(Photo: REUTERS / Navesh Chitrakar)
A Christian economic professor has argued that the problem of poverty is based less on a lack of material goods and more about "broken relationships."
Dr. Brian Fikkert, founder and executive director of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College, told those gathered at a Christian leadership conference held in Raleigh, N.C.: "I would like to submit to you this morning that poverty is fundamentally rooted in broken relationships.
"And once you define poverty as being rooted in broken relationships, it orients everything you do. It changes everything in your approach to working with the poor. "
Fikkert tied the issue of "broken relationships" to the Fall of Man, where in Genesis when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit they broke the four key relationships of God, self, others, and the rest of creation.
Fikkert also stressed the "theological significance" of the need for serving the poor, saying that the "authenticity of our faith is at stake" as Christians' service to the poor is a "sneak preview" of the Kingdom of God.
"What the Church is doing is painting a picture of a coming Kingdom. Jesus Christ came declaring His Kingdom in words and in deeds amongst the poor," said Fikkert.
"As we work with the poor, we are creating a picture. We are painting a picture; we're giving a sneak preview and trailer of the coming attraction of His Kingdom. And because of that, our work amongst the poor must be restorative."
Fikkert argued that "good intentions are not enough" and that it is possible to cause harm to the poor when working among them.
"I can't help the poor, I am the poor," said Fikkert, adding that "I'm a beggar too. But I found the Bread of Life and He can fix you and He can fix me. Let us feast on Him together."
Among his credentials, Fikkert is also the co-author of When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself, which was released last year.
Held at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh and hosted by Advance the Church, the Advance13 conference's theme is "Building Faithful and Effective Churches."
Various speakers addressed the crowd beginning Tuesday, including Dr. John Piper of Bethlehem Baptist Church of Minneapolis and Matt Chandler, lead pastor of Teaching at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. The last session will be held on Thursday morning.