What does a poor community really need in order to be transformed and rebuilt? Renovation, regeneration what’s the answer?
Is the answer built around better public policy and social programs? That tends to be the response according to liberal theorists. Is the answer a strengthening of the family, increased moral responsibility, discipline and self-control? That tends to be the response according to conservative theorists. I think both sides are on to something in their answers. Yes, there needs to be a renovation. A total reform (socially and personally) is needed and I certainly am an advocate of both.
In order to break the cycles of generational poverty we need programs that promote education, jobs and restoration. We also need role models and teachers, parents and leaders who are investing in our youth and teaching them principles of justice, respect and selflessness. These are significant components and should be an intricate part of our strategy, but is that it? Will those elements alone get the job done?
In order to rebuild our neighborhoods and communities we also need spiritual regeneration. Alongside the renovation of the buildings must be a regeneration of souls. Transformation for a community begins inside the human heart. That is not to say that programs and policies aren’t needed, they are, but they need to be accompanied by opportunities for spiritual conversion.
By seeking to share the good news of the gospel to persons, one is investing in that specific individual as well as the individual’s family and greater community. Recognizing that through the grace of God each person has the potential to achieve great things, each seed planted is an opportunity to transform a community.
As churches, organizations and individuals our approach to renovating a community should be built on creating local relationships that share through word and deed the good news of the gospel. When individuals surrender their life to Christ, are discipled and then challenged to live this message out in every area of their life, change occurs. We read in 1 Corinthians that submitting our life to Jesus makes us “new creations.”
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 1 Corinthians 5:17
The “old has passed away” signifies a change. What was once lost and hopeless in sin and spiritual poverty now has life and is alive in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11) Individuals living in Christ are the first step to transforming a community.
How we do this (share the gospel in coordination with our poverty alleviation efforts) with cultural sensitivity and respect is a message for another day, but for the time being let’s just agree that God transforms communities through individual hearts.
Make it your goal to always be aware in any effort to renovate a community, that the need for spiritual regeneration is paramount. God is in the business of transforming communities’ one individual at a time.
Image courtesy of Cati Kaoe / Flickr.com