A Framework for Community Development

Posted on: 
December 12, 2020

I truly was a spectator. I did not know the culture. And I could not understand the language. But even if I could have, I am confident I could not have understood the topics being discussed. I mean, I grew up around vehicles, but I sure lack a robust understanding of their mechanics. So, in every way I was out of my element. Here I was in a sub-Saharan city in a West African country spending the day with a missionary, and all he was doing was traveling from dusty lot to dusty lot helping his African mechanic friends diagnose issues on their clients’ vehicles. It was evident that the hours upon hours spent with these men, teaching them the ins and outs of the new-fangled diagnostic equipment, tracking down an elusive electrical issue, etc., was lighting up their world. It was holy work. The pious, well-dressed imams sitting on the steps of their mosques had no idea what was happening right under their noses. This missionary’s dream of using vehicle diagnostics as a vehicle into people’s lives had become a reality, and the seeds of the Kingdom were patiently being sowed with prayer and anticipation of a bountiful crop.


Community Development is a rather ambiguous title and maybe even a little intimidating. But it doesn't need to be that way. Billy North, director of ADAPTech, gives it this simple description, "Doing good practical things for unconverted people who need help." Or as we describe it here at All-Nations, "We serve the community by teaching them to develop and use their skills and resources, and not to depend on what we do and bring." The different areas that Community development facilitators can serve are broad and beyond the scope of this article, however, here are just a few: Savings groups, Agriculture, Health, Economics, ESL, Literacy.

What I saw my missionary friend doing, was simply being the hands and feet of Jesus. He was taking the knowledge and expertise he had gained at home on the job (something most African mechanics do not have the privilege of acquiring) and was now stewarding that practical knowledge not only for these Africans’ material good but also for their spiritual good.


-Because that is what Jesus wants us to do. The dichotomy between the spiritual and the physical is absent from the life and teachings of Jesus. I do not think we need to look any further than the parable of the good Samaritan. Here was a man that was needy and the hero of this parable, the Samaritan, had compassion, went over to him, and by stewarding the "talents" that he had, impacted this man's life significantly! Jesus' instructs us to "go and do likewise."

-Because there are huge needs in our world. So many people are living under centuries of injustice and we know that God is calling us to go and serve these dear souls. However, coming in with a Bible probably won’t be the answer in most situations. They might not have the Bible in their language or even be able to read for that matter! Filling the role of community development enables us to walk along side of the ones we are serving and show them that Jesus cares about them, even the small day-to-day struggles. Billy North puts it so well, “We are left with the reality that Jesus cared about all the problems of a person. He cares about what people care about and He wants us to care about it too.”

What if my friend would be doing his work as another missionary in Africa once said, “We don’t do that humanitarian aid stuff, we just do church work”? I don’t even want to think about that.


One quality that is a necessity for anyone serving in community development is exercising the gift of imagination. We need to start dreaming again! What would it look like for God’s way to be followed in this culture or situation? We need to starting asking questions and listening closely. To courageously make other people’s problems our problems, we first need to allow the irrational ways of Jesus and His Kingdom to transform our own thoughts and ways, before we reach outside of ourselves. As Americans, we are naturally proud, we see everything that is wrong in this new culture, and sadly, too often we think that if they would become like us, their lives would be transformed. Rather than saying, “Too bad you are not like me,” let’s take on the mind of Christ and ask, “What would it be like to be you?”—and enter into their world long before we begin to bring solutions to the table.

My missionary friend and his team live by this motto, “It will be our love, not our opinions, which will make our largest contribution to the world.” And God is using this way of life to open up doors into people’s hearts that have long been resistant to the Gospel.

Let us go and do likewise.

—Bryant Martin

Hear Billy North talk about community development

Learn about community development at All-Nations

  • “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
  • “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
  • “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
  • “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
  • “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
  • “That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
  • “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
  • “Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
  • “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25
  • “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
  • “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” Psalm 22:27
  • “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Numbers 14:21
  • “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
  • “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
  • “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
  • “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
  • “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 86:9
  • “For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11
  • "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
  • "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3, 4
  • "You are worthy. . .; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God." Revelation 5:9, 10