As followers of Jesus, we want to see spiritual, economic and social transformation of our communities, villages, cities, regions and countries. We want to see the Kingdom of God grow and expand on the earth. We want to stop the power of sickness, poverty, environmental change, fear, wars, and broken marriages. We hope that love, joy, and peace will be manifest instead.
If that is our hope, then what are some key components to seeing this transformation happen?
Jesus called us to go into the world and make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20). In verses 19 and 20 He says that a disciple is someone who is baptized and obeys everything that Jesus has commanded him. This obedience can never be done without love. Because you love, you want to obey. I love my wife, so I want to do what she says (most of the time ?). The same is true of our relationship with Jesus. When we love Him, we want to obey Him. Love without obedience is a misuse of His abundance of grace. Similarly, obedience without love is legalism. In short, we could say that a disciple is someone who loves and obeys Jesus (John 14:15).
When we love and obey Jesus, the world will change. His Kingdom will expand, and communities will transform.
Before real, lasting transformation can happen, the hearts of the people need to be changed. Paul says in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin [is] death, but the gift of God [is] eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (NKJV).” The power of sin needs to be broken in the hearts of people. When we repent, believe and start to follow Jesus, the power of sin has been broken. It is no longer our master. The Holy Spirit comes to abide in us forever (John 14:16) to empower us to love and obey Jesus and to bring His Kingdom on earth. From there, He appoints us as His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20) and plants us in the world to bear fruit (Mat 13:24-30). This is the only way we can bring lasting change. If we don’t have a heart change and walk in loving obedience to Jesus, we will only be work on the outer man. The real work must happen with the inner man.
When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that He usually loved and served people by addressing their physical needs. Sometimes He gave food, sometimes he restored, and sometimes He healed diseases. After He addressed the needs of people, He called them to repentance and asked them to lay down their lives and follow Him (Luke 14:26-35). It was never Jesus’ goal to only meet needs; He wanted people to give up everything and follow Him.
This is why I believe that practical help, social projects and social justice issues always need to be combined with sharing the gospel and calling people to repentance. Practical help such as feeding kids and cooking meals are very important and help us get connected to people, but there has to be sharing about the Kingdom and Jesus. This is how hearts will be changed from the inside out.
Lasting transformation must always have an element of making disciples and sharing the gospel. Another key component for transformation in a community is business. Read more about that here.