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?