Bible Study: Evangelism vs Social Action

Many Christian groups are concerned with meeting either spiritual needs or physical needs. What are our priorities as Christians? What can we learn from the Bible on this subject?

What were Jesus’ priorities?

Read Luke 4:18-20.

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour"
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. Luke 4:18-20

Here Jesus, for the first time, introduces why he came. This was also written about in Isaiah 61:1-2, hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus. What are the reasons Jesus gives for his coming? Are they more to do with people’s spiritual needs, or their physical needs - or both?

What are our priorities?

Christian community development must be based on what Jesus said and did.

Read Luke 10:27

‘He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Luke 10:27

How are we to love God? What does it mean to love our neighbours as ourselves? Are we truly concerned with their welfare, both physical and spiritual?

Jesus was concerned about the whole person. He healed the sick as he preached and taught. We too must share his concern. When Jesus sent out his twelve disciples to minister to others, he commanded them to heal the sick and to be concerned for the physical needs of others as they preached the good news of Jesus Christ.

How should we put this into action?

Read Matthew 28:19-20

‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ Matthew 28:19-20

This is known as the ‘Great Commission’. It is not optional for us as Christians - it is a command! If we follow this command, all of us who are involved in community health and development also need to be involved in sharing our faith and making disciples.

Do you believe that social action (through community health and development) and evangelism are intertwined and should not be separated? For me one without the other is incomplete.

Dr Gordon Moyes at Amsterdam ‘83 made the following comparisons: ‘Evangelism without social action is irrelevant to human need. Social action without evangelism is flowers without fruit. Together word and deed become the most powerful commitment, relevant and responsible both to our Lord and to our neighbours.’

Are there areas of your life, or your church’s life, where you are doing one but not the other? How could you integrate them better?

Study by Stan Rowland

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