What is "Christian" International Development?
“What is “Christian” about Christian International Development?
What is the difference between Christian international development and “regular” or secular international development?
ARDF posed this question to Dr. Stephen Offutt, Assistant Professor of Development Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. Dr. Offutt explained that doing Christian development work allows us to “participate in the mission of God, of Kingdom building” in an intentional way that is not addressed in secular development projects. The methods and the mechanics of development will be the same. We all want high quality projects that have a tangible, measurable impact. But while our tools may be similar, the motivation is different.
A Christian development project is holistic, designed with an understanding that the human condition is both physical and spiritual.
We know that spiritual and physical are inseparable. The Most Rev. Dr. Onesphore Rwaje of the Anglican Church of Rwanda is one of ARDF’s Global Trustees, the group that makes ARDF funding decisions. He explains his analogy of the two scissor blades. When his children were young, Archbishop Rwaje would cut their hair. And using scissors, he needed both blades to be working.
It is the same for the spiritual side and the physical side of the human body. He concludes, “…The spiritual side and the physical side, they come together and do the same work. One [blade] cannot do it, forgetting the other one.”
The Rev. Dr. John Yates III of Holy Trinity in Raleigh, NC puts it this way:
We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that the work of organizations like ARDF is just a helpful complement to the real work of evangelism. Digging wells, building schools, installing hydro-electric generators are all well and good, but they are merely preamble to the real work of Gospel proclamation. This is mistaken.
These works are not preamble, they are profoundly at the core of Gospel proclamation because they are the means by which we assert the loving sovereignty of God over his broken creation. Every little work, every single investment, every drop of clean water is a declaration of the love of God.
Of course the verbal explanation of the Gospel is essential to our work and mission as a church. But it cannot stand alone. As John Stott once put it so beautifully, evangelism and social action are like the two wings of a bird, the church cannot fly except with both in action.
We see this in ARDF’s projects across the globe, all of which are holistic in nature. For example, the church in Masindi, Uganda has built dormitories for female students who live too far to commute to high school. These dormitories offer safe accommodations for girls, but they also offer the opportunity for Christian community! These dormitories are just the first part of a plan to expand the kingdom of God through an entire community center where people will gather for worship, education, training, and fellowship.
“The new hostel is the pride [of] Masindi District. We can even do Bible study whenever we feel like it. What a blessing. May the almighty God bless you.”
-– Brenda Nabukenya, student at the Masindi Hostel, Uganda
Meanwhile in Burundi, a project to protect natural springs to ensure clean water for communities pairs education about clean water with the message of the Gospel.
"The Anglican church in Buye [Burundi] has rescued many lives from drinking unclean water by improving [the] water spring here at Mugomera. The Gospel of salvation proclaimed through that church is applied into a tangible social action by providing clean water that safeguards our health. As I consider that protecting water equals [protecting] people’s lives, I wish the Anglican church to move ahead in implementing such project[s] in as many areas as possible,“ says Ngendakumana Godiose of Mugomera, Burundi
Quotes like these put skin on the bones of our projects, keeping our eyes on the ultimate mission of ARDF, one that employs both “blades” as we participate in the mission of God.
ARDF strengthens communities in the developing world by empowering the local church. A list of all of our projects can be found here.