Monday, November 2, 2015

"I am not the problem; I am the solution."

One of the things that I have enjoyed studying is population growth, it's impact on poverty, the varying factors that contribute to it, and the subsequent impact on ministry.  Here are some facts:
  • The population of the earth is increasing by 1,000,000 people every 4.8 days. 
  •  Since the 1960s, the population has doubled, but the world GDP has increased by ten times and life expectancy has increased by twenty years.  That means that there are "twice as many people on the planet, living about 40% longer and each person is consuming many times what the average person in the 1960s did."  (UNEP Global Environmental Alert Services, "One Planet, How many people?  A review of Earth's Carrying Capacity," June 2012).
  • Current projections are that the world population will top out at about 9 billion in 2050 and remain that way for the rest of the 21st century.

One statistic about population that does seem conclusive is that as a nation develops economically, it tends to move from high population growth to low population growth.  Birth rates, death rates, and growth rates systematically change through time as societies change relating to modernization, urbanization, and access to technology.  The number of countries that have a negative or zero growth rate as of 2013 are twenty-six, with an additional 62 countries below 1%.  The country with the highest birth rate is Oman, at 9.2%, with only 16 countries over 3%.  For the countries where Discipling Marketplace Leaders (DML) is working:  the US is at 0.7%, Canada is at 1.1%, Egypt is at 2.2%, Ghana is at 2.4%, and Kenya is at 2.6% (

The Poverty Cure, a video series made by the Acton Institute, does a great job of showing that people, made in the image of God, are solutions to poverty and not causes of poverty.  People are not just "mouths to feed" and "problems to deal with" but rather solutions to poverty.  The story of Bangladesh is told as a great example of how people are solutions:  Bangladesh was a food insecure country in the mid1970s, with a population of around 75 million. Twenty-five years later, the population of Bangladesh had doubled to just under 150 million and yet the country was now food secure. There was no increase in land (Bangladesh is about the size of Pennsylvania, which has a population of just under 13 million), just an increase in people; creative people, who looked creatively at how to solve problems, how to seek solutions, and how to use available resources. 

So how does this all relate to the ministry of Discipling Marketplace Leaders?  Most of the people who are solving these problems are business people - people who naturally seek solutions to demands and needs of people. Yet many people have not found their calling to do this work "as unto the Lord."  Many people have forgotten that we are made in the image of a creative God, and have been given the mandate to take the resources of this earth and "be fruitful and multiply."  Many people in the majority world have not had the encouragement, the equipping, the backing and the covering by the church to help ground them in doing their business as a mission.  People in the world typically revert back to "business as usual" quite quickly.  These people need discipling by the church to do this work, this calling, in a way that will create goods and services that will allow individuals and communities to flourish.

People are not the problem.  People are the solution.  But transformation is needed for the will of God to be done "on earth as it is in heaven." 

We can't transform others.  We can't even transform ourselves.  But we can be in the business of helping to create an environment in which transformation can take place.  The church can be the place that sets the environment in which people are transformed by the Holy Spirit and make a difference in the world. It's an exciting ministry to be involved in as we see people look inside themselves and begin to also state, "I am not the problem; with God's help, I am the solution."