About ten years ago I began to feel restless about the work of the missionary organization I was part of. To be sure, there was lots to be happy about. We had dedicated missionaries very effective at building relationships in the community and sharing the gospel. People were coming to Christ, some leaders were emerging. All of this was good and strong. Nevertheless, something seemed to be missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it. But I kept asking one question: Shouldn’t the gospel make a difference in a community that everyone could see?
We had a compelling vision statement: “to see a culturally relevant church in every community.” Our research indicated that would require about 12,000 new churches. And yet it occurred to me that a church in every community would not necessarily fulfill the command of Jesus Christ to disciple the nations. Why? Because too many churches are holy huddles, not engaged with the community, not discipling the nation. And not even 12,000 holy huddles will disciple a nation.
As I look back, I believe we were suffering from a malady that plagues too many Christians, what you might call SSDD, the Sacred-Secular Divide Disorder.
So I had these questions but no answers. Then I heard someone teach a DNA seminar on the causes of poverty. He said that poverty doesn’t come from external causes, but is mostly the result of the way people think. I had never heard this before. I talked to him afterward and asked him what I could read. “I’ll send you something,” he promised, and a few days later a book arrived: Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures. As I read it, the sun started to come up in my mind and heart.
The more I learned about what it means to live with a biblical worldview, about the comprehensiveness of God’s concerns for the world, the more I began to suspect that Yes, the gospel can make a difference that everyone can see. It can, and it should.
And it does.
Earlier this year at a global forum in Pretoria, South Africa, we heard reports of DNA partners from around the world. They told stories of growth in every dimension of life: social, spiritual, physical, intellectual. Gospel ministry had led to changes that everyone could see.
One woman from SE Asia reported on a training program for low literacy churches. After a three-year series of DNA trainings, communities were experiencing measurable improvement in relationships in the community, health, education, local economies, government relations, church growth, spiritual maturity. She showed us the actual numbers measuring the growth of various practices: using a latrine, constructing roads, building healthier houses, children attending school, families having devotions, Christians increasing their tithing … at least 20 measurable changes that everyone in the community could see!
In fact, 250 of these communities had completed the program and were now saying, “We have no more poverty here. We’re looking for other communities in our area to help.”
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Mat 5:14-16 NIV)
- Gary Brumbelow