This is part three of three great posts by my friend Patrick Hubbard. See the brief description below to read why I believe Patrick offers a unique voice to North American Christianity. In this post, Patrick explains brings it all together and shares how their vision of planting churches in impoverished areas carries out a comprehensive understanding of God’s mission among the desperately poor.
In my first post of this series, I addressed the issue of the church’s mission in the world. I very briefly made the case for a comprehensive understanding of missions based on God’s original commission of mankind as functional, or missional, image bearers. Then, in my second post, I discussed a more practical issue facing the global body of Christ: human trafficking. Now in my third post, I will seek to bring these two together and illustrate how we, at Living Bread Ministries, are seeking to apply our comprehensive view of mission to address the horrendous practice of human trafficking.
At Living Bread our focus is church planting among the global poor. However, because we have a comprehensive understanding of the church’s mission, we are equipping each of our church plants to minister to their community in a holistic way. We are strong proponents of humanitarian ministry among the poor, but we believe this type of ministry is done best by a local church, not an outside organization.
For this reason, each of our church plants is boldly proclaiming the gospel and radically living it out in tangible ways. There is no dichotomy between evangelism and social action. The kingdom of God is taking root in needy communities and people are beginning to obey, in word and deed, all that Christ commanded. They love their neighbor as themselves and thus they love their soul and their body. For example, our church plants have established and lead various ministries including: feeding, educational, clothing, health, care for widows, etc.
In the very near future, we will launch our first church plant in Thailand. This is a country that in many ways is ground zero for human trafficking. We have begun working in Thailand because we believe planting the types of churches described above can greatly impact this humanitarian crisis.
As the gospel is planted in a given community and the body of Christ (the church) begins to form, several key things start to happen. First, with the type of comprehensive approach described above, the immediate needs of people will be met. This is important because hunger, for example, often leads many among the poor to seek sources of income that leave them vulnerable to traffickers. Many women will enter the sex industry or send their older children into the city to find work, which almost always means entering the sex industry, in order to care for their families.
Second, many among the poor have no hope of ever escaping poverty, and in a place like Thailand, their religious practice leads them to believe they must accept their lot in life. The gospel of Jesus Christ confronts this lie of the enemy! When bold gospel proclamation is connected to a church that understands the need for comprehensive missions, transformation will take place among the poor. As people receive hope through the gospel of grace, the church can then begin to help them gain skills to improve their lives. Literacy programs, education assistance, computer classes, or simply the hope of a better future all serve to help break the cycle of poverty.
Third, as gospel community begins to form and people begin to love their neighbor as themselves, people become their brother’s keeper. Community participants begin to look out for, protect, and assist one another. Furthermore, with a proper understanding of mission, their focus will not terminate on themselves, but their care and protection will extend to the vulnerable among them. This is very important in needy communities where the breakdown of relationships, familial and between neighbors, combined with severe physical needs makes the people especially susceptible to traffickers.
The three areas above provide a very basic overview of how planting churches that practice comprehensive mission among the poor can and will impact social problems. This is true even for the seemingly insurmountable problem of human trafficking. For sure, an approach that includes churches, humanitarian groups and governmental involvement is necessary in combating this evil. Likewise, I adamantly encourage ministries that are working to rescue people from enslavement. At the same time, I realize that rescue efforts are very difficult, and I believe that by planting churches among the global poor we can slow the tide of people entering into slavery. This is the part that Living Bread Ministries is seeking to play in the narrative of redemption and restoration.