No amount of technical training can displace arrogance. If that is the starting point, then it asserts itself into all situations and controls reality, making all things line up and salute the ego of the practitioner.
A lot of the problems in Christian development circles appear to be theological and debate centers on a dualistic view of truth. It should only take a look through the writing of Heldt, (2004), Roy (2009), and Ramachandra’s, What is Integral Mission (2006) to affirm a biblically sound definition of the gospel and mission.
The problem is that behind the theological issues are people who are part of culture, society, and community. As they bring their assumed versions of the faith life, the gospel, and mission with them, they are bringing what to them is self evident truth; that the gospel as they understand it, and mission as it has been taught to them, is the only way of belief.
To have these parts of their belief system questioned is an assault on their personal self that gets defended, rather than a humble debate between equals. I believe that most of this sort of arrogance is not intentional but born out of a lack of awareness in a person who has internalized these belief systems to the point that they define the self.
Since our link to God is often distorted we live as though the central figure in life is our self. And then, because awareness takes tremendous discipline and humility, and we hear so many cultural and social affirmations of what is “right” our default space tends to be arrogance when it comes to relating to anyone different than ourselves –in any context.
The cure for this ailment is a deeper identification with Jesus Christ “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Phil 2:6,7) Jesus himself says of his mission that “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:28) This must become our posture as we cross the globe to help the poor. We must do so as servants, not superiors.
To really allow the content of knowledge we have studied take root we will have to become one of those we seek to help. We will have to go as far as the apostle Paul who said: “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1Cor 9:22,23)
And finally, I would add that our charge is a never-ending journey of transformation, not of conformity to the worlds mold (Rom 12:2). For transformational development to occur, the development staff member must be a transformed vessel, with a high tolerance for opposing information and views so that communities can assert their stories and solutions without a paternalistic or prescriptive response.
The single most important challenge facing Christian Development NGO’s today is dealing with a lack of awareness, a lack of humility, a narrow view of who God is and how He moves in the world and in community. In a word, the monster we face is arrogance.
“In the final analysis, power is the right to have your definition of reality prevail over other peoples definition of reality.”