A World Without Jesus Followers = No Universities, Chimneys Or Pianos

I was born in the wealthiest, most prosperous and free nation on the face of the planet.  When I got here, things were really good. Growing up, I assumed everyone everywhere lived like people in the United States. Imagine my shock when I discovered that was not the case.

It is quite common when church teams visit developing countries, for them to pine and lament over the conditions of the people they are serving. This provides a great opportunity for leaders to discuss the conditions and circumstances that lead to either poverty or prosperity. The secular world is largely in the dark on this issue. Western governments and humanitarian agencies pour billions of dollars in aid into countries, and assume money and goods will fix the problems. When you have a materialistic or naturalistic worldview, it’s no surprise that the idea of MORE PHYSICAL RESOURCES makes the most sense as an answer to poverty.  While it is true that financial resources can be used strategically as a “surrogate economy” when doing development work in a community, if under-resourced people are not challenged on how they THINK, lasting change will not happen.  Poverty has to be dealt with on the level of CULTURE, the normative beliefs and practices of a group.  This is why it is essential for the local church (in North America and abroad) to be in the poverty alleviation business; we have the answers to this issue…they are contained in some of the final words of Jesus before he left his disciples;

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-19 (NIV)

Obeying Jesus is not a matter of religious duty, it’s a matter of whether a nation will prosper or not, spiritually and physically. I am not referencing any sort of “prosperity Gospel”, but simply the reality that following the Master is about so much more than Sunday services and evangelistic crusades. Jesus is the creator in human flesh, the author of reality. His words contain the blueprint for human flourishing. Understanding the picture the Bible paints of what it means to be human, the nature of reality, the nature of progress and the moral underpinnings of existence are critical in poverty alleviation and the creation of just societies. Without truth, justice and beauty, nations wither…and mankind’s natural tendency is to fight against parameters that actually exist for our benefit. We want to be “free” to do as we please in everything, yet such freedom ultimately brings bondage.

Rodney Stark, former professor at the University of Washington was compelled by his extensive study of history to eventually embrace Christianity.  He had this to say;

Christianity created Western civilization. Had the followers of Jesus remained an obscure Jewish sect, most of you would not have learned to read and the rest of you would be reading from hand held scrolls. Without a theology committed to reason, progress, and moral equality, today the entire world would be about where non-European societies were in, say, 1800: A world with many astrologers and alchemists but no scientists. A world of despots, lacking universities, banks, factories, eyeglasses, chimneys, and pianos. A world where most infants do not live to the age of five and many women die in childbirth-a world truly living in “dark ages.” The modern world only arose in Christian societies…Not in “secular” society – there having been none. {emphasis mine} And all the modernization that has since occurred outside Christendom was imported from the west, often brought by colonizers and missionaries.  The Victory Of Reason, page 233

I know now that my country is prosperous for a reason, and I plan to do all I can to make that reason known, both inside and outside its borders. I want to see the organization I direct play a significant part in helping churches export ideas that bring flourishing to those who desperately need it…and hopefully I can help bring understanding in my own land of this reality; if you hack away at the trunk of the tree while perched in its branches, eventually gravity will have its way with you.

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