The Poverty of Land, Mind and Spirit

Men washing stones in a riverLawrence Temfwe, Executive Director of The Jubilee Center in Zambia, offers the following perspective on poverty:

“In Zambia rural poverty stands at 70% with the national rate 60%.  The World Bank believes that with the strength of our economy circling around 5.5% annually, we have the potential to eradicate poverty.  This is a common story in African countries south of the Sahara where oil, copper, diamonds and other natural resources have exemplified the perverse paradox dubbed the ‘resource curse.’

“It is shameful that the massive wealth being extracted from our country is not bringing greater prosperity. Equitable development is nowhere to be found in these nations which are dominated by Christians claiming to be guided by biblical beliefs. There is no reason whatsoever that an average Christian in Africa should be destitute when the very issues the Bible says cause poverty are lived out daily in African churches. To an African Christian living in a poor community, the Biblical narrative may read like an autobiography or a “day in the life.” Indeed, the world the Bible describes consists of widows and orphans, polygamous families, diseases, tribal and ethnic conflict, property rights, corruption, plagues and famine, poverty and unjust systems, all to which the African Christian has grown accustomed.

“Thankfully, the Bible tells us what the ‘righteous’ ought to be doing in those situations and what results can be yielded.  Mordecai was a “preeminent person among the Jews, and was held in high esteem by his fellow Jews because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all Jews” (Esther 10:3). In Luke Chapter 5 we see Jesus heal a man with leprosy. Leprosy had social, spiritual and physical consequences and when Jesus healed him He addressed each one. After he healed him Jesus tells him to go to the temple and have fellowship with the brethren who otherwise would not accept him. His healing was holistic.

“God’s vision is for the church to be an agent of spiritual, physical and relational restoration.  The church in Africa has a great opportunity to disciple Christians to be effective in evangelism and in tackling the social and economic issues such as poverty, corruption and environmental degradation that plague our nations. How is your church helping people become devoted followers of Christ who are making an impact on our culture?”

Here at Breakthrough Partners, we realize that biblical Christianity does not separate a person’s spiritual life from the rest of his life. In the Western World we tend to think of our faith in very dualistic terms which separates our spirituality from the whole of life. It is time to embrace a more robust faith which involves the whole person and the health of the entire community which we all share. Jesus “saves” us for eternity, yes! But He is also interested in the restoration of “all things.” Does your faith embrace the need for societal or systemic healing? Jesus did.

Please feel free to respond to these Breakthroughs in Missional Thinking. We need your voice in this ongoing dialogue about how the Christian Church engages in mission in our rapidly changing world and culture.


Mark Mielbrecht
Director of Global Leadership Development

  1. Gina Messenger’s avatar

    Yes Mark, you have nailed a problem. What kind of solutions are you involved in? In our village in Uganda it is educated African Christians, with a heart to serve others, who have moved out to a rural village to be change agents teaching and directing a school and pastoring a church. They are beacons of light bringing hope for change.



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