Posts in “Theology of Poverty Alleviation”
We don’t often connect our work in fighting poverty (and economic life more generally) with our worship of the living God. But we should. When the collection plate is passed around in a church service, pastors often try to connect the dots to how our giving is part of worship. But it doesn’t always register with us.
Epiphany also reminds us that our gifts (assets, skills, experiences, and callings) are rightly offered up as worship to the King of Kings. All the ministry efforts we undertake will fall flat if we seek to serve others for our own sake. We can truly love our neighbors as ourselves when we connect our love and service for others with our worship of the God who created us both and who sustains us all.
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.
Building God’s kingdom community means working to replace destructive formative practices with those that lead to true flourishing. The Ministry Design Principles we’re highlighting this week focus heavily on the relational aspect of poverty alleviation. Afterall, we are each innately relational beings with minds, affections, wills, and bodies, and we need to remember this as we walk alongside people in material poverty.
Material poverty is complex, and not reducible to a single cause. Healthy, sustainable poverty alleviation ministries need to address all five root causes of material poverty—Individual brokenness, Systemic brokenness, false stories of change, broken and destructive formative practices, and demonic forces. Over the last few weeks, we’ve looked at Ministry Design Principles that contribute to the kingdom community and to God’s story of change, and today we continue examining principles that equip us to replace destructive formative practices. We seek to evaluate and replace our existing practices in favor of those that empower and equip our communities.
Resuming our journey through the Ministry Design Principles, we turn our attention to replacing destructive formative practices in our fundraising, in our relationships with stakeholders, and in our marketing strategies. A ministry working to walk in the path of God’s story of change pursues practices that treat all stakeholders as a community of broken yet restored priest-rulers, people who are relying on the power of Christ’s death and resurrection to jointly steward their wide range of gifts.
We’ve been sharing Ministry Design Principles in a series of posts (you can read last week’s here). All these principles can, in some sense, be bundled under 6 aspects of holistic poverty alleviation—1) Forming the kingdom community, 2) addressing false stories of change, 3) addressing broken practices, 4) addressing broken individuals, 5) addressing broken systems, and 6) addressing demonic forces.
Poverty alleviation is complex, so principles are more helpful than blueprints for designing an effective poverty alleviation ministry. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to material poverty, and context matters, too. Ministry tools and strategies that work well to facilitate lasting transformation in a rural village in Togo might not work in an urban area in the U.S., and vice versa. Effective, sustainable ministry reflects God’s story of change and the way He has made us as human beings.
Ministry focused on addressing poverty is fundamentally about promoting change. It’s about helping people and communities move to a better situation than their present one.
As the Chalmers Center staff gathers with our churches and families to celebrate Easter this week, we join with Christians around the world, declaring “He is risen!”
The Ministry of Jesus has always been word and deed. Wherever Jesus went, he preached the Kingdom of God. As he went, he healed people who were sick and hurting and in trouble as a sign that His message was true and the kingdom was at hand.
Enabling people in material poverty to engage in work that pays a living wage is the most sustainable way for them to no longer be materially poor. But work is so much more than just a means to gaining income that provides for our material needs. It lies close to the heart of what it means to be human.
God is bringing a kingdom far more real than any earthly power or authority we experience today. That kingdom calls Christians to embrace a whole life of economic discipleship by which we learn to live as economic citizens of God’s kingdom.
Unfortunately, several common but misguided stories of change are shaping our lives, including our approaches to poverty alleviation. Our poverty alleviation efforts often do harm because we have unknowingly and unconsciously—yet deeply and destructively—absorbed misguided stories of change from our culture.
As followers of Jesus, when we see material poverty in the world around us, our first instinct is often to do something about it. But where should we start? What’s the first step in poverty alleviation?
Adapted from When Helping Hurts, 75-79. Defining poverty alleviation as the reconciliation of people’s four key relationships with God, self, others, and creation shapes the methods our churches or ministries should use to achieve that goal, with major implications for how we choose, design, implement, and evaluate our efforts. Because every one of us is…
Adapted from Becoming Whole, 181-182; A Field Guide to Becoming Whole, 135-39. Throughout this series on the five causes of poverty, the underlying connection between them all is the Fall. Because sin entered the world, our stories and practices are twisted by its effects, and both individuals and groups are broken and can do evil….
Adapted from A Field Guide to Becoming Whole, 119-124. In this series, our most recent post focused on addressing individual brokenness—the factors within a person, including personal choices and beliefs, that can contribute to material poverty. But as we’ve been saying throughout the series, there are both internal and external causes of relational and material…