Thursday, July 03, 2008

Bifurcation can be such an unholy word

"It is not a matter of engaging in both the gospel and social action, as if Christian social action was something separate from the gospel itself. The gospel has to be demonstrated in word and deed. Biblically, the gospel includes the totality of all that is good news from God for all that is bad news in human lifeā€”in every sphere. So like Jesus, authentic Christian mission has included good news for the poor, compassion for the sick and suffering justice for the oppressed, liberation for the enslaved. The gospel of the Servant of God in the power of the Spirit of God addresses every area of human need and every area that has been broken and twisted by sin and evil. And the heart of the gospel, in all of these areas, is the cross of Christ." - Christopher J. H. Wright International director of John Stott Ministries (from Knowing the Holy Spirit Throught the Old Testament)

This, actually reminds me of the E. Stanley Jones quote: Evangelism without social action is like a body without a soul. Social action without evangelism is like a soul without a body. One is a corpse, the other is a ghost. We don't want either one.

So - why do we so often settle for ghosts and corpses in our ministrues?

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At 10:41 AM, Blogger mike said...

I heard you ask on your radio show why this bifurcation exists. That's a good question. I think this is due to several reasons, but none more significant than a misunderstanding, even mis-defining, of what salvation is.

We have come to present the Gospel as merely "getting saved." It has become more about being "born again," missing hell and gaining heaven, as if that were all there is to salvation. That is certainly PART of it (thus the need for evangelism), but we have made evangelism the GOAL or the END, rather than the means to an end. Christ said, I believe it was in John 10:10, "I have come that they might have LIFE and have it to the full." Salvation thusly defined, is the MEANS to an end. It is what is required to enter a fulfilling, salvific relationship with Christ that restores us into a position that then-NOW-we can begin to gain LIFE-a FULL life in ALL of its aspects.

When Christ-followers see the Gospel in this light, with this definition, then evangelism cannot be "bifurcated" from social, relational, physical, cultural, financial, etc...issues in peoples' lives. A proper understanding of what salvation restores (the reversal of the effects of the fall) leads to a more holistic approach to people who do not know Him. Of course we are interested in the soul's destiny (evangelism), but we are also interested in their health and fitness, their life skills, their food and shelter, and the world in which we all live and breathe here in the "not yet" heaven. The Gospel is for today, as well as for eternity. That leads to how we define our eschatology and how our weak eschatology affects this issue as well. My question is, where along the line did we trade Christ's definition of salvation (John 10:10) for the one we practice today that is indeed bifurcated.

God bless you in your ministry.
Natchez, MS


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