Engaging Culture

The Power of a Great Cause

According to Cone, Inc., 66% of people say they would switch brands to support a cause; 62% say they would switch retailers to support a cause; 70% are more likely to do business that partners with a non-profit to help a cause.  I’ve often said that this generation is looking for a great cause to get behind.  For instance, in the religious community they would rather partner with Bono to help poverty in Africa than support a traditional evangelistic crusade or ministry.  A new generation wants to see change happen – particularly a cause that is clearly defined with a powerful and compelling story.

So pastors, ministry and non-profit leaders – what’s your cause?  How powerfully will it impact your community or the world?  Can it be expressed in a simple story?  Will it be easy to see the change it will make in people’s lives?

Perhaps your problem isn’t money.  Perhaps it’s the lack of a powerful and compelling cause.

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  1. It used to be that the main cause of most evangelical ministries was to save the lost.  Too often help for the needy came with "strings", in order to get help you had to become a convert or at least sit through a lengthy sermon.  Today the word Crusade draws images of a church sponsored military spilling the blood of infidels to gain control of a strategic piece of real estate in the Middle East.  Many consider it an insult to imply they are "lost".  The causes of yesterday and the terminology of those causes are becoming obsolete.

    People today want to support causes that are authentic and genuine, offering help to people without strings.  It’s powerful when your cause is genuinely changing the lives of hurting people and it’s compelling when you can illustrate that cause with a story that’s not self serving. I don’t think Jesus required a decision card from the 5,000 before he fed them.

    But perhaps I missed that part.

  2. Our own church began "Bellevue Loves Memphis" about 18 months ago. Four times a year we send about 700-1000 people out into the Memphis community to do community service projects. We said we’re going to "Find a hurt and heal it; find a need and meet it." No strings attached. We invested about $350k in a Mobile Dental Clinic that offers free dental care, and we’ve partnered with area churches to fund its operation and staff it with volunteers. We’ve done work at many schools, city parks, and inner city schools. We also do special events (VBS, July 4, safe Halloween alternative) free for the community.

    It’s amazing the response. It’s galvanized the membership. And it’s built bridges across racial lines in a city that is severely racially polarized. It’s gotten some news coverage and recognition from government officials.

    We’ve even see some other churches pick it up and use it in their city. I’d love to see churches and businesses everywhere begin to borrow our slogan and use it for good.

    As one deacon told me, "This is what we should be doing! Let’s quit doing things just for ourselves and start doing something for others." It’s been said that people don’t care what you know until they know you care. Now we have the opportunity to share Jesus and offer hope and encouragement.

  3. As Seth Godin points out today on his blog, we’ve become very distrusting on offers and promises: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/04/poisoning-the-well.html

    More so, I think the corporate world has made it nearly impossible to know everything a company stands for (this credit card supports abortion, this company support homosexual causes, etc.) – wherever you spend your time/money, you’re probably supporting something you don’t… support.

    It’s overwhelming and impossible for any one person to know all angles. 

    And eventhough people say they’d switch to support (or not support) something, the alternate options probably do something else they’d rather not support. And most people probably won’t take the time to find out in the first place. I find, when I do tell people about these things, they defend their choice somehow.

    So if it’s clear cut, I think they’d switch, but it rarely is. 

    I personally will not shop at WalMart b/c of their practices. Most other corporate companies do the same on a smaller scale, but I can’t stop shopping everywhere. I had to draw the line somewhere. It’s at their door… or parking lot. 

    When I tell other people about their practices, they don’t disagree, but it’s not enough to make up for the money they save (short term) by shopping at WalMart. And/or, other places do the same. etc.

    Anyone else out there made any decisions to start or stop supporting a store/organization/etc. for a reason like Phil mentions?

  4. For a true Christian who understands his life as a learner and follower of Jesus Christ, with eternity in sight, helping the poor and the needy is an expression of God’s love.  However, relieving a person’s temporary pain and hunger without offering him an opportunity to be relieved of his eternal pain and hunger, through salvation in Christ, is eternally and utterly worthless.  And yes, as long as there is sin in this world, the cross of Christ will continue to be an offense to those who are "lost." 

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