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evangelism or serving?

January 12, 2012

I was recently asked if it is more faithful for a church to pursue evangelism or serving others.

Though it’s a good question, it’s the wrong question. We must ask instead, “What is God’s mission to the world?” and faithfully pursue that.

What is God’s mission? God’s mission is to bring redemption. Matthew summarizes this mission when he says of Jesus: “And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” God’s mission is to bring redemption through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

God’s mission includes the salvation of individuals. God wants people to know him and be forgiven through Jesus. Christian faithfulness includes telling others that, because of sin, they have a broken relationship with God that can be healed through faith in Jesus. Christian faithfulness includes evangelism.

God’s mission also includes a holistic component. God wants people to have beds to sleep in, food to eat, and to be healed of their diseases and afflictions. Christian faithfulness includes doing justice. It includes sacrificially giving to those in need.

Both evangelism and serving are aspects of God’s mission, and it is this mission the Church must pursue. Christopher Wright in God’s Mission to the World quotes Jean-Paul Heldt:

There is no longer a need to qualify mission as “holistic,” nor to distinguish between “mission” and “holistic mission.”  Mission is, by definition, “holistic,” and therefore “holistic mission” is, de facto, mission.  Proclamation alone, apart from any social concern, may be perceived as a distortion, a truncated version of the true gospel, a parody and travesty of the good news, lacking relevance for the real problems of real people living in the real world.  On the other end of the spectrum, exclusive focus on transformation and advocacy may just result in social and humanitarian activism, void of any spiritual dimension.  Both approaches are unbiblical; they deny the wholeness of human nature of human beings created in the image of God.  Since we are created “whole,” and since the Fall affects our total humanity in all its dimensions, then redemption, restoration, and mission can, by definition, only be “holistic.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 18, 2012 10:57 pm

    Love this. Thanks!!

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