Community and Societal Development

How can cross-cultural development workers help communities and societies thrive by following godly principles?

Structures God Has Used to Bring about Social and Spiritual Change

WCIU Journal: Community and Societal Development Topic

November 23, 2015

by Kattie Jamar Jewett, WCIU PhD student

God uses whatever structures and people he has to work with to bring about positive social and spiritual change. in years past, when parishes and dioceses were strong, he used them for good. Sincere Christian leaders, such as Pope Gregory the Great, acted with wisdom and humility, trying to bridge the distance between factions/ God even worked through Northumbrian warriors who were wise and open to his leading, just as he had worked through Namaan in Old Testament times.

When the structures of modality weakened, he used structures of sodality, such as monastic centres. Throughout the years, monks and nuns filled in whatever gaps they saw in the broader society. They built physical structures, such as bridges and roads. They made innovations in agriculture and science. They maintained language and culture, and kept the fields of literature, history, and philosophy alive.


In short, when believers are able to look beyond themselves, they have the potential to change the surrounding culture.

In 2008, I took a study trip to El Salvador and saw a great example of this. Working within a framework of integral mission (see René Padilla), evangelical congregations there are partnering with community organizations to bring clean water and develop organic farms within their own communities. Emmanuel Baptist Church, in San Salvador, has hired environmental lawyers to help preserve the few remaining rainforests, and the church is very active in speaking out against Canadian mining companies who are ruining the land. None of their work is done on their own; it is all done in co-operation with local community organizations that are working towards similar goals.

Here in Canada, Christians are working in many areas to bring positive change. This happens at the levels of individual, congregation, and denomination; parachurch and secular organizations are also places where Christians are involved. A few of the areas where Christians are making a significant difference are: peacebuilding and reconciliation (Christian Peacemaker Teams, Kairos), child soldiers (Roméo Dallaire’s Child Soldier Initiative); human trafficking (International Justice Mission); housing (Grandview Calvary Church); women’s rights (Canadian Baptist Ministries “She Matters” campaign); creation care (A Rocha); advocacy for people who are physically and mentally disabled (L’Arche); and food sovereignty (multiple churches and organizations). All of these are focused not just on “’sav[ing]’ people for heaven,” but also on making life on earth more just. In working towards the shalom of their communities and world, they are also working towards their own shalom (see Jer. 29:7).