The Christian Vision Project's big question this year has been,What must we learn, and unlearn, to be agents of God's mission in the world? Many respondents have argued for increased attention to issues of global justice. Ajith Fernando, longtime Youth for Christ leader in Sri Lanka, doesn't disagree, but wonders if we're in danger of forgetting what he considers our highest mission priority. Fernando is the author of a number of books, including Jesus Driven Ministry and The Call to Joy and Pain: Embracing Suffering in Your Ministry (both Crossway), and is a corresponding editor for Christianity Today.

The Church is notorious for its course corrections. Toward the end of the 19th century, theological liberals began to emphasize the humanness of Christ. They presented Christ's life as the main focus of the gospel. Evangelicals reacted by emphasizing the atoning work of Christ (especially as explained by Paul), almost to the exclusion of the life of Christ. So liberals concentrated on good deeds and evangelicals on saving souls.

But by the middle of the 20th century, we evangelicals realized our mistake. Carl F. H. Henry's The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism in 1947 and the Lausanne Covenant of 1974 were landmark documents leading us to once again see social concern as an element of the church's mission. Some evangelicals gave greater weight than before to the Gospels and the kingdom of God, while others advocated for a right-wing political agenda. But regardless of where we fell on the political spectrum, we were encouraged to engage the culture and seek to demonstrate the Christian ethic daily.

The old "evangelism versus social action" war was over—or so I believed. In Sri Lanka, I was devoted to raising up ...

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November 2007

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