A church meeting about alleviating poverty

What is the Role of the Local Church in Alleviating Poverty?

Written by MayBell Developments – November 26th, 2021

When we work with the materially poor in our city, we are confronted again and again with the brokenness of our world. Both individual decisions or circumstances and unjust systems contribute to poverty. In fact, in many ways, poverty alleviation feels like a fruitless effort. After all, didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 26:11, “The poor you will always have with you”? The causes of poverty are so complex that persevering in this work without the hope of Jesus’ return is virtually impossible.

Our Future Hope

In our Faith and Finances communities, our key themes are centred around the Kingdom of God.

2 key themes of Faith and Finance communties

But what does the Kingdom of God look like? For that, we need to fast forward to the end. Revelation 21 says there will be no more sickness, pain, tears, brokenness, or death, that the “former things have passed away”. Most importantly, we see that in God’s Kingdom, God will dwell with His people. 

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21: 1-5

The hope of the coming Kingdom that is ushered in upon Jesus’ return is astounding. In this future, God will dwell with His people in a world without sin and, by extension, without poverty. 

And, who will be in this future Kingdom with God? Matthew 5 tells us it will be the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. Those who follow Jesus in these ways will be invited to be priest-kings (Revelation 5:10), worshiping God and ruling with Him in this new reality. 

Backing Up

Looking around, it’s obvious that this reality is not yet. There is much brokenness in the world. To understand this, and why the claims above are important, we need to rewind to the beginning. 

God created a perfect, sinless world where He dwelt with His people. He gave His people, Adam and Eve, the same roles we will once again fulfill in eternity, priest-kings. As priests, they were to protect this new world from corruption and lead others into faithful worship of the One True God. As kings, their role was to promote the welfare of others and the rest of creation by ruling as God’s deputy regent, assistant rulers on God’s behalf. As priest-kings then, His people were to love God, others, and the rest of creation and they were to see themselves as participants within this matrix of love and worship. A healthy view of self was part of the original design.

A nature photograph that could be the Garden of Eden

Unfortunately, as many of you know, Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden. This wasn’t just a change in where they lived, it was a removal from the dwelling place of God. God had wired human beings for flourishing. Our healthy relationships with God, self, others, and the rest of creation is what human flourishing entails. When we say that MayBell Developments is “dedicated to developing communities of belonging that empower the vulnerable to discover the wholeness of life Christ has offered”, the restoring of these healthy relationships are what it means to be whole. When we were thrown out of the garden, our broken relationship with God, damaged every part of our being and the rest of creation; destroying these four key relationships and distorting our view of flourishing.

Humankind has sought to flourish since this day. We attempt to restore flourishing through cultural activity and our metanarratives. The problem with this is the stories that build our culture were broken in the fall as well. A narrative that is at the core of modern Canadian culture is that of economic prosperity. The general idea is that we can find happiness in our possessions. This broken narrative affects how we think about God, how we see ourselves, how we interact with the rest of creation, and also how we see and “help” others. Behind our helping, we have absorbed misguided stories of change that culture has fed us. The unstated assumption behind most of our poverty alleviation efforts is to make poor people just like us. To turn them into contributing, middle-class Canadians – like us. To correct our story, we need to go back to God’s story of change. Namely, to seek the flourishing of humanity by working at restoring our relationship with God, self, others, and the rest of creation.

Why is the Church Called to Poverty Alleviation?

What does our flourishing in the past and future have to do with the Church’s role in poverty alleviation in our broken present? Everything.

The Church is Jesus’ bride and is where God’s spirit dwells with His people (individually and collectively) in a special way. 

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 3: 16-17

While we eagerly wait for Jesus’ return, the local church is a place where the Kingdom of God is right here and now. It is a place of worship, love, forgiveness, and joy, a picture of what Jesus is bringing in the future, breaking out in the present. And because God is there, His people are restored to human flourishing. Our roles as priest-kings are renewed, not just in the future, but right here and now.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.

1 Peter 2: 9

God’s desire for all people, including those who are materially poor, is to be restored to priest-kings, image-bearers who act as deputy regents to extend His Kingdom through the whole world. The Church is the place where human flourishing begins for all of us. 

Jesus wants us to feel the weight of the broken and be shaped by it. We are to be overwhelmed with compassion and mercy, entering into the brokenness of the materially poor and becoming the presence of Christ. The story of poverty alleviation in the Church should not be to turn the poverty community into middle-class Canadians. Rather, the right story is to restore people to a wholeness of life, that is only possible in the Kingdom of God. 

Our role as the Church is to bring healing to the brokenness in the world. To be the hands and feet of Jesus as he works to “make all things new”. To restore our role as priest-kings here and now. The responsibility of the church is to lead others into faithful worship of the One True God and to promote the welfare of others and the rest of creation. As part of Christ’s Church, are you welcoming those who are poor back into the dwelling place of God?

If you’re a member of the Church and don’t know where to start, please contact us about being involved in our Encouragement Program. Our aim with this program is to facilitate relational restoration by brokering meaningful and nurturing relationships between the materially poor and members of the local Regina church, as we all participate in educational programming..You can read more about our Encouragement Program here. 


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