Adapted from A Field Guide to Becoming Whole, 50-52.

God, in Christ Jesus, has chosen to accomplish His plans through the churchyour church and every other faithful body of believers around the world! But how does He do this?

Living faithfully as the royal priesthood and holy nation that He has called the church to be (1 Pet. 2:9) means calling on King Jesus to overcome all the effects of the Fall—including all five causes of poverty—as He restores all things, making peace by the blood of His cross (Col. 1:15-20). 

Fighting Against False Gods and Erroneous Stories of Change
Human beings and societies are transformed into the image of whatever god they worship (Ps. 115:8), so it is essential that the community of the kingdom is centered on worship of King Jesus, the only God whose qualities are consistent with human flourishing—consistent with being whole.

The kingdom community inaugurates its worship each week in the local church, the place where God dwells and from which He rules. Worship then continues throughout the week as the restored priest-rulers offer their entire lives as living sacrifices to their King (Rom. 12:1). As we engage in this week-long worship, we are “transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory” through His Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18). We begin to love the way that King Jesus loves in all our relationships: we start to garden the way He gardens, to build the way He builds, to hug the way He hugs, and to rest the way that He rests. And as this happens, we increasingly become who we are created to be. We become whole.

As we go forth to work in Christ’s kingdom, we must recognize that because Jesus is King, His story of change, not the deceptive stories of false gods, is the only one that actually works in His realm. In other words, King Jesus’ goals and His way of achieving those goals amount to the “laws of nature,” the rules by which the universe actually operates in His new creation.

If we truly want to alleviate poverty, if we truly want people to become whole, our ministries must be designed in ways that are consistent with King Jesus’ story of change, not with the erroneous stories of change of Western Naturalism, Evangelical Gnosticism, or any other false religion.

We need to keep three key themes in mind as we explore this:

  • Worship and Poverty Alleviation—Human beings are transformed into the image of whatever god they worship, so at the core of poverty alleviation is worship of the one true God.
  • The Goal of God’s Story of Change—People experience human flourishing when they serve as priest-rulers, using their mind, affections, will, and body to enjoy loving relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.
  • The Way to Achieve the Goal of God’s Story of Change—Through the gift of the Son and Spirit, the triune God accomplishes our reconciliation to God, self, others, and the rest of creation.

Because all of us have been deeply influenced by false gods and their erroneous stories of change, the big ideas of these themes are completely foreign to the vast majority of poverty alleviation efforts—and to our lives in general. Most of us have been trying to live in a world we imagine to be fairly empty of spiritual forces for so long that the real world—the world of Christ’s kingdom—seems quite unbelievable to us. As a result, we find it difficult to live into God’s story of change.

In this light, effective poverty alleviation requires enormous faith. All the stakeholders of the ministry—the board, leadership, staff, volunteers, financial supporters, and people who are materially poor people—need to trust that human flourishing consists, not in ever-increasing consumption of material goods, but in enjoying loving relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of the creation. And all the stakeholders need to trust that Jesus Christ is the only one who can enable such flourishing to happen, for all of us.

What does this look like in daily life? In particular, how can poverty alleviation ministries encourage all their stakeholders to worship God throughout the week and to walk in light of His story of change? Well for one thing, we can pray!

In our next post, we will explore some of the implications of the need for prayer in every aspect of our ministries.

Image: Detail from “Study for ‘The Thankful Poor'” by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1894. Held by DuSable Museum of African American History. Public Domain.

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