What does a biblical approach to helping the poor look like? Should there be any difference between the way that non Christians and Christians serve the needy? Is it just that Christians evangelize in addition to helping?
For the past 15 years the leaders of Reconciled World have been wrestling with what a biblical approach to helping the poor looks like. As we have woven back together the areas of missions and development, we have seen communities move out of poverty. So much so that in one country the national government is trying to understand why so many communities suddenly transformed. Non-Christian PhD students sent to investigate concluded it’s the Bible. The truth contained in the Bible, applied with the help of the Holy Spirit, is powerful to bring transformation.
Based on what we have learned over the past 15 years we have developed what we refer to as the Integrated Approach. This approach isn’t a model but a set of principles that we believe as Christians should undergird our approach to helping the needy. This approach is made up of seven elements:
Depending on God
– We recognize if we want to see communities and nations changed, we need God. We will not see true transformation by our human efforts alone. (John 15:1-17, Psalms 18:2)
Nurturing Truth and Confronting Lies
– Much of the suffering, poverty and injustice that happens in the world, comes as a result of lies. The lie that women are not as valuable as men results in millions of girls losing their lives
, the lie that the gods control what crops are produced leaves millions unwilling to adopt agricultural practices that would result in much higher yield. The lie that human worth is found in financial and material success leads to discrimination and oppression.
Integrating Physical and Spiritual– We believe that we need to address both spiritual and physical needs (Acts 4:12, Ephesians 2:12, John 13:34-35, James 1:27, 1 John 3:17-18 ). God made us whole creatures with body and spirit intertwined. This program seeks to strengthen churches’ capacity to meet physical and spiritual needs in a unified way.
Partnering with the Church
– While we do support and encourage private organizations (we ourselves are one) we believe that the church is an especially powerful witness to the community. If an organization serves, people speak well of the organization. If an individual serves, they are admired. But if the church serves, Christ is glorified in the community.
Focusing on the Vulnerable
– As an organization we focus on those experiencing physical poverty and oppression. The Bible places a clear call on the people of God to love and serve the most needy. (Duet. 10:18, Psalms 82:2-4, Matt. 25:35-40). While we recognize that there are many forms of spiritual and emotional brokenness at every income level, the TCT training focuses primarily on what you can do as a church to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in your community.
Mobilizing Local Resources
– We believe that God has uniquely gifted every community. Our desire is to help churches recognize these gifts and then learn to steward them for the development of their community. Through the TCT training we want to challenge churches to think about how to use resources appropriately in their communities by looking at topics such as “when are handouts helpful or harmful,” and “what causes dependency.”
Pursuing God’s Ways
– We recognize that God’s ways are often not our ways. As followers of Jesus we realize that sometimes our tendency is to follow the methods and beliefs of our culture. The TCT training challenges churches to pursue God’s ways as laid out in Scripture and prompted by the Holy Spirit. We encourage churches to rely on prayer, fasting and small acts of obedience rather than on creating master plans for community transformation.