Holding Evangelism and Social Action in Tandem

By Adam Phillips 10-26-2010

The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization in Cape Town, South Africa has been very clear: There is no dichotomy between evangelism of word and deed. Evangelism and social action -- what so much of the church has been waking up to in terms of social justice -- must be held hand in hand. Cape Town 2010 has underscored what God is doing and calling the church to do through Christ's ministry of reconciliation by highlighting global concerns and global contexts.

We've been wrestling this week and hearing testimonies at Lausanne III on everything from global poverty and AIDS, human trafficking and evil systems of class and caste, conflict in hot-spots of national identities, as well as the persecuted church in places of authoritarian regimes. A sub-theme has been: "God is on the move." And so, the Congress is sincerely wrestling with how to be a reconciling movement of people.

In the last two days we've dug deeper in and around issues of suffering. Day two was all about suffering in the world and the critical challenges of human trafficking and HIV/AIDS. Ruth Padilla DeBorst, General Secretary of the Latin American Theological Fellowship, kicked off the morning plenary session with a brilliant Bible study on Ephesians 2 -- setting Paul's epistle with the backdrop of Roman imperialism, militarism, economic dominance, and ethnic conflict. DeBorst preached that the "official story" of the powers that be was "peace, security, and safe borders." The Pax Romana instilled a sense of false security as they were oppressive to immigrant groups and ethnic minorities.

"But God" (quoting Ephesians 2:4) breaks into this in Christ Jesus and "recreates human kind." DeBorst then went on to articulate that human beings in Christ Jesus, saved by grace through faith, were not "cogs in the wheels of Roman imperialism," but in God's gracious reconciling work were "indispensable, valuable, and beautiful." DeBorst, echoing her father Rene Padilla's previous cries for holistic discipleship, went on to say, "The discipline of remembering constitutes the anecdote to

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