Much time, ink, and mental energy is expended these days on the polarization in various church bodies between evangelism and social action. Some say there is really no question, since evangelism and social action are two sides of the same coin. They tell us the Church has concentrated too long on the vertical man-to-God relationship and is now beginning to catch up on the horizontal man-to-man relationship. So today the watchwords are Relevance and Involvement, and we are getting more excited over Lazarus in his poverty than over Dives on his way to hell. Some are for putting the robe on the prodigal while he is still feeding swine, killing the fatted calf for a generation still feeding on husks. They seem to have forgotten that the prodigal was rehabilitated after he returned to the Father.

But there is a true social involvement for every Christian, and it naturally derives from his commitment to Christ as Lord. My father was an old-fashioned Christian who probably never heard a sermon on the social implications of Christianity, but he worked hard for better roads, better schools, cleaner politics. He did not wave a placard and join a demonstration, but his religion was expressed in all his contacts. I often think of him when I hear people today talk as though nobody ever thought about a Christian’s obligations in society until they came along.

The most basic problem today, however, is not evangelism and/or social action. Neither of these will be any better than the people engaged in them. A sick church cannot help a sick world. The first item on the agenda now is repentance and renewal within the church. A healthy Christianity will issue in evangelism and a powerful impact on society. We are trying to propagate a weak, anemic ...

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