God’s vision

Read Haggai 2:1-9 and Zechariah 4:6-10

The Lord’s house is in ruins but the people have been told by the prophets to rebuild it. It must have seemed an immense task for such a great temple, but the people obey God’s word and begin. God continues to encourage them through the prophets.

  • What does God promise Zerubbabel? (Zechariah 4:9)
  • Who will be with the workers? (Haggai 2:4-5)
  • How will they succeed in such a massive project? (Zechariah 4:6)
  • What does God say about the ‘day of small things’? (Zechariah 4:10)

If a vision is of God, it will succeed – however improbable it may seem at the outset and whatever difficulties arise during the work.

Jesus and the Samaritan woman

Read John 4:1-26

Here we read of how Jesus met with a Samaritan woman. Travelling through the country of Samaria was the shortest route between Judaea and Galilee. However, relationships between Jews and Samaritans were very poor. It was unusual for Jews to speak with Samaritans, or for men to speak to women in such a way. In addition, it was very unusual for a woman to draw water at midday, indicating that this woman felt herself an outcast from society. Jesus provides an excellent example of a development worker here.
  • What barriers could have made it difficult for Jesus to listen properly to this woman?
  • What are the barriers we find in listening to people and valuing their views?
  • How can we overcome these?
  • What was it about Jesus that encouraged this woman to talk with him?
  • What was the outcome of their discussion?
Jesus’ ministry of compassion

Read Matthew 9:35-38

The descriptions of Jesus’ work in this passage are similar to what is described in Matthew 4:23-25. What new things do we learn about Jesus’ ministry?

  • What images does the description ‘the people were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd’ bring to you?
  • How do we respond when we see people in need? How often do we look to see if someone is in need?
  • When we try to help people in need, is our motivation similar or different to that of Jesus?
  • Why do we think Jesus’ compassionate response to those in need leads him to say ‘the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are so few’?
  • How do we need to change in order to show more of God’s kingdom in our own lives?

Communicating clearly

Development is all about communication – enabling people to share ideas and good practice, stimulating change and innovation. The book of Acts shows how the first disciples communicated clearly to those around them.

Read Acts 17:16-33

Paul met with misunderstanding and questions. As he discussed the gospel in the synagogue and in the market-place in Athens, Paul’s listeners knew this was something new. At first they did not understand what it was all about. Paul had caught their interest and they wanted to know more. Communication takes time and does not always succeed at first.

  • How did Paul use what he saw around him to get people’s attention?
  • How did he hold their attention?
  • Remember that communication works best when we address the interests of the listener.
  • How did Paul explain about God, starting from their own ideas?

Paul prepares the way for the new message: to turn to the risen Christ. Communication needs to start with what the listener already knows.

How did Paul’s listeners react?

If people react to what we say, we know we have communicated clearly. Paul’s listeners reacted in various ways – some believed, some wanted to hear more, some rejected the message. Clear communication does not guarantee that others will accept what we have to say, but it will always result in feedback and comment.

What is really new in the messages we need to communicate? How can we get this across effectively?
In communicating with local communities, what local knowledge can we build on?
How can we use the local culture and language to make sure that our messages make sense to the listeners?
Clear communication gets a response – discuss together what kind of responses we get when we communicate, and ask why.

Sound advice

Read 1 Kings 12:1-17

Solomon has died and Rehoboam, his son, has gone to Shechem to be made king. Jeroboam, who has been promised by God that he will rule ten of the tribes of Israel (1 Kings 11:31), returns from Egypt where he had fled for fear of Solomon.

What do Jeroboam and the people of Israel propose to Rehoboam? (verses 3-4)
Rehoboam takes three days to consider this proposal and get advice. Before we make decisions and take action, we should listen to the people we are serving and seek advice from those with experience and wisdom.

What advice does Rehoboam get from the elders who had served Solomon? (verses 6-7)
Rehoboam rejects this advice and goes instead to the young men who have grown up with him. What do they advise? (verses 8-11)

Israel and Judah have been united and ruled as one kingdom by Saul, David and Solomon in succession. Rehoboam follows the young men’s advice. His harsh answer to the people of Israel leads to the split between Israel and Judah.

The Bible tells us that good advice is very valuable; for example in Proverbs 12:15; 13:10; 15:22. Of course, the very best adviser or counsellor is God himself, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Isaiah 9:6, John 14:16-17; Romans 11:33-34). However, it is of no value getting good advice if we are then unwilling to follow it.

Can you find ways to listen and respond more to those you serve?
Are you taking the advice of wise people and, most especially, God himself?
Nothing is impossible with God

Read Judges 7:1-22

  • Why does the Lord say he cannot deliver Midian into the hands of Gideon and his men?
  • What does he not want Israel to do?
  • Which men turn back first (verses 2-3)?
The Lord uses the way that the men drink from the river to decide who else shall not go with Gideon. The majority of the army kneel down to drink, and just 300 men lap with their tongues like a dog, with their hands to their mouths. God tells Gideon that these 300 men are the ones to go into the battle.

  • How does your group choose who will do a certain task (verses 4-8)?
  • Do you seek God’s advice?
  • We are told that the Midianite army is huge (verse 12).
  • How does the Lord encourage Gideon not to be afraid and to believe that his small army will win the battle?

Gideon and his men use their resources really well to work together, with each man playing his part ‘for the Lord and for Gideon’ (verses 18, 20). They know that the victory is the Lord’s (verses 15, 22).

How might this passage encourage your group as you face the tasks ahead of you?
If God has called us and we keep our eyes fixed on him, however immense the task seems, and however small our resources are, we will succeed: ‘For with God, nothing is impossible.’ (Luke 1:37).

Dealing with the whole person

Jesus gave us some clear guidelines for our work and he always emphasised the importance of meeting the needs of the whole person – not just people’s spiritual needs. However, many churches ignore his guidance and concentrate only on spiritual needs.

Read Luke 4:16-21

This takes place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry after a time in the wilderness. He visited the synagogue in his home town and was given the scroll of Isaiah to read from. He read from Isaiah 61:1-2, written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus.

  • What is the significance of Jesus selecting these verses to read?
  • Discuss the five roles that Jesus said his coming was to fulfil.
  • How many of these might involve a practical as well as a spiritual response?

Read Matthew 25:31-46

Here, Jesus is telling his disciples about the end times and how God will look at their lives.

What are the five areas of service for them that Jesus highlights here?
Are these all spiritual? What other kinds of needs are being met?
The passages above highlight the challenge we have as Christians to meet the whole needs of people, not just to concentrate on their spiritual needs. Many times, Jesus emphasised the spiritual, physical, emotional and social needs that we are to meet in caring for our neighbours. Holistic development is the natural outworking of this.

Jesus meets the needs of the poor

Read Luke 7:11-23

This passage describes some of the great wonders of healing that Jesus did. It also tells of his response to John the Baptist’s question about whether he really was the Messiah. Think about the impact on the everyday lives of the people touched in such a remarkable way by Jesus.

  • What would being able to see and walk mean economically to the blind and lame in the time of Jesus?
  • Lepers were social outcasts. What impact would being cleansed of leprosy have on them?
  • What would be the greatest blessing to the deaf if they were able to hear?
  • Why did Jesus have compassion on the widow and her son?

Jesus brought good news of salvation to the poor in ways that affected the whole of their lives. As his followers, we should do the same in his name.
Read Luke 10:27

  • How are we to love God?
  • What does it mean to love our neighbours as ourselves?

Jesus was concerned about the whole person. He healed the sick as he preached and taught. We too must share his concern. When Jesus sent out his twelve disciples to minister to others, he commanded them to heal the sick and to be concerned for the physical needs of others as they preached the good news of Jesus Christ.

Read Matthew 28:19-20

This is known as the ‘Great Commission’. It is not optional for us as Christians – it is a command! If we follow this command, all of us involved in development also need to be involved in sharing our faith and making disciples.

Social action and outreach should not be separated. One without the other is incomplete.

How should we put this into action?

See also
Matthew 13:31-32 Parable of the mustard seed
Mark 4:8 Still other seed fell on good soil
Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit
James 2:5 Chosen poor to be rich