Over the last two centuries there has been a struggle in evangelism and missionary endeavors between proclaiming the pure gospel and placing emphasis on social action. Roland Allen expressed the conviction that the primary work of the Church is spreading the gospel to every people group. He said, “I believe that evangelistic missions are in themselves supreme and that without them no educational or medical missions would ever come into existence. Christ the beginning, the end; the need for Christ, the hope in Christ; the desire for His glory; the conviction of His sovereignty; the impulse of His Spirit – these are some of the reasons for evangelical mission.” (1)
In Paul’s beautiful portrait of Jesus in Colossians 1:15-20 says, “that in everything he might be preeminent” (1:18). During this phase of the Early Church, persons were trying to elevate philosophies and traditions to the same importance as Christ. For Paul and for us, such teaching is false and dangerous to the Church. Christ and the Gospel must be kept as the supreme message of the Church. While social efforts have their place and are needed, they must never transcend Jesus’ command to “Go…make disciples...Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15). To help a young congregation get back on track with the gospel in faith and practice, Paul wrote, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
We are thankful for every ministry that is giving aid to the poor, sick, dislocated and persecuted people. But in our efforts to help these who experience human suffering, remember that the greatest help and healing comes from a personal relationship with Jesus. Persons become children of God through the Gospel and faith in Christ, not by possessing any material things.
(1) Roland Allen, “The Relationship Between Medical, Educational and Evangelistic Work in Foreign Missions”, Church Missionary Society, 1920, page 57.
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