What We Believe
The Chalmers Center's vision is for the local church to declare and demonstrate among people who are poor that Jesus Christ is making all things new.
Jesus was sent to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God (Luke: 4:43), which can be defined as the comprehensive healing of the entire cosmos from the effects of sin. Jesus accomplished his mission both by preaching good news to the poor and by meeting their physical needs (Luke: 7:18-23). Indeed, the Bible teaches that Jesus' deeds authenticated his message, giving tangible evidence that He really is the King of Kings who is making all things new (Acts 2:22). As His body and fullness, the local church is called to continue Jesus’ mission, preaching and demonstrating the good news of the Kingdom of God to “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40).
The mission of the Chalmers Center is that through research and training, we equip the local church with gospel-centered economic development strategies that empower people who are poor to glorify God through sustaining work.
Through research and training, the Chalmers Center designs, tests, and disseminates economic development interventions that local churches can use to minister to the economic and spiritual needs of people who are poor. We believe that a necessary component of loving the poor is restoring them to being what God created them to be: productive image bearers who worship God and who support themselves through their own work (Genesis 1:28-29). Because only Jesus Christ can accomplish such restoration, the Center’s models integrate both words and deeds that proclaim Jesus Christ alone as the reconciler of all things (Colossians 1:19-20).
What We Believe
The Center holds to the Lausanne Covenant, a statement of evangelical Christian faith. The Center believes the Bible is the written word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and without error in the original manuscripts. It is the revelation of God’s truth and is infallible and authoritative in all matters of faith and practice. In addition, the Chalmers Center seeks to fulfill its mission and to achieve its vision by embracing the following core beliefs and values:
Organizational Value #1: Maintaining a Kingdom Focus
The primary message of Jesus Christ is the present and future reality of the kingdom of God, the reign of Christ that is transforming every square inch of the cosmos. Because Christians are told to seek first the kingdom, every goal that the Chalmers Center seeks, every decision that it makes, and every method that it employs must be consistent with the demonstration of that kingdom. This includes but is not limited to the following:
- Recognizing that the Center’s work is necessarily a spiritual battle against the kingdom of Satan, which requires us to expect opposition and to put on the full armor of God.
- Rejecting all strategies which rely primarily on human power, intelligence, or resources. In their place, the Center believes that the primary tools of the kingdom are prayer, suffering, overcoming evil with good, enduring injustice, and associating with the “foolish, the despised, weak, and the lowly.”
- Cultivating an attitude of service, sacrifice, and grace that seeks to bear witness to the kingdom and to serve the church more than our own organization.
- Striving for large-scale impact while at the same time embracing the fact that God often works through the small and seemingly insignificant; the kingdom starts with a mustard seed and grows without end.
- Believing that the local church—including its missionaries—is ordained by God to declare the good news of the kingdom in both word and deed to the poor and striving to give a prominent place to both the words and the deeds in the design of the church’s ministry.
Organizational Value #2: Embracing a Relational Approach to Poverty
The Triune God is fundamentally a relational being; as creatures made in His image, humans are inherently relational as well. God has ordained four key relationships for each person that are foundational for human existence, each person having a relationship with God, self, others and the rest of creation. The fall has affected the entire cosmos, distorting both individuals and local, national, and international systems (economic, political, religious, and social). As a result of both individual and systemic brokenness, the four key relationships do not work properly, meaning that all people are poor in the sense of not experiencing the fullness of life that God intended. For some people, the brokenness in these key relationships expresses itself in material poverty, i.e. not being able to support themselves through their own work. This perspective has profound implications for the design, implementation, and evaluation of all poverty alleviation strategies, including:
- Seeking to facilitate reconciliation at both the individual and systemic levels, since both contribute to material poverty.
- When working with individuals, using highly-relational approaches in which the materially poor and non-poor walk together as Christ brings reconciliation to both of their lives.
- Verbally proclaiming the gospel in all poverty alleviation efforts, because complete reconciliation of the four relationships is only possible through faith in Jesus Christ, and the Bible teaches that faith comes by hearing. This proclamation includes evangelism and discipleship in a worldview that embraces the comprehensive implications of the kingdom of God.
- Keeping the church at the heart of poverty alleviation strategies. because the church is the “body, bride, and fullness of Jesus Christ,” the only One who can reconcile the four, key relationships. All economic development strategies should be implemented in such a manner that the role of the local church is honored, utilized, and strengthened.
- Making prayer a central feature of economic development strategies, since reconciling relationships requires a supernatural act of Jesus Christ.
- Evaluating programs—both inputs and outputs—whenever possible, in light of the church’s role in reconciling the four, key relationships.
Organizational Value #3: Avoiding Dependency at Multiple Levels
God has created people to work and to be able to support themselves through that work. Scripture also calls believers to be generous with each other and with nonbelievers in times of need. Similarly, various institutions are called to use their gifts to fulfill their God-ordained tasks. For example, churches are called to spread the gospel of the kingdom through both words and deeds. Families are called to provide a nurturing and supportive environment for their members. Governments are called, at a minimum, to enforce justice. The Chalmers Center believes it should not create dependency by undermining the abilities of either individuals or institutions to fulfill their God-ordained callings. While this approach necessarily limits the size, nature, and pace of the Chalmers Center’s operations, we believe it increases both the scale and depth of the Chalmers Center’s long-run impact. Implications of this perspective include:
- Refusing to undertake tasks for individuals that undermine their dignity and ability to fulfill their callings.
- Refusing to engage in activities that undermine the ability of institutions to play their God-ordained role in society.
- Avoiding using outside resources—financial, human, or organizational—when those resources can be found and mobilized within a community, region, or nation.
- Requiring trainees to contribute financially to their own training.
Organizational Value #4: Pursuing High Impact Research and Training
Research and training is the core of the Chalmers Center’s work, so they must be done in a manner that enables the Center to fulfill its mission of equipping the local church to empower the poor. The belief that all humans are created in the image of God and that sin has marred our image-bearing provides the foundation for the manner in which the Center conducts its research and designs its training processes. In particular, the Center believes that all humans have the capacity to learn about God’s creation and the responsibility to share their knowledge with others. In addition, the relational nature of humans informs the most effective manner in which knowledge is effectively transmitted. However, because we are all finite and fallen in our ability to understand, humility and a healthy skepticism must pervade our research and training. Implications of this perspective include the following:
- Recognizing that theorists, practitioners, and poor people themselves have unique and complementary knowledge and encouraging all parties to learn from one other in order to develop the best practices with respect to any economic development strategy.
- Testing theories and models in the field for the purposes of verification and refinement.
- Focusing research and training on topics that can impact the church’s ministry.
- Seeking ways to hear and respond to the research and training needs of the local church and the poor in a community, i.e. being demand driven rather than purely supply driven.
- Understanding and respecting the nature of the learners in different contexts and designing training processes that meet their learning styles.
- Creating learning environments where both trainers and learners are able to share their insights with others.