Addressing Brokenness through Ministry Design Principles

Adapted from A Field Guide to Becoming Whole

Over the last few months, we have reviewed the Ministry Design Principles established by A Field Guide to Becoming Whole, and today we look at the last five principles. Creating and stewarding God’s Kingdom Community means that we need to actively care about our stories, practices, systems, people, and spirits, which these twenty principles seek to address. Together, these principles help us steer our ministries towards a whole, flourishing community in Christ.

Ministry Design Principle 16: Address Broken Systems by Navigating Existing Ones, Creating Alternatives, and/or Reforming Them Altogether.

The first step in fixing broken systems is realizing they are, in fact, broken. For many of us, the systems work relatively well, at least in terms of making a liveable wage, so systemic flaws may be more difficult to recognize. Hence, the first step is to identify the specific systems that create obstacles for those experiencing material poverty. The simplest, most meaningful way of doing this is to walk in relationship with people across time, seeing how the world looks through their eyes, watching their behaviors, and accompanying them as they try to make the systems work.

Once you’ve identified a broken system that your ministry will seek to address, there are several options for how to proceed:

  1. Find ways to help people better navigate existing systems, such as the approach of Faith & Finances, which provides financial stewardship education to low-income adults.
  2. Create an alternative system on a micro-level, such as savings and credit associations (i.e., microfinance).
  3. Attempt to reform the broken system altogether through community organizing, a process that develops the local leadership, relationships, and momentum to bring about wide-scale change.

Because our individual personhood and all that it encompasses — our minds, affections, wills, bodies, and relationships — can be impacted by all five causes of poverty, fixing any part of the community can help address individual brokenness.

Ministry Design Principle 17: Help People Access Physical and Mental Healthcare.

One of the results of the fall is that our minds, affections, wills, and bodies are not completely healthy, which can dramatically contribute to material poverty. We tend to forget that those with mental health challenges struggle to maintain employment in the same way as those with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses. And sometimes it snowballs. Lower incomes and rising health expenditures increase a household’s physical and emotional stress, which consequently leads to additional health problems. Over time, families may become stuck in what economists call the poverty trap, a cyclical relationship between illness and material poverty.

In many cases, low-cost care can prevent physical and mental crises, so there is a desperate need to expand community health education and to provide basic resources. Connecting people with mental and physical healthcare is essential to the process of becoming whole.

Ministry Design Principle 18: Verbally Invite Non-Christians to Saving Faith in Jesus Christ.

The community of restored priest-rulers should seek to extend the benefits of God’s kingdom to all with a posture of love, humility, and grace. This means that when the public school system is broken, Christians should work to fix it to the benefit of all students. When gentrification drives residents out of their neighborhoods, we should work towards greater housing justice and equity to the benefit of all people – Christians and non-Christians alike.

There should be no community more welcoming than the children of God, no kingdom more gracious than the kingdom of God. As we have seen, the foundation of human flourishing is being brought back into communion with God, and only the work of the Trinity can get us there. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There are no substitutes, no alternatives. Jesus is the only way to enter the dwelling place of God, the only person in whom all five causes of both relational and material poverty are defeated. Therefore, if we truly want to walk alongside non-Christians experiencing material poverty, we must introduce them to the risen King.

It is important to note, however, that sharing the gospel depends on the context (see 1 Cor. 9:19-23). What works in one place might not work well in another setting. Showing cultural sensitivity honors the whole person, communicating that their entire being and culture are valuable.

Being restored to a right relationship with God impacts every aspect of our being, and without such restoration, humans cannot fully flourish. Being restored to the dwelling place of God is foundational to successful poverty alleviation — for truly becoming whole.

Ministry Design Principle 19: Invite People Experiencing Material Poverty into the Church’s Administration of the “Ordinary Means of Grace.”

In many ways, this principle correlates with the Ministry Design Principle #1: Christian poverty alleviation ministries must be rooted in and lead back to the local church. All people, regardless of socioeconomic status, need to encounter the very person of Jesus Christ and need His healing power.

Jesus is present — mysteriously and really — when the church administers the ordinary means of grace (the preaching of the Word, the sacraments, and prayer). This is the innermost sanctuary of the temple, the very dwelling place of God. We are home there. And home is where we become whole.

Ministry Design Principle 20: All the Ministry’s Stakeholders Need to Resist Demonic Forces by Putting on the Whole Armor of God.

King Jesus reigns over the entire cosmos, which in itself is a declaration of war on Satan, who seeks to exercise dominion in this broken world. As living citizens of God’s kingdom, it is necessary to battle against demonic forces who seek to keep people in poverty. Therefore, ending all forms of poverty is nothing less than a spiritual battle.

Sometimes, demonic activity is overt, paralyzing people with fear that hinders their efforts to move out of material poverty. On the other hand, demonic forces also work covertly to ensure that people either think that the spiritual realm does not exist (Western Naturalism) or that it is irrelevant to their material condition (Evangelical Gnosticism). Ministries that are trying to alleviate poverty in the West should explain to their stakeholders that Satan is real and that he wants to trap them in a materialistic world view. We must remember that the struggle is not merely against flesh and blood.

Final Reflections

East of Eden, we all experience some form of poverty. Each one of us is longing, like the Prodigal Son, to come home to a feast where our bodies and souls are fully satisfied, and all of our relationships are completely restored. That is the good news of God’s kingdom: through Christ, we may feast in God’s dwelling place, both now and not yet:

            On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
                      a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
                      of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
            And he will swallow up on this mountain
                      the covering that is cast over all peoples,
                      the veil that is spread over all nations.
                      He will swallow up death forever;
            and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
                      and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
                      for the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:6-8)

The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center

The Chalmers Center helps God’s people rethink poverty and respond with practical biblical principles so that all are restored to flourishing.

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