Awareness of poverty and God’s heart for the poor have risen among young evangelical Christians over the last few years. In response, many have supported direct service projects by giving money, raising awareness, and volunteering in short- or long-term ways. But young evangelicals are rarely mobilized in sustained ways to advocate for social change. Statistics show that white evangelicals are no more likely than other Christians, or even non-Christians, to write, call, or visit an elected official, and they are considerably less likely to engage in a public protest or demonstration. In short, many are inspired but few are mobilized.
But some do focus on addressing the root causes of poverty by mobilizing people to work for systemic change and to influence political decision-makers. What causes young evangelicals to become social reformers, in addition to being Good Samaritans?
Last year I had the opportunity to do in-depth interviews with a number of young evangelicals who have made this leap—people like “John,” whose upbringing in “very evangelical” schools in a conservative Midwestern suburb led him to feel “frustration and cynicism” by high school. He reported, “I didn’t feel like we were any different from the world. We had chapel, and we prayed before class, but we were wrapped up in materialism and image and all of these fleeting things.”