update and decided to put it on my blog where I could do a fuller debrief.

    I agree, the audience is church and Christian leaders but for such a public event that is shared organically and virally on youtube, vimeo, facebook, twitter, and various blogs we need to be just as careful inside our Christian gatherings as we are when we are out in the world. Everything we do from a stage should be done in the realization that our “reputation with outsiders” is on the line. I’m still waiting to hear from some of my friends who are not in the church to see if they got an uneasy feeling from the way this was used or if I’m blowing this out of proportion. I’d be happy to be wrong here (that happens a lot on this blog) but my goal is to share my honest reactions to what I see and invite your thoughts here.

    Does that make sense? My problem isn’t with the story and the good work that Compassion International does. I know they are a very ethical organization. My problem is with the appeal based on a highly charged moment whether it is intended strictly for Christians or not. Should it take that sort of “persuasion” to get church and Christian leaders to care for the poor? If it does, then we aren’t even scratching the surface of the problem with this one blog post.

  3. Randy Starkey said, on October 16, 2009 at 11.31 am

    Hi,

    I’m a a pastor and I think it was too much. They probably didn’t expect such a strong emotional response from Jimmy. The MC just wasn’t perceptive enough to know how to deal with it. Had he built a few more fences and slowed it down a bit, being careful not to “abuse” the emotion (God can “use” emotion) it probably could have been fine, but he moved into the sponsorship way too fast, etc. etc.

    I think simply a case where the moving of the Holy Spirit is missed, and schedules and programming dominate. Then it becomes insensitive. I don’t think motives were wrong, just methodology, which carries its own need for integrity.

    –Randy Starkey

  4. Wesley Braswell said, on October 16, 2009 at 11.42 am

    I’m not sure Catalyst knew quite how powerful that moment would be. You can tell that by the emcee’s reaction. I am definitely not justifying all that he did. I would have still made the appeal but in a different way. I think you are definitely correct in presenting that we have not scratched the surface of the “real” problem. That’a a whole other song and dance. Maybe videos like this should not be as readily avaliable. There must be a time when the church can close the doors and do some business. The answer is complex. The Church in America is to blinded by American priorities to see the real need in the world. For me, the weird feeling only came from the emcee and his handling of the situation. I am sure he did the best he could in that moment but he did make it seem cheapened and commercialized, but I do not think that was his intent. I think context and intent are important to consider. Considering the other factors does not change the action taken but it does help us understand the true motive.

  5. Nathan Creitz said, on October 16, 2009 at 12.24 pm

    Hey Randy and Wesley,

    I think you are both right. This was so powerful that no one could really recover from it. I should give more credit to the motives of the Catalyst crew. I still say they had to know it would be powerful to some extent and they chose to use that to advance their objective.

    Randy, you are right that God can “use” (rather than “abuse”) our emotions but what Jimmy and Mark’s story did for me was compel me to give more and sacrifice more…that should be where it ends. It should end with a celebration of what God has done through Mark’s faithfulness. The organization should’ve been content with a background role and not try to make it like: There are orphans in the world…the Bible tells us to care for them…therefore, $38 once a month is how you do it…go ahead and raise your hands and be ready to give now.

    I wasn’t there so I can’t speculate on what the Spirit was doing but I wish the MC had said, “Wow! We were going to go next to asking you to support Compassion International and you can still do that but let’s just praise God for what He is doing right now.” Again, it’s easy to say that after the fact and the MC was definitely taken off guard by the moment so I apologize for appearing to judge the heart and intentions. I just think we need to be very careful when planning these sorts of times (even when it’s a fully Christian crowd) that we don’t override our integrity because of our passion. People are watching whether we know it or not.

  6. Randy Starkey said, on October 16, 2009 at 12.45 pm

    Nathan,

    Right. People could have been directed to Compassion tables somewhere, or informational brochures handed out where they had to take some further step to give. I agree I don’t like it where an emotional moment becomes an “OK – we’re receiving this offering or commitment NOW!” I think the MC could have even addressed the power of that emotional moment and built some fences around that so it didn’t come across like “abusing” the moment.

    I believe it was all well intentioned, just maybe not thought through.

  7. Stephen Bateman said, on October 16, 2009 at 3.25 pm

    Well they handed like like 1200 packets of kids to be sponsored shortly afterward.

    Was it appropriate? Man in the room, with all those people, it felt completely appropriate. Now that I go back and watch the video, sure he rushed it a bit, and I agree that the moment was more powerful than a creative team could’ve imagined.

    But it’s like going back and watching the tape of a football game. You see all the missteps that you didn’t see back on the field.

  8. Shaun Groves said, on October 16, 2009 at 4.52 pm

    Full disclosure: After seeing Compassion’s ministry for myself (in El Salvador in 2004) I sold my house, got down to one car, canceled cable, started cutting my own freakin’ hair even just to simplify my life enough to speak and sing for Compassion at no charge to the public. I’ve been doing just that ever since. I’m in 100 cities a year speaking for Compassion and I now head up blog marketing for Compassion, taking bloggers on trips to see Compassion’s work so they can get as screwed up by it and passionate about it as I am. Thought you should know that before reading my thoughts on this post/moment.

    1. I wasn’t at Catalyst.

    2. Ken Coleman (the guy in the video) is not a Compassion speaker, or a pastor, or a guy who speaks all that much. He’s Catalyst’s guy. He doesn’t present Compassion or ask people to sponsor children on any kind of regular basis – if he’s ever done it before. As a guy who does that job 100+ times every year, I can vouch for how hard of a job that is. He did it well. He could have done better, sure, we always could, but he did nothing wrong.

    3. It’s impossible to show poverty and hope without at the same time moving some people to tears. I wish we could move them all. The fact that we don’t is an indictment I think. Paul grieved with those who grieved and he celebrated with those who celebrated. We should be broken by what breaks God’s heart. The poor do. We should shed joyful tears by what thrills God – being known as the God of compassion and sacrifice does that I think.

    4. Is the minute after a person cries the wrong time to ask them to take action? Is it manipulative to do so? I don’t think so. There are diplomatic ways to refocus and remind a crowd of proper motivations – ways I’ve taught to other Compassion speakers. Ken didn’t do that, but, again, I don’t think he did anything wrong. He just didn’t exercise all the caution that I would feel the need to. We’re different speakers.

    5. If people sponsored only because of emotion, they won’t remain sponsors for long and Catalyst will know about it. Compassion keeps stats on EVERYTHING, including “retention”, which is how long sponsors from every event stick with sponsorship. If Catalyst’s average retention rate is only two months after this event, they’ve failed, and they’ll know about it and hopefully change their method, but again, they did nothing wrong.

    6. Are you suggesting that a non-Christian with doubts about church/Christianity/Christians would be turned off by seeing Christians love the poor? Seriously? My involvement with Compassion and writing about it on my blog is exactly what won over two non-Christian friends of mine last year. In the book of Acts , whenever church growth is mentioned, it comes on the heels of 1)”they feared God” and/or 2)benevolence of some kind. Turns out that faith expressed in loving action (also known as kindness) brings many to repentance…or at least investigation.

    7. I’m very careful not to manipulate, not to guilt or force audiences into sponsorship in any way. But should I be? When my son was four he woke up very sick one day. I took him to the hospital where they hooked him up to machines, ran all kinds of tests, and I sat helplessly while his condition deteriorated. When the infectious disease specialist told us he was stumped my fears went into overdrive. While my son slept I laid my head on the end of his bed and wept and prayed for God to please save his life. At that moment, if the difference between my son living and dying was $38 and I knew you had it (you have cable don’t you?) I would have done everything possible to get that money and save his life. The problem with me though is that, while I’ve seen mothers in the third world holding dying babies and begging for my help, I don’t really believe that A) you have the money or B) it will save their lives or C) all the manipulation in the world will get you to give it up. Do I?

    8. Again, I don’t endorse manipulation, guilt or empty emotionalism. But. If it was your son they were trying to save would you care how they did it? It’s someone’s son. 30,000 of them under the age of five died today. Makes me wish I believed in manipulation. I could save a few more.

    9. This discussion is a luxury.

    • Megan said, on October 16, 2009 at 11.53 pm

      Shawn-3 of the kids we sponsor today are because of the way you presented a message that compelled us to act. We sponsor the others because we’ve seen the effectiveness of this ministry, the integrity it has in handling it’s funds, and we understand the simple fact that in order to share Christ with people, they must be alive.

      Jesus met physical needs before he addressed their spiritual needs, because He knew that only the living still have a choice. When he fed and healed, I don’t think He was being manipulative. I think he was showing deep, merciful compassion.

    • darrentyler said, on October 18, 2009 at 1.09 pm

      i agree whole heartedly with shaun and might just add a number 10

      10. the kids sponsored at this event who are busy with things like surviving won’t give a crap if Ken did a good job presenting.

  9. The Secret Life of Kat said, on October 16, 2009 at 5.13 pm

    I see what you’re saying but ultimately, I’d like to think I care more about dying children than my reputation.

  10. Stretch Mark Mama said, on October 16, 2009 at 5.15 pm

    I watched the video last night and had similar thoughts — though it did not make me think negatively of Compassion. I could tell it was an awkward moment for the emcee — and having been in that spot (on the spot) before, I know how difficult it is to navigate through an emotional situation. Some people have that knack — I do not.

    I spend a good deal of time motivating people to love their neighbors and care for the least of these. It’s a very difficult task. I have used all kinds of methods — logic, emotion, scripture, humor, stories, information, ideas, direct experience, etc. I have yet to solve the mystery of what truly changes a heart and moves someone to action.

    Bottom line of my rambling is that on that day — the people who were there (and many who watched on video) — saw a life that was changed. That’s the impression that has stuck with *me* — and I’m the Queen of the Cynics.

  11. David said, on October 16, 2009 at 5.37 pm

    I have no affiliation with Compassion. I do work within a mission organization who is serving the family and also working to raise awareness of the plight of orphans, and the need for people to be involved in adopting and caring for them.

    I watched the video. I don’t see any issue with what was done or how it was done. I say bravo to anyone who is helping change the plight of orphans. It was obvious from the beginning that this was a Compassion emphasis event. People knew what was coming. How powerful it was that this young man was able to meet his sponsor, the guy who God used to change his life! Praise the Lord!

  12. Michael Patterson said, on October 16, 2009 at 5.39 pm

    I am not a pastor – just a firefighter – but I’m active in my local church. Up until I experienced Compassion’s ministry first hand, I had only attended church on occasion, out of a feeling of obligation. Today I am very involved in my church, because that’s where I want to be.

    I began sponsoring a child through this ministry in the 1990s. After mailing my check off every month for about 8 years, we received a letter from our sponsored child. Because of that special letter, my wife and I decided to go to the Dominican Republic on a Compassion International Sponsor Tour. I can honestly say that trip changed my life. My family has now been the sponsors of 10 children. I was so impressed with what I saw Compassion doing, that we wanted to sponsor every child, but of course realized we couldn’t. That’s why I decided to become a volunteer Child Advocate for Compassion, so I could seek out sponsors for children who need them.

    My wife and I were so moved by the experience of meeting our sponsored children that we returned 2 years later with our 3 teenage daughters so they could see what so changed us. Eventually, what we learned about poverty, led us to want to adopt a child from Haiti. Compassion’s ministry truly opened our eyes to children in need.

    My point is this. There is 2 ways I can think of to get across the impact of this ministry. One is to go for yourself and experience it. The other is for Compassion to bring it to you, and show you just a glimpse of what it means.

    I can’t understand how someone can watch this beautiful moment and see something sinister about it.

  13. Randy Starkey said, on October 16, 2009 at 7.57 pm

    Michael – ‘sinister’? who ever said that. All we are talking about is the best way to present needs. I love Compassion and I have an adopted daughter and we are doing a whole Sunday on adoption this month (Nov is national adoption month as I’m sure you know) so it’s not about a heart for the need or wanting to meet the needs. It’s simply about doing that the best way. But emotion always seems to trump rational suggestions for improvement in situations like this. We simply have to use some Christian thinking here and realize the ends never justify the means. Shaun you are saying you wish you believed in manipulation. I’m glad you don’t. It would definitely corrupt what you do. The end of child sponsorship is great. Using the video as a means is great. The presentation following the video – not so great. Unfortunatetely in discussions like this, if you try to improve something, you are hit with the need overrides any rational constructive suggestions type response. Perhaps Compassion should go to a policy of only using their own trained people at presentations like this.

    • Lindsay @ Not2Us said, on October 16, 2009 at 8.04 pm

      @Randy Starkey

      “It’s simply about doing that the best way. But emotion always seems to trump rational suggestions for improvement in situations like this.”

      I think what many of us don’t understand is what was wrong with this situation. I don’t see anything that needs improvement.

      Feeling manipulated most likely comes as a defense against feeling convicted. When we see what we should and could be doing, we are either moved to action to correct our short-coming or moved into a defensive position (trying to justify our short-comings or re-direct the critique to a different source.)

    • Michael Patterson said, on October 19, 2009 at 3.24 pm

      Randy- you are right, and I regret my wording. I truly appreciate this discussion. There seems to be a growing desire in our society to be critical of everything decent. Recently an friend of mine worked very hard to raise a very large amount of money for starving children in Haiti. After a feature article was written in her hometown news, the online discussion turned ugly. There were numerous people suggesting that she could better spend her time raising money for all the starving kids in the United States. I’m frustrated that no matter how pure ones intentions are, and what good results from a person’s actions, we seem to be very anxious to find reasons to be critical or want to give our “rational” suggestions. Sometimes it just feels like nit-picking others good deeds is what gives some people purpose in life (and NO, I am not referring to you). What I see in this video is a genuine look at what child sponsorship means to both the sponsor and the child. Nothing more. I don’t think that makes me irrational.

    • Nate said, on October 20, 2009 at 9.55 am

      Randy, what I find interesting about your comment here is that what you really seem to be debating is whether logic or emotion should drive your life as a Christian. Rational thought doesn’t always end well. Emotional response doesn’t always end well. They must go hand in hand.

      I think its great that rational suggestions for improvement are always trumped by emotional appeals for improvement. Why? Because if I rationally explain to my wife why I love her, it doesn’t go very far. If I sing her a song or paint her a picture to express my love, the temperature in the room just went up a few notches. Now if I don’t actually love her, but use all sorts of poetry and music to make her think I do, then our relationship is bankrupt already and will eventually come crashing down and do lots of damage. Ration and emotion cant be separated.

      Appealing to the emotions is called for, is right, is effective. Backing it up with rational integrity is also called for, right and effective. The problem with huckster televangelists is not that they make emotional appeals for money -it’s that our history and experience have taught us that they don’t spend it well. We’ve been shown over and over and that emotional appeals for financial support are often matched with crime, with deception and with greed. It’s the job of an organization like Compassion’s to make sure that when an emotional appeal is given, when people make an emotional response, that the resulting organizational reaction is one of integrity.

    • Nathan Creitz said, on October 20, 2009 at 10.19 am

      Nate,

      Well said my friend. Those are my thoughts exactly. In my opinion, the emotion was so strong that anything that was said simply fell flat. Not that asking people to support an organization to fight poverty was wrong, just that it didn’t match the moment. It’s important that as we plan events and sermons, etc. that we think through the ethos, the pathos, and the logos so that we can effectively minister and serve and persuade and love. Great analogy, Nate…thanks for your insights.

  14. Randy Starkey said, on October 16, 2009 at 8.37 pm

    Lindsay – your statement – ‘I don’t care how we get people to help the poor’ – I disagree. How as well as what matters. We need light and not just heat. That’s my pastoral counsel to you. Course I’m not your pastor so you don’t have to listen haha, but it’s still true! Keep in mind I’m a pastor who supports all that was presented.

  15. Shaun Groves said, on October 16, 2009 at 9.33 pm

    I agree, Randy. I think “good” form God’s perspective is not just what we do but why we do it. Thanks for that.

    • Michelle said, on October 21, 2009 at 1.39 pm

      Randy and Shaun…. Exactly! I have an aquaintance who gives lavish gifts of money to the poor. That’s wonderful. It certainly DOES help them out… But then this person brags about their act of kindness to anyone that will listen. I mean, she inserts her “giving nature” into any conversation she can. She doesn’t want to sponsor through Compassion International because she doesn’t want to deal with the relationship part of the committment….. She doesn’t volunteer her time at homeless shelters, food pantries, tutoring centers, etc. She just gives money and then tells everyone about it….

      Now, I still think it is wonderful that she is giving the money. She can afford it and she gives to worthy causes. However, it makes me wonder if she is really doing it to help out the people who need it…. or if she is doing it for accolades.

      It also makes me question how I approach people when I try and get the word out about Compassion. I like to think HOW I ask is just as important as my asking…. Maybe I am wrong, but I would think that it would come accross differently if she approached people in her manner………. versus my plea from the heart.

      Like I said, I am glad she at least gives the money… but like Shaun said: “I think “good” from God’s perspective is not just what we do but why we do it.”

  16. Nathan Creitz said, on October 16, 2009 at 10.46 pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone. And thanks for showing me grace when my words may have seemed harsh. Honestly, what I’m trying to critique here is not Compassion International, the organization…and as I’ve said in an earlier comment maybe I was too hard on the MC for not quite handling things as effectively as he could have. Instead, I am thinking of how we motivate people.

    There’s no doubt that Compassion has done great things in Jesus’ name. There’s no doubt that the moment on stage was an incredible movement of the Spirit. I’m sorry if I offended anyone here with my comments…I was hoping to make the point that when we present the Gospel and when we challenge people to live for God, we need to be careful how we do that.

    I’m simply trying to ask some probing questions and I am grateful that each of you has taken the time to share your insights. As a communicator of God’s Word I know I’ve made some terrible mistakes so I don’t present these questions as one who thinks he could’ve done better, I just ask them to help us think. If you look at the description of this blog, this is exactly the kind of thing we talk about here. If this post is your first interaction with me on this blog I can see why it might sound harsh.

    Thanks again for all your comments.

  17. Heidi Weimer said, on October 16, 2009 at 11.16 pm

    [Let me preface by saying that I have 9 kids; 6 adopted from Ethiopia and 3 biological. One of my children was a former Compassion child in Ethiopia for a few years…not MY sponsored child, but someone else’s. This is very close to home for me.]

    I kind of felt like I was watching a surprise guest on Oprah when I watched it. If it wasn’t a “commercial,” then couldn’t they have met in person OFF the stage? BACKstage?

    I love and obviously support Compassion, but the Catalyst people made me very uncomfortable while watching this.

    That being said, having a child that WAS a Compassion child, it felt weird to me. Not the meeting itself, but the way it was a “surprise!” in front of thousands and thousands. I wouldn’t want my own child’s emotions—raw as they would be in that moment—used, not without his permission, which he couldn’t have given considering it was a surprise.

    And I would add, too, that I don’t think it’s a “stunt” as the writer of this blog has described it; nor do I think it’s as manipulative as he deemed.

    I chalk it up to American Christianity lack of sensitivity in these types of situations.

    The “desperate African orphans in need” are regular ole’ people, after all. I for one wouldn’t want my raw emotions on display without my consent in front of thousands.

    And, finally, I agree with what Shaun about how our compassion for the poor leads nonbelievers to Jesus. I witness that all of the time in my own life; the unchurched become—at the least—interested in the true Jesus because they see ridiculous love for the poor.

    All food for thought.

  18. Steve Letourneau said, on October 17, 2009 at 1.02 am

    Nathan,

    You probably know more about me and my connection with the church than would be worth me writing about here. But basics for the record, I’ve been in the church most of my life. I’ve gone through all sorts of phases of disillusionment with the church. I believe, like I think you do, that there are reasons why “the church” today is not quite what it was described to be in the Bible. Still, I call myself Christian and try to live up to that title the best I can.

    So, about all this. Honestly, it’s fascinating to read what people have to say here. So many different perspectives and things that individuals focus on. I don’t think you’re harsh at all and I’m glad that you bring these things up. They’re things that I’ve long thought about, and to this day don’t really know how I feel.

    Great story. God is awesome and he works everywhere, everyday- sometimes I don’t know why that seems to surprise us so much every time, but I guess we’re human and we forget. Nonetheless, it’s awesome to see it. It’s encouraging to see it. And in the end, I believe it’s VERY important.

    But yes- it’s pure manipulation to use people’s emotions like that. I don’t see how anyone can argue with it. This kind of thing happens all the time every day, it’s “good” marketing and we’ve practically come to expect it from anyone selling something. But, as you ask, is it ethical in this context? Wow. Is it ever ethical?

    I also agree that Compassion has pure motives and that they do some awesome work. But anytime you put yourself in a position to use emotions to get what you want/believe is right… It’s tricky. Because, is it God using emotions, or is it Compassion? Is there a difference or line between the two? Does any of it matter as long as people are being saved/helped? I know God can and does work with or without organizations like Compassion (or “the Church”). But these organizations are the “hands and feet of God” as we say, and that’s true as well.

    I guess, all this to say that it’s a complicated issue that I don’t have many conclusions on myself. I know I hate feeling manipulated, regardless of who’s doing it. I know there are people dying all over the world every day who could be saved if only someone would tell them about Jesus and show them they care, and I know I don’t need some over-produced situation to hear from God. Of course, it helps to keep my relationship with Him strong and active… I know I need to know that my motives for doing something are pure. Therefore, you wouldn’t catch me dead doing what was done in that video: right or wrong, I just wouldn’t be comfortable doing it- and I believe there is a reason I feel that way, even I don’t fully understand it. More, I believe that people shouldn’t be ‘convinced’ or persuaded by others to do anything: God will work as he sees fit. It goes back to the whole idea that it’s not our job to save people, only to share what God has shown us. Sometimes I think we feel like it’s our job to be God, and it’s not.

    There’s no way in hell that I would have signed up in that situation, even if I felt compelled to. I hate feeling manipulated or pressured, ESPECIALLY by the church. I would have prayed about it more, and realized that God and Compassion and their work will still be there tomorrow (or whenever I decide it’s time) and I can sign up anytime. God convicts people, he does not use manipulation. I think it is important to recognize the difference in these situations. I’m sure there were tons of people convicted in that moment just as I believe there were a good number who felt pressured.

    But then, maybe that’s just me… I’m minoring in psychology, and I will be the first one to tell you that not everyone thinks like I do. Some people need to go through things like this to get them to do things, and it’s not wrong; it’s just how their minds work. And, in that respect, like I said, it’s not wrong.

    I’m rambling… You know it’s complicated or you wouldn’t have wrote about it. And I’m in no place to have any authority on the issues. All I can do is share my opinions.

    I guess, I would have to say that it’s risky. There’s nothing really wrong with the pure motives of it. But the line between pure motives and manipulation (for whatever cause) is VERY thin. I personally wouldn’t want to walk it. I’m all for danger and adventure and pushing the limits, but… We should do what we feel we need to and God will be the judge in the end.

    So there are some thoughts for you, as incomplete as they may be.

  19. Shaun Groves said, on October 17, 2009 at 11.36 am

    I agree with Heidi on this much: It wasn’t wrong. It wasn’t a stunt. But it was incredibly awkward…in video, too potentially insensitive and potentially exploitative, so not something I’d feel comfortable being part of.

    It surprised me that this happened at all, because Compassion is very careful not to exploit kids or share too much of their personal story. On our blogging trips, for instance, we take an official Compassion photographer who is trained to show more hope than need. Compassion doesn’t use pictures of skeletal kids with flies on them. For a reason. It gets to be poverty porn, you know? I don’t think this moment crossed that line but it’s closer than I’d expect Compassion to go on their own. It’s uncharacteristic of Compassion. Wondering now what role Catalyst folks had in creating this idea. Anybody know?

    • Nathan Creitz said, on October 20, 2009 at 8.30 am

      Thanks Shaun,

      I’ve followed your ministry and have loved your music for some time now. I appreciate your insight in this discussion. Your first comment seemed like an emotional reaction to my post just as my post was a bit of an emotional reaction to what I had seen. In response I would say, I don’t have cable, but even if I did would that have discredited me from raising the questions I’ve raised here?

      I’m not trying to compare my good deeds to anyone else, I just want our church leaders (myself included) to be as effective as possible in our ministries. I’ve seen poverty in Namibia, South Africa, India, Ecuador, Mexico, Turkey and in at least a dozen US cities. I don’t sponsor a child through Compassion International but I don’t have anything against it for those who do. This discussion isn’t about poverty, it’s about communication. It’s not about an organization, it’s about persuasion and manipulation and the fine line that we often walk in between.

      This more recent comment of yours gets directly to my point. Now that we’ve both had some space to think I believe we are saying basically the same thing. Our discussion has been healthy because I definitely softened some in my opinion of this video thanks to you and other comments and I hope that the church is stronger for it. But I also think that some who have decided that I must not care about the poor or think “I must feel guilty that I’m not doing enough” have come to understand my point even if they still disagree.

      Thanks again for your contribution and your perspective in this discussion. It’s not just a luxury, it’s a necessity.

  20. Nathan Creitz said, on October 17, 2009 at 12.13 pm

    Let me also bring up this point: It is important and necessary and powerful to use emotional appeals to encourage people to live for God. Our church leaders simply need to be careful in the way we do it. Sometimes emotion is more persuasive than words. If so, we need to be just as careful in thinking about how these sorts of moments play out as we do when we are crafting a message. As one who communicates to God’s people on a fairly regular basis I’m well aware that we as teachers and preachers are held to a higher standard and we must not neglect in our preparation the role that emotions will play.

  21. Lori Kurzius said, on October 19, 2009 at 12.24 pm

    I’m a sponsor for Compassion and have been a follower of Nathan’s blog for a long time now. I honestly feel that this is a powerful video–a genuine testament to our Lord and Savior. Part of the problem is that this was a moment filled with the Holy Spirit and it makes ‘us’–the world–seem crass in comparison. But, compared to the glory of Heaven we are crass. What a genuine display of love. Powerful and Beautiful. Yes, maybe the emcee should have forgone the bidding, but we are what we are and for me, this video shows how the Holy Spirit is working through Compassion. I’m deeply moved.

  22. Debbie said, on October 19, 2009 at 12.46 pm

    Hi, I just wanted to extend a bit of grace. What an amazing organization. If someone videotaped and critiqued my every move as a Christian ( let alone my public speaking), WOW, that is all I have to say. They are standing in God’s grace, trying to show people how to reach out and help many children in poverty. Open our eyes that these are not numbers but Real People, Real Lives that are touched. It should make us all cry with joy just as this man did. Love your fellow brother in Christ, extend mercy and grace as our heavenly father does. Was the moment perfect, was it too emotional, was it taking advantage of people….or was it just glorifying to God in spite of it’s shortcomings? Since Compassion does not seek to profit form our pocketbooks, I say we extend grace and let it glorify God.

  23. Amber Van Schooneveld said, on October 19, 2009 at 12.49 pm

    This is a really interesting discussion! I am a Compassion employee, but my comment is from the perspective of a friend, as Jimmy stayed at my house for a couple of weeks.

    When Jimmy first arrived in America, he told me that one of his biggest dreams was to simply meet his sponsor and to hug him. So this moment for Jimmy was the culmination of a 20-year-dream. He didn’t expect to cry so hard. I hadn’t considered these ethical questions watching the video, because as a friend of Jimmy’s, I was simply so happy for him. (Actually, I stopped watching after his part, because I was crying so hard! πŸ™‚ )

    So as a friend, I can’t help but feel a bit defensive on Jimmy’s behalf, simply because it definitely was not a setup. I’ve since chatted with Jimmy, and of course he felt a bit embarrassed for crying in front of 13,000 people. But primarily, he was so glad that God was using him to help children in situations like he was in. He says that God did it.

    • Michelle said, on October 21, 2009 at 1.22 pm

      How wonderful that you got to have Jimmy stay with you for so long!! I’d love that… And I loved Jimmy’s reaction to getting to meet his sponsor. I’d be embarrassed for crying in that position too, but coming from the outside looking in…. it wasn’t embarrassing…. it was heartwarmingly touching!!! πŸ™‚

      I don’t think anyone thought Jimmy had anything to do with a “setup”…. He was obviously overcome by the joy in meeting his sponsor unexpectedly. In my case, I was upset because I felt that the Catalyst people used Jimmy. They knew it would be emotional and tug at heartstrings. (I’m pretty sure they didn’t know HOW emotional…) But like Jimmy said: God used him. And I think that his view shows what a special person he is!!!

  24. Anna McCullough said, on October 19, 2009 at 2.48 pm

    I’m just going to weigh in as someone who has sponsored children through Compassion for 20 years and has been advocating for Compassion for the past 5 years. I “get” what Nathan is concerned about. I was uncomfortable with the way Jimmy’s sponsor was “sprung” on him. It was an “Oprah” sort of moment as Heidi Weimer alluded to above. I grew up outside the church and so am very sensitive to how this type of situation can look to outsiders. And I think in this “balloon boy” era when our American society doesn’t quite know anymore what is “real” vs. so-called “reality,” the Church has to work hard to stay on the side of “real” without slipping into “reality.” “Reality” has come to mean entertainment only, even to some Christ-followers I know.

    Good was done there. Children were sponsored. This can be a teachable moment for Catalyst. God is always going to do the Romans 8:28 thing, but that doesn’t let us off the hook for our behavior and responses in any given situation. Also, just in case non-Christians are here looking for answers, we Christ-followers might try extending one another some grace in our conversation.

  25. Amanda Thompson said, on October 19, 2009 at 3.35 pm

    We serve a God who has a published record of using countless miracles while ministering to the multitudes. He uses miracles because they appeal to our senses and emotions while demonstrating his magnificent power. My bible tells me that I am created in His image so He must have a degree of emotion intertwined in His being.

    Therefore, I find it ironic that we discount what He is presently doing by bundling His Story into and agenda. Haven’t we all learned that those who criticize the church have deeper rooted issues? Forever ago, even the pharisees would huddle together and watch Jesus then criticize His work and compassion.

    Sometimes I believe that we are so distracted with what others are thinking and saying that we can’t even see a miracle when it happens. Whose is to say that God did not seize that moment and use it for His glory? Jimmy could have easily turned around and said, “Thanks” and that could have been the end. Who will say that God did not stir the hearts and minds of everyone involved in this wonderful story of Jimmy and Mark? My eyes are not on men but my Savior who is feeding more kids because of Jimmy’s story.

    I truly feel sorry that you have chosen to focus your time and attention by discounting a ministry that is truly making a difference. If your ministry is ever as life changing as Compassion, International, I pray that those who look for your faults will have compassion on you.

  26. Michelle said, on October 19, 2009 at 5.49 pm

    Hmmm…. After reading all of the comments, I am somewhat hesitant to give my opinion as it is JUST an opinion and I am worried about being “criticized”… However, as Nathan asked for input in what seems to be a genuine desire to know… I guess I will share. Just please, please, consider what Anna said above: “Also, just in case non-Christians are here looking for answers, we Christ-followers might try extending one another some grace in our conversation.” So please be nice??? :o)

    I am a Compassion sponsor and have been for about a year and 1/2. I found this blog through the Compassion blog (which I have only recently found as well…) I’ve been sitting here for awhile contemplating “outing” myself, as I genuinely don’t want to change peoples’ perceptions of me on the Compassion blog before I even get to know them…. Normally this isn’t a problem, as I am upfront and honest in my daily life. (at times, too honest…) However, Compassion is an overwhelmingly Christian concern and I have been worried from the start that I’d be treated differently if people know that I am “un-churched.”

    There. I said it. I am un-churched.

    However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in God or Jesus. It doesn’t mean that I am not spiritual. What it does mean, is that I am dissatisfied with the ways in which the churches that I’ve been in contact with conduct themselves. (and I’ve tried Baptist, Catholic, Non-denominational, and many more religions… seeking to find something I couldn’t) To sum it up in a nutshell: I can’t follow a church that puts more money into buildings and statues and appearances than it does ministering to the poor and needy. Whether the poor and needy be in the local area, or thousands of miles away. When what you wear to church is more important than what you DO at church……. something is wrong.

    Now I know that there are many out there that will proclaim that their church is different, and perhaps so. That is splendid!!! I’m very happy for you and the people in your church family…. However, I have not been lucky enough to find such a church family in all the years of seeking….

    So there is the WHY of why I am un-churched. I believe in spirituality…… not religion.

    Coming from an “un-churched” perspective….. I was extremely touched by Jimmy and Mark’s first meeting. Like many, I smiled when they first embraced and then when I heard Jimmy’s gut wrenching sobs of happiness I cried too…

    Hindsight is 20/20. I doubt anyone had any idea that Jimmy would be so overcome. (How wonderful that he was though… Mark cannot have any doubt what a difference he and God made in that young man’s life!!) Looking at the situation from a distance, the emcee likely should have ushered them off of the stage and gave them much needed privacy when Jimmy kept crying…. I don’t blame the emcee though.

    I do think it was in very poor taste for whomever it was that set up the situation like it was. Even if Jimmy is okay with it now, I think he would have appreciated a much more private first encounter with his sponsor. I think that anyone put in his shoes would admit to the same thing…. Of course, given the option of meeting or not meeting his sponsor, I’m sure Jimmy is just grateful to even get to meet his sponsor. And he likely has manners and wouldn’t think of complaining… (perhaps I’m projecting, though…)

    It is just my opinion that he should have been afforded the opportunity to meet for the first time in private….. as it WAS a once in a lifetime moment. It is also my opinion that it WAS manipulation, as the company knew in advance that it would be an emotional moment and chose to stage that moment right before the appeal for sponsorship.

    A more “tasteful” way of doing it (if done at all) would have been to introduce the two of them at the start of the program and then talk about Compassion and the miracles they perform and THEN ask for sponsorship. Compassions’ work on behalf of the children of the world is enough of a message. It is a POWERFUL message…. one that reached me loud and clear and got me to sponsor even though it is a struggle for my family to do so….

    But, like I said before: Hindsight is 20/20. From this “un-churched” perspective though? All was well with the video until that certain moment where the emcee decided to go on with the plan to appeal for sponsorship. At that point I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I get every time I see a televangelist or the 700 Club begging for money…… right after they showed a heartwarming story or healed someone of a nasty disease.

    And in my opinion, it is NOT preferable for children to be sponsored for two months and look at it like it is a good thing that they were sponsored at all for any time period.

    The reason I am hooked on Compassion is because it isn’t all about the money. It is about the RELATIONSHIPS between the sponsor and the child. That is priceless. THAT is what gets yanked from a child when someone sponsors in the heat of the moment because they were emotionally highjacked or because the rest of their church group around them raised their hand and they didn’t want to be the only one with their hand down!

    Think of the fact that Jimmy kept his first letter all of those years. Think how much he treasured it….. and how delighted he was to meet that sponsor. Now think about all of the little children who get sponsored for a couple of months and then their sponsors decide to un-sponsor them. How many introductory letters do some kids get before they get a sponsor that “takes?” A sponsor that was motivated not by a tear-jerker moment on stage or by peer pressure…………. but a sponsor that thoughtfully contemplated the step they were going to make.

    I know from reading the Compassion blog that this happens. And my heart aches for the children…. and I wonder? Do they save the letters from the sponsors that give up on sponsoring them? I mean, with the other letters from future sponsors? Or do they discard the letter/letters just like they, themselves, were basically discarded…..?

    All I know is that when I decided to sponsor my little girl, Ludis, I thought about it for a month before making that commitment… as I fully intend to see her through until she graduates from the Compassion program. What makes me uneasy, is wondering how many people in that audience sponsored in the heat of the moment and then later changed their minds….. and how many hearts were broken in the process.

    Now as far as the general un-churched population? Unless someone is steered to that link via a blog or a friend or somesuch way I don’t see it having much of a negative impact as I rather doubt that people who aren’t convicted in some way to join Compassion would have made it that far into the video…… The only way I made it through until the end was first because I dream of one day meeting my little girl like Mark and Jimmy met. (only privately… I’d be HORRIFIED to be put in their position!) Also, I made it till the end as I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about…. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have kept watching it.

    One last thought: Perhaps in those huge gatherings where they are seeking sponsors, they ought to offer the option to those unsure of the sponsorship committment the ability to take a pamphlet with Compassion information where they can make a one time donation to the general fund for Compassion. That way they aren’t taking up a child folder…. but they can feel like they are participating and making a difference. It wouldn’t be that hard for the ushers to have two different options… Just sayin’. :o)

  27. Michelle said, on October 19, 2009 at 5.53 pm

    Wow. Sorry that was so long… I can only see a couple of inches of typing space, so I had no idea! Well, I guess you know I feel strongly about this subject too!!! Hope I didn’t offend everybody…

  28. Lee-Ann Kelly said, on October 19, 2009 at 6.14 pm

    I watched the video right through. I saw nothing wrong with this approach.
    I sponsor 3 children and have travelled to visit one of those children.
    I have seen first hand the amazing work Compassion do and the impact it is having on millions of children around the world in Jesus’ name.
    The impact an individual can have by sponsoring a child is exactly as was seen by Jimmy. It IS LIFE CHANGING.
    I feel the video clearly showed the impact that can be made in becoming a child sponsor.
    As Christians entrusted with much we are called to help these children…
    How can rescuing children from poverty be a “stunt”?
    When you have walked in these places and seen the poverty, life in our Western world becomes frustrating. I see Christians all around me buying bigger cars, even bigger TV’s etc etc…..and yet struggling to sponsor a child for $38 per month?
    If it frustrates me then imagine how God feels about it.
    Compassion is God’s organisation….a vehicle God has provided to Christians to fulfill His commandment’s of caring for the poor, orphaned and widowed.
    This is URGENT! There is no fluffy way of portraying the urgency of Global Poverty. We are talking about $38 a month to change a life and then generations through that one life.
    There are no apologies from me for calling Christians to realise that YES….they are being called to sponsor a child. $38 a month! Give up takeaway food to change a life….hardly a big ask.

  29. Randy Starkey said, on October 19, 2009 at 6.42 pm

    Michael – I do agree with you that criticism seems to be in the air these days. I just preached Sunday a bit on 2 Tim 3.1-3 and that list really describes some nasty attitudes and similar stuff! We do though have to be able to somehow discuss ways the church can improve what it does, without over-reacting and defending everything as OK just because it goes to a good cause. I don’t think anyone is questioning Compassion’s ministry, it’s more a discussion on the presentation. If we can’t discuss how to improve, then the church won’t improve!

    Maybe a few more positive disclaimers should be made before change suggestions are made.

    I don’t think it’s helpful though when for instance Paige says “enough is enough” and apparently sees no value in improvement discussions. It reminds me of die hard Mac users who will defend Macs to the death (and they are great computers) but refuse to look at the things that relegated them to 4% market share. I think without looking at improvements in what we do, we simply will lower our effectiveness. I want to see Compassion more effective, not less.

    Some questioned the surprise moment. I actually didn’t have any problem with that, and I would guess Jimmy probably didn’t either, but it just wasn’t handled well after that, IMO. That’s where the improvement is needed, again, IMO.

    If my opinion offends someone, well, all I can say is it is offered in sincerity to try to improve what the church does, not eliminate what the church does.

    Blessings!

  30. Michael Patterson said, on October 19, 2009 at 7.23 pm

    Randy, thanks for your perspective. These are the kind of discussions that help us think through how we do things, and that’s a good thing. I have appreciated that, although there is a certain amount of disagreement, there does seem to be a high level of respect for Compassion’s ministry, and (mostly) for each other. I have watched the video through a couple again, and can certainly see some have come to a different conclusion than mine. I appreciate your comments!

  31. Kerri said, on October 19, 2009 at 9.19 pm

    Was raised “all up in” the church. Currently not in a church, just visiting around. Husband is completely unchurched and against it (pray for us please).

    I don’t really have strong feelings about this situation, so I will just report my experience.

    *Saw the video posted on Facebook. Sobbed uncontrollably when I watched it, and I felt sorry for the lack of privacy for Jimmy. Went to the Compassion website linked on the video and sobbed more trying to look at the children shown there.

    *Was confused (and still am a bit) because I could not figure out what Catalyst was/is and what it had to do with Compassion.

    *Regardless, I trusted the person who shared the video with me and thought this would be the perfect way to “give” to the Lord when I am not in traditional church to tithe. Filled out form to sponsor a child.

    *Was worried about showing the video to my unchurched & cynical husband, because I was afraid he would say it was certainly a scam and that I was a victim of manipulation.

    *Against my better judgment, I did share the video with him -he did watch it, and said nothing negative – or positive, which made me breathe a sigh of relief.

    • Nathan Creitz said, on October 20, 2009 at 8.08 am

      Kerri,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m also grateful that your husband didn’t respond negatively to this video. I raised the questions because I had that same feeling you had when you were worried about showing this. I also raised the question because I don’t think it’s a good practice to take Jimmy’s emotions and put them on display when it could’ve been handled differently with the same effect. So this isn’t just about how people outside the church see our methods but about how people inside the church see our methods as well.

      I think the fact that you and many others here in the comments section felt “awkward” or “weird” shows that our sensitivity to those who are un-churched is valid. Again, I’m glad things worked well in your scenario but that may not be the case for everyone.

      By the way, thanks so much for your commitment to support a child through this ministry. I believe strongly in this ministry and don’t believe they did anything wrong at this event.

    • Michelle said, on October 21, 2009 at 1.10 pm

      I was curious to see how my “un-churchy” family responded to this video as well after I read about Kerri’s husband…. So I had my 16 year old son and my husband watch individually. My 16 year old son saw absolutely nothing wrong with the video and thought I was nuts for my comments. He now wants to go with me when/if I ever get to see my little girl, Ludis in Honduras.

      My husband, on the other hand, is what a lot of people call A Recovering Catholic. He spent the first 9 years of his schooling in a Catholic school and came out the other side BIG TIME jaded against the church and all things related. In fact, I pray that eventually he’ll believe in God again….. So far to no avail. HE was disgusted by the video. He saw it as a ploy.

      I fall in between my guys in my beliefs. So I suppose, seeing as our pasts taint our perceptions so vividly, I don’t think ANY live situation can be handled 100% perfectly. I still maintain that things moved too quickly to the plea for sponsorship…. but maybe through Nathan’s discussions and other people really thinking about the method of presentation things will change in the future….

      Also, like Kerri I also viewed my sponsorship as a way to tithe as I do not go to a brick and mortar church. And it makes me happy to see the effects of that money and the change in my little girl’s life.

      Compassion rocks! πŸ™‚

  32. Chelsea said, on October 19, 2009 at 10.55 pm

    Fascinating discussion. Here’s my bottom line: 1200 kids are now receiving support from Compassion, and 1200 sponsors will always have the image of Mark and Jimmy embracing in their minds. Sponsors sometimes drop out of the program, but I’m willing to bet that the vast majority of the sponsors who signed up at Catalyst are going to be faithful in their support.

    By the way, I already support an adorable Ugandan child through Compassion and another through African Renewal Ministries. I frequently tell each of them that I cannot wait to meet them someday in Heaven. If I had to meet them on earth in front of thousands of people, I’d become an emotional wreck, too.

  33. Lisa said, on October 19, 2009 at 11.14 pm

    There is a lot of dialogue here and much of it is way more heated than it should be- that doesn’t represent Christ well anymore than someone being critical of a ministry like Compassion does. I agree with Randy- no ministry, no person – is above an honest critique- we should all be open to that if it leads to better communication and ultimately God being glorifed.

    One point of clarification I wanted to make is that all those people that raised their hands- werent raising their hands to cough up $38 a month- they were simply asking to see a child packet- whether or not they filled out the form and turned it in at the table or simply returned the packet (without filling it in- signifying they chose not to sponsor at this time)- the choice was theirs and the emotional moment was over when they made that choice. Raising ones hand to take a packet in no way committed anyone to sponsoring a child.

    I was emotionally socked myself watching Jimmy and yes, I am sure the emcee was taken TOTALLY off guard and would probably love to change how he handled things a bit but let’s extrend grace that the whole situation turned out way more emotional that I am sure anyone planned for. I am just grateful they got to meet finally! and what people got to see was that sponsorship really works.

    • Michelle said, on October 21, 2009 at 12.56 pm

      Lisa… Thank you so much for clarifying that raising your hand for a packet didn’t mean that the act of raising your hand was your acceptance of sponsorship. I’ve never been to a conference where they handed out packets, and it DOES make a difference to know that! I had imagined people thinking they’d just sponsor for a short time and then move on…. or packets left under/on seats in the auditorium, etc. Knowing that they were apparently told to just place them on the table afterwards does take the pressure off……

      So my previous post isn’t altogether accurate anymore…. But I still think the meeting could have been scheduled for a different time in the program and that it would have still been effective. And that they should have been ushered off of the stage when Jimmy needed some privacy.

      However, the intent was good and I’m going to hang on to that thought. I appreciate Nathan writing this post and thinking so hard about it because I’ve often thought about the method in which help is sought and how it can be perceived but I’ve never discussed it with anyone because I worried I’d be dubbed un-faithful, critical, jaded, etc. It is nice to know that I am not alone in contemplating how things can be done more effectively. πŸ™‚

      I’d REALLY be curious to know how many people sponsored from this program and how many continued to sponsor long term…..

  34. Emily said, on October 19, 2009 at 11.29 pm

    I was at Catalyst. I’m a Compassion Advocate. I was one of those “manipulative” people passing out packets in the crowd after Jimmy spoke… only I never would have thought that it might be (or be interpreted to be) manipulative… I guess I am too naive!

    Going into the “packet pass” I just knew that we had a graduate speaking. I don’t know how many people knew anything more than that, I would guess just a few. I admit, I did wonder after the fact why it felt like a talk show moment (you all keep saying Oprah, but I keep thinking Montell… ha!) and even why the moment needed to be live. But Catalyst is all about BIG moments- they break a silly world record every year- so I guess I just assumed they wanted their emphasis on social justice to be just as big and memorable. I truly don’t think there was any evil intent.

    And you know what? You’re right. We signed up hundreds of sponsors. Or, as some people have better said, we RESCUED hundreds of children. I do think that giving and serving other people needs to come from the heart, but I also think that sometimes, when we lack motivation to do what WE ALL SHOULD BE DOING we need a little kick in the pants. Or a shot through the heart. You might call it guilt, and it definitely makes us feel guilty, but I think it is really just a big dose of reality and perspective.

    It is sad that Compassion gets MUCH better results from “packet passes” than they do just mentioning a ministry and trusting Christ’s followers to step up and be His hands and feet (or even just His finances). But the sad part to me isn’t the “guilt” or manipulation of the packet pass- it’s the complacency of the church. It’s how we’re content to sit by and do very little- until we actually have to look at the picture of one particular child from one particular project and contemplate what will happen if we put that packet back on the table at the end of the concert. Or until we hear a man weep tears of joy upon meeting the person who was used by God to change his life forever.

    I saw the tears in the eyes of my fellow brothers & sisters in Christ as they requested packets after this emotional moment. And I praised God for them- for people moved to action in a world where we can too often look the other way. When people actually signed up to sponsor, it was at the end of the session, not immediately after what you see in the video clip. It is also worth noting that this was the session where Catalyst’s 143million campaign was highlighted- there was significant time spent promoting Hope International and Bethany Christian Services as well as Compassion, all in the name of helping children in poverty.

    As for the question about the unchurched- I am usually a person who spends a lot of time worrying about how things are perceived by those who have been burned by the church. I understand why you brought up the concern. However, I feel that you also perpetuated the concern rather than dealing with it constructively. Mentioning “coffers” and “losing integrity” and calling it a “stunt” while not offering any of the statistics that show how little “coffer lining” actually happens with Compassion, how the program works to relieve poverty, or anything else to help skeptics understand the heart of the ministry. If I was a cynical agnostic and I found your blog, I’d have questions or hesitations now, even if I didn’t before.

    In my experience, most non-believers aren’t put off by the church demonstrating how Christianity looks in Matthew 25. Many of my “non-churchy” friends do more for the poor and orphaned than most families in my church. They are WAY more likely to be turned off at big buildings, or church politics, divisive behavior (and even arguing over how we’re perceived, like we’re kind of doing here) But serving the poor? Nah.

    • Nathan Creitz said, on October 20, 2009 at 9.02 am

      Emily,

      Thanks for your comments. I think you will notice one of the first comments laid to rest that this wasn’t a “stunt” (poor word choice on my part I admit) by Compassion. Even if it had been, I don’t think of you as a “manipulator”. I think it was simply a mistake to plan the moment in this way. Handing out the packets wasn’t the problem and I’m sure in the moment everything felt normal. That’s my point. When we plan events and when we preach to crowds, it’s not just our words that we have to consider. Like I’ve said elsewhere, this is a case study for me and for my blog readers. I believe it should be a teachable moment for church leaders and hopefully for the Catalyst crew. Again, I don’t think they are evil for doing this but it is specifically what this blog is about.

      I hope thousands of children are rescued and maybe even my encouragement for people who are in the church or not to watch this video will hopefully point people to this beautiful story, the less than stellar use of that story by the Catalyst crew, AND our discussion here to show that we are genuinely concerned about the poor but we are also genuinely concerned about the relevance of Christianity to the rest of the world.

  35. Emily said, on October 19, 2009 at 11.31 pm

    Long comment. Sorry. And I see by the time I hit submit, Lisa made one of the same points. Sorry again. πŸ™‚

  36. Nathan Creitz said, on October 20, 2009 at 7.59 am

    Well I wish I could respond to each of you individually. Thanks for all of your insight. This has been a stimulating (and I think very helpful) discussion.

    But let me just say this: This blog encourages “thinking Christianly about the habits and customs of the church (ethos) and about our reputation (ethos) with the unchurched.” I raised the questions in this post because I have a concern for how we the church often do business. If you disagree, that’s totally fine. However, when I raise a concern on my blog that, in my opinion, is a teachable moment for myself (as a communicator) and for others in the church I anticipate the church to respond with a healthy discussion.

    Instead, some have taken this post apart piece by piece and even attacked my character (ethos). My question about this particular event is kind of like a case study for me…I wasn’t angry. I didn’t think anyone was evil. I just wanted to ask some questions because I’ve noticed this dangerous trend. I could’ve avoided using the word “stunt” because that is not what I believe this was. So, okay, I didn’t communicate my heart as well as I could have in this post, but does this give any Christian the license to forget about grace?

    Let me ask the question again in a new way: Does this moment at the Catalyst conference raise any red flags for you as you think about “the habits and customs of the church and about our reputation with the unchurched”? If not, you can either type out a reasoned response and help us see your viewpoint, or you can feel free to surf your way elsewhere.

    If we can’t have a debate about our effectiveness or ineffectiveness at reaching to those who are outside the church, then we will never reach them. If you don’t think this video is a good case study for that sort of discussion then you are not obliged to comment here.

    I appreciate everyone’s comments who have agreed AND disagreed with me and have done so in a spirit of learning and respect. I’ve learned a lot and I believe my position has softened some about this moment. I’ve shared that in earlier comments but it looks like some didn’t bother to read through the whole conversation before jumping in and bashing my integrity. Let’s show some respect here as many of us are followers of Jesus and be careful of our words because I have many readers of my blog who are not followers of Jesus. Your words and the way you conduct yourself here may be influencing how someone perceives Jesus in us.

  37. darrentyler said, on October 20, 2009 at 8.45 am

    I wonder what the motive of this blog is. Are there lives being changed? Are the poor and the oppressed being served? is it helpful to sit and throw verbal rocks at these guys who are sinners like us?

    I guess the great news is that God’s job is to judge the motive of the heart. (1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 139:23-24)

    What was Pauls comments about folks whose motives may or may not have been pure? Set up a blog and pick it apart? Nope.

    Paul said that whether Christ was being preached for selfish reasons or pure, that “at least Christ is being preached” (Phil 1:17-18)

    Just seems like a smart group of people like this could spend their time better serving the kingdom than picking apart a moment that likely changed the lives of thousands of children around the globe.

    • Nathan Creitz said, on October 20, 2009 at 9.05 am

      Darren, thanks for the comment but please read through the other comments and take some time to think through your response before you attack my own integrity or of those who have commented before you. This is a conversation. If you want to know the motive of this blog, feel free to check out my about page, the meaning of ChurchETHOS, or my archives.

  38. Randy Starkey said, on October 20, 2009 at 10.21 am

    Nate,

    I agree totally, and that was really my main point. Emotions are great and God can use them. But we must think through their expression, or maybe said better, what we do in the midst of them, or they can appear to be “abused”, regardless of whether our motive is true or not. I think the MC just didn’t handle it very well. Not really his fault, as he wasn’t trained in that I’m sure. And I’m also sure his motives were not wrong. My “logical” solution is I think Compassion should just always have their own people up there in moments like that.

  39. Debbie said, on October 20, 2009 at 10.25 am

    I too understand now that you are not attacking Compassion. But I think a mistake that was made is that you are trying to separate the moment from the organization and it’s motives in your intro of this discussion. It is like taking scripture out of context- it DOES matter who is saying it and who they are saying to. You compared it to a TV evangelist…well that would be a different context. Because the reputation and motive behind the organization means everything. Jesus’ words are powerful because he had the authority behind them. If I said the same thing, it would be powerless. Just something to think about.

    I was not there, I only see what is in the video….I too kept waiting for them to be taken off stage into a more private area, to enjoy each others company. But, when such words are used to question the use of a moment to further an agenda, it does attack the organization and their motives, or mock a man who was probably clueless as to what to say in such a situation when he himself was overcome with emotion (emcee). I think we all do not understand the incredible impact we have on our sponsored children.

    I appreciate your ability to rethink your words and be open to others opinions, it shows great strength as a Christian. Thank you for softening your outlook on this moment.

    I also failed to say that I have grown up in the church and it pains me to see fellow members in Christ pick at each other, and I think even if the moment wasn’t used “correctly” some of what was said about it was even more inappropriate. I try to look over those “wierd” moments and see to the heart and motive behind it, and thank goodness God can see past my awkwardness and see that I truly desire to serve Him. If anyone should be looking at if or how things could be handles differently next time, it would be Catalyst and not us poking at them with our opinions. I love a good healthy debate with fellow Christians, but I have learned over the years that they do not win others to Christ, rather our ability to reach out in love to one another is when they see Jesus. In that regard, I think this video is powerful.

  40. Wesley Braswell said, on October 20, 2009 at 10.54 am

    Wow!,

    Having been the first to comment the other day, I never would have dreamed that this issue would have touched off such a nerve. Being a Compassion sponser with both my family and my student ministry and also being a very close friend of Nathan has put me in an awkward situation throughout this whole event. I have felt so torn that after my initial interjections, I felt no need for me to offer my opinion again. But, after talking with Nathan yesterday afternoon and reading the posts from yesterday and today this morning, I have been compelled.
    To those speaking of Nathan’s integrity, heart, passion, and compassion, please speak only of what you know and not of what you presume. If all you know of Nathan are the questions, comments, and posts he submits on his blog, then you do not know Nathan. In fact, the fact that you commented on his blog acheived his desired effect. He got you to think about a question.
    Now to the question at hand. I do feel that in all the comments one very important Person is missing that has not been discussed at all (unless I missed it, which is possible). The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit of God and the conviction He brings is what should prompt us to give, serve, sell all we have, sponser, help, minister…. If one relies on emotional pleas to move individuals to act, then one only gets individuals who are committed only until the feeling, “warm fuzzy”, emotion wears off. BUT, if one relies on the Holy Spirit to convict hearts, then He is the one prompting and one’s committment will run as deep as his or her committment to God. God is big enough to handle His business. He does not need our help to motivate or move people. He’s been doing His job a lot longer than we’ve been here and will continue to do it a lot longer after we are gone from this life. The Spirit along with the Word of God is sufficient. We don’t need kicks and giggles or cokes and jokes. Videos and emotional stories are tools we can use, but TRUE change of heart and motivation to action only comes from the Spirit of God working through the Word of God in the child of God.

  41. Emily said, on October 20, 2009 at 3.51 pm

    Nathan- thanks for your response. Sorry I missed the previous comment about the choice of the word “stunt.” I, like Paige, was pretty upset when I first found this blog (via a friend who saw my blog post about Jimmy). Because Compassion is very important to me. But I completely understand why you’re discussing it.

    I don’t think you’re being a hypocrite or showing a lack of integrity. I think you’re trying to learn from things the church is currently doing (right or wrong) to help shape the way the church reaches people for Christ in the future. I applaud that. And I am impressed with the way you’ve handled the comments so far. I WILL be back to see what other interesting topics you throw out for discussion. πŸ™‚

    Wesley- I get what you’re saying about the Holy Spirit. But wouldn’t you concede that the Holy Spirit works THROUGH us, not just IN us? And that a person sharing the amazing testimony of a life touched by the love of Christ and the love of a giving servant of Christ might move people to tears and action because of the Holy Spirit and not just a plan to get “kicks & giggles?” I’m totally NOT usually a big production type person- I agree that authentic worship and service is easier to find when “all is stripped away.” But you can’t separate the movement of the Holy Spirit and raw emotion. And since we can’t always distinguish, we have to be very careful- yes, careful not to manipulate- but also careful not to cynically overlook the work of the HS as manipulation.

    Does that make sense at all?! It makes sense in my crazy fried-mommy-brain. I’m trying to contribute to the conversation, but if I am not making sense just tell me to go back to where I came from. πŸ˜‰

    • Wesley Braswell said, on October 21, 2009 at 9.00 am

      Emily,

      I absolutely agree that the Holy Spirit not only works IN the life of the Christian but THROUGH the life of the Christian. Thank you for bringing that point out. If it was not for His efforts working through and in us at the same time, then we would never do anything that pleases God. I also absolutely agree that the Spirit can use a story like Jimmy’s to burden our hearts and motivate us to action. However, I feel that the motivation and conviction of the Spirit will draw us back the the Word of God. He will convict us to fulfill and obey the Word of God. Jimmy’s story is so moving because the Spirit uses it to draw us back to James 1:27. Our hearts are moved with compassion and conviction because we are confronted with the Holy Word of God and It’s mandates. We must then determine if we are obeying them or not.

      My point in the previous post was primarily that sometimes (not every time and probably not this time), people try to “help” the Holy Spirit. One will know when a certain story, illustration, or even drama will move people emotionally. In my opinion, when one plans to use one of these tools of ministry only to move people emotionally so a desired response will be given, it is wrong. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God are sufficient. I am not saying that we should never use those tools in ministry, but I am saying we should only use them when prompted by the Spirit to do so. It really comes down to an assessment of motive. I’m not saying that individuals are sinister and plotting how to manipulate people, but I am saying that some people may be results driven. As humans, we want to be effective. We want to see results. We want to see people moved to action. Sometimes (again, not every time), I feel we get ahead of the Holy Spirit. He’s working. We just have to let Him.

    • Michelle said, on October 21, 2009 at 1.40 pm

      This discussion of the Holy Spirit is the first time I’ve ever had the Holy Spirit explained in a way that I can understand…. Thank you for that Wesley and Emily!

    • Emily said, on October 21, 2009 at 4.45 pm

      Wesley- thanks for the clarification. I see what you mean and completely agree. πŸ™‚ I actually just posted something sort of related to what you said on my blog a few days ago- after reading something Keith Green wrote: http://kaolinmommy.blogspot.com/2009/10/spiritual-abortion.html

      Michelle- thanks for sharing the reactions of your son & husband. It was very interesting to me, and I am sorry he was turned off by it. I had never really thought about that side of it until Nathan brought the question to our attention and you and a few others chimed in.

      I’ve enjoyed this discussion. Thanks Nathan.

  42. Kelly said, on October 20, 2009 at 5.05 pm

    Hey Nathan!!

    I really appreciate your concern, and you’ve made a great point. I will be the first to admit that I am a Compassion Sponsor, and therefore my opinion may sound bias. But also because I am a sponsor, I’ve had the benefit of seeing the benefits of giving freely and also I’ve gotten to experience the joy of seeing my child grow in CHRIST.

    I understand that people may often use emotional appeals to tug at someone’s heartstrings and get money out of the person’s wallet. And it’s logical to think that what happened on the Catalyst was simply that. But if I could redirect you to what the speaker said about the child packets…he said, “If you are just open to considering looking at one of these packets…” He didn’t say that they had to decide on the spot to sponsor a child. He gave them the opportunity to CONSIDER sponsoring, the opportunity to simply THINK about it.

    Like so many have said, it’s difficult to present something like this without moving a person to tears. And if I could direct you to the New Testament for a moment: JESUS said in Luke 9:50 “Whoever is not against you is for you.” This ministry is being done in the name of JESUS CHRIST. Not to say that everything done in the name of JESUS CHRIST is always ok, please don’t misunderstand me. But Compassion is a Christian ministry, dedicated to freeing children from spiritual, social, and economic poverty in the name of JESUS CHRIST. The people on the Catalyst are trying to help this ministry and the children. Done right or wrong, don’t rebuke them for this.

  43. Nathan Creitz said, on October 21, 2009 at 12.13 pm

    Well, this has been a great discussion. Let me just say that I regret that I reacted to this video emotionally and immediately typed up a post. I’ve spent a lot of time praying about what I should do and have decided to completely rework the whole post. I then went through and removed about 8 or 9 comments that I felt were unfair attacks against my own personal integrity. As the blog owner, I have the right to approve or disapprove comments and this has been the first time I’ve had to disapprove comments. I have saved them if you want me to email yours back to you for posterity.

    I made mistakes in writing this post the first time. I used words like “stunt” and “televangelist” and I reacted in the moment. I’m sorry that I offended some of you and that I stirred up a lot of angst over an issue that some of you believe is trivial: how to use or not use an emotional moment to persuade.

    My desire is to be a better communicator and in my attempt to use this video as a case study, I ended up not communicating very well myself. I hope you will forgive me. In rewriting this post I hope you will understand that I did so because I desire to be teachable and humble. I also want this blog to be a place where Christian leaders can think openly. That’s why I felt like my post wasn’t doing anybody any good in the first draft and some of the comments weren’t doing anyone any good either. It was a toxic mix and I started it.

    So, I hope you will reread the post, feel free to agree or disagree, and make your comments here. Most of the comments remain relevant even though part of the problem was a misunderstanding that I wasn’t attacking Compassion International and especially not Jimmy Wambua.

  44. Chip said, on October 22, 2009 at 1.02 am

    Hundreds of kids were sponsored? Try thousands…probably better than 5,000. There were 13,000 people in the room and they ran out of Compassion packets and people were lining up for them outside.

    I was there and totally understand your post and appreciate your evaluation of the situation (I didn’t read the initial post). And intially I also felt the tug at my heart strings and the emotionally charged/commercial appeal of the moment. BUT the bottom line is this…they had an opportunity to help thousands of poverty stricken children in one moment. We can debate the details of how the MC handled etc.

    The saddest part about all of this is that what we MISS is the inexplicable blessing it is to the person who is the sponsor. The blessing that God would use a sinner for His Glory. And if you don’t get the overwhelming joy of that then you have not experienced it. It is one of the most humbling and at the same time joyous moments I have ever experienced. What God wants us to understand is that we can experience him in a way that transcends words by giving…especially to the least of these. And I think Compassion did a great job putting that on display so that others might see it and have the opportunity to be blessed by God in the same way.

  45. Adam Forwood said, on October 22, 2009 at 6.44 am

    My opinion is that while bringing sponsor and sponsored together on stage is certainly a great thing, I don’t agree with them springing it as a surprise. Poor Jimmy had no chance to prepare emotionally for the meeting. I think it would have been highly embarrassing for him to break down in front of thousands of people. Telling Jimmy beforehand would have given him time to prepare for how he would feel, and think about what he was going to say. Giving voice to his thoughts and feelings would have been far more effective, in my opinion, than him simply breaking down and crying. Emotional appeals are fine, but they need to be bolstered by information. People react impulsively to emotional appeals; they react intelligently to informative appeals. Neither is enough on its own; both are necessary.

  46. Paige said, on October 22, 2009 at 4.04 pm

    ??

  47. […] us know after you read Nathan’s entire blog post at ChurchEthos to get the context for his […]

  48. Austin said, on October 26, 2009 at 3.15 pm

    I want to know why everyone is so interested in this post over the other ones. This is the first time that I have seen some of you comment and definitely the first time that I have seen such recurrent and lengthy posts from most of you. The discussion seemed to take a turn away from Nathan’s main point of making this an opportunity to ask questions. I think it is funny that a lot of people are claiming that they are hopping into discussion because they are Compassion sponsors because if that is the case, then shouldn’t you be involved in the discussion on making disciples, being leaders within the church and other issues that need to be discussed? Or are the people in this discussion not interested in those things?

    • Michelle said, on October 26, 2009 at 4.21 pm

      I’m a Compassion sponsor, and I “hopped” on over here to see the video and read the blog post because a link was provided on the Compassion site.

      Actually, I am really not all that interested in “making disciples, being leaders within the church,” etc. I posted on the blog because Nathan’s blog struck a chord within me and I liked how for the first time ever in my experience, a “churched” person brought up the concept that perhaps something was handled wrongly in terms of asking for financial aid… although it was aimed at a true and just cause. I was just interested in other opinions.

      What I did find interesting, was that a lot of “churched” people got so heated and started flinging words and accusations around that seemed to me, at any rate, to be contrary to true Christ-like behavior.

      You bring up a good point, however, and I believe I will spend a bit of time checking out the rest of the blog……

    • Michael Patterson said, on October 26, 2009 at 5.01 pm

      Austin, I am one of those Compassion sponsors. This is the first time I’ve commented on this site because I had never heard of it before. I only learned of it because of the link posted on Compassion’s blog. I am not a pastor, but am interested in making disciples and being a church leader. I think the discussion is very important, and I appreciate it very much. I have bookmarked this blog, and will be reading in the future. Not promising I’ll be involved in a lot of discussion… sometimes I read blogs such as this, and Shaun Groves, not to give my two-cents worth, but to keep the wheels turning so I don’t get bogged down in my own opinions. Hope that makes sense.


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