We are happy to post, in four installments, a paper by our Disciple Nations Alliance colleague, Dwight Vogt, on a subject of vital concern to our readers. Go here to read Dwight’s excellent paper in its entirety.
The Unique Role of the Local Church in Developing a Flourishing Community
This paper is addressed to those who have a heart to bring hope and healing to broken communities and believe that the local church has an important role to play in this endeavor. It is particularly aimed at those who work cross-culturally to alleviate chronic poverty and bring development change to communities.
This paper is written to encourage us to take a step back and ask, “What is the unique strength and role of the local church in helping its community to develop and flourish?” And also, “How can we best equip and support the local church in fulfilling its strategic role?”
I recently saw a group of adults at the airport wearing matching t-shirts and carrying passports. I surmised they were from a local church and were going to another country to serve for a week or two in some community. Churches around the world are increasingly involved in cross-cultural ministry in partnership with a local church abroad.
In addition to these church-to-church initiatives we see international Christian relief and development organizations working to help the poor. Some are small and relatively new. Others are large and well-established and see themselves as functioning within the professional norms and practices of the international development community. Some cover a wide range of development sectors, including health care, education and agriculture. Others specialize in a particular area such as clean water or micro-finance. Whether small and new or large and well-established, most of these Christian agencies would say that they endeavor to partner with the local church whenever possible.
There are also growing numbers of mission organizations who identify their work as wholistic ministry. They engage in evangelism, church planting and discipleship and also endeavor to address the physical and development needs of the community. Again, they emphasize doing this in partnership with the local church.
Finally, there is the Christian individual working with a secular development organization or government agency. She also has a heart to see the local church carry out its role in the development of the community and desires to support the church toward this end.
All of these examples have two common denominators: Their involvement in addressing the poverty and development needs in the community, and their belief that this should be done in partnership with the local church.
If we are a member of one of the aforementioned groups, as I have been for over 30 years, we obviously believe that there is a role for the global church in addressing the poverty and development needs of a community or we would not be engaged in this way. Our desire to partner with the local church makes it clear that we believe it, too, has a critical role to play. So what is this role and how do we best support the local church in this?
We understand the role of the local church in worship, the study of the word, evangelism and discipleship. But what is its role in addressing the poverty and development needs of its community? What is its role in helping its neighbors and community to thrive and flourish as God intends?
I would like to suggest that there are four ways the local church is able to facilitate this change in the community:
- Carry Vision
- Promote Truth (reverse lies)
… to be continued
– Dwight Vogt
 Albeit, the definition of wholistic ministry for many persons is much broader and deeper than this.
Dwight Vogt serves as the vice president of international programs. Before coming to the DNA, he worked for 27 years at Food for the Hungry, including field-based leadership roles in Bangladesh, Peru, Thailand and Guatemala. Dwight is the author of Footings for Children: Imparting a Biblical Worldview So They Can Thrive. He earned his master’s degree in intercultural studies and missiology from Biola University. He has three adult children and lives with his wife, Deborah, in Phoenix, Arizona.
- The Church and Development in Paraguay’s “Green Hell”
- A Wasteland Transformed to a Garden
- Tim Keller, Young Leaders, and the Mission of the Church