Escaping poverty’s grip

Big Tent workshop leader touts job creation as the best way to address poverty in the developing world

August 3, 2013

Hunter Farrell

Hunter Farrell, director of World Mission, discusses global poverty during a Big Tent workshop. —Danny Bolin


Jobs generated through “God’s gift of wealth creation” are the most effective way for people in developing countries to escape poverty, according to an author and community development expert.

“The only thing that moves people out of poverty is a job,” said Robert Lupton, founder of an inner city ministry in Atlanta and author of “Toxic Charity.” Lupton addressed a workshop titled Toxic Charity during the World Mission conference at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Big Tent celebration Aug. 2.

Lupton noted that most mission activity is not concerned with job creation, but with providing people services. “Services do good, but they don’t move people out of poverty. Jobs do.”

Micro lending, which provides individuals and small groups modest capital to start small enterprises, have been helpful, Lupton said. However, few people in the developing world have been able to grow micro enterprises into more substantial businesses that would benefit more people. 

U.S. churches, he said, are “blessed with people in the business class” who could help start and grow businesses in the developing world.

During a question and answer time, some in the audience expressed concern that capital investors from the West could exploit people in the developing world. Lupton acknowledged there are potential problems, and that the church must be a vigilant advocate for ethical behavior.

Hunter Farrell, director of Presbyterian World Mission, said the PC(USA) had “not promoted business as mission” as a way to address global poverty. The church’s understanding of the pervasive nature of sin and human greed is a reason for that reluctance, he said.

However, Farrell added, Lupton’s observations could “open a path” for the church and its global partners to discuss new concepts of economic development.

Big Tent, Aug 1-3, is a celebration of PC(USA) mission and ministry organized around the theme "Putting God's First Things First." It's composed of 10 national Presbyterian conferences, more than 160 workshops and special events to mark the 30th anniversary of the formation of the PC(USA) and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center here.

  1. Loved Bob Lupton's presentation and was so inspired by it and the discussion groups that followed. Then, I came home and attended a missions meeting. Reality hit me even as I shared Lupton's insights. I literally saw the shutters come down on beautifully benevolent faces :(. Service projects make us feel good. There is no substitute for sponsorships for educating children in Mexico, South Africa, etc. etc.

    by Anita Coleman

    August 8, 2013