When I traveled to Northeast India, to one of the last unreached people groups in the world, I was making a good salary and a nice home. But this last year, my wife and I sold nearly all of our stuff and followed Jesus into the unknown of leading the non-profit Jesus’ Economy full-time without a salary. We sold our stuff, including our house, to make it work. The reason: We can’t live in a world where there are people without a voice and where there are people who have not heard the name of Jesus. We cannot live in a world where there are solutions to poverty and bringing the gospel to the unreached, and not take action.
In Northeast India, I saw the Holy Spirit work—and I saw the liberty of Jesus completely transform lives. Those who had formerly never heard Jesus’ name were so grateful that they now knew Jesus. But there are still 101 Million there who have not heard Jesus’ name. How can I live in a world like this and not do something about it? I also had other reasons for making such a drastic life change.
How could I not serve a God who has given me my very voice? God helped me learn to speak—95% of what I said as a child could not be understood but I now speak perfectly. How could I not be willing to give up everything to follow this God?
Creating a more equitable and just world is part of my calling, as is bringing the gospel to those who have not heard Jesus’ name. It’s how I’m called to use my voice.
But I think we’re all called to this mission. It will look different for each of us, but what’s certain is that Jesus will drastically change your life. Here are three biblical lessons that I regularly come back to during this journey.
The Bible’s grand vision for the world is seen at the end of Revelation. It’s a world where there are no more tears, where there is no more pain, where God’s people stand equal and in loving relationship before God. The Bible’s trajectory is clear—evil will be destroyed and good will be restored. Justice and equity in their full form will exist when Jesus returns.
The followers of Jesus will sit down at a table and celebrate. They will celebrate justice and equality for all. They will celebrate what Jesus has done (see Revelation 19; 21).
In the meantime, we’re called to be ambassadors of this message—to be people who help make way for the kingdom of God here and now. Global equality can come to our world. Justice can come to our world. We can create equal opportunities for all. Each person can have a place at this table. And when we make these opportunities for the impoverished, we bring a piece of the kingdom of God here.
One of the things we often forgotten about the story of the Good Samaritan is that it involves one man responding to an opportunity to do good. A Samaritan sees a man who is beaten and poor on the side of the road—and he takes care of him. He steps in when all others have ignored the hurting man on the side of the road. The Samaritan sees an opportunity to do good and acts upon it (Luke 10:25–37).
Today, we likewise have an opportunity to do good. We often forget that there are opportunities right in front of us, each and everyday, to change the lives of the hurting. There are opportunities to help our neighbors who are far away and to engage in relationship with those who are near.
Doing good betters our entire world. Creating opportunities for the impoverished, outcast, and marginalized to be empowered is good for us all. What’s good for you can be good for me; what’s good for them can be good for us. Because we’re all connected in some way or another—in some sort of loose affiliation. We’re all human after all.
In the book of Romans, Paul the Apostle notes that he intends to travel to Spain (Romans 15:24). This is because he plans to bring the gospel to the far western point of the known world of the time. Meanwhile, Thomas the Apostle—according to Syrian church tradition—was bringing the gospel to India. That’s the far East of the known world of the time. There is a global trajectory here. This is a direct reflection of Jesus’ command to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
While on this path, the early church leaders recognized just how interconnected their efforts were. We see this when Paul raises funds for the impoverished in Jerusalem (Romans 15:26). We also see it in the numerous mentions of other churches in Paul’s letters. And we see this interconnectedness in the story of the book of Acts, which involves multiple missions out from the Jerusalem church and the church at Antioch to bring the gospel to other cities and regions.
Our world is more interconnected today than ever before. And we can leverage these connections for the sake of the gospel. The work of the early church is far from complete. So my question becomes: What are we going to do about it? And what do you see when you look at the world?
When I look at our world, I can see how we can create a new, global and spiritual economy for those that need it most. I can see how the thirsty can have clean water. I can see how marginalized women can have gainful employment that lifts their entire families out of poverty. I can see businesses in the developing world creating opportunities for us here in the U.S. I can see the freedom and liberty of Jesus being accessible to all. I can see us rallying together around the common good of equality for everyone. I can see grace reaching every person.
How is Jesus asking you to drastically change your life?
We cannot end extreme poverty without the church. The gospel is key to renewing our world. Here’s why.
The gospel demands action. Those actions can change entire communities. From Jesus’ very commission of the church forward, this is clear:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20 ESV).
This call to discipleship is a call to teach people to follow Jesus and his principles (compare James 1:27). Making disciples means teaching people what following Jesus really means. It means teaching integrity, honesty, and love of the hurting. It means showing them that salvation is not just a truth, but also an ideal that changes the very fabric of our world.
Jesus’ calls the Christian to represent truth and help others see the value of that truth. We are to be light in dark places (Matthew 5:15). And here’s what that has to do with poverty.
For the situation of extreme poverty to change, we need to create economic opportunities for the impoverished and fight corruption. This means real people taking real action. But it also means an ethical presence transforming communities and holding people accountable to truth.
In a single day corruption can overthrow years of good. This is why I believe that healthy churches are a core part of creating global equality. If we can provide an ethical framework through the church, there will be a stronghold against corruption. We will have people who will speak up for what’s right.
Churches can help hold people accountable to paying fair wages and not exploiting anyone. Churches can be the voice of truth. As an outside investor, I can even ask a local and healthy church to help with reporting about a business. (In fact, I personally do this now.)
We must create jobs and churches in the developing world. And we must also meet basic needs. A job doesn’t matter if I don’t have access to clean water. Where basic needs are not being met, we must give and meet them.
What happens in our world affects us all, whether we acknowledge it or not. A desperate community in the developing world is the problem of all of us.
Desperation has created desperate people. And desperate people do desperate things. Desperation gives extremism a foothold. If you lack access to water, healthcare, education, and job opportunities, an extremist leader can come along and claim “The Americans, with all those opportunities and all that wealth, have ignored you.” The extremist can then say, “I will care for your village, if you join our cause.” And when the extremist says these words, and you’re desperate, it’s tempting to listen.
The desperation of the globally impoverished is a desperate situation for our world. When wars rage in our world, they also rage here. Peace for one person is peace for us all.
Yes, we must fight terror. But we’re also trying to change hearts and minds. We have to fight desperation by offering better opportunities to the impoverished and outsider.
I have met the voiceless of the developing world and spoken to them about their needs. I remember sitting in a circle with a group of women from extreme poverty situations in Northeast India. I remember one woman placing her hands in mine and saying, “I can now afford to keep my kids in school, but keeping food on their plates often feels impossible. I am constantly facing the decision of whether to eat or pay for school supplies or clothing for my children. Will you pray for me and my children?" She could pay for her kids to go to school through her sewing work, which she learned via a non-profit sewing school, but her business needed a boost.
Women like this are ready to work hard to offer their children a better life; they just need the opportunity. Together, we can offer them the opportunity they deserve. We can connect them to the global marketplace.
Let’s end desperation. Let’s make a better way for our world. Let’s be the truth and light God has called us to be. Explaining this principle, Jesus said:
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” (Matthew 5:13–15 ESV).
And is there much more to say than that?
At times, justice becomes a bit of a catch phrase, sadly even a cliché. Yet it’s one of the most important concepts we can understand and live. I have seen injustice with my own eyes, and each day the news tells each of us of acts of injustice. But rather than feel defeat, let’s stand up, take action, and do something about it. Here are four ways justice should be the cry of today’s Christian.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, we see Jesus taking on our pain and anguish—and on the cross, we see him taking on our sin. Think about these four things Jesus says and prays in the Garden:
“Sit here while I go over there and pray.”
“My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.”
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
“My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will must be done” (Matthew 26:36–46 LEB).
It is here that we see the man—Jesus. It is here that we find one who walks alongside the downtrodden, the hurting, the poor, the outsider, the refugee, the sinner—all the way to the cross. Here we find the one who walks alongside all of us, all the way to the cross. Here we see God enfolding, through Jesus, all people into his kingdom. Jesus does God’s will, so that we can have life.
In the garden, Jesus asks if the cup can be removed from him; but not his will, but God the Father’s be done. Jesus realizes the burden he is about to carry. This burden is described in Isaiah (over 500 years before Jesus) as:
“By a restraint of justice, [the servant] was taken away and with his generation.
Who could have mused that [the servant] would be cut off from the land of the living? Marked for the transgression of my people.
And [Yahweh] set his grave with the wicked, and [the servant] was with the rich in his death, although [the servant] had done no wrong, and there was no deceit in his mouth
Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush [the servant]; he afflicted him (with sickness). If [Zion] places [the servant’s] life a guilt offering, [the servant] will see offspring, [the servant] will prolong days. And the will of Yahweh is in [the servant’s] hand, it will succeed. Out of trouble of his life [the servant] will see; [the servant] will be satisfied by his knowledge.
[Yahweh says,] ‘My righteous servant will bring justice to many and he will bear their iniquities’ ” (Isaiah 53:8–11, my translation).
As painful as it is, it pleased Yahweh that Jesus should go to the cross, for it is in this that God found not just ultimate obedience, but also the bridging of humanity with himself. The judgment of God for our wrongdoings was satisfied. Once again, we were put into right relationship with God.
It is in Jesus that we find the refugee on the cross. Here we find the guilt offering for all of our wrongs. Here we find one who carries our sin, bears our iniquities, and intercedes for transgressors. Here we find a restraint of justice bringing justice to those who do not deserve it.
But what will we do with this justice, with this freedom?
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. in his work from Birmingham Jail. And it is injustice that we see today—all over our planet.
Near the end of his life, Martin Luther King, Jr. was working to bring equality by creating jobs. And yet, so much of the world still lacks jobs, because we haven’t completed the task. This is injustice.
We look around the world and we also see those who are oppressed—who lack spiritual and religious freedom, who lack knowledge of Jesus. This too is an injustice.
We must stand up, lift up, and rise up—to fight these injustices, boldly proclaiming that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We can read Jesus’ call to care for the “least of these” in Matthew 25:37–40 as a direct preface and parallel to what he will do on the cross. Jesus went to the cross to make us who do not deserve to be right before God, made right. And just before doing so, he calls us to live this message—noting for us that whether or not we did will be a primary question when he one day returns to earth.
So when we look around our world, and see a lack of access to basic healthcare, clean water, and jobs—like I have seen in the impoverished region of Bihar, India—we know that we must take action.
Jesus cries out for this. This is the Christian cry. And it is my personal cry, as I am personally broken for the hurting that I know in Bihar—for those who have placed their hands in my hands and cried out to God with me for justice.
We can also read the final words of Matthew’s Gospel, spoken by Jesus, as a commission based on his ministry in life, on the cross, and in his resurrection. And it’s a commission of action. Jesus says:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20 LEB).
Yet, there are still millions of people who have not heard Jesus’ name—again, this is the case in Bihar, India. In Bihar, there are 101 Million people who have never heard the name of Jesus. This again, is an injustice. All people deserve the chance to have access to the gospel.
The question becomes for each of us: What will we do about it? Why are we content with the knowledge of God, but not the actions of God? When will justice become part of the gospel? Because in actuality it is—we’re just not living it.
Do not walk away with guilt; walk away inspired to take action. Let’s continue the work of Jesus, the apostles, the early church fathers, and people like Martin Luther King, Jr. Let’s mark this season as the one everything changed, and we began to renew our world again with Christ, by his power and grace.
On today's Live Your Belief Podcast, Kalene Barry, Chief Projects Officer for Jesus' Economy talks with Victor Momoh, founder of the Sierra Leone branch of Global Missions Africa. His ministry goal is to bring the truth of Jesus to a predominantly Muslim nation and to unleash Africa's potential through the work of the Gospel. Find out how Victor and his team are doing this work. Let the Spirit bless you through their story. Listen below.
Global Missions Africa wants to ensure that Africa is for Jesus. Their pan-African missional efforts aim to reclaim Africa as an inheritance of God's purpose until the Word reaches every nation on the continent. They are currently working in Sierra Leone, Ghana, South Africa, and Madagascar -- ministering the Word, planting churches, training pastors, meeting basic needs, and providing entrepreneurship opportunities. To find out how you can support this great effort, write to Victor at globalmissionsafricasierraleone[at]gmail[dot]com.
Or by mail, write to:
Global Missions Africa, Sierra Leone
7 New Signal Hill Road, Congo Cross
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Imagination is a gift from above. It is imagination that gives us the power to see a slum as a city with paved streets. It is imagination that allows us to see our world as it is meant to be. And it is prayer that unlocks the power of imagination.
The biblical dreamers—like Daniel and John the Evangelist—saw their world not as it was, but as it could be. Daniel’s God-given ability to see beyond the present moment—and God’s faithfulness to answer his prayers—resulted in a king writing to “all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth … ‘I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:25–26). Prayer changes hearts, even the hearts of powerful kings. With the power of prayer, our great God is made known around the world.
Daniel shared his message about his God subtly, mainly through his actions (at least in the beginning of his ministry). By comparison, John the Evangelist shared his message loudly, through writing. Both acts are necessary in our work for God.
John the Evangelist envisioned a better world—where all would be made new by Christ (Revelation 21). John’s message has inspired thousands upon thousands. It is prayer that made John available to receive such a splendid message.
Prayer enables us to imagine our world renewed. Prayer helps us see God’s vision for the world: we see what isn’t yet, but should be.
Imagining a better future for the world can (and should) only happen through prayer. As the leader of Jesus’ Economy, which is dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world, it is my job to envision a better world. With developing world leaders, we at Jesus’ Economy envision what could be (rather than what is). Imagination coupled with prayer should drive this entire process (and really the entire process of our lives).
Right now, I’m imagining renewal in Bihar, India—one of the most impoverished places in the world, where few have heard the name of Jesus. Jesus’ Economy is raising funds to renew hope, hearts, and homes in Bihar. We plan to empower 40 women through microloans, drill 18 water wells, train and send out 18 indigenous church planters, and establish a medical clinic for the impoverished. (You can see how we’re doing this here.) But this process, like many things God calls us to, requires diligence and trust; it requires prayer. This is just one example of how God is calling me to dream with him; how is he calling you?
I am sure that you have something (or someone) you’re praying for. As you’re asking the Lord to answer your prayer—living in the in-between of the prayer and the answer—remember its value. Not all investments pay off, but the investment of prayer always does. So although it may feel bleak now, it won’t always be.
Let’s pray together for God’s kingdom to come and for the Lord’s will to be done (Matt 6:7–15). Let’s pray for God’s kingdom to be present in our lives and the lives of people all around the world. Let’s especially pray for that in Bihar, India and among all the impoverished places of the world.
Let’s place our hope in Christ. And let’s imagine the world as Christ sees it—acting upon his dreams of a better world.
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"For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
John 3:16 is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible, but are we overlooking something critical about it? In our new VLOG, I tell you about an often overlooked part of this beloved verse and its implications about each and every one of us.
For the rest of June, our "Around the World" series will bring you posts about simple and profound things happening around our planet. We will discuss how God is at work everywhere, as well as the work that we believe he wants to do. We will tell you about everything from summer fashion around the world, to God's global perspective according to the Bible, to how people are having fun with water (but also need it).
Join us as we journey around the world, to gain perspective on what God is doing.
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