Wow, phew, it’s been quite the month so far. The USA is still reeling from elections and New Zealand (my home country) was rocked by earthquakes. India, where I have a number of friends and we have lots of partners, fell into confusion when the government suddenly banned 80 percent of the paper money in circulation. For me personally, someone I knew passed on to heaven, and I had to jump into meetings when I really needed time to get my head around everything. All in all, the second week of November felt completely overwhelming.
When we are feeling exhausted, anxious, or off-balance, it’s important to focus on What is True. Here are a few grounding truths that I have learned in 20 years of working with the Church around the world:
God is powerful
Often when I meet with ministry leaders around the world they tell me what isn’t possible. It isn’t possible to engage the church in this issue—they only focus on evangelism. It isn’t possible to raise funds in our country—we are too poor. It isn’t possible to engage with the vulnerable—we are too busy. We can’t do anything—our government is broken. And yet every time I hear these claims, I am always left with the words ‘But God’ ringing in my ears. In reality, I have seen God do endlessly above and beyond what I could ever imagine. I no longer feel the temptation to limit what might be possible. Leaders from one country told me the TCT program (which aims to equip churches to change their communities) wouldn’t work in their nation because the government was too corrupt and would never support the churches’ efforts. The fact is, their government is one of the most corrupt in the world and has never served their communities … But God. He’s not limited by minor issues like that. Within 18 months of churches starting the program anyway, the government built schools and medical clinics in many of their communities.
The local church is capable
I have worked for 20 years in a country where the government actively opposes Christianity. And yet, local churches have so loved their communities through big and small Acts of Love that they have influenced the local, district, provincial and even the national government. In provincial government offices, they have held up Bibles and stated, “If you want to understand why the Christians have developed so much, you need to read this book.” They have embraced and partnered with churches. The actions of poor rural churches doing their best to love their neighbor have even influenced national policy. I hear many people in the U.S. express frustration and discouragement about the government. My prayer for you, is that you would learn from churches around the world and discover the power of the local church to influence your nation through Acts of Love.
The mustard seed is a powerful Kingdom idea
It’s easy to look at all that is broken and feel overwhelmed. When I first started TCT, I taught churches to do tiny things to love their community. Things like picking up litter. I couldn’t quite fathom (or was completely baffled by) how it would lead to the larger goal of moving communities out of poverty. But we believed it was what God was asking us to do, so that’s where we started. Three years later the churches were helping with slightly larger things—houses, funerals, wells… and I still was mystified as to how they would move out of poverty. Then one of the leaders declared that in her area, they had moved out of poverty. What in the world? Somehow, God had turned up and taken their simple acts of obedience and brought transformation. It was totally inexplicable in material terms. But it happened… hundreds of times over.
Today I am a strong evangelist for starting with simple, small things and watching to see what God will do. More often than I can count, I have been stunned at the way God brings the multiplication needed. We are reminded in Mark 4 that the Kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed that grows into a large tree. Working out how to change a nation is somewhat paralysing. But doing tiny actions to love those around us isn’t too hard. It’s what God has called us to and is a great place to start. Some of the great examples I have heard out of the U.S. in the last week include people becoming Uber drivers for an hour or two each day or week to give them the opportunity to listen to their community; another person wrote notes to all his neighbors suggesting that he was open to connect and talk if ever they wanted to (one responded almost immediately and turned up with popcorn).
The second week of November was just plain draining. Many are recovering from the emotional aftershocks. Some are left wondering what the future really looks like. And yet, as I reflect again on 20 years of living with chaos and opposition around me, I know that’s not the end of the story. It’s merely the interesting setting for what God can do through His people and His church.