Bringing Hope to a Desperate World
Tri Robinson is senior pastor of the Vineyard Boise in Boise, ID, founder of RE:FORM and author of Revolutionary Leadership. To learn more about RE:FORM, visit www.reform-now.org.
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. – Isaiah 61:1, NIV
Despite our deepest desires, the world isn’t simple—and neither are its growing problems. The complexity of a world that is rapidly shrinking on a daily basis has complicated the church’s best efforts to respond to global crises. At times it seems the worst of culture and society seem to spread faster than the best. However, as Christians living with the hope of Christ in our hearts and a strong desire to see God’s redemptive nature restore so much brokenness, we must not dismay. We must follow God’s leading to participate with Him to bring out the beauty from the muck and the mire.
Our journey of discovering how we were going to address all these world crises began through the examination of the declining environment. Through a number of conversations and events, I came to realize that our church – and the body of Christ as a whole – had failed to bring Christ into the conversation regarding stewardship of the environment. We remained content with dispensational theology that concluded God was going to destroy the earth and create a new one—so why bother to be a leading caretaker of it? But as people challenged me, I began to be convicted about that idea and started pursuing more deeply what God’s Word said about His creation. What I found was that we were failing in our role to be good stewards of the earth.
In moving forward, we developed programs in our church on how to address environmental concerns locally. Then our focus began to include an international aspect as we explored how we could implement this into our approach to missions abroad. Our initial discoveries overwhelmed us.
Where our mission teams work in Zambia, it wasn’t just that the people needed clean water, but they needed to be educated about how to keep their water clean. It wasn’t just that the soil was bad, it was that people didn’t understand how their topsoil was being eroded as they clear cut forests to survive, furthering the poverty cycle. It wasn’t just that the people weren’t getting enough international aid, but they couldn’t get the aid due to government corruption. We quickly realized that a one-pronged or even two- or three-pronged approach wasn’t enough. There needed to be a holistic approach to address some of the world’s growing crises, both at home and abroad.
In surveying all of our ministries and matching them up with different areas of crises in the world, seven distinct categories became apparent to us that not only needed to be addressed on a global scale but were already being addressed through our local church. Here are the seven areas we determined needed to be addressed:
1. Environmental Decline. The impact of a declining environment is felt hardest among the poor—both in the U.S. and abroad. That alone is a strong enough reason to rally Christians to return to their role as leaders in caring for creation after the issue became largely politicized in the last century. We’ll leave the debate over the cause of climate change to time and experts, but as Christians we cannot simply be in a reactionary state when it comes to the impact of a declining environment.
2. World Hunger. Worldwide, government agencies estimate more than 1 billion people are going hungry. In the U.S. alone, more than 11 million children are in households that have to skip meals or settle for insufficient portions because they can’t afford to eat properly or healthily.
3. Human Injustice. While this category is broad and could at the same time be seen as all inclusive of every issue we are addressing, there are some injustices that we’ve chosen to highlight, starting with human trafficking. The U.S. government estimates that somewhere between 14,000 and 17,000 people are trafficked into the country each year. And thousands more are trafficked domestically. The fact that slavery still exists in the world today should also move Christians to take action, much less that more than 30 million people worldwide are trapped in this dark underworld. We are also helping refugees and addressing racial reconciliation among other issues.
4. Illiteracy and Lack of Education. In many developing countries as well as in the U.S., illiteracy and poor education keep people stuck in a perpetual poverty cycle. We are addressing these two things locally as well as through our missions teams abroad.
5. Poor Health and Disease. Whether it’s the AIDS epidemic spreading across Africa or the more than one million people who die each year from malaria-related diseases, the health issues across the globe are staggering. Christians have always been leaders in helping address these issues—and that shouldn’t stop.
6. Immoral and Corrupt Leadership. While the world often responds in times of need, many people who need help can’t get it because of corrupt governments. Food supplies are held up or diverted to the ruling power’s armed forces. Leaders sell out their people to line their pockets, never taking into account the well-being of those they serve. It happens all over the world. Good leadership education is imperative to help stem the tide of this quiet epidemic.
7. Spiritual Deadness and Confusion. There have been plenty of well-meaning groups that have tried to address many of the issues above, but without Christ it’s merely a temporary behavioral change that occurs rather than a life-long transformation of the heart.
What we found interesting wasn’t just that there are roughly seven areas that need to be addressed but how these seven areas are all interconnected. For example, human trafficking victims are preyed upon by traffickers who have to walk long distances to get fresh water (human injustice and environmental decline). The spread of AIDS in Africa has increased with the widespread myth that sleeping with a virgin will cure you (poor health and disease, human injustice and education). Somewhere along the way, if you look closely enough, you’ll begin to see the connections between different issues. And no matter how well you address these issues, if Christ isn’t at the center of why you’re doing it—both in theology and practice, then the best efforts will fall short in bringing about a long-lasting transformation to communities and cultures worldwide.
In addressing these issues, we started a ministry called RE:FORM that serves as the umbrella organization within our local church. It is also our hope that RE:FORM will help network like-minded Christians, churches and parachurch organizations together to address a world in crisis from a more holistic perspective. Jesus’ mission on earth was outlined in Isaiah 61, and it’s more than a worthy blueprint for the church’s ministry today. We desire to see the creativity of Christ emerge as we examine together a way to address the culture like Christ did—by meeting both the physical and spiritual needs of a world in desperate need of hope.