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What is the 'restorative revolution'?

Tearfund’s Julia Kendal outlines a new vision of the global church acting for change through a 'restorative revolution'.

Written by Julia Kendal | 21 Nov 2023

A colourful illustration shows a family walking from polluted land into lush, green land, symbolising restored relationships with creation and each other.

Tearfund has published a vision of the global church acting for change called Restorative revolution: A movement of the church to transform wealth, power and communities for a flourishing world. Credit: /Tearfund.

‘How am I gonna be an optimist about this?’ – Bastille

I keep thinking about these lyrics, which accompany the BBC’s current TV series, Planet Earth III, showing the beauty and loss of creation, the fragility and strength of ecosystems and communities. I think about these lyrics as I read the news. I think about them when I talk with family members facing the rising costs of living. I think about them when I pray with Christian sisters and brothers recovering from environmental disaster and violent conflict. With all that is happening in the world, ‘How am I gonna be an optimist about this?’

But I'm reminded that God is a God of restoration, and that he’s working through the church to fix what is broken.

 
A woman dressed in black walks on arid land in Ethiopia.

A woman walks through Ashbehari village in Afar, Ethiopia, an area that suffers frequent drought. Credit: Chris Hoskins/Tearfund.

This is a key moment for churches to act

This moment, which might seem full of difficulty, is a critical time for millions of Christians across hundreds of thousands of churches around the world to act. With more than 2 billion members, the global church has immense potential to be the most powerful agent for change in the world.

We know from scripture that God’s ongoing restoration story is for the whole of creation. This is the story we seek to locate ourselves in again.

To help us do this, Tearfund has published a vision of the global church acting for change: Restorative revolution: A movement of the church to transform wealth, power and communities for a flourishing world. 

What is Restorative revolution?

Restorative revolution is an invitation to churches and Christians around the world to engage with the key challenges of the 21st century and shape a fairer world, together. It’s a vision – created in collaboration with church leaders, activists and groups around the globe – of a flourishing world, where each of us has the economic agency and power to meet our basic needs while protecting the whole of creation. It’s a story about what is possible when millions of Christians across hundreds of thousands of churches follow Jesus with our whole lives.

A group of men and women smiling while holding a large bunch of bananas together.

Members of the Zizu community in Rwanda harvest bananas from the plantation set up through their church-based training group. Credit: Marcus Perkins/Tearfund.

Why now?

The choices made in this decade will shape the years to come. They will determine how badly we damage the world’s climate, poison each other’s land and rivers, and trap each other in a broken system – and therefore whether we continue to make poverty worse for many generations. Restorative revolution is an invitation to churches to make a better way forward together.

Why do we need a restorative revolution?

We can see evidence of brokenness all around us – in violent conflict and division, soaring costs of living, and the climate crisis. Our current economic system is broken. It is marked by extreme wealth and exclusive power, built partly on the legacy of slavery and colonialism.

But this brokenness is not God’s plan. We believe that global change is not just needed, it is also possible. We can be part of God’s ongoing restoration story for the whole of creation.

God calls us to align with his heart for justice. We do this by being salt in society, acting locally to obey Jesus’ commandment to love others as we love ourselves. And being light, a city on the hill and a powerful witness, caring for the whole of creation. This is an invitation to the church, as a powerful agent for change in the world, to choose to take its place in a restorative revolution.

‘Revolution’ means to create wide-reaching change in favour of a new system. In this, we seek to follow Jesus, who revealed injustice and challenged excessive power. He is our model for a revolution that restores broken systems. The church has been part of movements like this before, such as the anti-slavery movement and civil rights movements. And we believe it can be the beating heart of a movement like this again. 

 
A woman bends over to examine her lush green crops.

A woman inspects her flourishing crops in the village of Simonkro, central Côte d’Ivoire. Credit: Thiombiano Dioyadibi Emmanuel Benjamin/Tearfund.

What next?

When I locate myself in God’s restoration story, I find hope for today, tomorrow and eternity. This is better than simple optimism: this is deep peace and confidence in God’s love for us and expectation of his coming kingdom. This means I can respond not just with tears, but also with faith.

In our paper, Restorative revolution, we invite Christians and churches around the world to:

  • Go deeper: Explore the Restorative revolution Bible studies to help you respond and reflect, personally and with your community.
  • Be salt: How can your church act locally to infuse society with virtues of selflessness, grace, generosity and simplicity – obeying Jesus’ commandment to love others as we love ourselves?
  • Be light: How can your church embody with integrity the change we want to see? This means living out good news – for example, being responsible consumers, reducing plastic use and carbon emissions, caring well for biodiversity on church land. And it means calling for the large-scale change we need – see the full report for 15 ideas for how to do that.

Read our guide on how to use Restorative revolution in your church and gain more ideas on how to transform wealth, power and communities for a flourishing world. 

 

Written by

Written by  Julia Kendal

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