Preaching is all right. But preaching is not social action.” This is a distinction one frequently hears today when talking to a member of the activist generation. Even in evangelical circles, many now insist that mere preaching is not enough; the minister and the church, as the church, should be involved in social action. In fact, some would almost go to the extreme of saying that preaching is definitely secondary to social action. If the church today is going to make any effective impact on the twentieth-century world, it must act—preaching is only talk and in the long run means very little. Looked at properly, however, the faithful preaching of the Gospel is social action.

The term social action is generally used today to mean the taking of direct action to accomplish some desired social purpose. The action may be taking part in a boycott or some other form of demonstration, working for open housing, setting up a coffeehouse or a day-care or tutoring center, renovating a house for a low-income family, or any of dozens of other worthy possibilities. Yet while these things may be good and useful in their way, they deal only with surface phenomena. They seek to remove a deep-seated tumor from society by applying a plaster to the surface. The world’s deepest need today is not something that merely dulls the pain, but something that goes deep in order to change the basic unit of society, man himself. Only when men individually have experienced a change and reorientation can society be redirected in the way it should go. This we cannot accomplish by either violence or legislation. These methods may indeed alter things for a time, but usually the old disease reasserts itself. Another approach must be found if the problem is to ...

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