Some Christians want to bring 'social action' right to the centre of Christian activity, so much so that anyone who suggests that evangelism may be a higher or more central priority risks being labelled heartless.
Others see any push for Christian social involvement as a worrying attempt to water down the priority of evangelism.
The Bible makes a strong case for both: we ought to be involved in our communities, and offer physical and material help to those around us who are in need, but there is also the centrality of preaching the gospel. How do these two strands of the Bible's teaching relate together?
Which is more important: physical or spiritual health? Obviously, spiritual health is more important. If it’s a choice between health and wealth on earth, and eternity in heaven, I know which one I’d choose. Easy. Jesus did not instruct us to “Go therefore and feed the poor”, but to “make disciples of all nations … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20). That is our great commission.
Then again, it’s pretty hard to ignore James’ fairly blunt and very practical question: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled’, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (Jas 2:15-16). As Christians, we can make valuable contributions to the societies in which we live—not just materially, but also politically and morally.
So what place do evangelism and social action have in the Christian life? Does feeding the poor earn us the right to preach the gospel because it proves that we care? Or is social involvement a distraction from the real job of preaching God’s word?
As former Research and Policy Director for Tearfund UK, and now full-time church planter with The Crowded House, Tim Chester has had to think carefully about these issues. His articles in this MiniZine are really two parts of one argument. The first looks at the Bible’s teaching on both Christian social action and evangelism. The second, written with Tony Payne, looks at how these two strands of the Bible’s teaching relate together.
As with all our MiniZines, the aim is to encourage thought and discussion. Our hope and prayer is that this material will challenge Christians of all persuasions to re-examine their view on this important issue, and come to a coherent, biblical position.
— Emma Thornett
It's not a booklet, or a leaflet, or a tract. It's not a full-sized magazine either. It's somewhere in the middle: a short collection of articles, in an economical, easy-to-read format, with a discussion guide included.
The aim is simple: to provide high-quality Bible-based input to help Christians encourage each other.
MiniZines are ideal for giving away, for starting personal conversations, and for small group discussion.