They Wouldn’t Hire Me

About 4 years ago, it was recommended to me that I should apply for a chaplain position with one of the homeless ministries in town.  I had lots of experience and interest.  My education made me a superb candidate.  Between my references and enthusiasm, I managed to be scheduled for 3 interviews on 3 different occasions.

It was a part-time job.  The pay was low.  Because of those things, to take it on would be rather sacrificial, because it would mean I would have to take other work too to make up for the financial difference.  But because it appeared to fall front and center into my main ministerial passion and career ideals, even my wife was excited for me to get the job.

Needless to say, a job like that does not attract a lot of interest.  Who wants a tough job that amounts to 3/4 volunteer work with difficult people in desperate circumstances?

Not many.  In fact, I was the only one that applied.

As far as I could tell, my first two interviews were stellar!  I seemed to make a very positive impression.  My enthusiasm only increased.  But the thing was… I needed to meet a couple of key people on the board of directors before the process was finalized, and neither of them had been available at the appointed times of the first two interviews.  The one guy that had interviewed me twice gave a good report back, but because the rules stated that these other VIP’s needed to meet me first, it meant one more interview.

“No problem!” I thought.  “My pleasure,” I thought.  “Small price to pay,” I thought.

I arrived at the 3rd interview full of confidence.  This was merely a formality.  I dressed professionally.  I brought my ministry portfolio that I had created back in school.  Everyone was smiles and seemed very positive.

But then about 10 minutes into the 3rd interview, one of the board members asked me, “Would you ever give money to a homeless person?”

Hmmm….  I had read the book, When Helping Hurts, and I knew it was a buzz among various ministers/ministries around town.  I had a sneaky suspicion that the question was prompted because some (or all) of the board of directors had likely read it.  I still felt confident, however, after all, I answered the question with Scripture. I was sure that I would be okay.

I cited Luke 6:30 and said, “To follow the word of Jesus: Yes, I would.”  I went on to note that Jesus told the rich guy to sell all he had and give it to the poor (Mark 10:21), and that if Jesus would tell that rich man to do that, then he would have no problem with me giving a few dollars away.  I went on to suggest that there is a fear that money given like that to a homeless person could be used to buy booze, but since the Bible, in Proverbs 31:6-7 actually directs the reader to give booze to the destitute, that I would not worry about how a homeless person spends a few dollars I might give him.

I mean, I answered the question with the very words of Jesus!  But I sensed a heavy cloud form over the room as I spoke.  I could see the smiles turn to uneasy glances between interviewers.  As I spoke, one lady even closed up her notebook and started putting it away.  And very quickly, even abruptly we might say, the interview was over.  The main contact guy told me he would call me the next Monday or Tuesday with an answer for me.  I walked out feeling gutted.

Sure enough, the guy called a few days later.  He did not reference the question or my answer that changed everything, but he did tell me that currently the board had no other applicants for this job (that almost nobody would even want for low pay).  And then he told me that he was “sorry, but the board [did] not think [I] was a fit with [their] team,” so they would “keep looking.”  He thanked me for applying and cut me loose with that.

The bright side of it is that I found out I was not a fit with their team.  The dark side was that I was not a fit for their team.

While no one ever referenced the book, When Helping Hurts, in that exchange (thus I cannot be 100% certain that that is the source of my misfit), I happen to know that the prevailing attitude among Lubbock ministers toward giving money to the poor coincided with the discovery and dissemination of that book.  It is my top suspect.  And so, I believe When Helping Hurts has hurt me specifically in career goals as well as making ministry in Lubbock not fit with the Word of God or with me.

Add this post to a long list of posts that gripe about that sorry book (When Helping Hurts).  I am sorry if it makes me out like a broken record, but the attitude persists and the misfit right along with it.  Therefore I continue to persist in denouncing it and resisting it.  And I am happy to make the homeless and poor in Lubbock aware of what’s going on, where this problem comes from, and arm them with Scripture with which to counteract it.  My continued discussion of it over the course of many posts makes this rebuttal more likely to hit on a Google search too… and well, I think the world needs to know and to reconsider.



  1. Ryan · December 23, 2015

    “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

    Unfortunately, these people were probably brothers/sisters acting worldly.


  2. Agent X · December 23, 2015

    As you can imagine, that passage crossed my mind too.

    I suppose that if you consider all of church history and the Grand Inquisition … that kind of thing, I got off pretty light, really.

    Another complaint, I know, and I figure my post is a bit too self concerned. But at the same time, I make this bit of personal history public to demonstrate some of the varied ways I sense this book has done damage. I really think people just don’t realize it on the one hand or minimize it in lots of ways on the other. I want to challenge that.

    I spent a couple of years seeking first hand rebuttal in shepherd meetings, leadership meetings, committee meetings and person to person, and almost completely I went ignored. I figure I run a very real risk of “beating a dead horse” here, but as you can tell (at least in part by this bit of autobiography), this book has made a very big and lasting negative impact on my ministry and my relation with fellow ministers. Thus, I am willing to run the risk of beating the dead horse on it.

    I have one other fairly lengthy vignette regarding my historical interaction with this book and its proponents which I may or may not share here eventually. In that story, I was literally shut out and told “NO, WE WON’T LISTEN TO YOU.” The kicker there was that I had opened my statement saying that if I could have a full hearing, I would abide with the decision even if my case did not persuade.

    If I had been given that hearing, I would have shut up about this book YEARS AGO. But I was forcefully muted in my own church among my own brothers. So, I have not shut up about it.

    I would really like to have those brothers in a public debate on the matter. They totally shut down their whole benevolence program for several months and when they brought it back, they turned it into a store where they SELL their charity at reduced price. (Now, this seems strange for a group of Jesus’s disciples to me. When did they ever see Jesus open a booth selling leprosy healings at half off? How about restoring the sight, buy one eye full price – get the other one half off? You know, so that you can teach these people to be “independent” and so forth – like the church of Acts 2, I guess.) But of course now I am just being Elijah-sarcastic “Elijarcastic” we might say. Really, to be fair, I want to ask them publically if in the last 5 years since revamping the benevolence to adhere to their WHH philosophy, has this had a MAJOR impact on the poor they have been helping?

    Have they made fewer poor people out of the population they have been serving? Have those poor they helped turned their lives around in significant ways we were not seeing before? Got any stats on that? Any at all? For I can certainly name a handful of people who had received services 6 and 7 years ago AND who had begun joining the church in regular assembly, worship and community life who I no longer see there. That may only be anecdotal evidence, but my eyes have seen it. And in 5 years of change, I think its time to hold the WHH program to account.

    If they can demonstrate any numbers at all, I will be impressed. If they can demonstrate enough stats to show a significant improvement in the lives of the poor, I will hush my mouth out of respect. But no one is publishing that stuff that I know of. Meanwhile I have anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

    But even still, even if I shut up about it, the real question has more to do with whether the poor are finding transformation with Jesus. And that transformation does not necessarily imply financial independence or stability at all. I mean, look at the Gospels and show me one instance where Jesus touches a poor person and heals them of their poverty. The blind see, the deaf hear, and the poor have the Good News preached to them, but they don’t have bigger bank accounts with conservative financial portfolios afterward.

    So, what counts as success?

    I suspect when we get really biblical about it, questions like that might really pull the rug out from under our desire to even pick up a book like WHH.

    But you know what? I am finding that the Housing First approach to homelessness really cuts against the grain of the WHH philosophy. And it is having the kind of success that I think my bros and sis’s are looking for in the first place! And this is a secular approach that has now been picked up by the Mormons who are teaching it to the rest of the nation just as fast as big cities want to cut costs.

    Again, there are multiple facets to why WHH is bunk.

    I know I sound like a crank here. (I just don’t care, I guess.) I will say, here and there quietly for the most part, its not like the whole book WHH is just all bad from cover to cover. It has some good thoughts blended into it. But it really does not stand up to biblical scrutiny that I can see, and it is largely unnecessary anyway. But in the meantime, it has done damage to several ministries here in Lubbock, to many poor and homeless people that I have witnessed, and to me as a minister too. I really have nothing to lose by speaking out on it. And I hope it gets 86’d from every pastor’s study ASAP.


    • Ryan · December 23, 2015

      Oh man, you are having a time down there in west TX. I’ve never heard of the book WHH, but it sounds like a good one to burn. . . cause the world needs another “christian” book to justify selfishness and Biblical ignorance. It must sit on the shelf beside the prosperity gospel rubbish.

      Liked by 1 person

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