We've asked 114 leaders from 11 ministry spheres about evangelical priorities for the next 50 years. Here's what they said about relief and development.

Worldwide, 29,000 children die every day of preventable causes, while 800 million are malnourished, 1 billion cannot access clean water, 8 million are refugees, and 15 million children have lost parents to AIDS. Unfortunately, such statistics will remain staggering for the next 50 years. But relief and development leaders seem less concerned about which challenges are most urgent and more about how we face them.

Perhaps the greatest how is related to Christian identity: "The most important challenge that will face evangelical relief in the next 50 years," said Franklin Graham of Samaritan's Purse, "is to make sure we don't dilute our faith as we respond to hurting people around the world."

Robert S. Paul, president of Medical Ambassadors International, articulated another common theme: It's not just giving aid but "partnering with the poor" that's the key. "A truly integrated, practical, and effective approach to ministry requires a shift from 'having the answer for others,'" Paul said, "to an attitude of 'continual learning with others' … to join hands with evangelicals around the world as co-disciples and co-learners in discovering the Lord's way forward in development."

Even more than these hows, leaders are concerned about making sure that care for the poor, in whatever form, remains an evangelical priority.

"[Historians may] step back and look at evangelicals of our times as materialistic and moralistic," said Ben Homan, president of Food for the Hungry. "The challenge, I think, for relief and development is to call the church and call evangelicals to a deep concern for the poor. The issue of alleviation of poverty should be such a signature issue. It's something that cuts to the core of our identity as evangelicals."

"Will followers of Christ lead?" asked Rich Stearns, president of World Vision. "Will the faith community lift the needs of the poorest of the poor higher on their priority list—higher than our building programs, our church-growth seminars, and our music ministries? Will we demonstrate the love of Christ so convincingly in our concern for 'the least of these' that we actually begin to change the way Christians are viewed by the secular world?"

David Beckman, president and CEO of Bread for the World, sees the call to care and the how as intertwined, given what's already going on in the world. "Hundreds of millions of people who are desperately poor are finding ways to improve their livelihoods and feed their children," he said. But as Beckman noted, "The biggest challenge facing evangelicals is to participate in this great exodus, to be aware God is rescuing lots of people from poverty and to help make it happen."

"I hope we see dramatic progress," Beckman said. "I hope it doesn't take 50 years."

Deann Alford | Consulted: David Beckman, Franklin Graham, Terry Henderson, Ben Homan, Meredith Long, Sammy Mah, Robin Mahfood, Robert S. Paul, Rich Stearns.

Related Elsewhere:

More Christianity Today coverage of relief and development issues is available in our Missions & Ministry full coverage area.

We continue our look at what evangelical leaders think are the priorities for the next 50 years in 11 categories: local church, youth, missions, politics, publishing/broadcasting, theology, culture, evangelism, higher education and international justice.

Christianity Today's other articles on its 50th anniversary include:

Where We Are and How We Got Here | 50 years ago, evangelicals were a sideshow of American culture. Since then, it's been a long, strange trip. Here's a look at the influences that shaped the movement. By Mark A. Noll (Sept. 29, 2006)
Sidebar: 'Truth from the Evangelical Viewpoint' | What Christianity Today meant to the movement 50 years ago. (Sept. 29, 2006)
Evangelism Plus | John Stott reflects on where we've been and where we're going.
Sidebar: Legacy of a Global Leader | Less known than Stott's earlier work is his ministry with Langham Partnership International.
One Reader's Thoughts on Christianity Today's 50th Anniversary | After five decades of reading, I've clipped far too many articles. (Oct. 12, 2006)

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