The Evangelical Alliance recently published the 21st Century Evangelicals survey. This was a great piece of research providing a fabulous snapshot of evangelicalism in the UK. It can be found at www.eauk.org. For someone who has advocated and worked for effective church community mission there were some really encouraging numbers:
81% volunteer each month.
85% said their church was engaged with their community
81% said their church was working with others in the community
There was also a note of caution. 35% of respondents felt that there had been too much emphasis on social action and another 25% were unsure whether this was the case. A clear majority of evangelicals are worried that social action and involvement has become too important in our life and mission at the expense of other important things.
So, here is my confession. I am part of that group.
We live in a time when it is more acceptable to be involved with social action than proclamation. Our government and local authorities want our service but they are not sure about our faith. Our friends applaud our acts of kindness and volunteering but feel awkward when we explain the reason why.
Yet the problem is that Jesus never asked us to serve the poor. He commanded us to seek the Kingdom. You can serve the poor without seeking the kingdom that is humanitarianism. But Jesus has called us to be more than social workers with a Bible verse. He commanded us to seek a new Kingdom and to enter that Kingdom you need to come to the King.
It is equally true that you cannot seek the Kingdom without serving the poor. What we need to avoid is another swing of the pendulum away from social action and back to proclamation. There are some that want us to choose between social action and evangelism. That is a false choice. We need a wholehearted commitment to both. We follow a different King and seek another Kingdom. We are working for spiritual and material transformation. For the love of people and the glory of the King.