Should evangelicals only concern themselves with spiritual conversion? Should we leave social justice issues to mainliners and only be about the important business of saving souls? If we believe in the value of cultural renewal, what does that mean for us? Here are some thoughts from John Stott and others.
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Going into the world means presence. Moreover, it is to be the visible presence of a church which bears an attractive aspect. As Samuel Escobar wrote in his paper for the Lausanne Congress: "The primitive church was not perfect, but evidently it was a community that called the attention of men because of the qualitative differences in its life. The message was not only heard from them, it was also seen in the way they lived" (Let the Earth Hear His Voice p. 308). There can be no evangelism without the church. The message comes from the community which embodies it and which welcomes into its fellowship those who receive it. The fact immediately brings a challenge to the church. Dr. Visser't Hooft in 1949 referred to the boomerang effect of the evangelistic question:
"The Church which would call the world to order is suddenly called to order itself. The question which it would throw onto the world: "Do you know that you belong to Christ?" comes back as an echo. The Church discovers that it cannot truly evangelize, that its message is unconvincing unless it lets itself be tranformed and renewed, unless it becomes what it believes it is. (Philip Potter in his 1967 address to the WCC central committee in Crete).(Christian Mission, Page 56)
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Evangelistic efforts are invalidated if the church is not being truly Christian in its behavior. We need not choose between the cause of spiritual or physical transformation. An "either/or" construct must be replaced by a strong commitment to "both/and". This means ministering to widows, helping the poor, and healing the sick must be a shared priority with evangelizing the lost and discipling the flock.