When people first hear about Dr. Scott Todd, they assume he is a dreamer. Todd is the driving force behind 58:, a coalition of Christians and Christian organizations with a formidable goal: ending extreme poverty in this generation. 58: works with AccordNetwork.org to publicize projects in the developing world.
“This is not utopia — this is the future.”
Todd compares this global collective’s function in the Christian community to that of the biblical prophets: “They always turn to articulate that alternative vision of the future. They always turn to say, ‘But isn't this the way?’ It's not enough to say, ‘We can’t stay here.’ You have to begin to say, ‘This is the way,’ and guide people.”
For Todd, it’s a question of how Christians should define success differently than everyone else: it has nothing to do with building a lucrative career, or gaining an impressive entourage of fans and followers. It isn’t a series of flawlessly executed religious practices. In order to achieve success, we should ask, “How does the Body of Christ live well in the world?”
Todd believes he is called to bring the Church back to a compassionate worldview—something he doesn’t take lightly. To him, it’s the same calling Isaiah was under when he challenged the Israelites:
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isa 58:6–7)
The 58: coalition gets its name from these verses. Todd calls the description the “chosen fast,” and urges Christians to make it a tangible part of their faith. The website, live58.org, allows users to register and affiliate themselves with causes, join teams, and donate money. They can also publicize projects in areas like child development, food security, and disaster relief. Partners of 58: include Compassion International, International Justice Mission, and Food for the Hungry.
Ultimately, Todd sees his work as a hopeful calling with a hopeful outcome—the demise of worldwide poverty and hunger within a generation. Todd and his partners at 58: are adhering to this mandate, casting a vision for a better future in the world; one in which shortages of clean drinking water and child death from preventable diseases are no longer realities.
Some might argue that the dream of eradicating extreme poverty within a single generation is too big, but Todd’s background in medical research convinced him otherwise. In 1996, Todd received his Ph.D. in immunology from the University of California, serving as a fellow in oncology at Stanford University, and studying the causes for the spread of cancer. Todd also holds a patent for the treatment of Hepatitis C.
In 2003, he was unexpectedly asked by a Compassion staff member to join their team. He says that without question or even rational understanding, he knew that this was what God was calling him to do. It was a life-change that he says came from “out of nowhere.”
Eight years later, Dr. Todd expresses similar conviction about his mission to end poverty. He challenges the mindset that efforts to combat illness and poverty are only small drops in the bucket: “What is this message for us—if we think it’s about duty and not opportunity, that it’s about just sort of chipping away at the evil of the world and not actually expecting a victory?”
He decries this as bad theology, saying, “When it comes to extreme economic poverty, I have every reason for optimism: that this is something we can do, something we should do, something God wants us to do, something he has empowered us to do.”
Is ending this kind of suffering something God wills for His people? In Todd’s eyes, this is not the right question. Instead, we should be asking if we have the faith and confidence to do the work.
According to Todd, we must begin by recalibrating our expectations: “What would happen if we believed victory was actually possible?” We assume poverty is inevitable—misinterpreting verses such as “You will always have the poor . . .” and overlooking powerful passages like Matthew 25. Dr. Todd is frustrated with low expectations, calling them unnecessary and misguiding.
“If we claim to have a heart for the poor, but can’t figure out how to translate those resources into effective, credible action for the uplift of the poor…I can’t live with that.”
In his new book, Fast Living, he writes, “We don’t need to live in a world where children die from preventable causes. Economic poverty and all the suffering it brings can be pushed out of our world and into the history books. God has given us the mandate and every resource necessary for the task.”
Going back to Isaiah 58, Todd says, “The ‘chosen fast’ is all about action.”
Jeff Goins is a writer, consultant, and speaker. He lives in Tennessee with his wife and dog. You can visit him online at goinswriter.com