All that Christ calls us to do in society must be done first in the local church.

There are at least two reasons why Christians should ask the specific, practical question of how might they engage in meaningful social action. The first reason relates to the growing awareness among earnest believers that the Bible clearly teaches that the pursuit of holiness and the development of true piety involve two distinguishable yet inseparable duties: evangelism and social action.

To glorify God, we must proclaim the gospel and care for the needy. We must condemn personal as well as societal sin. We must make the way of redemption plain as we seek justice for the oppressed. Evangelism and social action are equal partners; each is an end in itself, but Christ is the reason for both. Faithfulness to Christ means obedience in both areas.

But it is one thing to be impressed with the clear teaching of the Word of God and another thing to obey. Such a dichotomy should not exist. It is not difficult for evangelical churches to agree that “boat people” from Indochina need our immediate assistance. But what is difficult is to move from the theoretical to the practical: to become responsible for a particular refugee family. It is easy to give money to a relief organization; it is another matter to give time and energy to help one family. How to put our biblical knowledge to work is the question uppermost on the agenda of our local churches.

The second reason stems from the growing popularity of evangelical Christianity—for if the pollsters and the public media are right, evangelicals are becoming the mainstream of active Protestantism.

But how shall we understand this growing popularity? What does evangelical identity mean? Is our image clear and ...

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