Have We Changed?
In the many decades I have been connected to World Impact, it seems we have both changed and yet not changed at all. Yes, it’s been a long time from teaching Bible clubs in vacant lots in inner-city communities. Yet, we still are guided by the same perspectives and values that gave birth to our mission 50 years ago.
To be sure, our beginnings were marked by an odd collection of valiant, zealous college-age kids in love with Jesus and the inner city, who were determined to live out the Gospel so others could see and believe. Back then, we were young in spirit and body, full of life and glowing ideals, and were convinced that God would change the city by the very people who lived within them. We staked our very lives on these convictions.
Our homes were our places of ministry, and we built close relationships with hundreds of families in the city, homes teeming with thousands of children and teens over the years. We shared the gospel and our lives through Bible studies, countless youth activities, discipleship groups, and experienced many touching moments. We started day care centers, grammar schools, new businesses, and leadership programs. We were dedicated and focused in those early days, known for our energy, efforts, and our sincerity. We saw hundreds become followers of Christ, to live anew in their communities.
Of course, we’re older and more mature today in every way than in those first days. Over time, we saw those who came to Bible clubs become deacons in the churches we planted. Yet, what was the “strategic glue” that connected this multitude of teaching moments and ministry experiences together? It was our conviction that God can transform any person and every life, even those lives that languish in neglected communities. We embrace the same perspective today, that God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom to come (James 2.5). We still believe in the dignity and respect of each person in poor neighborhoods, who—by God's grace and mercy—can reach his or her own neighborhood as Christ’s ambassador, who proclaims the Gospel and does justice where He needs to be seen.
On second thought, maybe we haven’t changed much in heart from our earliest days of ministry. I still sense the same strategy and direction, that basic heartbeat and pulse we had decades ago. We are still committed to make disciples in broken places, seeing God raise up the poor to lead and heal their neighborhoods, for Christ’s sake.