Praying for Transformation Together

Adapted from When Helping Hurts

Because all of us are suffering from brokenness in our foundational relationships with God, self, others, and creation, we all need “poverty alleviation,”—just in different ways. As men and women engaged in the work of poverty alleviation, our relationship to those in material poverty should be one in which we recognize that all of us are broken and that all of us need the blessing of reconciliation. Our perspective should be less about how we are going to “fix” those in material poverty and more about how we can walk together, asking God to bring healing to us all.

True poverty alleviation occurs when the power of Christ’s resurrection reconciles our key relationships through the transformation of both individual lives and local, national, and international systems. Do we strive for such reconciliation? Of course, for we are “ministers of reconciliation”!

We must do our best to preach the gospel, to find cures for malaria, and to support affordable housing. But part of our striving is also to fall on our knees every day and pray, “Lord, be merciful to me and to my friend here, because we are both sinners.” And part of our striving means praying every day, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven, for without You we cannot fix our communities, our nations, and our world.”

Faith Comes from Hearing

Ultimately, the profound reconciliation of the key relationships that comprise poverty alleviation cannot be done without Jesus transforming hearts and lives through His salvation.

Yes, people can experience some degree of healing in their relationships without becoming Christians. For example, unbelievers can stop drinking, become more loving spouses, and improve as employees without becoming Christians. As these things happen for unbelievers, they are more likely to be able to obtain and manage sufficient resources to address their material needs.

However, we can’t fully experience fundamental and lasting change in the foundational relationships without becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus. Furthermore, simply having sufficient material things is not the same as “poverty alleviation” as we defined it above.

We want people to fulfill their calling “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” in their work and in all that they do. Ultimately, none of us can do this apart from Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27), so we should always include the proclamation of the good news of the gospel in our efforts to address material poverty.

The Importance of the Word

While the biblical model is that the gospel is to be communicated in both word and deed, the Bible indicates that without the verbal proclamation of the gospel, one cannot be saved: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom. 10:14).

A host of contextual issues determine the best manner and the appropriate time to present the gospel verbally, particularly in settings where strong religious or political persecution of Christians is prevalent. But without such a presentation, it is difficult for people to be transformed in all their relationships, which is what poverty alleviation is all about.

This implies that the local church, as an institution, has a key role to play in poverty alleviation, because the gospel has been committed by God to the church. This does not mean that the local church must own, operate, and manage all ministries. Parachurch ministries and individuals have a role to play as well. However, it does mean that we cannot hope for the transformation of people without the involvement of the local church and the verbal proclamation of the gospel that has been entrusted to it.

The theme of walking together out of material poverty with Christ’s help is found throughout Chalmers’ content and programs. We recently launched a FREE micro training that you can share with people in your church or organization to help explain the concept of togetherness in poverty alleviation. From Poverty to Potluck encourages ministries to embrace an approach to poverty alleviation that moves beyond “haves” and “have nots” to one where everyone contributes gifts and all are restored to flourishing.

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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