The role of churches in development
In this Bible story from Matthew 14:13-21, Jesus gives lessons in development to his Church, and he chooses to do it through a miracle. Jesus shows himself as a facilitator, using appropriate methods to share ideas. This story could be seen as a lesson on development given by Jesus to his disciples. A good development worker must know how to teach, using educational material like Jesus did.
Read Matthew 14: verses 13-21
Verses 13-16 ‘Give them something to eat yourselves,’ said Jesus to his disciples. Jesus sends his Church into the world like the Father sent him. He commands the disciples to have a heart of compassion like his for the hungry and the poor. The basis of all development action undertaken by a Christian comes from a changed heart.
Verse 17 Jesus makes use of locally available resources – fish and bread – to perform his miracle. Here he shows us that development is not a gift. Local people must bring their own resources, in other words ‘build their foundation in stone and cement’ for development work to be successful. Build on what is available and freely given.
Verse 19 Jesus prayed before acting: showing the need for prayer in all development activity undertaken by a Christian development worker.
Verse 20 Jesus did not simply work his miracle with bread but with fish as well. Jesus did not limit himself to just fight against hunger but also to fight against malnutrition. God wants people to eat well and eat until they are no longer hungry. The struggle against hunger and against malnutrition go together.
Verse 20-21 Even though the food was obtained through a miracle, what was left was not thrown away but gathered up and kept in baskets. We could use this as a lesson in management. In agricultural work, the priorities should be providing more food, combined with good management and conservation policies.
For Jesus it is clear that evangelism and development are linked together. Even when Jesus says, ‘Seek first the kingdom of heaven,’ it is simply to say that God’s kingdom is an adequate solution for the problems of mankind, of whatever sort. Jesus came to give mankind abundant life (John 10:10).
Revd Dangako Wango Aboloyo is Director of BDC/CBZN, Bangassou, Central African Republic and teaches at FATEB on the Church and Development.