Having looked at some of the characteristics that relate to the secular agencies we will now look at some of the distinctives of the church in its development work. However, I must stress that this is inevitably a somewhat simplistic overview and there is often significant overlap between the practice of the church and the world.
In the recently published book ‘In His image’ p137 (2010 Authentic Media) Andy Matheson says
‘Because all people are made in the image of God, all people need to be reconnected with Him if they are truly going to experience transformation in their lives. Transformation cannot come simply through helping people with employment, health, or any other area of physical or emotional wellbeing’.
The most significant difference between the secular agency and the church is the gospel. As stated in earlier postings effective development is not just about the change of outward circumstances, important as that is. More crucially it is about transformation which, as the Christian is aware, starts with the heart.
As Christians are involved in development they bring the fragrance of Christ. In Romans 1:19, 20 Paul makes it clear that all men and women have seen God in the evidence of creation and His created beings. And so, as people encounter us, His representatives on earth, they are encountering God in some measure, whether we share the gospel through the spoken word or through our lifestyle and love for every individual.
Someone in crisis (such as a disaster) or whose lifestyle is blighted by circumstances beyond their control (termed as ‘captives’ in the Kingdom mandate of Isaiah 61) may find it hard to receive the spoken gospel even if we try to share. However, they do experience it through their interaction with us and we can prayerfully be in faith that through our testimony people will take a step in their journey of discovering Jesus. Once they have done so we can expect to see the resulting change of heart produce a change of behaviour that will lift them from their present circumstances to a life of hope.
Next time we will look at the value of the church being an integral part of the community.