Evangelism? Social ministry? Or, both/and? It’s a question, and a tension, that many Christians and churches struggle with.
In a paper entitled The Gospel and the Poor, Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, helped me think through the relationship between evangelism and social ministry and how to balance them at the home and local church level.
It is a great paper that has alot of information, Scripture and insight in it for all who are committed to sharing Christ in word and in deed. Pastor Keller also makes reference to and much use of Jonathan Edwards’ discourse, “Christian Charity”, a paper I intend to read later this week.
About half-way through the paper, after speaking about the validity and value of social ministry, Keller asks the question: “But what about the relationship of ministry to the poor to the ministry of evangelism and the preaching of the Gospel?” His answer is that:
- Evangelism is distinct
- Evangelism is more basic than ministry to the poor
- But ministry to the poor is inseparably connected to evangelism
- Inseparable does not mean a rigid, temporal order
Included among the many things said in the paper’s summary, Pastor Keller says,
Jesus calls Christians to be ‘witnesses,’ to evangelize others, but also to be deeply concerned for the poor. He calls His disciples both to ‘gospel-messaging’ (urging everyone to believe the Gospel) and to ‘gospel-neighboring’ (sacrificially meeting the needs of those around them whether they believe or not! The two absolutely go together … theologically … (and) practically.”
This is a great paper for all who are concerned not only about evangelism, but also for ministry to the poor, needy and marginalized.
You can read all of The Gospel and the Poor here.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)