3 ways that development work is discipleship in disguise

In my frequent conversations with pastors, we often find ourselves stuck at the question of “so, what exactly is development?”  Rather than starting from scratch, I love to begin with a more familiar term: discipleship.

While the words are not synonymous, there are some strong connections between the two concepts.  The ministry of Food for the Hungry is committed to providing churches, leaders and families with necessary tools for lifelong discipleship.   Here are three similarities between development and discipleship that will provide you with a better picture of what FH seeks to do in the field:

Walking with:  Pastors know that discipleship requires face time.   Assisting others to grow in Christ requires physical presence, spending hours, weeks and years with them in person, helping them understand the Scriptures and work through suffering. At FH, we are committed to doing our work of serving in the poor in a personal way.  Our staff are in the community daily, spending time getting to know the people and listening to their struggles.  Entering completely into their lives, we want to walk alongside them in breaking the cycle of poverty by introducing a biblical worldview.  This will mean plenty of late nights, tears wiped and joyous moments as we celebrate the faithfulness of our God.

Children in Indonesia

Embracing the basics: Imagine if you showed up to church next week and 50% of the people in the congregation had been involved in a car accident in which they were at fault.  Stories pour in about people running red lights, texting while driving and forgetting to use their safety belts.  The sanctuary looks more like a hospital than a house of worship.  In wanting to stem the tide of horrific accidents and prevent the loss of life, the church leadership quickly organizes a safe-driving class. While this might sound crazy, this is discipleship at a very basic level: helping others live a healthy life that is honoring to God in every way.

Food for the Hungry also addresses the basics of life, only in our sphere of work, this means providing families with advice on cultivating and preparing healthy meals.  It involves showing children the basic skill of washing their hands to prevent the spread of disease.  We revel and thank God for opportunities to have deep conversations about Christ and the forgiveness of sins, and we know that frequently the doors to those conversations begin with the basic elements of life.

Water Project in Indonesia

Working the roots: In seeking to shepherd their members, pastors spend most of their time at the root level.  It is not effective to simply “scare people” away from their bad behavior.  Fear and pride may motivate someone for a season, but it will not be effective for the long haul.

FH uses the same strategy as we help the poor.  It is not effective to tell a community that they should build a school and educate their children.  If we build them a school before they understand the root purpose, the community never utilize it for its intended purpose.  Our job is to help them understand the importance of education from a biblical perspective and then walk with them in creating opportunities for their children.

In many ways, we are just scratching the surface of these two important subjects.  Stay connected with the FH Blog for more posts about community development.

What is your understanding of development?  Can you think of other similarities between your discipleship journey and community development work?

About Joshua Kienzle

Redeemed by grace and always the optimist, Josh loves to savor the simple things of each day. While we wait and watch for the extraordinary, amazing people and events are passing before us all the time. Traveling through 38 countries has taught Josh to keep his eyes open; you never know when something special is about to happen. Josh and his beautiful wife Carrisa have two children, Caleb and Evangeline, and love the adventure of parenting. Always a student, Josh is currently continuing his studies at Phoenix Seminary.

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