In my early years as a pastor (from the 60s through the 80s) I remember people saying that liberals focused on social justice mostly to the exclusion of evangelism, and evangelicals focused on evangelism mostly to the exclusion of social justice. In fact, many of the theological differences during those years were crystallized in the dichotomy between social justice and evangelism as if one was more important than the other.
Well, no more. Over the past decade we have witnessed a wholesale reversal of these roles, with two exceptions. The evangelicals now focus as much on social justice as they do evangelism and the liberals have mostly lost steam on either front due to their free fall decline.
Here’s an example to show you what I mean.
I always record a couple of early Sunday morning programs. One of them is Meet the Press. I can’t make it through the week without watching this program – even if I’m out of the country. This week, Rick Warren and the Gates were featured.
I’ve known Rick long before he was the Rick Warren people know today – Saddleback was a one horse church back then (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun). I’ve watched him mature in his leadership. As I watched Meet the Press, I could not help but agree with him. I loved his response to the question of whether he was right or left wing: “I’m for the whole bird,” he replied. All the discussions on AIDS, Africa, abortion, etc. he was a constant witness to Jesus Christ. He so eloquently tied together social justice and evangelism that only the darkest of hearts could take issue with him – even on an issue where one might have a serious disagreement.
The evangelical wing of the church has really come full circle and people like Rick Warren are helping to bring about a marriage of social justice and evangelism the way the Scriptures intended. You may not like some of this theology, but I dare anyone to question the spirit of his ministry.
I salute you, Rick. You are the one God has put here for this hour. Continue to shine your light on social justice and evangelism as two sides of the same coin. It’s time both sides of the table learned the lesson God has taught you.
Question: How does your church try to marry social justice and evangelism? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.