Have you ever wondered whether it’s more important to seek to convert others to believe in Jesus through our words or more important to fight injustice and help the poor? Is it more important to evangelize or to be socially active?
Let’s consider this: should we “love mercy” or “do justice”? (Micah 6:8) Should we “repent” or “be baptized”? (Acts 2:38)
These questions should make us uneasy and concerned. Why? Because they are divorcing two things that were never intended to be separated. However, we often do exactly this when it comes to this question:
SHOULD WE EVANGELIZE OR BE SOCIALLY ACTIVE?
Many churches choose one of these at the near exclusion of the other. For many conservative churches, evangelism is clearly more important. For many liberal churches, social action takes precedence.
This is not what God intended.
Even placing more emphasis on one over the other diminishes their intertwined relationship. Evangelism and social action are not the same things and yet they are incomplete without the presence of the other. We cannot choose one over the other when both are required.
In his book Ministries of Mercy, Tim Keller uses an analogy of an airplane to help us see the relationship here. Keller says that evangelism and social action are the two wings of an airplane. They work together in unison to advance the Kingdom of God. Together, they take the Kingdom of God into a lost world. However, if we remove one of the wings, the airplane and the message both crash with it.
If we remove social action from our lives, skeptics see us as cold, selfish hypocrites unconcerned with people’s physical needs. If we remove evangelism from our lives, we fail to show skeptics the reason for our actions and are ultimately withholding the source of our greatest joy and our soul’s salvation.
Jesus shows us that the Kingdom of God is proclaimed in both words and deeds. The message of the gospel is heard through words and seen through actions. We must be bold and brave with both our mouths and our hands as we show the world Jesus’ love.
Grab a blank piece of paper. Any size and color will be fine. Draw an airplane as if you're viewing it from above. On one wing, write the word "evangelism" and on the other wing write the word "social action". Hang your doodle somewhere you'll see it often.
Q: In your own life, which way does your plane lean? Do you favor evangelism or social action more than the other?
Take a moment to praise God for the fruit he has produced in the wing that is stronger. Thank him for how his grace is at work in this area. Ask God to grow more fruit in the wing that has been lacking. Praise God for caring about you both physically and spiritually!