This has been, so far, my single most prolific day of blogging. This is my third post for Blog Action Day 2008 (here are the first and second). I have enjoyed and benefited personally from thinking deeply today about the problem of poverty.
But I’ve done very little, really, compared to someone like Doug Hayes. Doug is director of Covenant Mercies, a gospel-centered nonprofit organization established to serve the poor in its community, and beyond.
Doug has obviously given a lot of thought to the mission of the church, and understands it better, I think, than many of the rest of us. I can’t possibly improve on what he’s written in the following article.
What is the mission of the church? Are God’s people called to evangelize the lost by preaching the gospel and calling people to repentance? Or are we to spend our time and resources ministering to the needs of the poor? Are these two activities even meant to be distinguished from one another? Is the gospel preached when we act in harmony with the mercy and justice of God? Are the needs of the poor best met when we address spiritual need, rather than putting food in the bellies of lost souls?
Church history has taught us that ministries of mercy are often erroneously equated with evangelism. Even today, some would say that we proclaim the gospel by meeting physical needs, breaking the chains of oppression and setting people free from multigenerational conditions of poverty and suffering. At best, evangelism is an afterthought; at worst, it’s not a thought at all, but is presumed to be present in deeds reflecting justice and mercy.
On the other hand, some would claim that it’s not the mission of the church to care for the poor at all. They would view a strong emphasis on social justice as inherently worldly, an exchange of the eternally glorious, life-giving gospel for the ONE campaign’s audacious goal to “make poverty history.” The job of the church is to evangelize, not to combat poverty. After all, they might argue, what good is a full stomach if you’re on your way to hell?
So which one is it? Is the church to be concerned with evangelism or care for the poor?
Read the rest.