Campus Blog

Triaging Your Broken World

Jay Lorenzen

I’ve been reading Mike Breen’s  Leading Kingdom Movements .   Breen compares the four steps emergency workers follow when determining the priorities in a disaster or emergency with our role as the church in helping triage the broken world around us.

According to Breen, emergency workers generally follow these four steps:

Step 1: They demonstrate  compassion  for the victims of the tragedy and get them the care they need as quickly as possible.  They help them survive.

Step 2: Once the immediate emergency is over or as soon as possible, they re-connect people to or in a  community .  They get them into tent communities.

Step 3:  They  connect people to a bigger story.  In conversation, they help the traumatized to wrestle with and process their loss in terms of a story that is rooted, not in loss, but in redemption and recovery.  In trauma, the plot-line is lost.  A meta-narrative or grand story—which by definition flows diachronically, across time—counters the cyclical hopeless whirlpool of their lost story and time.

Step 4:  In partnership with the victims, they help discover or provide a  compass  for re-creating life.  They work with the recovering populations to help set of firm, stable set steps pointing toward restoration: one that rests on compassion, community, and a hope-filled future story.

Breen argues that we follow these same steps in becoming a rescue team for our broken world.  Faced with the brokenness of the world around us, we resist the temptation to pull-away, to become self-interested and self-centered.  In the face of cultural emergencies, we can easily allow fear to drive us, to become victims ourselves, or to pull away into our perceived safe little world.  But the gospel should drive us in the opposite direction–we run like Jesus did toward the disaster.  We become provoked to engage, to be rescuers.  When we do so, we follow the same steps.

Step 1:   We demonstrate compassion.  Our first response to a world broken by sin and death is compassion.  Before we survey the destruction, embrace the reality of things, or assign priorities for rescue and recover, we feel in our very guts the depth of the hurt we’re seeing.  We see the crowds and seek to experience a compassion for them.  We become like Jesus whose heart (his very gut) was broken at the sight of those overwhelmed by every disease and affliction and lacking any sense of the good Kingdom story (Matthew (9:35-36).  This compassion will drive us to some initial caring actions that give life, provide rescue, and point toward recovery.

Step 2:   We re-connect people to community.   We build communities where the broken can feel safe and secure.  We lead people into a caring, nurturing community.  The brokenness of sin and rebellion by definition breaks the relational connections we were created to enjoy and need to survive.  We start restoring those relational disconnections–our broken relationship to God, to self, to others, and to creation.  Since our compassion is driving us, we can focus on restoring these relational connections in sensitive ways.  Depending on the situation, creating a sense of community belonging might necessarily create the foundation for restoring relationships to God, self, and creation itself.   Belonging often proceeds blessing and believing.

Step 3:   We connect people to the larger story.   In brokenness, we lose our sense of story–losing all sense of place and our ability to function meaningfully.  Our identity becomes defined falsely by the tragedy of our sin and brokenness.  We enter a world where it seems like there is no escape, where “what has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” (Eccl 1:9) That where the connecting story enters in–the story that is the story of the world.  The four-fold Scriptural meta-narrative of “creation, fall, redemption and restoration” breaks the cycle of “what will be will always be.” God has a purpose, a plan, a plot-line leading to the renewal of all things under Jesus as King.  His story governs the world.  So, as we reconnect people to community,  we tell this larger story and encourage others to see their story enveloped by his story. 

Step 4:   We give people a compass,  that regardless of circumstances always points north.  A compass counsels direction and with it the encouragement to move in that direction.  Jesus is, of course, our compass—the true north that orients us in our newly embraced larger story.  As disciples, Breen argues, we are however compass carriers, helping others follow the compass by discipling others to follow Jesus, teaching them to obey all that he’s commanded.  For Breen, this process of discipleship revolves around answering two questions:

What is God saying?

What am I going to do about it?

In addition, these fundamental questions are asked in the context of a Kingdom movement built around three directions: passionate spirituality (up), radical community (in) and missionary zeal (out).


How are you triaging your broken world?

In your movement, is there compassion, community, a connecting story, and a Jesus-modeled set of compass directions where everyone is asking, “What is God saying?” and “What am I going to do about it?"

Is there an “up, in and out” balance to your movement?



Source:  Leading Kingdom Movements   by Mike Breen.  See also Jo Saxton’s questions on being at rescue team.

Top photo courtesy of gynti_46 (Flickr Creative Commons).

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