On Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures

Good Friday. Yesterday I had the privilege of hearing Darrow Miller talk on worldviews and workplace theology at a whole-day Lifework seminar at GCF. I learned many new things and so I eagerly got copies of his two books, Discipling Nations and Lifework.

In Discipling Nations (2001, Youth With a Mission Publishing), Miller shows how worldview transformation is the key to development and helping the poor. Miller first defines a worldview as a set of assumptions held consciously or unconsciously in faith about the basic makeup of the world and how the world works. He then discusses three worldview archetypes:

  • Biblical theism – Objective reality exists, created by God, who is both infinite and personal. God created man (=mankind) in his image and likeness, and when man rebelled and suffered as a result, God provided redemption through Jesus Christ. The purpose of all creation is to glorify God, but man’s special purpose is to steward God’s creation on earth.
  • Secularism – Reality is ultimately physical, impersonal, and amoral. Through random mutation and natural selection (survival of the fittest), man and all other species evolved from a single primordial ancestor. Man’s purpose is to survive.
  • Animism – Reality is essentially spiritual and amoral; the physical world is illusory or subservient to the whims of unpredictable spirits. Man’s purpose is to “die,” i.e., to ultimately escape the illusory world and attain oneness of spirit.

Miller then says that to work effectively with the poor, it is important to understand one’s worldview, the worldview of those whom one is helping, and Biblical theism, in which God, His principles, and His Church, provide the only true and lasting way out of spiritual as well as material poverty.

With Darrow Miller at the GCF-Organized Lifework Seminar on April 5, 2012

I agree.

One thing I like about the book is its thesis that worldview transformation is the key to development. I have seen this happen again and again at my local church, which serves an urban poor community. From personal experience, I know that acquiring a Biblically theistic worldview and unlearning old worldviews is a slow process and requires the concerted effort of the church.

Now for some choice quotes.

On what I think motivated Miller to write the book:

For years I have wondered: Do Christians who work in the development field look at “development” the same way their secular counterparts do? Is their approach to development also rooted in the secularism of the French Enlightenment? Do they tend to “Christianize” their work only by saying that they are motivated by Christ? Or does their work flow from a comprehensively Biblical worldview? (p 231)

On worldviews:

All people and cultures have a particular model of the universe, or worldview. Their worldview does more to shape their development, their prosperity or poverty, than does physical environment or others circumstances. (p 34)

It is essential that you examine your worldview because it affects everything you do, even how you obey Christ. (p 74)

On development:

For a culture to develop, its social fabric must be woven one person, one family, and one community at a time. You cannot have development in the physical realm without development in the moral realm, because the universe is ultimately moral. Christ summarized the moral development needed by calling us to love God… and to love our neighbor as ourselves… The second flows from the first and is its direct result. Our love for God is manifested in our love for our neighbor. (p 136)

The task given to the church in the Great Commission was nothing less than to disciple nations. If the church does not disciple the nation, the nation will disciple the church. Rwanda is an extreme example of this principle. (p 192)

On what he calls “Biblical economics”:

…John Wesley urged…”Work as hard as you can; save as much as you can; give as much as you can.”

Wesley’s three commands referred to three basic principles of Bibilical economics – diligence (capital formation), thrift (capital savings), and charity (capital sharing)…

Westerners are not the only people with access to these principles. A similar ethic is found in Confucian cultures. (p 244)

On helping the poor:

For our purposes, the poor can be divided into three broad classes. The deserving poor – widows, orphans, the disabled, and others – are those who would work if they could. They deserve our giving…

A second group is the working poor. These people…are able and willing to work, but they still need our help, which in their case means investing in their enterprise or sharing our expertise with them…

A third group – the undeserving poor – consists of people who are able but unwilling to work. They deserve not our gifts but our loving confrontation… To give indiscriminately to the undeserving poor is to increase their poverty. To fail to challenge them is to condemn them in their poverty. (p 255)

Thanks to Ms. Jarumayan for texting me about Darrow Miller’s seminar!

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4 thoughts on “On Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures

    1. Thank you, Darrow Miller and Friends!

      Thank you, too, for the post on compassion. I also read the Paris Reidhead sermon (“Ten Shekels and a Shirt”) referred to in the post. It reminded me to check the motives behind my acts of compassion: Am I doing these for the glory of God?

      And I heard as clearly as I have ever heard—though it wasn’t with physical voice, but it was the echo of truth of the ages finding its way into an open heart—I heard God say to my heart that day something like this. “I didn’t send you to Africa for the sake of the heathen. I sent you to Africa for my sake.”

      1. Thank you, Darrow! It was an honor to meet you and hear you speak. And it is also an honor to have you visit and leave a comment.

        I will remember your teaching on worldview transformation as I embark on a new project at church to equip the cell group leaders in reaching out and discipling the urban poor in whose midst they live. God bless!

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