Social involvement and evangelism (Part II): How they relate

Thought, Sola Panel

In the first part of this essay (in Briefing #316), Tim Chester looked at the strong case that can be made for Christian social involvement, as well as the strong case for proclamation of the gospel being central. We now come to the question that has bedevilled evangelical discussion of this subject for the past 30 years: What ought to be the relationship between social involvement and evangelism in Christian ministry and mission?


Social involvement and evangelism (Part I): Two strong cases


Let me introduce Albert. Albert calls himself a post-evangelical. He says there are many good things about the evangelical church in which he grew up, but he himself has grown out of evangelicalism’s narrowness. Like his postmodern friends, he is wary of truth claims and instead he wants to emphasize symbols and images. This makes him much more comfortable with social involvement than evangelism. Evangelism makes him uneasy because, as he puts it, ‘we are all on a faith journey’ and he thinks that evangelism among the poor is simply manipulative. His catchphrase is ‘don’t force your truth on others’. Instead we should walk with the poor, care for them and help them on their faith journey while expecting them to enrich our own faith journeys.