For most people who find themselves in the world of Relief and Development, they usually ended up there because of a life changing moment. A decision they made based on a culmination of events: They saw some incredible injustice, they were prompted by a move of God’s Spirit, or they were nudged by the gifts others saw in their lives.
In that moment, something moved them, something significant happened, it changed them. It changed their direction.
My moment went like this:
I was playing music at a ministry that took place in my hometown. Every month we would get together to worship God. And, I was there for that. I was there to lead people in praise—not to get my hands dirty. But, there was something different about the people involved in that particular ministry. In the middle of every service, this guy would get up on stage and start preaching about worshipping God—not just with our words, not just with our songs—but with our lives.
He would show images of places where people needed our help. He would tell stories about injustices that needed to be corrected. He would lead us in prayers for a broken world. And as a young man, these ideas were new to me.
Fast forward, a few years. I realized it wasn’t just the preacher who held these ideals. The worship leader, the drummer, the ushers doing the ushing—they were all part of it. My moment was when I realized there were Christians everywhere who really took seriously God’s call to, “go into all the world.”
And, it changed me.
Now, I think if you stay in the work of Relief and Development long enough you will inevitably encounter another type of moment. That is, the time when you realize just how big the problem is. I’m not talking about facts on a page, but a face-to-face encounter with the scope of poverty. That’s the moment when you ask yourself, “why the heck am I doing this?”
I remember my first trip to Kenya very clearly. I remember driving… yup just driving, for hours and hours to get to our project. It was hot out; the dust was kicking up off the road. I watched as we passed town after town. And every single person I saw, looked like they were in desperate need. When you drive through poverty, it makes your plans to help—whatever they may be—feel like a drop in the bucket. The task seems immense and impossible for any person or any organization to deal with.
It’s in a moment like that, when you have to remember: “Success, isn’t up to you. It’s up to God.” Because no matter how large the issues are, no matter how complicated solving them will be, God is bigger. There comes a point, hopefully as early on in your journey as possible, where you must realize you don’t have the capacity to save the world… but God does.
This is a healthy reminder of the promise from Matthew 19 verse 26:
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Why am I talking about personal experience? I think a key part of the Christian theological perspective, that is often neglected, is the purpose of theology. It’s not intended as a purely academic pursuit—although the methods can certainly feel academic. Christian Theology is about faith. It’s about deepening our understanding of our faith, not for the purpose of replacing it, but to strengthen it.
Want to know how you can tell a Christian Academic from a Theologian? Ask yourself, what is the heart behind their words? If intelligence, respect and beautifully crafted sentences are their purpose—pick up another book, sign up for a different class, unfollow their social media accounts. But, if you see Jesus behind everything they write, speak and teach; then you are on to something.
John Piper said,
“…the task of scholarship is not to rob ordinary Christians of their confidence in understanding the Bible…” - John Piper, The Pleasures of God, 107.
Christian Theology should communicate well. It should deepen your relationship with God, increase your faith and fuel your good actions. When God takes you through a moment—as challenging as it may be—He guides you through it by your understanding of His history, His interests and His character. Partnered with a healthy reliance on His Spirit and the grace of His salvation, our call to Relief & Development becomes not only possible but joyful!