By Beram Kumar
Beram is the executive director of STAMP – Strategic Missions Partnerships Inc.
Much of the poorest of the poor of the world today are also the “least reached peoples” amongst us as well. I am sure you are familiar with all the statistics, so I won’t labor on that front.
What I do want to say though is that “community economic transformation” provides a strategic opportunity for us to see “His Kingdom Come” amongst all the peoples of the world.
When God called Abraham out from his homeland, it was a call made with a promise-responsibility. The promise was that God was going to bless him, the responsibility was that, he is then to “be a blessing to all peoples.”
This is the cornerstone and the foundation of the New Testament great commission as well, i.e. “to be a blessing to all peoples.” What does it mean to be a blessing to all peoples.
I believe it is a “complete (holistic) blessing” …body, soul and spirit. The most important of course is the reconciling of people to HIM, but in order to get there (and sustain it), the Gospel must have a total impact in their lives.
The blessing must be complete. The transformation must be total, and as such our strategy needs to be holistic.
A careful reading of the Gospels will show us that, more than often, Jesus first did “good works” and as a result of that, was asked questions about “eternal life” and “the kingdom of God.”
Much of His preaching was an answer to questions. I believe this pattern still works today. In fact, I will go further to say that if we want to have a strategic entry to ALL peoples even those who are resistant, we must adopt a similar pattern.
Communicating the Gospel is more than preaching. We also need to demonstrate to people how the Gospel can have a positive impact on ALL of their lives.
What is “Community Economic Transformation” and how does it work? I am sure there are many excellent models out there, but what I am able to share is only that with which I am involved. (We are still learning, and ….unlearning all the time.)
As a ministry, we are focused on the “unreached peoples” (“least reached peoples”). An unreached people is a group of people (with a common culture and language) and who have little to no access to the Gospel.
There are thousands of such people groups today, mostly in a part of the world that is called the “10/40 Window.”
(For more info, check out www.ethne-net.) To most of these peoples, often times it is not that the Gospel is not known, but (I feel), “it has not been preached in a way that they can understand (language/culture) and in a way that makes it compelling enough (transformation wise) for them to give up everything and follow Christ.”
In our efforts, we follow a 3 step strategy for making an entry into unreached communities. (There are 2 “entry-steps” that we need to distinguish. One is a “legal entry into a country,” i.e. a visa issue.
The other, and I feel more important, is the “community entry,” i.e. a credibility issue. Often times, I have seen only the former, and not the latter.). The 3 step strategy :
1. Knowing Where To Target : This phase involves researching where the unreached peoples are, who is already in there, what has worked and what has not, etc. There is much we can learn, to adopt, adapt and avoid.
We don’t need to make the same mistakes, and we don’t need to “fix what is not broken.” If there is a strategy that is working, flow with those already there.
2. Knowing What Is Happening : We also pay close attention to also what is happening in the socio-economic and geo-political realm.
In a number of places where we are working, the government of the country (and often times the governments of neighboring countries as well), have a specific goal (e.g. poverty eradication or improving health care). We have found that to a be a strategic “entry point.”
3. Knowing Our Strengths : Our churches today are filled with people who are skilled and knowledgeable in areas such business entrepreneurship, health care, human resource, etc. Develop a strategy that harnesses our strengths.
Why call it “community ECONOMIC transformation?” Put simply, it is speaking the language of the audience. That is what most want (or think they need). Poverty, poor health, lack of education, joblessness, crime, drug abuse, etc. are all inter-related.
We cannot successfully tackle one, without addressing the others. So, using “economic” is not about limiting our approach to “helping people make money.”
When we sit down with the government and community leaders, we explain to them why it is important ….to have education, proper health care, even healthy entertainment (e.g. sports), etc. We have found a “good audience” with most (if not all) governments /community leaders with whom we work.
As a result, we now have entry into some of the “most resistant” parts of the world today.
As a missions-mobilizer, one of the most exciting thing I am also seeing is how missions approached in this way provides an opening for everyone in the Body of Christ to be involved, and not just the “preachers.”
Today, some of my best friends and allies in the work we are doing in these closed-communities are the professionals …medical doctors, businessmen, teachers, sportsmen, etc.
I believe in missions today, we need to genuinely look to “transforming communities” and bring our entire resources to bear on that. We need to move away from the spiritual-natural dichotomy.
We need to transform the total person, the total community, the whole nation. (Ps 2:8). It is the context of that “transformation,” that we find openings to preach Christ …and to also LIVE Christ !
As you seek HIM on how to make your life count, avoid the temptation of “pouring new wine into old wine skins,” i.e. how did the missionaries do it 200 years ago, or even 50 years ago.
They are heroes and I love them, but what worked for them was their obedience to HIM ..for their time, for their generation. Ask HIM for “new wine skins!”