Why are there so many Christian relief and development organizations?
Christians are called to care for the poor, oppressed and marginalized.
In the Bible there are over 2000 verses that highlight God’s care for those in poverty and our duty as his people to care for them. Some Bibles even highlight all the verses that mention poverty and justice, like the Poverty and Justice Bible and God’s Justice Bible.
Jesus of Nazareth, who Christians worship as God Incarnate, was an advocate for the poor and oppressed in his day. In fact, Jesus told his followers that what we do to the ‘least of these’ in our society is what we choose to do to him (Matthew 25). Indeed, the way we think of and act towards the poor is central to our Christian faith.
There are many ways that Christians choose to respond to poverty, and there are many different types of Christians too! There are approximately 2.4 billion Christians in the world and over 45,000 church denominations. This means that there are going to be a lot of people out there wanting to care for the poor, and will be going about different ways to do it.
In Canada, we see this with different church denomination/tradition organizations. Mennonites have Mennonite Central Committee, Anglicans have Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, Quakers have Canadian Friends Service Committee, Baptists have Canadian Baptist Ministries and Catholics have Development and Peace-Caritas Canada.
But we also see this in different organizations that operate outside of denominations. World Vision and Compassion both use a child sponsorship program to lift children from poverty. International Justice Mission partners with police and government agencies to rescue and restore victims of slavery, trafficking and violence. A Rocha practices and teaches conservation ecology and environmental education.
All these organizations and hundreds more focus on specific types of issues and respond to them how they see best. Just like the Church, there are many ways that Christians come together to do justice and practice compassion.
At Tearfund, we choose to partner with local churches to bring about holistic change for people living in extreme poverty. We call this Church-Based Community Transformation. To tackle poverty, we try to understand the root causes of it. Through the local church, we work to restore the broken relationships – with God, with one another, with creation, and even within ourselves – that are the root cause of poverty.
With our model of ending poverty, we’ve seen entire villages and communities transformed by the power of the gospel. The local church has become the catalyst for change, and people lift themselves from extreme poverty using their God-given talents and abilities. We’re not about giving people handouts, but about giving them the tools they need to live a life of freedom, dignity and hope.