The Red Letter Disciple Episode 28

028: Brian Fikkert on Why Helping Hurts, How Christians are Creating Problems for the Poor, Why We Shouldn’t Give Away Turkeys at Thanksgiving, and Tall People Problems.

Brain Fikkert is an economics professor and author who wants to see a change in poverty in the world. He not only redefines poverty as a fundamentally relational problem, but he presents a whole new method of how followers of Jesus can serve the poor.

Today’s episode is brought to you by Red Letter Living. 

On February 13th, at Noon-1PM Central, I’ll be hosting my friend Rich Birch in a FREE one-hour webinar called “Helping Churches Build Their Invite Culture.” 

Every pastor I know wants their church to grow. But how? Rich Birch, founder of unSeminary, says “the difference between stagnant and growing churches is that growing churches train, equip, and motivate their people to invite their friends. It really is that simple.”

In this one-hour FREE webinar, we are going to help your church increase its invite culture. Rich will teach us five areas that churches of all sizes can immediately focus on for church growth. You’ll not only learn the five areas, but you’ll discover some real simple tools and practices that you can put into place right away. And, as a bonus, I’ll ask Rich what are some best practices that growing churches are implementing to boost excitement for their Easter services this year.

I’m hosting this webinar to help pastors and church leaders. So, genuinely, I’d love to know what questions you have regarding this topic. Please feel free to email

Register today for this FREE webinar and please invite other pastors and church leaders to join us in this important discussion.

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Resources mentioned in the episode:

The Chalmers Center 

When Helping Hurts by Brian Fikkert

Becoming Whole by Brian Fikkert

Innovate Initiative from The Chalmers Center

Key insights from the episode:

Good intentions are not enough. – Brian Fikkert

Incorrect helping can create an even bigger divide. – Zach Zehnder

One of the primary features of poverty is a sense of shame, a sense of inadequacy. – Brian Fikkert

Effective ministry to the poor is highly relational and takes a long time!  – Brian Fikkert

Poverty is fundamentally relational in problem and takes relational solutions to get fixed. – Brian Fikkert

Real love means restoring people to humanness. – Brian Fikkert

The number one problem with churches in America is that they provide relief when what people really need is development.Brian Fikkert

Our souls are screaming out, “I’m made for a certain kind of habitat, and the habitat I’m in isn’t the right one.” – Brian Fikkert

There is a superficial kind of love, peace, and joy. Why do we crush happiness? Just because there is a superficial kind doesn’t mean there isn’t genuine, God-given happiness. – Zach Zehnder

Jesus was always trying to restore people to humanness. – Brian Fikkert

When it comes to helping the poor, our message isn’t do less. It’s do more, but let’s do it differently. – Brian Fikkert

Brian Fikkert’s Challenge: Answer this question: Why did Jesus come to earth?


Are you following Jesus? 

Many want to be greater followers of Jesus but don’t know how. So we extensively studied everything Jesus commanded of us and located five key targets to which Jesus invited His followers. The five targets are Being, Forgiving, Serving, Giving, and Going.

In partnership with LifeWay Research, we created a Red Letter Challenge Assessment that will measure you according to these five targets. And the best news of all: it’s free! You will get results back immediately and be presented with the following steps to help you become an even greater follower of Jesus.

You can take the FREE Red Letter Challenge Assessment here.


Some not-so-key insights: 

Brian Fikkert is 6’10”. 

Brian’s primary spiritual gift is offensiveness. 

Bathroom stalls/fitting rooms are the worst for tall people. 

Zach and Brian share a love for Sheboygan Brat Days.


Watch the entire season for free: 

We’ll upload every episode of The Red Letter Disciple on our Youtube Channel. If you aren’t subscribed already, you can do so here!

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