What can I do about it? I’m just an ordinary person.”

That is the despairing refrain I often hear in response to problems ranging from world hunger to crime. Most people simply feel impotent when it comes to big issues.

Considering what we hear from politicians and the media, this widespread attitude is not surprising. We have been conditioned to believe that all problems must have a government solution—or that one must be famous before one can make any significant impact on society.

This political/celebrity illusion has become the dominant myth of our times. And few have embraced it with more enthusiasm than the Christian community. We seem to think we need a big parachurch organization or a well-known celebrity in order to accomplish anything for the kingdom of God. As a result, the church has elevated popular pastors, ministry leaders, and televangelists to the dubious pedestal of fame—only to watch many topple in the winds of power, influence, and adulation. All the while, “ordinary” Christians feel more and more frustrated.

One reason I enjoy going to the Third World regularly is that this paralyzing myth does not hold sway there. In the face of human needs and social problems, Christians cannot count on government, since it is far more likely to persecute than listen to the church; there are few parachuch organizations at work; and there are no Christian celebrities. So these “poor, deprived” Christians have no alternative but to go ahead and do what needs doing. And that turns out to be just what the Bible commands.

A friend of mine from Madagascar provides an example. Pascal, a university professor, was thrown into prison after a Marxist coup. There he became a Christian.

After his release he started a small import/export ...

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