Evangelism and Social Involvement

Posted: September 27, 2010 by Scott Kistler in Christ & Culture, Evangelism, Ministry to the Poor, Missional Thought, Social Issues

Justin Taylor posted some good resources here by Tony Payne and Tim Chester.

This essay, by both Payne and Chester, pointed out a key difference between evangelism and social action:

Second, social involvement at its best is about harnessing the resources within a community. It is about empowering a community through their participation. The alternative is a paternalistic approach which is short-term, creating dependency in its beneficiaries. In good development, an understanding of the problem and its solutions come from within a community. In contrast, the message of the gospel is that we are powerless and cannot participate in our salvation. Both an understanding of the problem and the solution must come from outside the community. This outside message does not come from western technology, money, expertise, still less from free market capitalism. It comes from heaven. This is one reason for the emphasis in John’s Gospel that Jesus is ‘from heaven’.

The essay also came to a good conclusion:

If we see social involvement as an expression of Christian godliness, in response to the character of God, the reign of God and the grace of God—which we suggested in Part I is the best way to think about it—then the relationship between evangelism and social involvement is not so fraught or so complicated.

Jesus sends us out into the world to ‘make disciples’. With this in mind, the two key questions are:

  1. How do we make disciples? We make disciples through the prayerful proclamation of the gospel of Christ, in dependence on the Holy Spirit to make the message effective.
  2. What does it mean to be a disciple? We teach disciples to obey all that Christ has commanded, including the command to live in kindness, generosity, love and active concern for those around us.
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