A Theology of Poverty in Today’s World

Scripture states clearly that as we seek to share the saving knowledge of Christ, we are to “remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10). But what does this mean both theologically and in practice? This module highlights the work of evangelical theologians and development organizations as they strive to be faithful to this mandate. Themes include holistic mission, transformational development, a missional approach to doing church, what the Bible says about poverty and evangelical critiques of the prosperity gospel. Among the documents are papers presented at the 2010 Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization, books and podcasts produced by World Vision and Food for the Hungry, and graduate class syllabi by evangelical scholars at Eastern University. The module also includes perspectives on poverty from non-evangelical Christian actors that evangelicals have found useful.

Christians Engaging Government

Should followers of Jesus engage governments on issues that are important to them, especially in light of Romans 13? If so, how? Evangelicals have differed on answers to these questions, and have developed contrasting strategies in their efforts to remain faithful to the Scriptures. This module includes writings from historical Protestant leaders, such as John Calvin and John Wesley, and from contemporary evangelical leaders, such as John MacArthur and David Gushee. Special emphasis is placed on the debated issue of government involvement in efforts to end hunger and poverty. Bibliographies and class syllabi are provided from evangelical scholars at Calvin College, Houghton College, Wheaton College, the Center for Public Justice, and elsewhere. A selection of resources from non-evangelical Christian actors that evangelicals have found to be useful is also included.

Government Initiatives Against Global Poverty

Government efforts to reduce poverty around the globe have had a mixed history, ranging from disastrous to highly effective. This module presents resources that reflect on the engagement of foreign assistance from an evangelical perspective. Evangelicals have a vested interest in this issue: many evangelical Christian organizations (Samaritan’s Purse, The Salvation Army, World Relief, and World Vision, among a host of others) seek and receive US government funds to support their development efforts. It should be noted that other evangelical organizations (Compassion International is a prominent example) do not accept government funding.

The resources in this module cover four main themes. Some materials are dedicated to explaining, in a straightforward manner, how foreign assistance works. Others provide strong critiques of the current state of the foreign assistance system. Still other materials highlight successful government initiatives against global poverty. A final important theme in this module is how non-governmental organizations receive and utilize government funds.

Advocacy on US Government Foreign Assistance

This module provides resources that develop a thoroughly biblical understanding of advocacy, give witness and testimony to the Gospel, and create opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Whereas Module Three shows the ways evangelical organizations utilize foreign assistance to strengthen overseas programs, Module Four shows how evangelical organizations and individuals shape government decisions about the nature and extent of the foreign assistance they provide. Those involved in this work have chosen to ‘swim upstream’ in the decision making process; their efforts in America’s halls of power often have consequences for how people fight poverty and hunger around the world.

Practical guides to doing advocacy, especially as it relates to influencing US foreign assistance, can be found here. These ‘how-to’ types of resources have been written by experts in the field — many have been provided by Bread for the World. Other materials in this module show how evangelicals have used legislative advocacy to influence, shape, improve and reform US foreign assistance on the issues of hunger and poverty. Reflections from leaders such as Os Guiness and Ron Sider stand out, but many other evangelical voices are also included.

*All modules have four basic types of resources: papers and presentations, media files, bibliographies, and sample class syllabi.