Purging Poverty through Wholistic Discipleship
Can people really overcome poverty simply by understanding God’s truth and living in obedience to Him? The Bible seems to indicate so. Yet it is difficult to find real examples today.
This question, and the desire to seek the answer, is the foundation for the beginning of a ministry called Reconciled World.
The purpose of this article is not to promote any person or organization, but the very idea that God’s word is true, and that simply doing what it says has transforming power.
Much of the story of Reconciled Word shared in this article was sourced directly from their website.
What started as an experiment with one trainer and ten churches in poor villages, quickly grew to 16 trainers each training fifty churches. Chaos, in the positive sense of the word, had broken out and many churches were pleading for further training. If God did not show up and if His Word was not true, then they were on their way to a disaster.
Thankfully, God is real, much more faithful than we can imagine, and very true to His Word. With God’s help, they continued to write trainings, and the program continued to expand rapidly to over 600 churches.
Many churches were reaching out to show God’s love to their communities through what are called Acts of Love. There have been incredible stories of how God has multiplied those simple acts of obedience to bring results no one could have ever imagined.
Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The concern became, what would happen when the churches ran out of resources, and Reconciled World would not be able to support them?
In many areas where they started training churches, the community typically only had enough to eat for nine months of the year. Now they were being asked to give and share with others? Reconciled World had brought nothing to the community except training. But they were encouraged by remembering that it was God who multiplied the loaves and fish.
Mark 6:41–44 And He (Jesus) took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He gave them to the disciples again and again to set before them; and He divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied; and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces of bread, and of the fish. There were five thousand men who ate the loaves.
If He was capable then, He is capable today.
Believing complete transformation would take many years, perhaps only when Jesus returned, they began witnessing communities move completely out of poverty. There were no more poor people. Everyone had enough to eat all year long, they all had stable houses, toilets, wells, and vegetable gardens, all the children went to school, most people attended church services, the people were passionate about God, they developed strong, loving marriages, and they were no longer chronically sick and knew how to treat most common illnesses.
James 1:25 But one who has looked intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and has continued in it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an active doer, this person will be blessed in what he does.
Since there were no longer any needs within their own community, they began serving surrounding communities.
As the impact and the news began to spread, Reconciled World became more convinced about the importance of wholistic discipleship, where people learn to walk in obedience to God in every area of life — not just going to Church on Sunday and following basic moral principles. They now recognized that all property and resources belong to God, to be managed diligently by His good stewards, to provide for their families and beyond.
John 8:31–32 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
As individuals and churches sought to walk in greater obedience to God in every area of life, Reconciled World began witnessing miracles in most of the communities they served. Building supplies ‘randomly’ delivered to the church. Crops that grew in the midst of a drought. There were ever growing evidences of how God multiplies the efforts of anyone seeking to walk in obedience to His Word.
Even after the trainings were complete, many of the villages continued applying what they had learned. They continue serving their neighbors, provide for those who can’t provide for themselves, farm their land diligently, send their children to school, and so much more. If you ask them why they do all of this, they are confused. When pushed for an answer their only reply is, “Isn’t this what a Christian does?”
The secret to success isn’t helping communities alleviate poverty, or solve any other problems, but about teaching people to live as Christians should, recognizing that the God who designed earth and mankind also knows how we best can live. The principles He has put in place do cause people to flourish.
Matthew 6:25–33 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing?… For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.
Wealthy churches throughout the world often reach out to poorer areas to help without seeing significant change or the transformation they desire. The common thread is that the wealthier churches have been developing and running the programs for the communities, though they live outside the community. While they serve faithfully and generously, a critical component is missing — they have not taught those they serve to walk in obedience to God in all areas of life.
Matthew 28:18–20 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The Great Commission: Go, Make Disciples, Baptize, & Teach Obedience.
Rather than teaching the poor to give, they are giving for them. Rather than teaching the poor to love through service, they are serving for them. The challenge is overcoming the lie that “They are too poor.” No one is too poor to obey God in serving others. All can give or serve in some way.
Everyone must learn to seek God alone for help. Once their eyes are opened to the solutions that God has already provided, they are much less dependent on outside resources and more dependent on God. As people face additional challenges with the correct perspective, where will they continue to turn? God. He should be the Hero.
The process starts with simple actions implemented slowly, allowing for proper learning and reflection, to create true transformation. As thinking and understanding changes, the results tend to accelerate over time as an exponential curve.
In reality though, hundreds of communities trying to listen and obey God is messy. However, waiting for everything to be perfect only holds people and churches back from being able to start. Just do something, anything. Not once has there been a testimony, “We tried to obey God, but it failed.”
Many of the areas Reconciled World first started were hostile to Christianity. It was seen as dangerous, believing a foreign religion was going to cause the whole community to suffer under the punishment of “the spirits.” Christians were largely isolated and kept to themselves to avoid problems.
Now, in almost all the original areas, people in the communities and government recognize that the Christian God is powerful and that Christians are good. They appreciate the Christian influence in their area. Instead of trying to eliminate Christianity, local officials are trying to promote it in areas with no Christians. God is being glorified. There is also an increase in church attendance and passion, an increase in giving and serving, and an overall increase in the number of Christians.
Acts 2:46–47 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Reconciled World is a great example today of biblical stewardship. They became the example they were looking for from their beginning. They became the answer they wanted to see in their original question, “Can people overcome poverty simply by understanding God’s truth and living in obedience to Him?” And they sought the specific guidance from God’s Word to show them the way.
Stewardship is the active and responsible management of God’s creation, by God’s people, according to God’s way, for God’s purpose, to cultivate the flourishing of all creation.