For the last hundred years, evangelicals have debated the false dichotomy of proclaiming the good news versus performing good deeds.
But in today’s world it just might be that the most effective way to bring the good news to the most difficult-to-reach nations is to weld the two together—in the very same way Jesus did. In fact, the physical and spiritual needs in our world not only make this approach effective but also essential.
I believe this was the essence and example of Jesus’ life. “Go back and report,” he said, “that the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Matt. 11:5)
In the year before he died, missiologist Ralph Winter said this integration of gospel proclamation and social action was the most important trend in global mission. “We need both to save people from sin and from malaria,” he said. “Evangelism. . . . becomes weak and lacks credibility if it does not generate committed believers who will tackle the world’s problems.”
We need this holistic approach to missions, perhaps now more than ever. The major trends in both global poverty and mission are pointing us to the same places—regions where the church is least established and where poverty and human suffering is most acute. The Great Commission compels us to go to those countries in our world where people have not heard the gospel. And the Great Commandment tells us to love our neighbors. Today, those twin commands send us to the same contexts.
Jesus is calling us into the broken places, the bleeding edges of our world. He has always called us to follow ...1
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