Why 127 Can’t “Un-Center” the Gospel

Grace Sigmon

Grace Sigmon

Our unique ministry philosophy at 127 Worldwide sets us apart in almost every arena. We choose to support the work of local leaders who know their communities best rather than directly caring for vulnerable people. We prioritize empowerment-based solutions to material problems over one-time gifts. We send GO Teams to other countries to encourage our partner ministries and create future advocates in Americans rather than to provide a week of free manual labor. But more important than any of these distinctives is our commitment to center the gospel in all that we do. More than supporting children’s homes, aiding local leaders in education programs, or helping launch sustainable local businesses, we want to make much of Jesus. But is that just a distraction from the work of caring for vulnerable communities?

Well, we’re convinced it isn’t. In fact, we think it’s central. We’re committed to gospel-centrality in justice work because the Bible commands our participation, because we want to serve people holistically, and because our goal is to catalyze long-term impact.

Gospel Centrality: A Biblical Imperative

First, we prioritize gospel centrality because we seek to obey Biblical imperatives. The reason 127 Worldwide even exists is because we believe God’s description that true religion is expressed when “visit the orphan and widow in their affliction” (James 1:27). In Proverbs, too, God commands his people, “Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Prov. 31:8-9). When the Lord of the universe tells us in explicit terms to do something, we consider it a mandate. That’s why we seek justice and that’s why we do it with his message as our foundation. After all, the very same God who commands us to care for the orphan and widow also instructs “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19a). We seek to glorify God in a twofold manner by coupling immediate and physical forms of grace with the good news of God’s eternal salvation.

Gospel Centrality: A Holistic Solution

Second, we hold to gospel-centrality because we desire to serve people holistically. Everyone faces both physical and spiritual needs, and we believe we can do the most good by addressing these facets of personhood together. If we provide physical support to the people we serve but withhold the spiritual comfort of the gospel, we have not done as much good as we could have. Empowerment-based initiatives, asset-based development, and sustainable development projects are beneficial and often integral to creating a gospel-centered culture. But they are not sufficient to provide long-lasting, deep-reaching, ultimate answers to pain and suffering. Only the gospel is. Gospel transformation is the ultimate upstream development work. That is why we choose to partner with local leaders who prioritize gospel-centrality in their justice ministries.

Rose Bugusu’s ministry displays a great example of how our local leaders pair the gospel with acts of mercy. Rose is a 127 partner in rural Kenya, where she runs a children’s home called Tumaini Miles of Smiles Centre. Tumaini means hope in Swahili. Rose offers an immediate, physical form of hope to the children she houses by providing a beautiful and safe place for them to live and receive an education. But even more, she shares an eternal source of tumaini with these children through the gospel. She proclaims that because of Jesus’ work on the cross, they can be reconciled to God, adopted into his family, and given the secure hope of an eternal home in heaven. In this way, Tumaini children’s home serves as a tangible illustration of something far better.

Gospel Centrality: An Eternally Impactful Model

Finally, we value gospel-centrality because it initiates long-term impact. This long-term impact occurs first and foremost through the salvation of those who hear the gospel from a 127 partner. When a person is born again their future has been impacted in the most drastic way possible– they now have the hope of eternity with God. Additionally, we believe that those who have been saved by God are transformed into justice-seekers themselves. Our God is a God of justice. When he sanctifies his people to be more like him, he grows them into people who care for the vulnerable and correct oppression. Thus, when our partners share the gospel with the communities they serve, they are planting seeds for a new generation of justice-seekers to carry the work of restoring hope far into the future.

For all these reasons, we at 127 Worldwide place the gospel at the very center of our work. It is our primary motivation and our guiding principle. Uncentered on the good news of God’s Son sent to save sinners, our mission would lack any power to restore hope. We believe that vulnerable communities can flourish not because of our creativity or our work ethic but because the gospel is the key to all human flourishing. With the gospel as our basis, our lives come into alignment with the Bible’s commands, and we find ourselves seeking the good of our neighbors to the glory of Jesus Christ.

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