How do we mix the oil and water of evangelism and social responsibility? Delegates in Grand Rapids wrestle with an important issue discussed in “The Other Side of Thanksgiving.”

What is the relationship between the Great Commission (to go into all the world and preach the gospel) and the Great Commandment (to love God and to love one’s neighbor as oneself)? How do evangelism and social responsibility relate?

Are they different sides of the same coin—or competitors? Mission executives increasingly complain that relief and development agencies get a growing share of a finite evangelical dollar. Other opinion leaders insist it is high time evangelicals paid more attention to the needs of 800 million fellow humans who live near the margins of survival. They assert that the traditional emphasis on preaching the gospel and on church growth is a distortion of the real mandate of God’s people in the world.

The Consultation on the Relationship between Evangelism and Social Responsibility held at Grand Rapids, Michigan, last June grasped a nettle that has been a major irritant at international evangelical gatherings for more than a decade. By facing these issues squarely its sponsors hoped to produce a document that would defuse tensions and help unite Christians whose perceptions of Christian responsibility were leading them to stress different priorities, threatening to produce overt disunity within the worldwide evangelical movement.

The structure of the consultation was designed with great care by a joint committee established by the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) and the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) to coordinate their most important joint exercise to date. Forty-two participants and ten consultants from ...

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