James 3:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
The escalating situation at the South American border has been popping up a lot in my blog reader. Two examples are the call for prayer from Circular Thoughts and the perspective of Christian peacemaker teams through Young Anabaptist Radicals. This turned my thoughts to the Transformations video, a popular missions resource that tells the story of cities (including Cali, Columbia) transformed through the power of consistent and fervent intercessory prayer.
However, in searching for information on the video, I came across an intriguing critique on the Transformations story, from a Colombian missionary. Being quite honest, having experienced many "revivals" and "rededications" in my past, I had my own doubts regarding the sweeping claims of widespread transformation alluded to in the story. I found her words to be honest, heartfelt and convicting (emphasis mine):
All this leads me to believe that the Transformations video presents a triumphal and simplistic approach to the solution of the problems of society; in the case of Cali, resorting to spiritual warfare rather than to incarnational love and the way of the Cross shown by Jesus. The truth is that the evangelical churches have had very little impact on society. There must be a connection between the prayers of the church and its action in society to attribute results to its prayers. Spiritualization of problems, and the lack of understanding of the structural causes of these problems, leads to loose connections with the results. Another side effect of spiritualizing reality is that one tends to forget the suffering and needs of people. These often open doors for testimony and service, rather than for spiritual warfare… we want people to be fervent in prayer and believe that God acts. But how does He act? I believe that prayer and “unity” in a stadium are not sufficient for the church to transform society. True discipleship and insertion in society are needed. Mobilization of all believers in prayer is good, but also in forgiveness, reconciliation, acts of justice, and radical living out of the Kingdom. Sadly, this was not the case in Cali, and I am afraid it is not the case generally with the explosive growth of mega-churches in Colombia. They fill a stadium every weekend, yet we see no radical transformation in society.
Sentinel Group, which produced the Transformations series, has a new project coming out on how prayer is transforming Uganda. I believe in the power of prayer, and I believe that we are commanded to bring our needs before the Father, lay them at His feet and trust His sovereignty. I also fear that when we place all of the focus on the transformative power of prayer, we forget that our God also commanded us to action: Go, Feed, Love, Clothe, Invite, Visit, Care...
Which made me think of the story of the Yes! And... camp in Philadelphia, which the Simple Way is connected to. The name comes from a game they guide the participants through, in which the kids affirm the value of another persons idea (Yes!), then add their own (And...). So, I say Yes! Yes! Yes! Let us pray in faith that God will send the transformative power of his Spirit into our communities. And... let us pull from the transformational presence of that Spirit already present in our own lives, and become the incarnational love of Jesus to the hungry, hurting and helpless people we encounter in our own communities and to the ends of the earth!