Although poverty is one of the biggest challenges the global church faces today, Christians are mandated and able to combat it. The following articles and papers show how believers are taking steps to aid the needy through poverty relief, community development programs and more.
Churches Can Combat Poverty
E. Calvin Beisner. Knox Theological Seminary, 2006.
Calvin Beisner, associate professor of historical theology and social ethics at Knox Theological Seminary in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., writes on the church’s potential for combating poverty. Caring for the poor was a central characteristic of the early church and its members. Yet when we look at the American church today, we see that people are mostly content to relegate this duty to the government. Not only is this a moral mistake, Beisner argues, but statistics also show “... that helping the poor through civil government is at least inefficient, if not flatly wasteful.” The church was called to care for the poor first, and Christians have the resources to instill massive change. “To raise the $26.5 billion needed to bring all the poor up to the poverty level, each church family would have to contribute an average of $787 per year for poor relief.” This amount is less than half of what tithe would be for most U.S. church members. If the American church learns to turn away from the love of money and follow Christ, then not only will we be helping the poor, but we also will be laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven.
Back to top
Barriers to the Embrace of Integral Ministry
Tim Chester. Framework paper commissioned by the Micah Challenge Campaign, no. 1 (July 2004).
Dr. Tim Chester, author and church planter in Sheffield, England, pens the first in a series of framework papers commissioned by the Micah Challenge, a global campaign to mobilize Christians against poverty. The Micah Challenge aims to deepen Christian engagement with the poor and to influence leaders of rich and poor nations to fulfill an earlier promise to halve absolute global poverty by 2015. Chester opens his paper by surveying the renewed interest among evangelicals in the relationship between evangelism and care for the poor in the past 40 years. He then explains seven contributing factors for why the church has not embraced a holistic approach to evangelism that includes care for the poor. He identifies these factors as theological (e.g. uncertainty of Jesus’ mandate), cultural (e.g. the split between public truth and private faith), institutional (e.g. middle-class notions of a successful ministry), capacity (e.g. lack of skill and confidence), relational (e.g. engaging with those who belong to a different social class), identity (e.g. security by tradition), and spiritual (e.g. pride, prejudice and apathy). Chester does not attempt to place sides against each other, but to clarify that integral mission involving care for the poor is not at odds with sharing the gospel.
Back to top
Brian Fikkert. Interview on Moody Broadcasting Network’s “Open Line” radio broadcast, June 18, 2003.
Brian Fikkert, director of the Chalmers Center at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Ga., explains the educational work and research that the center does in order to provide aid to the poor. When most Christians are asked why Jesus came to earth, they will reply that He came to save their souls. Yet Jesus’ ministry on earth was much more comprehensive, extending to all of creation. Thus, the church ought to minister to both bodily and spiritual needs. Fikkert discusses the various strategies that the Chalmers Center uses in helping poor economies to develop, including individual development accounts and microfinance. Since the main deterrent to economic advancement in the Third World is the lack of access to capital, the Chalmers Center encourages strategies that provide that access. These methods provide aid in the form of loans rather than as handouts, because the poor also need to achieve financial independence from any donor. Finally, Fikkert answers call-in questions regarding issues of promoting practical involvement both on a personal level and church-wide. Overall, Fikkert provides sound advice for pursuing a more holistic approach to the church’s relations with the poor. Note: No downloadable text or audio is available at this time.
Back to top
More on This Topic
Financial Abuse in the