(this is a great post from the Chalmers Center, an organization dedicated to best practices in poverty alleviation both within the U.S. and Majority World. For more info, please visit their website at www.chalmers.org
) What is Poverty? “Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not
for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom
in all its meanings.”Bryant MyersWalking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development
Poverty is about broken relationships.Most Christians lack a biblical foundation for holistic ministry to people who are poor and fail to see how central such ministry is to the church’s mission. At the start of His earthly ministry, Jesus said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (LUKE 4:43). The kingdom of God is the reconciliation of the entire cosmos through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (COLOSSIANS 1:19). Jesus and his followers declared the good news of the kingdom through both words and deeds to the blind, the lame, the deaf, the mute, the leper, and the poor (LUKE 7:18-23; 9:1-2; 10:9). As His body and fullness, the church is to continue Christ’s work of declaring his kingdom—in both words and deeds—to the “least of these”(MATTHEW 25:40). Unfortunately, the evangelical world has been paralyzed by a truncated gospel which reduces the reign of Christ to saving souls, thereby undermining the biblical concern for the whole person. A shift in thinking is needed to enable the church to pursue the whole gospel, for the whole person, and the whole world.
How we answer the question—What is poverty?—determines the solutions we propose. A misdiagnosis of the problems related to poverty results in remedies that are
ineffectual and even harmful. Good intentions are not enough. Unfortunately,
Christians often have faulty assumptions about the root causes of poverty and
its solutions. As a result, we often end up hurting people living in poverty and
ourselves in the process of trying to help them.
In order to help people in poverty we need to have a biblically consistent
framework which conceives of poverty as being rooted in the effects of the fall
on the four foundational relationships that God established for each person:
relationships with God, self, others, and creation. When defined in this way, at
our base level we’re all poor because none of us experience the fullness that
God intended for each of these relationships. For the economically poor, these
broken relationships often include shame, a marred identity, social isolation,
and a lack of a sense of vocation that contribute to a lack of income. For the
economically rich, these broken relationships manifest themselves in pride,
selfishness, workaholic tendencies, materialism, etc. that lead to all sorts of
individual and social ills. Unfortunately, when the economically rich interact
with the economically poor, they tend to do so in such a way that exacerbates
the shame that the economically poor feel, while also exacerbating the pride of
the economically rich. Central to poverty alleviation is embracing our own
mutual brokenness so that we can truly help others without hurting them and
A Reconciling Church by Eduardo Rodriguez on July 11, 2012
Believers in Christ Church is a remarkable congregation in North Minneapolis that blossomed out of a ten-year-long friendship between Pastors Joseph Sutton and Mark Bettenga. Together they founded Believers in Christ Church, after the extraordinary merger of their two churches last October. Pastor Joseph led an African-American congregation in North Minneapolis, while Pastor Mark Bettenga led a Caucasian congregation in Robbinsdale, Minnesota. To many, the union of these two churches may seem like a challenge, but Pastor Joseph explains, “The first thing everybody will see is a white pastor and a black pastor coming together, but that wasn’t it. It was two friends with the same vision coming together. He has been to my house and I’ve been to his house. He knew my family and I knew his family. His church leaders knew me and my church leaders knew him. Over the course of time the merging of the churches was the easy thing to do.” Believers in Christ is a unique church that has successfully merged out of sharing a mission and vision and a strong focus on relationships. Pastor Joseph finished by saying, “Reconciliation is birthed out of relationships.”
It all started a year and a half ago. Pastor Mark was looking for a new church location down the street from Pastor Joseph and jokingly said, “If we are going to be that close we might as well merge into one.” As the laughter settled they started to realize the commonalities between the two churches. They both had a unique vision to reach those that are least, the lost and the last—so much so that the two churches had similar mission statements, which they summarized by saying, “It all adds up to [people] becoming who God sees them to be already; helping them see that by serving, loving, and challenging them to think differently about themselves. With God in their lives it changes everything about them.” As they prayed about it they became assured that God had been leading them to bring their churches together. They created what Pastor Mark called, “A covenant between the two churches trying to help those in North Minneapolis who are less fortunate and need help.”
As the merger approached, members of both congregations grew nervous. “Some of the people that came were a little nervous; they didn’t know what to expect. The fear of the unknown keeps us from understanding one another. To me, reconciliation is about bringing a new perspective to a situation, a life or even a way of thinking,” said Pastor Mark. This fear quickly disappeared as people gained a fresh perspective from their new relationships. “Having the same mission statement has helped. We didn’t have to force it. It’s the nature of both congregations to be so relational,” commented Pastor Joseph on the rapid development of relationships. Members of Believers in Christ have come to love their church and those worshiping and serving alongside them. After Sunday worship, very few people rush to leave; instead they stay to fellowship with the people they have now come to know and love.
Their story of reconciliation is likely to inspire many, but it is always difficult to know where or how to start. Pastors Joseph and Mark have a saying that may prove helpful: “You attract what you are, not what you want.” As both pastors can attest to, many people say they want their church to be multi-cultural or multi-ethic, but they don’t have any friends outside of their culture or ethnicity. “As your personal circle diversifies, that is what you will attract. If you do it first in your personal life then it will spill over into your church, ministry or institution. These things start with relationships,” explains Pastor Joseph. But this can only prove successful if the relationship is genuine.
Many pastors have approached Pastors Mark and Joseph and say they want a relationship, but they don’t mean a personal relationship. What they really mean is a working relationship, where their congregation serves Believers in Christ. “You might want to send your youth group to paint my church, but you won’t even let your own youth group paint your youth room. You pay a professional to paint your youth room, but you want them to come and paint mine? You want their church to understand giving and serving because it is more of a blessing to give than receive. But at the same time you force my congregation to never be blessed. You feel like you always have to serve me, but you won’t let me serve you,” describes Pastor Joseph. This one-way style of giving does not create an equal relationship that builds the kind of trust needed to truly reconcile. Pastor Joseph continues by saying, “It’s a byproduct of how we treat Jesus; we come into the Kingdom and immediately try to tell Jesus how to run His Kingdom. We forget we came into the Kingdom to develop a relationship with Him. We came to sit at His feet and learn.” It has taken ten years of friendship to build the trust that it takes to bring these two congregations together. There were no short-cuts or hidden agendas; it took a genuine friendship.
Exciting developments are occurring as the congregation finds its identity. It is switching its name to Sprit of the Lord Church. “Isaiah 61 really explains what we do and why we are there. It is only because of God in us and through us that allows us to make an impact on others. If you come through our doors you will feel the Spirit of the Lord. That is our prayer and statement,” explains Pastor Mark. Their desire to live out Isaiah 61 is also demonstrated in their active community outreach including youth programs, leadership development training, and Biker Sundays. They truly try to invest in the new generations. That is why a majority of their budget is dedicated to reaching the youth in their community. They also enjoy serving a specialized group with Biker Sundays. “All the bikers love us! They say we are their church and they swear I’m their pastor,” exclaims Pastor Joseph.
The newly-named Spirit of the Lord Church has incredible lessons to teach us, but there are more stories to be heard and lessons to be learned from North Minneapolis and across the U.S. This is why I am so excited about our upcoming 2012 CCDA National Conference. It is an opportunity for people around the nation to build relationships, gain perspectives, and move closer to the feet of Christ. Join us in the Twin Cities, September 26-29th, 2012.
11 Facts about Education and Poverty in the U.S.(taken from http://www.dosomething.org/ Visit their website to learn more.)
- What is the Poverty Line, anyway? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it's a family of four (two adults, two children) that earns less than $21,834.
- Still, $35,000 is basic-needs budget for a U.S. family of four (two adults, two children), as calculated in An Atlas of Poverty in America.
- In 2008, nearly 43.6 million people Americans lived in poverty (about 13.2% of the population); 12.9 million were under the age of 18.
- In the US, poverty is still tied to race: 24.7% of the African American population live below the poverty line while 8.6% of Caucasians do.
- School budgets are tied to property taxes. This is why schools in poor neighborhoods get about half as much money per student than schools in affluent neighborhoods.
- Three-quarters of the nation's schools (almost 60,000) report needing repairs, renovations or modernization in order to reach good condition.
- Not surprisingly, most schools in bad condition are in cities where at least 70% of students are below the poverty line.
- Urban students are less likely to graduate than their suburban counterparts. High school graduation rates are 15% lower in the nation’s urban schools when compared with those located in the suburbs.
- Graduation rates are also lower among certain groups, particularly ethnic minorities and males. In 2008, the graduation rate among African-Americans was 61.5% compared to 81% for whites.
- In 2008, 17 of the nation's 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates lower than 50%, with the lowest rates reported in Detroit (24.9%), Indianapolis (30.5%) and Cleveland (34.1%).
- Children of poor families are up to six times more likely to drop out than wealthy children.
This is a webinar from the Christian organization, TechMission, that addresses the roles race, class, gender, and faith play in the discrepancies in non-profit funding. It expounds on the idea that non-profits need to be locally based and staffed with people from the demographic of the areas they're trying to serve in order to be most effective and to have the ability to form relationships within communities. Click on the link below to go directly to the website where you can watch the webinar, complete with audio. http://www.slideshare.net/techmission/race-class-gender-faith-nonprofit-funding
When you start to examine poverty, you can quickly become overwhelmed by its complexity. Its roots lie in broken relationships that play out in all arenas, systems, institutions, and cultures in various ways that create inequality, injustice, and unbalances of power. The world needs creative and critical thinkers willing to challenge the status quo and generate bold new ideas on how to level playing fields so that everyone has the opportunity and tools to be successful. A key component to this, especially in the Majority World, is making sure that resources that should belong to all, like natural resources that God as creator made for mankind and calls us all to be stewards of, are harnessed in ways that benefit all peoples and not just the few who society has given the power to claim those resources for themselves.
The following is a webinar, from a Christian organization called TechMission, titled "Understanding Poverty in America." This is a great introduction into understanding some of the prevalent inequalities in our systems and in the way we distribute wealth, giving, and opportunities. You can click on the link below to go directly to the website where you can watch the webinar, complete with audio, as well as download the power point file for yourself by clicking the download file button below.
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The Message (MSG)
Your Prayers Won't Get Off the Ground
"Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what's wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins! They're busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people— law-abiding, God-honoring. They ask me, 'What's the right thing to do?' and love having me on their side. But they also complain, 'Why do we fast and you don't look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?'
"Well, here's why: "The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist. The kind of fasting you do won't get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?
"This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'
A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places
"If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people's sins, If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go. I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. "If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don't use my holy day for personal advantage, If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God's holy day as a celebration, If you honor it by refusing 'business as usual,' making money, running here and there—Then you'll be free to enjoy God! Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all. I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob."
Yes! God says so!
This is from the book Toxic Charity, by Robert Lupton. It is something all Christians and anyone considering working with the poor, should commit themselves to and strive to follow. This is an amazing book that follows many of the same points outlined by the Chalmers Center, CCDA (Christian Community Development Association), and what is at the cutting edge of research into what actually helps the poor without hurting them.
Oath for Compassionate Service
* Never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves.
* Limit one-way giving to emergency situations.
* Strive to empower the poor through employment, lending, and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements.
* Subordinate self-interests to the needs of those being served.
* Listen closely to those you seek to help, especially to what is not being said-unspoken feelings may contain essential clues to effective service.
* Above all, do no harm." (Lupton, pp. 8-9)
Poverty is complex, messy, and widespread. Various forms effect billions of people. Poverty is about broken relationships with our Creator, the world, others, and ourselves. Poverty often looks different in various situations and occurs on a broad spectrum of degrees. Successful poverty alleviation requires us to properly identify causes and be smart about solutions. There's no quick fix or easy answer. We have to work together, dream big, think critically, evaluate humbly, give both generously and thoughtfully, and be in constant prayer that God will grant us wisdom to steward His resources, which He has entrusted us with, for the good of all and to His glory.
The following article deals with the Church's ability to erradicate the most extreme forms of poverty that those in the Majority World are currently facing. It does not imply that all other forms of poverty can be abolished forever. Many times Christains misinterpret the intentions of Jesus when he said that the poor will always be with us and take that to mean that all forms of poverty are inevitable outcomes of living in a fallen, cursed world and so there's not to much we can do about it. But that is not so. It talks about in the Book of Acts, how believers shared their resources with the Church who redistributed them as needed, and that in doing so there "was no poor among them" (Acts 2:45, Acts 4:34-35) Yes, there are some things we can't change, and there are many forms of poverty, especially ones resulting form individual choice, that will be around forever and are often what God uses for our redemption (think the Prodigal Son). But the most extreme forms of poverty, that wage life and death battles for countless victims, is something the Church is uniquely poised to do something about. Let's answer Christ's call to care for the least of these, and in doing so, show our care for Him. Click the links in blue below to learn more and visit the original websites.
THE CHURCH & EXTREME POVERTY
DR. SCOTT TODD | 08 FEBRUARY 2012 "Make Poverty History!" "End Poverty Now!"
Sounds a lot like “Save the Planet,” “Save the Rainforest,” “Save the Whales” and “Free Tibet.” Those who believe in such slogans are naïve idealists with little nuanced understanding of the real issues. Right?
Maybe you believe ending poverty is possible in theory, but you doubt it can be accomplished in reality. After all, the statistics are overwhelming. But extreme poverty worldwide has been cut in half, reduced from 52 percent to 26 percent. That’s a 26 percent drop, and we have 26 percent to go. We’ve been handed a
baton by the previous generation—do you think we can win the race?
It will require intelligence, wisdom, perseverance and resources. I hear someone insisting, “It will require a miracle from God.” Who gave us all the resources and wisdom in the first place? Maybe He’s waiting for us to do what He has repeatedly told us to do.
We need to understand the engines that drove us from 52 to 26 percent, and we need to decide if those same engines are adequate to finish the task. Because the next 26 percent will be more difficult than the last. But there should be no question of whether it is possible. It is absolutely possible.The question is not, “Can we end poverty?” The question is, “How can we end poverty?”
The Unrivaled Capacity of the Church
For the first time in human history, we have the realistic possibility of ending extreme global poverty—and it presents an incredible opportunity for the Church of Jesus Christ.
Many Christians are trapped by low expectations for the future. Not just for the future of poverty but for the future in general. Thankfully, the old idea thatthe world is supposed to get worse is losing dominion. Maybe, just maybe, the world can get better. Maybe we will do our part to make it happen.
The Church is the only organization with hundreds of millions of members and the capacity to mobilize hundreds of millions of volunteers. I’m not just talking about the good people serving in soup kitchens—I’m talking about performing the ultimate act of caring for the poor: ending extreme poverty.
The Church is unrivaled in its capacity. If you want to respond to the massive challenges of global poverty, then the Church is the organization with the legsto get it done. Here are a few reasons why:
• The “service delivery points” of local churches greatly outnumber branches of government, as does
• In some African countries up to 70 percent of their health care is delivered by private Christian organizations, and those services are of superior quality to government-run hospitals and clinics.
• The Church was present in Rwanda before the genocide, through it and it is still there today.
• In 2006, a Gallup poll found Africans were most likely to trust their churches and least likely to trust their governments.
• The Church was there before the AIDS pandemic, through it and you can count on the Church being there when it is finally brought to its end.
The Root of Poverty
But these are just strategic reasons why the Church plays a critical role in ending poverty. You might think I’m arguing that the Church’s strategic assets are its strength, but they are secondary. The ultimate reason why the Church is critical to the work of ending poverty is the promise of Jesus.
The root of poverty is the insidious and fatalistic lie that whispers: “You can’t. You don’t matter, and it isn’t going to get any better.” What institution carries the truth that defeats that lie? Who proclaims the message that “with God you can”? Who declares, “You do matter, and it can get better because God really does love us”? Who offers the only foundation of durable hope? It’s the Church.
Jesus could have started a business for social good, but instead He established the Church and promised “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, KJV). The Church, expressed in local disciple-making communities, is commissioned by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit to advance the Kingdom on earth. And that includes the eradication of the evil of extreme poverty.
No other organization was founded by Christ or promises victory against the forces of hell.
The Role of Ministry
American churches on average spend 96 percent of their offerings to pay for the facilities, staffing and production costs of the weekly experiences. Of the 4 percent that does go beyond the church walls, only a small fraction goes to anti-poverty work. And that could be because people generally give far less than 1 percent of their personal income to anti-poverty work. Twenty percent of all American Christians don’t give at all. Total giving among Christians, including church offerings and all tax-deductible contributions to any cause or organization, is 2.9 percent. Nonreligious Americans give 0.7 percent.
We’ve got a lot of work to do to encourage the support of Christian holistic ministry for the poor. Such work must begin with you—the leader. Here are five ways to begin inspiring and leading your church to become part of a unified global Christian effort to end extreme poverty in this lifetime.
Read Isaiah 58. Then consider leading your congregation to pledge to live what it says, including a commitment to prayer and fasting, which will help align your hearts toward God’s for the poor.
Shout. Isaiah’s challenge is to “shout it aloud, do not hold back.” Speak on helping the poor at least once every two months at your church; invite experts in this field to speak or give evening seminars on a regular basis.
Unite. Create opportunities for members of your church to rally around specific projects, like partnering with a church or orphanage in another country. Stay committed for the long haul by sending volunteers, donating money, writing letters and inviting people from there to visit your church (and offering to pay for it).
Give. Make it easy for people to donate to charities you support on your website. Include information on them, why you support them and a way to donate. You can also give by praying for the project, the people doing the work and those in the community.
Celebrate. Make serving and giving a regular happening at your church, like a bimonthly serving day where people volunteer with local organizations you support. Regularly applaud volunteers and organizations making a difference in your area.
The biggest obstacle facing the Church today is not a lack of resources, faith or participation—it’s a battle with our own low expectations.
What if the whole Gospel to the whole world came through the elimination of poverty? Let’s adjust our expectations accordingly.May we work with perseverance and resolve as we seek to lift the poor—all 1.4 billion of them—out of extreme poverty.And may we not be satisfied until that new reality has come.
This article is adapted from one that appeared in Neue magazine.