This past Saturday I was volunteered (by someone whose name will remain anonymous) for duty at our USCWM/WCUI foodbank. We receive just about to expire and some unsellable food from some local Trader Joes (thanks to TJ) stores and the food is divided into categories and then we each pass through to pick out food we would like to take home. This day I was accompanied by my daughter, Leah, who was to help me see what I needed to do so that I could actually be of some use. Also helping out as a “setup” person (they get to go through the line after the drivers and before all the rest) was Anne who is from Africa. She was there with her 2 lovely daughters and has been involved in this Saturday AM event for some time. I heard her accent and struck up a conversation as we were waiting for the drivers to arrive with the goods.

Enthusiastically she shared her story. Anne had grown up in a central African country and her was family was so poor that their poor neighbors considered her family as poor! But through the messages delivered by her pastor in their home church Anne began to hear God speaking through her pastors teaching and what she heard transformed her mind and her life. My immediate thought when she mentioned the name of her church (the name is too long for me to remember) was that it was probably a “prosperity” gospel church. Oh no Anne replied. What the pastor shared was not the prosperity gospel as most people understand it but a gospel of hope and encouragement that God did not intend that His people sit idly by suffering with poverty and ill health. No, He was a God of true prosperity but prosperity as understood in the concept of shalom. He wants His people to live lives that are full of His peace, the peace that passes all human understanding. This pastor taught that his congregants were responsible for their own well being and that their lives could be made better with their own efforts in tune with the work of the Holy Spirit active and alive in our lives! WOW I wanted to shout thanks be to God that He would allow me to hear such a story. But what has this to do with Zeal and Knowledge?

Let me take us back to the purpose of this blog. It is primarily intended to assist those with a passion/zeal for doing good to acquire a deepening knowledge base for how to match their zeal with sufficient knowledge so as to maximize our efforts for kingdom transformation. This story gets to the heart of this purpose. This story illustrates that there are indeed some excellent churches globally whose pastors are preaching and teaching sound messages that have enough impact to transform thinking and thus lives. There may be more sound messages such as this being preached globally than in the church in the west. So for those in the western church who are involved in global missions activities remember one of the principles we think is foundational to effective involvement cross-culturally is working through local churches who have leadership that is preaching and teaching the truth about the overwhelming good news that not only did Jesus die for our sins that we might have eternal life but that He also, along with the Father and Holy Spirit, desire to see His people living lives of shalom and not lives of poverty and dis-ease. We must acknowledge that God is working through His Church all over the world and if we involve ourselves and our churches in cross-cultural global ministry without being connected to such churches and leaders as Anne describes then we are not practicing zeal with knowledge and we are probably causing more harm than good.

 

Driving back from a recent consultation I was listening to the daily BBC report on NPR. (yes they have some worthy programming) The date was the 20 anniversary of the start of the Rwanda genocide during which some 800,000 people lost their lives to a savagery that shocked the world. One hundred days of unspeakable cruelty in a country that I believe at the time was considered around 90% “Christian.” 

Jackie Northam, the Canadian reporter involved, tells the story of interviewing a Hutu man some months later who was involved in the killings. “He told me they were people he’d been friends with and regularly shared dinner with. He was a godfather to one of the children he killed. He couldn’t explain why; he said he didn’t know what came over him.” This is likely what a lot of prosecutors heard from the testimonies of those accused of similar atrocities during the reign of terror in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. But the real telling part of the Northam piece is what she says at the end. 

For me, this sums up the Rwanda genocide. It’s like a madness took over the country, turning otherwise normal, reasonable, loving people into monsters. It took me a long time afterward to try to make sense of what I had witnessed.

But I finally concluded there was no use trying. I believe mankind, at its base, is good. What happened in Rwanda 20 years ago was an aberration. (you can read the article and listen to her story here)

Here in a nutshell is one of the essentials that distinguishes those who function from a biblically informed view vs those who still, in spite of all that history has shown us, hold to the secular/humanist faith system. We recognize that the bible is true in what it teaches about our basic nature. That we are sinful and when left to our own devices we will choose evil. (think Lord of the Flies) Yes we are made in the image of God and have great capacity for good works. But as illustrated during this terrible chapter in human existence when all restraint is thrown off we all have the capacity to butcher our neighbors just as happened in Rwanda and we all have the capacity to act just like the Nazi’s in Germany in the 1930’s and ’40’s. If we don’t understand this then we don’t truly grasp the depth of God’s grace on the cross. Without a true understanding of our own capacity for evil we cannot know the full grace of Christ.

The question of how this could have happened in a country considered mostly “Christian” is a post for a later time. Also for a later time is the discussion surrounding the term “faith based organization.” I would argue there isn’t a person on earth working for an NGO or other charitable organization that isn’t doing it based on a faith system of some sort.