DJ's Book Rants

A Seminary student and pastor trying to find an outlet for all the books he has to read.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Local Church, Agent of Transformation

In chapter 2 of Yamamori and Padilla book The Local Church, Agent of Transformation Voth writes pointedly about integral mission and the realities of poverty and injustice. He champions the needs of the poor as more than a handout or single church effort. Voth calls Christians to an “awareness of the complex interactions of the many forces in our individual and social lives as well as in the world (84).” An integral mission will demand individuals and churches to evaluate their understanding of justice and anthropology.

Voth explains on page 84 that the economic power center determines the shapes of all other community cultural and social structures. It is the lack of justice within the economic sphere that is “the principle—and practically exclusive—cause of poverty (97). ” Voth calls the church to practice biblical justice, be open-handed, and work by means of its social relationships to alleviate poverty (97). In bringing justice to our culture our anthropology is important. Voth makes a great point on page 59, "It is not simply about feeding someone, but about creating a context in which human beings can also regain their dignity(59)." Later he gives this fuller explanation when he writes, ““Poverty is a cruel and oppressive reality. It dehumanizes people to such an extent that it is almost impossible to affirm that the image of God is reflected in them.” Voth presents the challenge of attacking injustice systems while bringing value and worth to human life.

To believe what Voth is saying is true requires both repentance and change. Integral mission puts a premium on how individuals steward the 90% of the resources they keep. The 10% should be given “out of hand” to help the poor, but individuals still have the 90% at their disposal to bring justice and dignity to our world. As Voth has stated beautifully, “This means that faithfulness to God has little to do with what one gives, but it has a lot to do with what one keeps or holds back for oneself (80)." Helping the poor and creating a culture of justice is a full time vocation for every Christian.

Some of Voth’s claims about the poor seem to be overstated. On page 56 he says, “the very existence of the poor is a sign that Christ’s disciples are not obeying the mandate of Deuteronomy.” This seems to be an over simplification of what Voth himself has called a “complex” problem. Effort and money will not be enough to ride the world of injustice and poverty. As long as sin exists in the world, the follows of Christ will have to fight with love, wisdom, and courage the battle against poverty and the injustice that causes it.

The challenge Voth submits for individuals and the church is to determine the nature of the economic power center and the culture it is creating. This is a skill Voth possesses and will be needed in each culture and community. Upon observing this power center questions should be asked about how it contributes to poverty. The next step for the church involves working within its social networks to advocate for biblical justice. Where possible, the church should use its resources to create systems by which individuals can overcome poverty. Churches are traditionally much better at doing their little part than networking for larger results. Voth’s greatest contribution is the call for an integral and broad attack on poverty and the injustice systems that create it.