Evangelism and social action – Walking With Giants
Samuel Hugh Moffett in Evangelism: The Leading Partner, argues that “ Christians are call to engage in both evangelism and social action.” As disciples, we are. The opposition between evangelism and social action started in early advocates that believed real Christianity had to make a difference in. Evangelism and Social Action: A Tale of Two Trajectories . the third way of stating the relation between evangelism and social action, which I.
From this adoring and loving encounter with God, there immediately flows a desire to share his love with our fellow human beings, both by telling them how God in Christ has loved them and by serving them in deeds of mercy and justice. Only in this way, too, can evangelism and social responsibility be kept from degenerating into merely human activity and even propaganda.
The mission of any church can fall into this trap. It is therefore urgent to heed the pre-eminent call to worship and thanksgiving. A Call to World Evangelization A. Contemporary Need When we met at Lausanne inwe calculated that more than 2, million people were still unevangelized. Now, eight years later, we believe that the number has risen to three billion, and that this comprises many thousands of people groups.
We cannot think of them as statistics, however. They are human beings like ourselves. Yet, though created by God like God and for God, they are now living without God. The tragedy of this is painful, and the task of overcoming it is enormous.
It calls for concerted prayer and evangelism on an unprecedented scale. A Definition But what is evangelism? This is the definition given in the Lausanne Covenant Paragraph 4: To evangelize is to spread the Good News that Jesus Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that as the reigning Lord he now offers the forgiveness of sins and the liberating gift of the Spirit to all who repent and believe.
Our Christian presence in the world is indispensable to evangelism, and so is that kind of dialogue whose purpose is to listen sensitively in order to understand. But evangelism itself is the proclamation of the historical, biblical Christ as Saviour and Lord, with a view to persuading people to come to him personally and so be reconciled to God. In issuing the gospel invitation we have no liberty to conceal the cost of discipleship.
Jesus still calls all who would follow him to deny themselves, take up their cross, and identify themselves with his new community. The results of evangelism include obedience to Christ, incorporation into his church and responsible service in the world.
We heartily endorse this statement, and we wish to emphasize that reconciliation to God lies at the very heart of the Good News. Our only criticism is that the statement sounds somewhat impersonal, since neither the evangelist nor the evangelized is characterized in it as a person of flesh and blood. Yet that is what they both are, and evangelism involves a personal encounter between them.
The most essential qualities of gospel messengers are loyalty to the biblical gospel and personal authenticity. They must embody the Good News they proclaim. Few things repel people more than hypocrisy, and few things attract them more than integrity. As for the persons who hear the gospel, we acknowledge the need to approach them with great sensitivity. Many will already have been convicted of their sin and guilt, and it will be possible at once to share with them the Good News of forgiveness.
Others will be oppressed by a different sense of alienation. Motivation for Evangelism There are many incentives to evangelism.
To begin with, there is simple obedience to the Great Commission, and to the Lord of the Great Commission, to whom all authority has been given Matt. Yet we believe that the most basic of all motives lies in the very nature of God himself, and in his saving work by which he revealed himself.
We do not exaggerate when we affirm that the living God is a missionary God. Between these two missions lay his death and resurrection. He died on the cross for the sins of the world, and was raised and exalted to be Lord.
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit is a missionary Spirit, and Pentecost was a missionary event. He gave his people power for witness, as Jesus promised, and thrust them out to the ends of the earth, as Jesus foretold Acts 1: This Trinitarian basis for mission is primary. If he yearns in his love for his lost world, we his people must share his yearning.
Commitment to world mission is unavoidable, and indifference to it inexcusable. A Call to Social Responsibility A. Contemporary Need We are appalled to know that about million people, or one-fifth of the human race, are destitute, lacking the basic necessities for survival, and that thousands of them die of starvation every day. Many more millions are without adequate shelter and clothing, without clean water and health care, without opportunities for education and employment, and are condemned to eke out a miserable existence without the possibility of self-improvement for themselves or their families.
The oppression of others is political. They are denied fundamental human rights by totalitarian regimes of the extreme left or right, while if they protest they are imprisoned without trial, tortured, and killed.
Yet others suffer discrimination on account of their race or sex. And all of us are oppressed by global problems which seem to defy solution—conditions of overpopulation and famine, the exploitation of non-renewable resources of energy, the spoliation of the environment, community violence, war, and the ever-present threat of a nuclear holocaust.
All these are rooted in the profound sinfulness of humankind, and they demand from the people of God a radical response of compassion. Only the gospel can change human hearts, and no influence makes people more human than the gospel does. Yet we cannot stop with verbal proclamation. In addition to worldwide evangelization, the people of God should become deeply involved in relief, aid, development and the quest for justice and peace.
We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men from every kind of oppression. Because mankind is made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, colour, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he should be respected and served, not exploited.
Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with man is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and man, our love for our neighbour and our obedience to Jesus Christ.
The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist.
When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world.
The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead. Motivation for Social Responsibility Again, as in evangelism so in social responsibility, we discern the fundamental basis for our actions in the character of God himself.
He is the God of justice, who in every human community hates evil and loves righteousness. He is also the God of mercy. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. We recognize that we have neither the authority nor the power to do everything God does. Nevertheless, since this text shows us the kind of God he is, and since these concerns of his were further expressed in the demands of his law and prophets, it is indisputable what kind of people we should be, seeking justice, freedom and dignity for all, especially the powerless who cannot seek it for themselves.
It is no surprise that Jesus reflected this lovingkindness of God his Father. He had compassion on the hungry, the sick, the bereaved, the outcast.
- Stott on the Relationship of Evangelism and Social Action
- What Is The Relationship Between Evangelism & Social Action?
- Evangelism and Social Responsibility: An Evangelical Commitment (LOP 21)
He had compassion on the crowds because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. And always his compassion issued in appropriate action.
Evangelism and social action
Moreover, the first fruit of the Holy Spirit is love Gal. It is therefore he who gives his people a tender social conscience, and impels them to immerse themselves in humanitarian relief, development, and the search for justice.
Thus we find that there is a Trinitarian basis for our social duties, just as there is for our evangelistic outreach. We who claim to belong to God and who worship him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, must express our worship in these activities.
Historical Background It appears to us that evangelism and social concern have been intimately related to one another throughout the history of the church, although the relationship has been expressed in a variety of ways. Christian people have often engaged in both activities quite unselfconsciously, without feeling any need to define what they were doing or why. So the problem of their relationship, which led to the convening of this Consultation, is comparatively new, and for historical reasons is of particular importance to evangelical Christians.
The Great Awakening in North America, the Pietistic Movement in Germany, and the Evangelical Revival under the Wesleys in Britain, which all took place in the early part of the l8th century, proved a great stimulus to philanthropy as well as evangelism. The next generation of British evangelicals founded missionary societies and gave conspicuous service in public life, notably Wilberforce in the abolition of the slave trade and of slavery itself, and Shaftesbury in the improvement of conditions in the factories.
It seems to have been in over-reaction to this grave distortion of the gospel that many evangelicals became suspicious of social involvement. And now that evangelicals are recovering a social conscience and rediscovering our evangelical social heritage, it is understandable that some of our brothers and sisters are looking askance at us and suspecting us of relapsing into the old heresy of the social gospel.
Another cause of the divorce of evangelism and social responsibility is the dichotomy which has often developed in our thinking. We tend to set over against one another in an unhealthy way soul and body, the individual and society, redemption and creation, grace and nature, heaven and earth, justification and justice, faith and works. The Bible certainly distinguishes between these, but it also relates them to each other, and it instructs us to hold each pair in a dynamic and creative tension.
Particular Situations and Gifts In wanting to affirm that evangelism and social responsibility belong to each other, we are not meaning that neither can ever exist in independence of the other.
Nor is Philip to be blamed for preaching the gospel to the Ethiopian eunuch in his chariot and failing to enquire into his social needs. There are still occasions when it is legitimate to concentrate on one or the other of these two Christian duties.
It is not wrong to hold an evangelistic crusade without an accompanying programme of social service. It was similar in the days of Moses.
There is another justification for sometimes separating evangelism and social action, in addition to the existential demands of a particular situation: The church is a charismatic community, the Body of Christ, whose members are endowed by the Holy Spirit with different gifts for different forms of ministry.
Whatever our gifts may be, we are neither to depreciate them nor to boast of them 1 Cor. So seven men were appointed to perform this social service, although Stephen and Philip also did some preaching Acts 6: This left the apostles free to concentrate on the pastoral ministry for which they had been commissioned, although they also retained a social concern e. Still today, Christ calls some to pastoral, others to social, others to evangelistic ministries; in fact, there is a wide diversity of spiritual gifts, callings and ministries within the Body of Christ.
Three Kinds of Relationship Having seen that both particular situations and specialist callings can legitimately separate our evangelistic and social responsibilities, we are now ready to consider how in general they relate to one another. What has emerged from our discussion is that there is no one relationship in which they are joined, but that there are at least three equally valid relationships.
First, social activity is a consequence of evangelism. That is, evangelism is the means by which God brings people to new birth, and their new life manifests itself in the service of others.
Speer wrote about the Gospel in This effectively highlights the serving dimension of Christian conversion and commitment. We can go further than this, however. Social responsibility is more than the consequence of evangelism; it is also one of its principal aims. Good works cannot save, but they are an indispensable evidence of salvation James 2: In saying this, we are not claiming that compassionate service is an automatic consequence of evangelism or of conversion, however.
Social responsibility, like evangelism, should therefore be included in the teaching ministry of the church. For we have to confess the inconsistencies in our own lives and the dismal record of evangelical failure, often as a result of the cultural blindspots to which we have already referred. This has grave consequences. When we do not allow the Word of God to transform us in all areas of our personal and social life, we seem to validate the Marxist criticism of religion.
Secondly, social activity can be a bridge to evangelism. It can break down prejudice and suspicion, open closed doors, and gain a hearing for the Gospel. Jesus himself sometimes performed works of mercy before proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom. In more recent times, we were reminded, the construction of dams by the Basel missionaries in Northern Ghana opened a way for the gospel, and much missionary medical, agricultural, nutritional and educational work has had a similar effect.
As a result, we were told, a number of people came under the sound of the gospel who would not otherwise have come to the crusade. But we have to take this risk, so long as we retain our own integrity and serve people out of genuine love and not with an ulterior motive. They are like the two blades of a pair of scissors or the two wings of a bird. This partnership is clearly seen in the public ministry of Jesus, who not only preached the gospel but fed the hungry and healed the sick.
In his ministry, kerygma proclamation and diakonia service went hand in hand. His words explained his works, and his works dramatized his words. Both were expressions of his compassion for people, and both should be of ours. Both also issue from the lordship of Jesus, for he sends us out into the world both to preach and to serve. Indeed, so close is this link between proclaiming and serving, that they actually overlap. This is not to say that they should be identified with each other, for evangelism is not social responsibility, nor is social responsibility evangelism.
Yet, each involves the other. To proclaim Jesus as Lord and Saviour evangelism has social implications, since it summons people to repent of social as well as personal sins, and to live a new life of righteousness and peace in the new society which challenges the old.
To give food to the hungry social responsibility has evangelistic implications, since good works of love, if done in the name of Christ, are a demonstration and commendation of the gospel.
It has been said, therefore, that evangelism, even when it does not have a primarily social intention, nevertheless has a social dimension, while social responsibility, even when it does not have a primarily evangelistic intention, nevertheless has an evangelistic dimension. Thus, evangelism and social responsibility, while distinct from one another, are integrally related in our proclamation of and obedience to the gospel. The partnership is, in reality, a marriage.
The Question of Primacy This brings us to the question whether the partnership between evangelism and social responsibility is equal or unequal, that is, whether they are of identical importance or whether one takes precedence over the other.
Although some of us have felt uncomfortable about this phrase, lest by it we should be breaking the partnership, yet we are able to endorse and explain it in two ways, in addition to the particular situations and callings already mentioned. First, evangelism has a certain priority. We are not referring to an invariable temporal priority, because in some situations a social ministry will take precedence, but to a logical one.
The very fact of Christian social responsibility presupposes socially responsible Christians, and it can only be by evangelism and discipling that they have become such.
If social activity is a consequence and aim of evangelism as we have assertedthen evangelism must precede it.
In addition, social progress is being hindered in some countries by the prevailing religious culture; only evangelism can change this. Seldom if ever should we have to choose between satisfying physical hunger and spiritual hunger, or between healing bodies and saving souls, since an authentic love for our neighbour will lead us to serve him or her as a whole person.
The choice, we believe, is largely conceptual. In practice, as in the public ministry of Jesus, the two are inseparable, at least in open societies. Rather than competing with each other, they mutually support and strengthen each other in an upward spiral of increased concern for both. Some Examples The three relationships between evangelism and social responsibility need not occur in isolation from each other.
Instead, they often blend together in such a way that it is difficult to distinguish them. This was made clear to us as we listened to a number of case studies. In one respect, it is simply an expression of love, the natural consequence of the knowledge of Christ which the gospel has brought. In another, it has been a bridge to evangelism.
Their reserve was melted, and they became ready to hear the gospel. God himself was loving them, one of them said, through the preaching of the gospel and the meeting of their practical needs. Medical, agricultural and educational development have gone hand in hand with evangelism and church planting. Amidst dancing and singing, they were being welcomed into the church by the Anglican bishop.
As they celebrated, however, he noticed that half of them were either blind or nearly so. Next, we were told of an Indian couple, both doctors, who have laboured for more than 20 years in Jamkhed, Maharashtra. They trained despised outcaste widows in the elements of pre- and post-natal care, proved their credentials as healers by establishing a small operating theatre, and taught out of the Gospels how Jesus gave dignity to women.
As a result, child mortality has been reduced almost to zero, social justice has increased and fear has diminished, and many people in seventeen villages, which for 50 years had not responded to the Good News, are now turning to Jesus. In addition, we learned about the Voice of Calvary ministries in Mississippi, where for 22 years the gospel has been shared, and the physical, spiritual, economic, social and material needs of people have been met.
Evangelism, community development and racial reconciliation through the church have gone hand in hand. The reason for this holistic ministry is that its pioneer came face to face with the cycle of poverty in which the people were trapped. They were so preoccupied with the struggle to survive, that they could not attend to spiritual realities. It would have been almost impossible to offer Jesus Christ to them and ignore their other needs. So the gospel of love is verbalized and actualized simultaneously.
The Good News of the Kingdom Having suggested three ways in which evangelism and social responsibility are related to one another, we come to an even more basic way in which they are united, namely by the gospel. For the gospel is the root, of which both evangelism and social responsibility are the fruits. So what is the Good News? No simple answer can be given, since a variety of models is developed in the New Testament.
At this Consultation, however, we have concentrated on two comprehensive models. It begins with new life. Salvation continues with the new community. For salvation in the Bible is never a purely individualistic concept. As in the Old Testament, so in the New, God is calling out a people for himself and binding it to himself by a solemn covenant. The members of this new society, reconciled through Christ to God and one another, are being drawn from all races and cultures. Indeed, this single new humanity—which Christ has created and in which no barriers are tolerated—is an essential part of the Good News Eph.
Thirdly, salvation includes the new world which God will one day make. We are looking forward not only to the redemption and resurrection of our bodies, but also to the renovation of the entire created order, which will be liberated from decay, pain and death Rom. Of this cosmic renewal the resurrection of Christ was the beginning and the pledge. Having agreed on these three dimensions of salvation personal, social and cosmicwe went on to pose a further question: Some of us do not find salvation-language inappropriate for such situations, even when Christ is not acknowledged in them.
Most of us, however, consider that it is more prudent and biblical to reserve the vocabulary of salvation for the experience of reconciliation with God through Christ and its direct consequences. According to the Synoptic Gospels, the kingdom was the major theme of his sermons and parables. Hence our decision to focus on it. As the Creator, he is both King of nature sustaining what he has made and King of history ordering the life of nations.
Over themselves Israel knew that Yahweh reigned in a special way. For even after the people had demanded a king like other nations, Israel did not cease to be a theocracy. So he began to promise through his prophets that one day he would send his own king, anointed with his Spirit, to reign in righteousness and peace over all peoples and forever.
The opposition between evangelism and social action started in early 20th century conflicts between Christ-preaching evangelicals who treasured the Bible and social gospel advocates that believed real Christianity had to make a difference in society first of all. Few know that the founder of the Social Gospel movement, Walter Rauschenbuschwas a Baptist evangelical deeply worried that the movement he founded would turn away from faith in Christ. His worries were justified: His grandson, Richard Rortywas a leading academic postmodernist who eschewed all things Christian.
Until the s, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians sat on the sidelines of this conflict. Now, in the early decades of the 21st century, the old conflict has largely subsided and is alien to current university students. But, should evangelism and social action be linked, and, if so, why? There are two common answers, both of which assume a positive answer and both of which are inadequate.
The first answer resorts to utilitarian, rather than principled, reasoning: The problem is that this makes our faith look like a trick, albeit a generous one, to get decisions for Jesus. The second answer prioritizes meeting social needs as an expression of Christian kindness and compassion in a hurting world.
Evangelism and Social Action: They Belong Together — Wilberforce Academy
He also says our service is a function of our passion. Unfortunately, we end up prioritizing physical over spiritual needs, emotional responses over careful reasoning.
The answer to the question Should evangelism and social action be linked? As it is, there are solid, principle-oriented arguments linking evangelism and social action.
These four arguments are buried in the text of the Bible special revelation as well as in the natural and social order natural revelation.