Drying Out

Drying Out

Well, the flood waters are seeping back to their rightful place. Considering that we just endured the storm of the century (3 months’ worth in 24 hours), we’re amazingly well.

Nevertheless, I’m investigating a contingency plan with this flood in mind. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. This one is my personal favorite (HT: SI). We’re even considering a new logo.

Joking aside, I took a profitable phone call today from Bob Bixby, who (on behalf of Global Grace Missions) offered to help me think through how TCBC might use this opportunity to reach out to our community. As I understand it, Global Grace Missions has highlighted these types of situations as opportunities (a) to carry out Scriptural commands to “do good to all men, especially [but not exclusively] the household of faith (Gal. 6:10), and (b) to extend the love of Christ to people in physical need in order to extend the gospel of Christ to people in spiritual need. (That’s my description of the ministry, so blame me if you don’t like it, not Bob.) I had thought of contacting Bob about how to best utilize this opportunity, but he dialed first. Please pray with us about what we can and should do to minister to our community at this unique time.

Thank you, Bob, for your counsel and example in this area. I believe we’ve neglected legitimate needs too often, and have unwisely written off ministry to those in physical need as “social gospel.” Should we prioritize spiritual ministry? Absolutely. But our right focus on the gospel message doesn’t necessitate–or excuse–our ignoring the oft-repeated commands of Scripture to assist those in need, especially in situations such as this.

Thanks also to those who have prayed for us!


95 Responses

  1. Hey, Chris, I don’t know about all this… just what would those “oft-repeated commands” be, especially as applicable to the local church and the so-called needy? And what would you do about Mt 6.1-4?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. Gotta run, Don, but I can’t imagine what Matthew 6:1-4 has to say about this.

    The NT says much about ministering to people in need: James 1:27, for example; Galatians 2:10 and 6:10 also come to mind.

    What about this would raise a red flag for you, Don?

  3. First, I am not convinced that the New Testament mandates social action outside of the local church as a corporate ministry responsibility. As an individual, when I see a real need, I should do what I can to meet that need, not leave the dude lying in the ditch. But as a church? As a ministry?

    I’m surprised, though, that you don’t see the relevance that Mt 6.1-4 has for this topic. If you are doing alms, i.e, good deeds, keep quiet about it! Otherwise, who is to say why you are doing it?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  4. How does this sync with “let your light so shine before men that they see the good works that you do, and give glory to God above” stated in the previous chapter? Some level of social responsibility may be determined by some as the way to let our light shine for the privilege of pointing others to Christ.

  5. Hi, Don.

    Are you speaking of me personally…like I shouldn’t be mentioning it here? If so, we could say the same about prayer from Matthew 6:5-6. Shall we not discuss ideas for corporate prayer lest people wonder why we are doing it? Shall we not speak of ministry challenges & victories lest we seem to boast? Shall we not share outreach ideas or suggestions for improving our worship? I agree that our motives must be right–and we should not assume that they are–but I don’t see the danger of discussing “how to’s” of ministry, opportunities we’re taking, etc.

    As for the legitimacy of what you are calling “social action,” I’m not seeing your concern there either. Is a benevolence fund wrong? Is taking up collections for the needy? That happened often in the New Testament. What about Christ’s ministry of meeting physical needs? Sure, it demonstrated His deity, but it also demonstrated His compassion.

    I probably sound like a “social gospel” guy. Of all people, I’m not arguing for a social agenda, per se. But is it inappropriate for our church to organize a group to help wet-vac a neighbor’s home as we did for a member’s? Really? Would it be wrong to help do some repair work?

    I’m also not sure why we shouldn’t consider OT commands regarding this issue. Sure, that which was part of the Civil Law for the nation of Israel is not directly binding on us. But I would argue that even the laws of harvest (Lev. 19:9-10) at least provides some principles for us to consider. I think strong dispensationalists would at least see some lessons & examples in that. And I also have a hard time dismissing the many calls in Proverbs to help the needy (presented, it seems, as moral obligations and not civil laws).

    In our necessary rejection of the social gospel, is it possible that we have swung too far? After all, I’m just suggesting that our church help people in desperate situations. We “have opportunity” (Gal. 6:10). Why not take it?

  6. Hi Chris

    No, I wouldn’t say a discussion of ‘how to’ is wrong. But I just don’t see the NT church in the pages of the NT spending a lot of time trying to organize relief for worldlings. Every collection taken in the NT was for the saints. There were plenty of social needs in the Roman empire (exposing of infants, for one). There is not a word of this in the NT, or any attempts to address it directly.

    My comments on Mt 6 are on the danger of what some might call “braggimonies”. The after the fact trumpeting of one’s good deeds… That seems extremely unseemly, especially in light of the Lord’s teaching.

    I am not saying, ‘don’t ever help someone’, but simply this: the mission of the church is Mt 28.19-20, and the responsibility of the individual is to love his neighbour – quietly, without looking for kudos.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  7. Oh, one more thing, on “have we swung too far?” No, I don’t think so. I think the right focus for the NT church is Mt 28.19-20. I see no mandate for social action for the church.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  8. The parable of the Good Samaritan did not indicate the person beaten and robbed was in any way a believer or not. The question raised was “who is my neighbor?” as I understand the story. It didn’t have anything to do with the topic of salvation.

  9. Galatians 6:10 means what, then?

    I’m obviously not elevating “doing good” to those in need to the level of evangelism. There is no question that we must not become distracted by temporal needs. I just don’t think that overemphasizing such things is much of a danger for most of our churches.

    If nothing else, the Second Great Commandment and the Royal Law would seem to encourage some degree of mercy.

    I do agree with you that the thrust of the NT is overwhelmingly the Great Commission. And I realize that there are innumerable “Christian” ministries (e.g. Compassion International) which are so worldly minded that they’re no heavenly good.

  10. Hi guys,

    I don’t really want to be debating you on this. Yes, the Good Samaritan, an individual, did what a good neighbour should do. The Good Samaritan is not a church, he is an individual doing what he ought to do.

    As for Gal 6.10, I am not denying that we should do good works to others or even to all, but I am saying that our particular care and special effort ought to be for those in the body. They are the concern of the church. It seems to me that a ministry of helps ought to be focused on those in the body, while we should do good as general rule to all as we have the opportunity.

    Your wet basements may be such an opportunity — it came up, you have a few guys in the church who might be going around helping pump out basements (or what have you) and you help anybody you can. I wouldn’t be excluding those who are not members of my local church, and I wouldn’t be worrying about whether the peopel I helped were members of any church. And I wouldn’t be making a big noise about it either.

    That’s all I’m saying…

    Am I making any sense?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  11. 1. Am I making big noise? :)

    2. You just did make big noise, though only hypothetically.

    Go over here, Don.

  12. I vote in favor of Christians doing good things that are totally mundane for unsaved people.

    1. The fact that there is “no mandate for social action” for the church is irrelevant in this case. My wife has no mandate to help a neighbor jump-start her stalled vehicle (I don’t remember covering the topic, at least), but I’m awfully pleased with her when she does. I don’t sit her down after she’s finished helping a neighbor to make sure that her priorities haven’t gotten out of line because she did something for which she lacked a mandate.

    2. Christ says that if we want to be like our Father, we’ll do good even to those who hate us (Matthew 5:44-48). The context of 5:48 (“Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect”) is not talking about holiness (as 1 Peter 1:15-16 does), but is applying our imitation of God’s perfection specifically to the attribute of his love (vv 44-47), which he demonstrates by providing good things for people regardless of whether they love or hate him. We are commanded to copy this kind of (perfect) love.

    3. Christ praises the unjust steward for using his creativity to reap present, monetary rewards for himself, and scolds the children of the kingdom for not figuring out how to use their present resources to reap permanent, spiritual rewards (Luke 16). A disaster seems like a great time to use some creativity to figure out how to advance the cause of the kingdom, both among those already in the faith, as well as those outside it. Creativity is a good thing in this case, not something to be stifled, IMO.

    In a church situation, I see it like this. A really bad storm comes through the area, knocking out tons of trees. Some church members go to a fellow church member, clear his yard of the debris, and then do the same for the neighbor on each side of him, and maybe for an elderly couple down the street that the church member knows. Just to help, and just to build bridges, and just to show love.

    Of course, we have limited resources in time and money, but the fact that we can’t do as much good for people as we might like doesn’t mean that we should do none of it.

    Sometimes an unsaved person can’t understand the love of God in the context of salvation from sin due to a misunderstanding of what Christianity is, through bad experiences with other professing Christians, etc. Sometimes those roadblocks have to be removed before the person will even listen to the gospel, and one of the best ways to move those roadblocks is to love a person in ways that he/she can already understand. I’m not talking about a love that condones sin–just a love that cares about the well-being of a person and wants to have a relationship with him/her.

    Romans 2:4 says that the goodness of God leads men to repentance. I’ve personally seen God demonstrate his goodness to unsaved people through his children in totally mundane, non-spiritual ways that (form a human perspective, at least) eventually led to their repentance.

    (Disclaimer: The above comments should not be construed as a defense of social action in a broader context…although they do shape my views on how involved a Christian can/should be socially and politically. I’m really just talking about grass-roots stuff here.)

  13. You guys are saying the same thing I am. I guess I am not communicating clearly enough.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  14. In light of this, I believe that most Christians should seriously consider owning at least one AWD or 4×4 vehicle, as well as a good chain saw. (-;

  15. Now that would lead to braggin’. :)

  16. Ted,
    Do you see any difference between Christians acting as individuals and a church acting in an “official” capacity as an organization?

  17. Isn’t it sad, men, that the mere mention of a structured approach to helping has to be equally weighted with passionate disclaimers and loud denunciations of the “social gospel?”

    The “social gospel” as a philosophy is practically an anachronistic term that has been almost universally discarded since the crash and burn of 1920’s liberalism. Churches that once preached the gospel, having deliberately bled the “gospel” of the authoritative LOGOS, consciously repacked the gospel with social activism. That didn’t suffice to give their churches a reason for existence and actually turned out to be the nail in the coffin. Fundamentalists have rightly condemned the “social gospel.”

    However, we have only to consider our very own heroes to appreciated organized, structured, and deliberate “social work” that impacted the unbelievers around them: Spurgeon, Chalmers, Wesley, Mueller, Carey, Knox, Calvin, Luther, and the list goes on and on.

    I love the Illinois Baptist history the recounts the stories of Baptist pastors during the plague of 1914 that killed scores of thousands of people who gave themselves and their churches to stay in the midst of the suffering to minister in physical ways to the sick and dying. It was pastors and churches who became the purest channels of common grace during that time of affliction. And they were mostly small churches like ours (140) or smaller!

    That many of them were organized, prepared, and structured does not mean that they had capitulated to the “social gospel.” That washing clothes, burning contaminated clothing, building bunks, and hauling medecine consumed much of their time did not mean that they were compromising the truth. It just became part of their truth-giving work, the platform that they could preach from. When our church has an outdoor tent meeting hours of pre-planning, setting up, and work goes into it. Committtees are organized. The emphasis is “setting up.” But we haven’t capitulated to the “setting up gospel.” It’s just the platform we use. The same goes for agressively helping our neighbors in times of crisis.

    I hope Don doesn’t think this is braggin (but who cares?), this is an illustration of how tiny little things (“social stuff”) help in Gospel ministry. Our church collected nearly 2000 toothbrushes in a short amount of time to help a dentist go to a remote part of the world, among the poorest, accompanied by solid, gospel-preaching works. This is our private church blog, to encourage our folks, but I am sharing it here to motivate the brothers in Ohio! Do something!

    I ramble. Sorry, Chris.

  18. Bob, I assume your question, “but who cares?” is rhetorical. On the off chance that it is not, I refer you to the words of someone who does care:

    Matthew 6:1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  19. Scott–I don’t see much difference qualitatively between Christians acting individually or in an “official” capacity with a church’s endorsement. I know that some churches prefer to limit any activities that it engages in corporately to the basic commands (and sometimes some selected NT patterns), leaving acts of general beneficence to its individual members without the overt sanction of the church.

    IMO, whatever is not denied us is not wrong (I mean this in the same sense as Paul when he says that “all things are lawful unto me”). Based on this, I believe that Christians, individually or as official representatives of a local body, may engage in activities beyond the essential commands and purposes for the church (worship, fellowship, evangelism, edification…) without worrying about whether they have stepped outside the boundaries of what activities God approves.

    In other words, I do not believe that a Christian individual, a Christian group (i.e. parachurch group), or a local church acts improperly when it functions in a way that is neither mandated nor for which there is any NT pattern.

    Of course, no activity should not prevent a Christian or church from fulfilling its specific, God-given responsibilities. In cases where the activity may detract to the point of preventing obedience, the activity (individually or corporately) should be diminished or abolished.

    The decision of whether a church’s leaders or a congregation want the church name attached to a particular activity (soup kitchen, march against abortion, city-wide crusade, disaster relief) should certainly be influenced by practical and even pragmatic factors (“not all things are expedient”).

    Therefore, as long as a church is keeping “first-things-first,” I think that it is free to sponsor relief activities or promote causes associated with justice or morality in a public sphere. I do not assume that a church that engages in “extras” is failing at its primary responsibilities any more than I assume that a man who helps his neighbor clean out his gutters is doing so at the expense of his responsibilities at his own home. He may be, but I don’t jump to that conclusion (disclaimer—no one on this list has accused Chris of anything like this, so this defense is at this point purely hypothetical).

    Please feel free to lob nice, gentle rebuttals criticisms analysis. I’m still thinking through the basis and ramifications of this opinion; I won’t mind any sharpening.

  20. Don, I’m not convinced that this is the type of thing Christ was denouncing. Indeed, Paul used his generosity and the generosity of the churches he influenced as an example many times.

    To see that a small church can creatively advance the gospel by helping those in crisis is encouraging.

    Speaking of which, I need to get off the computer. I appreciate the discussion.

  21. Don,

    It was rhetorical as you assumed. My point is that if we are always concerned about how we will be perceived or judged we might not say anything.

  22. Bob–interesting illustration; I like the creativity.

    Don–I don’t know you or Bob at all (that I know of), but based on his post alone I’ll assume that he cares about what Jesus says. Your post comes across as either trying to read the worst possible (and least likely) angle on his words or just trying to be contentious. If this feedback offends, I offer my apologies in advance. (especially since I may be speaking to an elder, and also since it can potentially distract from the overall conversation at hand). All the best!

  23. Don–I see that Chris and Bob both replied while I was putting together that latest post. Didn’t mean to come across as piling on agressively. I’ll let others defend themselves if they care to in the future–again, all the best!

  24. Don’t want to wade into the whole discussion (sorry for the pun), so I would only say that it is premature to say that the socal gospel issue is dead and gone. We are simply at a different point in the cycle for which these things develop. At the risk of being too blunt, I believe it is naive to think that the journey went from pure commitment to the gospel to total abandonment in one giant step. An insightful read is the history of the Student Volunteer Movement’s gradual shift from proclamational evangelism to “larger” or “holistic” evangelism. What began as a movement for missions at the Northfield Conferences with Moody eventually led to the compromises of the WCC.

    The same trajectory has begun in evangelicalism under the influence of John Stott’s vision of “holistic mission” which combines evangelism and social concern as two wings of a bird or two blades of a pair of scissors. Look at the outcome for this view with organizations like World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse, or consider the ramifications it is having in the emerging/missional church movements.

    Rather than uncritically emulating some of the heroes referred to, we might want to question whether they were not laying the foundation for future problems.

  25. Dave–agreed. A lot of organizations have fared poorly despite promising beginnings, and the transition was hardly immediate. It seems that a group may start off with a “soup-line-and-the-gospel” approach and do well initially, but that the transition to new leaders is often perilous. The first generation of leaders is frequently accustomed to the spiritual attacks that accompany the spread of the gospel (Satan doesn’t mind particularly mind if you are just running a soup kitchen); subsequent leaders are frequently chosen because they have great managerial skills; not because they have the vision, fortitude, and drive of the initial leaders that made the organization a spiritual success. Somewhere in the mix, the original vision (both its components and the balance between them) is lost.

    It may be helpful to examine an organization’s original vision to see if it contained the seeds of its own destruction, but I think that more good organizations turn bad because subsequent generations fail to maintain the balance between the various components of the original vision.

    Any good component can become destructive if out of its proper place. The fact that a second generation of leaders took one good part of the original vision and elevated it out of its proper place doesn’t meant that we should be wary of including that component in our vision today. The lesson to be learned would not be about whether to include that component at all, but about how to keep it in its proper place.

  26. Do good works, in and of themselves, done by a church proclaim the Gospel without ever anyone actually speaking the Word of God (kind of an absurdity because we would be speaking the Word while performing the works)? But aren’t the works done by the church collective part of the good works in which we, individually, are called to perform?

  27. Ted, I can’t control how you perceive posts. It is usually best to assume the best intentions on both sides and leave it at that.

    Chris, you say you think such situations as this are not what Christ was denouncing. If not, then what? The Lord says do your alms in secret so that not even your left hand knows what your right hand is doing. What does he mean?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  28. I always took that passage myself (especially when I was a firefighter/paramedic) as don’t flaunt myself as having anymore grace than any other person, and do not taunt the God who gave the talent to perform the works for which he called us. The works we perform should be so naturally done as to God in and of themselves that they point others to Christ, not to ourselves. I always thought that should extend to the church as well.

    Then again, I may be wrong.

  29. So Dr. Dave, :)

    What is your take on the rest of the discussion–the appropriateness of making help of neighbors a ministry of the corporate body?

  30. BTW, I have blogged “in my closet” heretofore (which you should appreciate, Don), but today I invited the flock which I pastor to read along. In other words, please be nicer to each other (and me!) than usual.

    Don, I don’t deny that He’s addressing benevolence in Matthew 6. I just think the particular abuse in His day–whether of giving, or praying or feasting, especially as practiced by the Pharisees–was not the same as a situation in which leaders are discussing the appropriateness of particular ministries, with examples. Principles may apply, but I think the unique focus of Christ is the motivation behind the actions. He’s not, for example, prohibiting public prayer. He’s prohibiting prayer that is intended to gain the praise of men. Does that make sense?

    If we’re not careful, we’ll end up saying that missions reports and such unbiblical. Again, Paul wasn’t exactly mute about his ministries and sacrifices. Motives seem to be the point. So, to quote a wise friend of mine, “It is usually best to assume the best intentions…and leave it at that.”

  31. Anyone following this conversation needs to listen to Dr. Alan Cairns’ take on ministering to those with physical needs. Listen from about 9 minutes in until about 15 minutes in.

    Even if you’re on dial-up, this perspective from a respected fundamentalist is worth the effort, I think. It caught my attention when I heard it last month, and it’s very germane to this discussion.

  32. Dave,

    In general I agree. I wish I could say you were “all wet” just to use a “water” pun as you did, but I basically agree. I agree in the sense that many organisations have gone to seed. (How would you argue that for the Metropolitan Tabernacle?). But, I am not sure that you can prove that the reason they went to seed was because of their concern to minister in a tangible way to the society around them. To highlight “the heroes” is not to “uncritically emulate” them, as you say, but merely to state a matter of fact. Who’s to say that if these men had lived as long as their organisations that the organisations would have still apostasized? In other words, was it their foundatin that was bad or was it poor subsequent leadership?

    I agree with your analysis of the trend. Who can deny it? However, that argument sounds too much like the “slippery slope” argument that fails to convince me and appears to be a favorite defense of those (not you) who would stay aloof.

    Perhaps I overstated the anachronistic nature of “social gospel” as a viable term for today. I admit: Rick Warren seems to be a proponent of another form of the “social gospel.” However, fundamentalism seems to be reacting against a form of social gospel that is long dead by means that made sense in 1920, but don’t make sense now. In 1920 it was a given that churches would be actively involved in social concerns (sometimes, especially earlier, they were the hub of social activity). Therefore, the fundamentalists’ strong insistence on doctrine and evangelism only fortified churches that were already running soup lines. Over time good principles erode (even as you say they did for the benevolent principles of Spurgeon and others), and soon fundamentalist churches became little islands in and unto themselves (a sorry pun) in a sea of crises.

    It’s hard to say – impossible -, but my guess is that if Chalmers or Spurgeon or Mueller were alive today, they would do as they did before. Their leadership would keep the proper balance.

  33. Great message, Chris! Here’s a quote from the good doctor:

    “Social involvement did not commence with the liberals. It started with the early Church. It belongs to the very heart and essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And again and again and again the Bible teaches that the Church of Christ cannot sit back carelessly about the bodily needs of men and women.”

  34. Chris,

    I am not saying that it is an unworthy subject to talk about strategically. Should we sit down and discuss, “What can we do about X social problem?” Sure. That is not my objection at all.

    My objection is to make a big public announcement about what we have done. Even if the motive is right, it makes it sound like the motive is wrong. Jesus said, “When you DO your alms, DO NOT sound a trumpet before thee.” It is not strategy sessions, advice seeking, etc. that is forbidden. It is the promotion of the event after the fact.

    To some extent this involves our methods in fundraising as well. George Mueller never made any of his needs known in public, it is said. He just prayed. So… is his model instructive for us? (Of course, I say that not knowing a lot about George Mueller. Perhaps some of what he did would cause me to wonder about Mt 6 with him also, I don’t know.)

    So, to reiterate my viewpoint once again: I am not against doing good works, social benevolence, etc. I am somewhat against the notion that this is the ministry mandate of the local church. I fail to really see this as the precept or practice of the apostles, especially outside the needs of the Christian church itself. And I am definitely against the publication of said good works after the fact. I think that Christ’s warning speaks directly to this.

    If the Lord chooses to make my good work known, that is his business — he can reward me openly, or not, if he chooses to do so. But I am quite fearful of trumpeting my works before men to let them know about how better to pray for me or whatever because of Mt 6. I also am fearful of getting distracted from the main thing, the Great Commission.

    That about sums it up. Am I making any sense yet?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  35. Believers at Bible Community Church in Mentor, Ohio were hit harder than we were, it seems. Andy Rupert shares an opportunity for Christians to help here. Brethren from nearby Grace Church of Mentor took a significant hit, as well.

    The family from TCBC is now resigned to the loss of all flooring, and they are considering whether or not they will need to replace drywall, doors, etc. The financial burden will be significant. Please remember them & our church in prayer, as well.

  36. I face two of the dilemmas that these forums seem continually to present: (1) inability to engage the discussion fully while not wanting to ignore it completely; and (2) multiple topics on the table that probably should be addressed, so choosing only one or two seems like either dismissal of or agreement with the others.

    Clarification: to say we should be careful not to uncritically emulate is not the same as saying that we are already doing so (I would probably write that we should stop uncritically emulating if that were the case).

    I simply am unconvinced that the believer’s responsibility to love his neighbor or to do good to all men (the commands in 6:1-10 all reflect personal, not corporate responsibilites as I understand them) translates into a corporate or institutional responsibility. Institutionalism is a plague (perhaps too strong of a word) of American life, and it carries over to the church too often. Instead of believers seeing neighbors that have need and moving to meet those needs, we want to set up organizations, etc. Certainly there is some clout in collective action, but that can be done like 2 Cor 8-9 (which BTW doesn’t seem to violate Matt 6).

    Let me attempt to make sure my main point earlier is clear. The point of depature that I was attempting to highlight is when one accepts the premise that “social ministry” (an ill-fitting term) is part of the church’s mission. I haven’t listened to the Cairns’ comments, but I disagree with the portion quoted. Perhaps he actually demonstrates his point from specific texts, but simply saying what he does does not prove it.

    Summary of my understanding: (1) OT must be used very carefully given the clear changes dispensationally; (2) the ministry of Jesus is not intended to model or mandate that we be involved in “mercy ministries” (unless we intend to do so miraculously; (3) Acts shows believers care for other believers who face providential hardship; (4) the NT epistles call believers to live lives that display good works which include “doing good to all men, especially the household of faith” (Gal 6:10) and “good deeds that meet pressing needs” (Titus 3:14), but I don’t see any biblical warrant for the church to consider this either a part of , or preliminary to, fulfilling the Great Commission.

    If I don’t respond right away, or at all, to any comments made regarding this post, please don’t take it personally or think anything other than that I have life management issues.

  37. Dr. Doran,

    Thanks for your thoughts. I’m digesting. Here are my initial reactions & questions after some reflection time:

    * If we determine that corporate response to physical needs is not a “mandate,” does it necessarily follow that it is not at least a good idea at times, especially for needs that are in a church’s immediate vacinity?

    * Does your referencing II Cor. 8-9 mean that you believe that such a “collective action”–if not required–is at least not forbidden? And should such action be limited to Christians? To be blunt, was Bixby’s work in New Orleans an unwise distraction from the Great Commission?

    * I’m not sure that we should be so quick to dismiss Christ’s example. It would seem that His going about “doing good” at least offers an example to the church. I understand the implications of taking this too far, but I don’t want to take it “too short” either.

    * I understand that we need to be careful citing OT passages. However, we should also be careful–perhaps more careful–not to dismiss them out of hand. For example, I think the commands in Proverbs may be more applicable than the actual Law.

    * In light of Galatians 6:10’s addressing doing good primarily–but not exclusively–to other Christians, are passages like Titus 3:14 and I John 3:14-19 to be limited to “the brethren.” (I know that John speaks repeatedly of the brethren; I’m wondering if he intends our love in action to be exclusively for the brethren. That seems hard to imagine, but maybe that’s what he’s saying.)

    I’m offering questions rather than answers. I don’t have it all figured out, obviously. But it’s certainly important to come to a good understanding; it’s not just academic.

  38. In the spirit of I Kings 18:21’s “halting between two opinions,” I’ll point out that Mark Perry wrote a helpful article entitled “Fundamentalism and Social Action” for the OBF Visitor several months ago. It can be viewed here.

  39. Dave,

    I may be waaaaaayy off track with this question, but I haven’t had my second cup of coffee yet.

    Your church has a Christian School. You teach “non-church” stuff like math and science. I would consider a Christian School to be a cultural work, a work that is trying to make a difference in the culture. Yet, some churches find it to be the tail that wags the dog and feel that it has distracted the church from its core obligations.

    Since there is no specific mandate in the Bible to teach math and science to children (and I assume that you teach children that are not members of your church), then how is it inappropriate for churches, such as mine, to have a structured, organized approach to relief work? Especially when care for the body is at least mentioned in the Bible.

  40. Let me clarify…. I hope that my last post doesn’t sound like I have taken anything personal because I haven’t one bit…. I’m just trying to bring the hypothetical to the real. I don’t see how Christian School as an add-on organization to the church reaching the community is much different than churches who decide to have add-on organizations for relief work. Christian schools were largly started in the 70s sort of as a reaction to the culture. Fine. Is there anything wrong with organzations like Operation Renewed Hope? Or, what is the difference of sending money to ORH instead of implementing the relief ourselves?

    Maybe I’m comparing apples with oranges. Going to get my second cup of Organic Serena Starbucks (ground and brewed a la Bixby).

  41. Huh. Last night I too was wondering how Christian schools fit into this discussion.

    BTW, I apologize for making a theoretical discussion too personal by bringing up Bob as an example.  No need to answer that.

  42. Well, our philosophy of education is that we: teach all things from a God-centered perspective; cultivate Christlike character; and train the next generation of minsitry leaders.

    All education involves theology, so no education is genuinely god-less–it may be ignore the true God, but in doing so it is setting up false gods. Our church determined, therefore, that it would not surrender the education of its young people to a system of education which rejects biblical theism. In a country where education is required by law, that seems like a wise discipleship decision. I will concede it is not the only possible decision, but will not concede that it is any attempt to have a cultural or social impact or ministry.

    Perhaps I am blinded by where I stand in this discussion, but it seems to be a significant stretch to compare a local church based Christian school to hurricane relief in another part of the country (the specific cases cited), or even to compare the inherently spiritual process of education to the temporal welfare of social ministries. Apples and oranges to me.

  43. Makes sense. Your school is directly involved in discipleship, which is part of the Great Commission.

    What made me think of the ramifications this topic might have on a Christian school is the question of whether or not it is legitimate for a church to be involved in teaching that is not directly related to spiritual things: math, reading, art, etc. I understand your point about all education involving theology, and my kids have benefitted from Christian education. I’m just thinking. Anyway, while it’s apples & oranges, discussing why we do things which are not immediately biblical is helpful, I think.

    BTW, we had missionary Tom Needham in our ministry last night. He’s doing a tremendous work in Cameroon. Before he knew Christ, he spent 3 years there teaching farming–social gospel through and through. Now, however, he’s there evangelizing, discipling and church planting, along with many other GFA missionaries. What the Lord is doing there is astounding. I bring him up as an example because they utilize short-term medical clinics (as one example) as part of their evangelistic ministry, and they seem to do so effectively. I’d have a hard time faulting them for that or saying it is unwise. Though it’s not their mandate–or even their priority–it’s been useful in establishing evangelistic relationships and demonstrating selfless love to people in need.

    (Is that last statement “selling the farm”?) :)

  44. Yah, apples and organges to you, maybe. But it’s all fruit and you can’t deny that.

  45. Bob, isn’t there a huge difference between training Christian children (or children of Christians) and helping unbelievers? I’m not necessarily assigning greater value to one or the other, but there seems to me to be quite a huge difference, especially in terms of the mission of the local church.

  46. Thinking about this thread on the way home today, I remembered Peter’s reply to the lame man at the Temple:

    Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

    Obviously none of us have the gift of healing, but it does seem that there are some thoughts in this passage that are instructive to us on this subject.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  47. The argument that Christian schools are justified as a discipleship ministry presents problems in my mind. On one hand, I understand why the connection is made. But on the other, most churches engaged in this ministry end up providing a service to many outside their church to make tuition ends meet, because alone they could not afford to keep such a venture going. It is questionable at best that the discipleship that takes place in the school is the primary motivation of many of the parents who send their children to the school. The tuition also generally serves as an artificial barrier to many students who could benefit from the discipleship process. If it is discipleship, it is the only form of such local church ministry I know of that generally discriminates only to paying customers as it is commonly administrated.

    Contrast this with relief efforts, either large scale like hurricane or flood relief, or smaller scale like medical or dental missions, or rescue mission efforts. Generally, such efforts center around distributing free gifts of resources and labor. Those involved stand to gain little, if anything, from those they minister to. There are no salaries that must be met. The only conditions those who you minister to must meet is that they acknowledge a need. Now, if the efforts begin and end with relief, there is a definite problem. But it does seem that such demonstrations of generosity do serve as an appropriate vehicle for communicating God’s unemerited favor to sinful man.

  48. Greg,

    Church based Bible Institutes, Seminaries, seminars, camping retreats, etc. all involve an exchange of money. Seems like a real stretch to make paying for an education vs. giving food something pertinent to this discussion. What point is proved by this comparison?

    If we are going to introduce comparisons like this, then they should probably be teased out more fully. Are you sure there are no salaries to be met in relief efforts? Generally organized efforts require paid personnel (and that seems most common–calling it support doesn’t mean it is not a salary). We should also compare what is normally called opportunity costs, i.e. a dollar sent one direction means it can’t be sent another–e.g., is it poosible that missionaries had their deputation extended during 2005 because churches shifted their attention to relief efforts? Or, churches that don’t seem to be able to raise money for local evangelistic efforts raised and sent a lot of money for relief? Personally (and I gladly allow others to answer differently than me), I would rather, as a pastor and believer, give account for money given to our local church that is subsidizing the godly education of children.

    Just to help clarify where I am coming from, I am not saying that doing good toward unbelievers is wrong or unbiblical. I am talking about the mission of the local assembly–we have a commission, not a bunch of causes. Individual believers are free to follow the Lord’s direction in their lives about what causes they are burdened about, to meet the needs of others as presented to them, etc. I simply do not think the NT is read properly when individual responsibilities are transposed to the congregation with the result that collectivism and institutionalism emerge. I do not believe that the First Baptist Church of Ephesus did things to enhance its “corporate witness”–believers lived holy and beneficial lives that opened doors for testifying to the saving grace of Christ. Let the Red Cross be the Red Cross, and let the local church be what it is supposed to be.

    As always, each of us will give account to the Lord for our stewardship and leadership, so I am content to worry about my own and allow your brothers to focus on yours. I remain convinced that the best way to discuss this is to deal with texts of Scripture which provide warrant for our beliefs and practices. This is a theological issue first, then methodological. I will readily concede that I am very cautious on this front, but, speaking of fruit again, I think I have biblical warrant for such caution given the fruit of these shifts historically.

    At the end of the day, we can come to different conclusions on this matter without rancor. May the Lord grant us all wisdom and discernment!

  49. I couldn’t agree with Dave more that the mission of the church is discipleship, not relief. I agree wholeheartedly that social relief must not stand on equal footing with evangelism to further a “corporate witness.” I don’t know how Carl Henry’s reformed theology meshes with his argument that the gospel would fail to be effective until the Church won a hearing with the world. I’m convinced that evangelicals who adopt the PEACE plan or the next fad to come down the pike are simply following a judas goat into the old liberalism of the social gospel.

    But I’m just not seeing how a church that uses a disaster as a way to build a bridge for the gospel into the lives of individual sinners is inconsistent with the Church’s mission. Granted, some outreach efforts along this line are more effective (and biblical) than others. Mailing a check to Samaritan’s Purse probably has little direct connection to the gospel. Mailing a check to a wayward former church member who lost his belongings accompanied by an appeal to his soul might be somewhere in-between. Adopting a family for the express purpose of discipleship seems like the kind of thing the church in Ephesus might have done. I could be wrong.

  50. Dave,

    The financial point would be that those you are ministering to in the relief efforts are not the ones the paid personnel depend on for support/salary, as you would in some of the other efforts mentioned.

    As far as local church responsibility, many Christians are beginning to conclude that it is not the responsibility of the local church to educate their children, either. They are taking it upon themselves as individual Christians to educate at home, form charter schools, and so on. Note: While we do home school, I do not claim to do so exclusively “by conviction.” Still, something to consider as we wrestle with the extent and limits of the mission of the local church vs. the individual Christian.

  51. Yah. Christian education may not be directly comparable to the “social involvement” issue, but both are part of the broader “mission of the corporate body” issue. It’s certainly thought-provoking to see how & why different men assign different responsibilities to either the individual believer or to the corporate body. And thought is a good thing…”without rancor,” of course.

  52. Okay, back the train up guys. Where is one clear biblical reference to the corporate responsibility of the local assembly for social ministry outside of its walls? Frankly, the rest of the conversation is secondary to this part.

    Where is one clear verse that we are ever to build bridges for the gospel? Henry could say what he did because his apologetic was messed up. New evangelicalism believed that we must find some point of contact with unsaved man and culture prior to the preaching of the gospel. We can’t have it both ways. Either social ministry is a biblical responsibility (and therefore stands on its own regardless of evangelism) or it is some kind of pre-evangelism (which means we have shifted our apologetic stance).

    Does the church have a responsibility to help families bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord? Yes. That does not demand a Christian school, but it certainly rules out eliminating them.

    I am in danger of merely repeating myself, so I will drop out until we get some texts on the table. Can someone supply a biblical defense of the view that the local assembly has a responsibility for collective action for social ministry? From these texts it would also be good to delineate the boundaries of this ministry.

  53. Dr. Doran,

    You’ve been generous with your time in participating in this discussion, and I appreciate it. I’m sorry that the typical response you receive is “Yeah, but…”
    The question you ask is a fair one. But… :)

    Could you–with the same criteria–provide a verse which charges a local church to provide a liberal arts education for children? Certainly the church is to help parents with the spiritual instruction of their children. But how do we get from there to teaching math and playing sports? I’m not saying that Christian schools are illegitimate. Not at all. But I think the local church’s involvement in such education lacks the hard and fast biblical support which you are requiring of social assistance. Is there “one clear biblical reference which makes liberal arts education a local assembly responsibility?”

    Perhaps there is. If so, those of us who don’t have Christian schools in our churches may very well be delinquent. Or perhaps both examples are efforts of the corporate assembly to carry out responsibilities which are given to Christians in general?

    A third option is that I’m an idiot. All in favor…

  54. I would second what Chris has said- including the idiot option- but. more seriously, the observation that we lack firm Biblical support as churches to do things like teach math and science and field soccer teams. If we were talking Biblical support for something like release-time Bible classes, that would be another thing altogether.

    As far as helping “families bring their children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” the admonition you refer to from Ephesians 6, Dr. Doran, is one given specifically to individual Christians who are fathers, not the church. If you want to argue that the church is to equip fathers, fine- but I am not sure how a church accomplishes that directly by Christian schools. In fact, the most common proof texts used to justify the existence of Christian schools are Old Testament passages given to a family context- definitely not local church.

    Again, I am not arguing against Christian schools- but observing that the Biblical support for them is no more substantial than relief efforts.

  55. I think the Christian school point is really just a red herring. The debate is whether organized social relief is biblical or not.

    I looked up these passages via the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge and Bibleworks, as related to Jas 1.27:

    Mt 25.34-46 ‘as you have done it to the least of these’ – this would seem to argue in favor of social relief, at least on the individual level. Is it a corporate mandate? My view would be that it would have to be supported by other passages, although the passage uses the plural throughout.

    Gal 6.9-10 – discussed to some extent above, but still it is possible in my mind to interpret it as an individual responsibility rather than corporate

    1 Jn 3.17-19 whoso has this world’s good and withholds it from his brother… to me this is definitely a matter of personal responsibility rather than corporate

    TSK on Gal 6.10 points us to:

    1 Tim 6.17-18, them that are rich, charge them to do good, be ready to distribute, etc… Individual responsibility (and when you consider our economy compared to the whole world, we are all rich, so none of us are off the hook on that score!)

    Heb 13.16 to do good and to communicate forget not… again, an individual responsibility I think

    Those are a few to get us started. I also would throw in the statement of Peter and John to the lame man cited above, Acts 3.6. My view is also drawn from the general practice of the apostles in Acts and statements of purpose, mission, etc. in the epistles. The Roman Empire was full of social needs. You just don’t see Paul addressing them.

    I said above that I thought the Christian school point is a red herring. Perhaps a better comparable is the anti-abortion movement. I am anti-abortion, but I don’t think that is the mission of the local church. Should individual Christians pursue it? Sure, as they are led by the Spirit. I am against exposure of infants also. It was practiced ALL THE TIME in the Roman Empire. The Greeks and Romans thought the Jews were weird for wanting to keep all their children. The NT doesn’t say one word about it.

    Ok, fire away…
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  56. See Don, what you call a red herring is a very real inconsistency in our minds. You are looking at this as a debate to be won or lost. Frankly, I don’t care who “wins” this debate. But I do want to think through why we in the US consider some large scale ministries acceptable, Biblically speaking, and some not.

    The Christian school question is one we face particularly, because for the last three decades, many churches invested much time, effort, and resources to that end- some to the detriment of the overall ministry. It has been asserted that the effort is a Biblically-based one for a local church to have- much more so than giving any kind of institutional relief. We have a call to discuss texts. Frankly, I have not seen texts particularly convincing that either one is specifically a local church mission.

  57. Just because I can’t pass the opportunity for Don and I to agree, I too think it is a red herring. And, at the risk of rancor, it is extraordinarily frustrating to be in a discussion about one topic (social ministry and involvement) and find that the best defense of it seems to boiil down to, “But we have Christian schools, so prove this biblically.” This is very weak, but since you all are not convinced I will answer the question.

    You are correct that Eph 6:4 is to parents, but my point wasn’t that this is to the church. My statement was that the church, specifically the pastors, have a biblical obligation to help parents do this (Eph 4:11 ff). If: (a) all education is spiritual in nature–all facts are theistic facts; (b) parents are required to educate their children (and we do now live in an age of compulsory ed through most of their childhood years); (c) the prevailing educational system is anti-God (not because they don’t pray or read the Bible, but because they have rejected a theistic framework) and , morally relativistic (at best); (d) pastors are charged with the responsibility to watch over the souls of children too; and (e) the church is charged with the responsibility of discipleship, then I believe there is a good basis for local church education, and that basis is spiritual, not social.

    It may seem radical, but I would suggest that you reconsider whether parents are obligated, biblically, to supply the kind of education that is required by our government. It looks a lot more like eisegesis to squeeze these subjects into Deut 6 or Eph 6:4, i.e. those texts call for the spiritual care and nurture of their children, not the full education. Parents obviously are responsible for the raising of their children, but that means they must see that they are prepared to care for themselves. For centuries that mean apprenticeships, trades, etc., not compulsory education until they are 17 or 18. So, you all kind shoot me, but I do not believe that a parent is reponsible to educate his or her children in math, science, etc.

    In our country, the parent is responsible to see that the child is educated in these areas, and since the parents are responsible for the spiritual dimension, that means he should be concerned about what else is being taught and caught during the education process (since it is spiritual). If a parent has the ability and diligence to provide this education personally, great. I would be inclined to argue that fewer parents have this ability than think they do. I know that our family could not do it. My wife is an intelligent woman, but she has a one year secretarial degree past a pretty weak high school education. The thought of educating our children is unacceptable unless absolutely unavoidable. I have a very good education, but I would not consider myself competent to teach my sons upper level math, etc.

    To summarize: (1) both parents and pastors have a spiritual interest that children come to think correctly about God and His creation, and to develop spiritual and moral Christlikeness; (2) compulsory education forces an issue on parents and the church which demands an answer–if our chlildren must receive this kind of education, can we entrust this to unbelievers within a system which rejects God? (3) there are three answers: (a) yes with extraordinary caution by both parents and pastors; (b) no, the parents will do it themselves; or (c) no, the church (which includes the parents) will provide it.

    I contend that this is a discipleship ministry, while you claim without argument that it is not. We are probably separated on this by theology and apologetics. I believe that all education is inherently spiritual, perhaps theological is better, because it is dealing with God’s facts. A godless interpretation of history, math, science, etc. is sinful and in rebellion against God’s sovereignty. I would not make the case that believers can never be educated by unbelievers, but I would argue that one had better be very careful. Several hours a day, five days a week for 13 years is a lot of time and influence at very impressionable ages.

    I don’t usually do this, but I have written more fully on this subject here:

    Additional texts included there. Okay, whether you agree with me or not, I have sought to make my case biblically and theologically. Would you be so kind as to do the same?

  58. Thank you, Dr. Doran, for the reply. I intend to address this further, and I will attempt to answer your question and respond to your post at that time. However, as I’m not preaching on social action or Christian education tomorrow, I’ll have to ask for a “recess” until after the weekend.

    That will also give me time to emotionally heal from being called “cowardly” and “weak” within a 48-hour period. ;)

  59. There is a difference between calling an argument weak and a person weak. We all make weak arguments from time to time. My point is that it is a weak argument because at best it doesn’t prove your point, it only shows an inconsistent in mine.

    Can I encourage you to get some kind of way that we can edit our posts? In my last one I spelled like Joel Tetreau and thought my opening paragraph needed to be toned down, but alas there is no way to amend that I can figure out. This is iron clad proof that I could not teach my sons computer.

    Redaction:  Chris Anderson is one of the amazing thinkers of this generation, even when he disagrees with me.  You all should listen to him.

  60. I’m not sure that WordPress has an editing option, other than asking me to do it. Of course, I’d be glad to edit your posts, as I’ve demonstrated above.

  61. Dave, my friend… I hardly presented the whole question of Christian schools as a “strong argument.” Read my post again and you’ll find that I clearly admitted to not having my second cup of coffee yet which should have been a strong signal that I was lobbing something out for thought. My best argument for a ministry of helps is not “but we have Christian schools.”

    I like your argument for Christian schooling. I’m not sure how that equates to an argument that the notion that helping the orphans and widows in an organized fashion is less biblical than having a Christian school. While it seems that a large part of your justification for Christian school is the fact that education is compulsory, I don’t think that the fact that “helping the poor” is notcompulsory voids a structured plan of relief of any justification.

    If the school is to help parents make disciples out of their children which is clearly an individual responsibility, why can’t the church help disciples effectively minister to the poor which is also clearly mandated in Scripture?

    Frankly, I think your implication that we might have a different theology of education is red herring, if not a bit condescending. You are answering somebody else, I’m sure, – not me- when you say that whoever is arguing that christian education is not discipleship. I don’t think I have made that claim., but I still do not see how our having the same theology of education (which I think I do) renders it impossible to have a theology of serving. The two are not incompatible, as you seem to imply.

    It does seem to come down to a dispensationalist perspective. The worn out argument against dispensationalists is that they we carved and cut so much of the bible out that most of it is irrelevant to the Church. What about the entire character, mood, disposition of God toward the lost and His conscientious care of the helpless as revealed over and over throughout the Scripture? Can’t a church, a local church, so organize and structure itself to show tangible goodness (a witness of God’s common grace) in order to more effectively proclaim special grace thereby fulfilling it’s Great Commission responsibilities?

    Here’s a blunt thought, and I preface it by saying that I do not apply this to your school and ministry, but I do wonder it about many in this nation: I personally think that a lot of American churches are going to have to answer for an intense form of self-absorption that was all done in the name of “local church.” They may call their schools (and I am NOT speaking of your school) “discipleship,” but the hard, cold fact is that they are not turning out disciples. What they call it and what they actually produce are miles apart and I cannot help but wondering if they had stopped building multi-million dollar gymansiums for the “little disciples” and put half of that into helping the poor of the world, using their “little disciples,” there might be a more impressive turn out from the institutions of discipleship called “Christian schools.”

    Call me puritanical, but some of the “rich” texts of the NT (i.e James) could apply to American churches and their posh lifestyles they call ministry.

  62. Bob,

    I think you are missing the point. I did not defend Christian schools to prove my point. I defended them because it was being insisted that they contradict my point. There is a big difference there. Nothing I have said about Christian schools is necessary to this discussion, hence I think it is a red herring.

    The answer to your question about why it is okay to help parents educate their children, but not okay to help individuals help the poor is found in the fact that the church also has a shepherding responsibility with children. What we are trying to determine in this discussion is whether the church has a corresponding responsibility for social ministry.

    You have misunderstood my point about theology and apologetics. It was not a theology of education; it was theology and apologetics in general. We are talking Van Tillian theology and apologetics. These have ramifications on the educational endeavor. If someone does not see any theology at stake in the liberal arts, then they have a different viewpoint on theology and apologetics than I do. Bob, how is saying that two people see somethng differently condescending? That wasn’t my point and I don’t think I did that. Please help me see where I have done this more clearly.

    I agree with you that dispensationalism plays a significant role in this discussion. If I weren’t a dispensationalist then I honestly might be inclined to reconstructionist or non-cessationist positions on this issue than the common evangelical one. They seem to deal with the text better than the evangelical position.

    A local church should choose to do what it believes it has biblical warrant to do. Nothing more, nothing less. That is the point of this discussion–where is the biblical warrant for the local church to do this? At this point, a better case can be made than has been made. I am pushing to interact with that kind of case. I am not here because I want to be some kind of nitpicky fundamentalist. I am here because I am concerned that the direction of churches will be changed on sentimental reasons instead of sound biblical, theological thinking. I expect that the present company of this discussion wants the latter and not the former, and I believe that you have thought through this (or are thinking through it). Let’s engage in that discussion.

    Your second to last paragraph may be true, but it really doesn’t do much in the discussion. Have churches failed to use education properly? Absolutely. Have churches surrendered to social ministry emphasis that diutes their witness and directs funds away from the Great Commission? Absolutely. So, if we argue this way we give up both. Nothing gained by this.

    As you can tell, I think this is a very important subject to discuss. A failure to discuss it carefully, in my mind, has produced bitter fruit in evangelicalism. Good discussion may have protected everyone by separating the wheat ideas from the chaff ideas. Ideas have consequences. They also have roots. The best ones are rooted in Scripture and produce biblically-approved consequences. I think we all want to think those kinds of ideas. My singular purpose here is to push for the kind of discussion that helps us think them. Where I am wrong biblically, I would like to know so that I can change.

  63. Checking in, then checking out. Call it lack of self-control.

    What I’m calling for is not really social assistance as an “institutionalized” ministry of the church. I think I agree that most of the Scriptural data regarding compassionate physical ministry lays the responsibility on the individual. (I believe that the NT does address this frequently, by precept and example, and I’ll try to address it after the weekend.) However, I believe that there are times when the assembly can facilitate such ministry to neighbors by organizing and directing its members, especially in a situation like we are coming through in Ohio. Individuals are ready to help, but often don’t know how or where: having someone in the church orchestrate that help is all I’m suggesting at this point.

    That’s where I see the link with the “red herring” of education. Neither is directly required of the organized assembly (IMO). But the congregation can equip and assist individuals in carrying out their responsibilities–to greater or lesser degrees–legitimately. They don’t need a corporate mandate to do so.

    At any rate, I don’t want my support of helping people in a local flood to be seen as more than it is.

  64. A few more fishy thoughts on herring and other denizens of the deep (I live on an island, surrounded by the sea…)

    Greg, I suppose I am always interested in winning. I have never been much for the “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, but how you play the game” philosophy. But I don’t look at this discussion as a game.

    The reason the education angle is a red herring is that we have all been wading through discussion about education for several posts now and the discussion of ecclesiastical responsibility for social action has stalled. When a new topic is introduced in a discussion, it has the effect (intended or not) to divert from the topic at hand. It reminds me of a Monty Python script I read where the characters start arguing about whether they are in the room ‘for the argument’ or not. The whole point is lost.

    So I would challenge those advocating for organized social action to deal with some of the passages already presented and to show how whatever action is proposed does not violate clear commands like Mt 6.1-4.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  65. Chris,

    At the risk of beating a dead horse, I still don’t think the distinction I have made is being acknowledged either by granting it our disagreeing with it.

    My point is that education and social ministry are not the same in that the former is legitimately an implication of the church’s discipleship mandate whereas the latter has no mandate from which it can be an implication. It might be an implication of the individual believers responsibility, but not the corporate responsibility. If this seems to be cutting too fine a line, consider the ramifications of removing this line. Wouldn’t that lead to the conclusion that all individual responsibilities can be assumed to be a legitimate basis for corporate effort? Frankly, that is what has happened to the American church (both evangelical and fundamental) and why we engage is such things as voter registration drives, ballot and candidate inititatives, right to life chains, etc. There is a ready made collection of individuals that can be “more effectively” directed because they are all together.

    Does the local church have a responsibility to disciple? Yes. Do pastors have a repsonsibility to watch over the souls? Yes. Is education a legitimate implication of these responsibilities? I say yes.

    Does the local church have a responsibility to meet social needs? I say no. Individual believers do come under biblical instruction about this, but I do not see it in the mission of the church unless the church’s mission determined by the compilation of individual believer’s responsibilities.

    You are right, a Christian school is not directly of a local assembly. If I am correct, however, it is a legitimate implication of our “direct” requirements.

    Is social ministry directly required? No. Is it even an implication of the church’s direct requirements? I don’t think so, but perhaps I am mistaken.

    (As an aside, I like this statement regarding the sufficiency of Scripture from Grudem: “The sufficiency of Scripture also tells us that nothing is required of us by God that is not commanded in Scripture either explicitly or by implication.” When I use the term implication, I am using it in this sense.)

  66. Dr. Doran,

    I’m not sure how to respond. I understand your point about the ramifications of treating all individual obligations as corporate obligations. And again, I’m not questioning the legitimacy of Christian education. I am questioning whether Scripture requires it of the corporate body, either explicitly or implicitly. At this point, I’m not ready to concede that teaching math and soccer can be justified as an implication of the church’s direct mandate to disciple. The connection just seems a bit murky to me. And I would deny the idea even more certainly if Grudem’s definition means (as it appears to) that an implication is “commanded” and thus “required.” (I may be misunderstanding your use of his definition.)

    I admit that I haven’t thought through it exhaustively, and I cannot spend more time on it today. I may just be typing gibberish. I should read the article you cited and think for a while before I say anymore.

  67. Last word for today, but I want to make sure we aren’t wasting time.

    My aim is not to convince you of anything regarding Christian education. That really is beside my point. What I am trying, apparently not very clearly, to show is that the process of arriving at a conclusion is very different. In other words, you don’t have to agree with my conclusion, but can you see that there is a biblical base from which this conclusion is being drawn (even if incorrectly). Can the same thing be said about a local church responsibility in the other area.

    The process looks like this: Biblical statements—-Implication/Application.

    I have suggested biblical statements re: discipleship, etc. that I think lead to an implication or application regarding education. Don’t get bogged down in the implication side of the equation; the point is the biblical statement side. I assume that we both agree there is a biblical mandate for the local church to disciple its young. That is really all I need to prove in the discussion. You don’t have to buy my view of its implications. That isn’t the point.

    Can those who advocate social ministry supply some biblical statements about the local assembly’s responsibility in this area is the question on the table. Here is where we disagree–I can’t find any biblical statements that support this idea (and we aren’t even talking implications yet). I may be missing some or distorting some, so that remains to be seen in the discussion. But we should not get sidetracked. The point is whether there is biblical warrant (i.e., texts which explicitly or implicitly teach something).

    In hindsight, the Grudem quote needed more context to be clear, so I aqpologize for tossing it in.

  68. Dr. Doran,

    Would you be willing to enlarge briefly on the idea of pre-evangelism as you stated above? I know that is pretty open-ended, but I wonder if the “point of contact” that Henry and others spoke about was inherently wrong, or was it simply plugged into a faulty apologetic.

    I wrestle with this whole concept because I understand (or at least think I do) the concerns with Henry’s (and others) apologetical issues. I also think that the communication of the gospel takes place in a life context … hurting people, broken lives, etc. Does not the human context of life demands a point of contact for the gospel at some level?

    What is the role of fireworks displays and Civil Servant Sundays and the like? How is that a substantively different point of contact, than say, helping a neighbor clean up a flooded basement? (Perhaps you mean something differeny by “point of contact” than I am understanding.)

    I also wonder about Gal 6:10, and if we can separate the corporate mandate from the individual mandate. It is a plural form (Let us …). On what exegetical basis would we say that is an individual “we” (how’s that for destroying the language), as in “when you guys are living as individuals, do good; but not as a church.” (I know, oversimplified; don’t read too much into my attempt at brevity.)

    I agree that social action is not the mandate of the church. But why isn’t social action a legitimate avenue of gospel presentation if it is carefully guarded to not lose focus? (I have been hesitant to go down this trail because I am not sure I understand all the ins and outs yet.)

    Lastly, on the subject of ecclesiology, might this make too big a distinction between the church gathered and the church dispersed? If “we” are the church, and we teach our people about relational evangelism, are we not urging some sort of church social action, even if it is only loosely organized?

    Why isn’t the biggest question is not “Who organizes it” (church vs. individuals) but rather “What is the ultimate goal?” If three church families in a neighborhood have a backyard cookout and invite neighbors to try to befriend them and ultimately confront them with the gospel, how is that substantively different than one hundred church families having a cookout in the church parking lot and inviting friends ultimately for the gospel? And how is that substantively different than ten church families loading up the wetvacs and going down the street to volunteer to help, stating “We are from X church and would love to help you,” with the ultimate goal of the gospel?

    You might say it is fine if ten church families do that as individuals. But then it becomes wrong if the church organizes that?

    Perhaps I am totally missing the point here.

  69. I forgot … Chris told me that all I needed to say was “I agree with Chris’ position.” (Did I cut and paste that accuratey, Chris?)

  70. So, do I need to repent of my statement regarding the last word for today?

    1. I think you are blurring categories regarding point of contact. Apologetically, it is not a point of contact in the sense that we have an open door to talk with others. It is a point of contact in the sense that it is the place where we start the gospel message in order for it to be received by the hearers. So, love or justice or whatever is the point at which the unregenerate person will see the value of the gospel and become receptive to it. It was the precursor of Aldrich’s lifestyle evangelism focus (felt needs), i.e. show them how the gospel meets their felt needs and once you have done this pre-evangelism you can move forward. This is something very different than hosting a basketball tournament, e.g., at which someone will preach the gospel. No one, in that case, claims that basketball is pre-evangelism. It is simply an opportuntity to gather people to hear the gospel. Now, if one wants to make the case that the church should “do good” like it does fireworks displays, then that is worth having a conversation about. But I think folks have been trying to say that the church is obligated to do good as a biblical responsibility. That is something different.

    2. On Galatians 6:10, I would answer that all of the commands from 6:1 address personal responsibilities, not corporate ones. 6:1 clearly applies individually, i.e., there must be spiritual “ones” who will restore the “ones” who are caught in a trespass; 6:2 is clearly individual; ditto for 3-5; 6:6 “the one who is taught”; 6:8 “the one who sows” and all of these lead into vv. 9-10. If we are talking burden of proof, I think this clearly sets it on the side of the collective/corporate view.

    3. Not trying to hang you on your words because I know you believe what I do about this, but how could “social action” ever be “a legitimate avenuse of gospel presentation”? The gospel can only be presented verbally (Rom 10:17). If, as I think you do, you mean that it creates a context in which the gospel can be presented, then I would answer with two thoughts: (a) it does; and (b) this is a delicate issue. Let me quickly clarify, I would say it does, but that this isn’t the point of debate. The debate is whether this is an individual or corporate responsibility; simply because it may work does not mean it is the church’s responsibility (voter drives work too!). I say it is a delicate issue because of biblical and historical evidence that something problematic happens when people have their temporal and spiritual needs both on the table at the same time–look how many people followed Jesus for food (and how often this has happened on mission fields around the world). The mixture of motives here is dangerous.

    I am not sure how to respond to your statements about the ultimate goal. Perhaps I am misunderstanding you, but as I read what you have written I disagree with it quite strongly. I don’t believe the ultimate goal of the church or the gospel is to help people. I don’t think you do either, but perhaps I am wrong. Further, I think you are ignoring the difference between developing a friendship and doing good works in a utilitarian way designed to give out the gospel. We have a biblical obligation to love our neighbors, so inviting them over for dinner or clearning out their soaked basements is not merely a means to an end. Granted, if we genuinely love them then we want them know God, but our “love” for them is fairly plastic if we only do it in order to give them the gospel. And I believe we are being less than sincere if our real motive is to give them the gospel, yet we shield that until the right moment. To go back to your earlier question, we don’t do anything as an evangelistic outreach that hides or veils that purpose. We are right up front about what we are doing–evangelism.

    Certainly you see the difference between 10 families getting together to do something and someone trying to make the case that the church has an obligation to get them together to do that something. By couching your question the way you did, you tilted the discussion unfairly. We are talking about the biblical mandate. But let’s tease your point out. Let’s say 10 families decide that abortion must be stopped, so they decide to form a crisis pregnancy clinic. Should the church participate in the organization of this endeavor? Personally, I would not say that the 10 families are wrong provided they continue to fulfill their other biblical obligations, but I would not ever think that the local church should engage in this endeavor. Am I wrong?

  71. Just got back from a beautiful day on the coast of Maine. Lovely day, cloudless sky, mid to high 70s. Sorry I missed the discussion… 8)

    Dave, I am confused to the way you are using “obligation” for doing good. Are you saying that what is being argued is that churches must participate in relief efforts in order to be obedient? Because I’m not seeing that at all. What I see is being presented is that the catastrophes in question have provided opportunities to do good. Not following that potential opportunity and instead focusing efforts elsewhere has not, as I understand it, been presented as being wrong.

    I do think, Don, in answer to the Matthew 6 passage, that we walk a fine line here. Is it boasting for missionaries to write home with stories of numerous converts- or is that legitimate sharing cause for rejoicing and giving glory to God? Is broadcasting a relief effort prideful posturing to draw attention to how helpful we’re being, or is it a step to enlist volunteers and encourage donations?

    As far as the comments on winning, all I was trying to say is when I approach a discussion like this one, I am trying to sharpen my thinking skills, not necessarily win a debate.

    I appreciate Dr. Doran’s thoughtful responses to the education matter, “red herring” or not. Serious red herring-ish question- does anyone have any idea what is the earliest record we have of churches doing any type of organized education ministry targeted at children? What about relief efforts targeted outside the believing community?

  72. Good question, Mr Linscott. I may be wrong, and I am certainly not as equipped theologically as the like of you folk, but your question may relate to the status of christianity pre-Barth/Tillich/Niebuhr ideals of the “social gospel”, or “liberation theology”. Of course, these men were theologically liberal (yes, Mr Linscott, unlike some you’ve discussed this with, I understand the meaning of “liberal” theologically :)), and one of the areas with which historical fundamentalism took issue (and may I say, rightly so). Maybe one of the reasons fundamentalism has been so wide in its curve around what is being discussed (“social action”) is because of its modern association to liberalism/modernism which, by practice, is antithetical to fundamentalism (imo).

    Then again, I may not have a clue of what I am speaking. It’s just a thought. This is a great discussion, btw!

  73. I should clarify that “its modern association to liberalism” refers to “social action”. Sorry about the confusion in antecedents.

  74. greg

    In answer to your quesiton about missionaries, when did evangelism become alms giving?

    The issue about broadcasting your almsgiving is that the Lord said whatever you do, do in secret. It is not a question of determining whether your motives are OK or not, it is a simple straight-forward command: do your almsgiving in secret. You motives aren’t the issue at all.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  75. Later on in the chapter, Christ also says to pray entering into one’s closet. Following the same logic, perhaps we should then also rule out Wednesday evening prayer meetings? We could talk abou fasting, too- but since mosts Baptists have long forgotten how to do that, seems rather off-topic… :(

    My point, Don, was that the publicity centered on such relief efforts is not for the purposes of boasting. But, by your answer, I feel I must ask: Are you defending boasting as acceptable within the context of evangelism?

    (By the way, this post contains intentional absurdity)

  76. Hi Greg

    Publicity centered on such releif efforts is not for the purposes of boasting?


    Perhaps not. I am not positing that publicity of relief efforts is boasting at all. That is a possibility, but it isn’t the only motive for publicity.

    But the Lord is pretty clear about the prohibition, so your arguement is with him, not with me. If you can explain how the publicity in question doesn’t counter what he said, then there is nothing more to say.

    And it may well be that many modern prayer meetings run counter to the Lord’s instructions as well, I haven’t really considered that point. I am afraid that is just another red herring, it really isn’t the issue.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  77. Don,

    Well, perhaps considering that point would be important- after all, we are supposed to interpret passages in their context, and prayer is spoken of in the same vein as almsgiving. The warning Christ gives in the passage you mention has to do with hypocrisy and prideful motives. Christ was pointing to the example of the Pharisees, and implying that they did their works publicly in order to boast of their own self-righteousness. This is why I made the boasting connection earlier.

    Almsgiving, or any other good work, cannot (and should not) be completely hidden in secret. After all, earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ also says:

    Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

    The crux of Matthew 6:3 is warning, then, about making a purposeful public display to draw attention to the efforts. Do not find personal satisfaction in the benefit others may receive due to your generosity. Focus on persistent, consistent action (the “right hand”), instead.

  78. Hi Greg

    I guess the others keep to a blogging Sabbath, eh?

    Now we are getting somewhere and I appreciate the reference to ‘that they may see your good works’. That is very helpful.

    I think that your term ‘purposeful public display’ is exactly what the Lord is getting at here. The prohibition is on having a Public Relations orientation to the good works. When I sold real estate to support our ministry, I had to take a course for a certain level of licensing. In the course one aspect was public relations. Like many other businesses, Realtors are encouraged to do good works in order to be thought well of in the community (and generate more business, of course). This seems to me to be an exceedingly cynical motivation.

    The Lord’s admonition seems to me to be the perfect antidote. Almsgiving, doing good to others, is encouraged when and where we can, but for its own sake, not for our reputation.

    I’ll leave that point for the commentary of others once their blogging sabbath (!!!) is over.

    The other point in the discussion is should social action be a matter of church policy and organized ministry or is it an individual responsibility as opportunity arises? And by opportunity, I suppose I mean that I happen to be in the right place at the right time with the means to help, i.e., I am walking on the road to Jericho and see the guy beaten and bloody in the path before me. That would seem to me to be an immediate opportunity. There are ALWAYS opportunities right now as we speak. There are causes galore and needs everywhere. We could all give every penny we have and still not meet all the needs in the world, so I am not too concerned about ‘opportunities’ that are not immediately before me.

    Does that make any sense?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  79. Just a couple of quick clarifications/follow up comments.

    1. Perhaps I am blurring the categories. As I say, I am trying to think more about this. I never intended to communicate that social work is the same as presenting the gospel. I fully agree it must be presented verbally. I wonder about “only presented verbally.” Perhaps I make too much of this, but it seems the gospel must be lived as well, cf. 1 Thess 1 .. you know what kind of men we were among you. That seems to be arguing for credibility in the life that supported the gospel.

    2. I am not sure Gal 6 is purely individual. I hesitate to say that because of who I am disagreeing with. I respect your opinions a lot more than mine. However, isn’t Gal 6:1 a passage with applicability to the process of church discipline? Isn’t “giving all good things to those who teach you” at least in some measure about giving in the local church to support the pastor? I don’t think you think that a pastor’s salary is at the whim of individual contributions apart from the church. That might teach us to trust God more, however. So I am up in the air on this one. I do think there are some individual things there. I am not sure they all are. And I am not sure that distinction is always cut and dried in the epistles.

    3. My ultimate goal issue was the presentation of the gospel, not helping people. Perhaps I was unclear. The ultimate goal in anything the church does with unbelievers is the presentation of the gospel, I think. I don’t think we disagree on that.

    4. My point about “doing good” was about “doing good like fireworks,” rather than substituting social works for the gospel. My thinking on this is what kind of things we could/should/might be doing that open a door to talk to someone about the gospel. I agree with the concern about shielding and plastic friendships.

    5. Lastly, on crisis pregnancy centers, I am unconvinced that a church should never be engaged in that. I think there are proper restrictions on it, but my concern is the role of the gospel in the problems like this. I know I fly in the face of many men that I highly respect, so I tread carefully. But isn’t the gospel (or the lack of it) the primary issue in an unwed mother’s pregnancy? Is the gospel or the lack of it the primary issue in alcoholism or addiction? If we teach (as we should and I know you do) the sufficiency of Scripture in all things, and if the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, then is not the church the only uniquely qualified place to deal with this type of issue? If we place it outside the church to 10 families of believers, are they not doing a gospel work that is no longer under local church authority? What is the difference between 10 families and a crisis pregnancy center and 10 families who want to start a school? I don’t mean to be obtuse, or to shift the conversation. (I didn’t mean to last time either. I apologize.) How do we maintain local church priority? Or perhaps I should ask How does local church priority fit into this equation?

    I know, Dr. Doran, that you and I have talked about some of this before, so I don’t mean to be repetitive or argumentative. I am continuing to sort through these things.

  80. Can I add one more clarification? thanks …

    I think my focus is on “mandate” vs. “allowance.” I would agree that the church has no mandate for these things. I wonder if, within the bounds of the biblical mandate of making disciples, there is an allowance for them, provided that they are genuinely about making disciples.

  81. 1. I agree with you about the credibility issue, but don’t agree with you that social action ministries follow from that. The NT texts that address this idea present an interesting study. As I stated earlier, I simply do not see these texts teaching anything like what we have come to think about in terms of the congregation’s reputation before a believing world. We think collectively (i.e., Grace Baptist Church) and programmatically (i.e., “ministries”) in ways that are foreign to the NT. I also would contend that there is a definite difference between what the NT teaches and the common idea that drives most of evangelicalism (i.e., we must win them to ourselves before we can win them to Christ).

    2. We disagree on Galatians 6. No problem. My answer to your points would be that it is individuals who are doing these things. Verse 1 is a responsibility of some believers in the assembly toward other believers. If it is given to the entire church, then it is rendered somewhat meaningless. It is built on the reality that the entire church is neither spiritual nor caught in a trespass. The same principle holds true about vs. 6, i.e., you have teachers and the taught. My point is that the congregation as a whole is not being addressed; it is the congregation as individuals. So, when vs. 10 follows in this line of address it should be understood similarly. It is individuals who are sowing either to the flesh or the Spirit in v. 8 and promised a harvest in v. 9, and the connection between v. 10 and what precedes (“So then”) seems to warrant the conclusion that this applies to the individuals as well. Are we to conclude that the church collectively sows and reaps?

    3. I think we do have a fundamental disagreement on the relationship of doing good to lost people and the gospel. As I said somewhere above, I believe we have an obligation as individuals to do both. We don’t merely do the one in order to do the other. We are obligated to love our neighbor as ourselves, which means we will do him or her good. Of course, the highest good we could do for him is to give him the gospel, but doing him lesser goods should not be viewed as a pragmatic project so we can witness to him. If I have helped my neighbor with his flat tire, I have obeyed God.

    4. I will address this more fully in the next point, but I believe what we do to open a door is a matter to be thought through very carefully. Not all “door openers” are created equal. I doubt that any of us deny that. They way the door is opened has an effect on the message we proclaim. To use one extreme, when a church gives out Janet Jackson concert tickets in order to draw a crowd, they are setting up a conflict with the gospel message itself (the “bait” is the kind of thing that the gospel calls us away from). Doesn’t any “offer” along side of the gospel that appeals to man’s temporal needs run this risk? (I apologize for the indelicate description, but can’t think of any other way to say it.) I suppose, like Paul in Philippians 1, we can rejoice when the gospel is proclaimed, but I don’t believe that excuses unwise or pragmatic choices. The Lord and the apostles, as I understand Scripture, did not perform miracles which benefited people in order to open a door for the gospel. The Lord did them to authenticate His messiahship, and the apostles did them to authenticate their message. A seemingly inevitable result of these authentications was a spurious interest in the Lord and the apostles among some—people were attracted for selfish reasons (John 6; Acts 8). We face a double problem: (a) we can’t do miracles, so we aren’t really doing what they did nor do we have warrant to do it; (b) when we try to approximate miracles (food banks; medical clinics), we get the same problem they did of people wanting what we provide, not what we proclaim. (Dipping back into point 3 above…if we are doing these good deeds sincerely, then their response should not be factored into the equation, i.e., if it is right to do good deeds then there will be no strings attached to the good deed. People who come to eat the food or get treatment shouldn’t be forced to listen to a sermon in order to be “ministered” to, should they?)

    5a. It will probably not surprise you that I disagree strongly with you here. I do not accept the line of argument that universalizes the gospel as the answer to all of these problems. That process always leads to a distortion of the gospel’s significance and of the church’s ministry. It distorts the gospel’s significance by making present needs the point of the gospel, but the point of the gospel is much more fixed than that (our condemnation before God and need for righteousness in order to be acquitted by Him). An unwed mother or alcoholic needs the gospel no more than a solid citizen or den mom for the girl scouts, and they all have the same problem—Adamic guilt which condemns them (not the guilt of promiscuity or drinking). I am not imputing this to you, but the tragic reality of contemporary Christendom is that the gospel is some kind of wax nose that can be molded to the current need in order to make it more appealing. On the church ministry front, thinking this way would demand that we ask whether the gospel is the answer all social ills. While it may seem radical to answer no, my reason for saying this is backed by the NT witness that the gospel won’t change the society (e.g. 2 Tim 3) and the NT record that the early church did not aim to change society by the gospel. Let me turn it this, to borrow your idea, was the gospel ultimately the answer to slavery? On one hand we would say, of course. But on the other, we would then have to ask, “Then why didn’t the NT apply the gospel to the abolition of slavery?” To be clear, I don’t think you were making this kind of ministry case, but I don’t see how you could refute it given your approach. Perhaps I am wrong.

    5b. I think you have assumed something which I don’t concede, namely that 10 families forming a crisis pregnancy center is a “ministry” that needs to be under the local church. It isn’t. It is 10 families desiring to help unwed mothers in order to prevent the murder of innocent children. Is going over to my neighbors house to a “ministry” that is under the local church? Take away that assumption (and the ones that support it, i.e., that this is legitimate NT ministry) and the question seems to fall apart.

    6. Your distinction between mandate and allowance is too elastic for me since you can drive a Mack truck through an allowance. Also, I believe history is pretty clear that what starts as an allowance becomes much more than that. I would encourage eveyone interested in this discussion to read “The Battle for World Evangelism” by Johnston. It addresses the historical sweep of this up until the Lausanne Conference. Very informative.

  82. I have no idea how a smiley face replaced the 8 in Acts 8. Perhaps it was adding the ) after the 8. Like this 8)?

  83. In light of our topic, I thought I would post this link from the blog of Tim Bayly, one of my long time onlline pals, a very conservative evangelical but not a fundamentalist:


    The subject is the effectiveness of medical missions and ‘gullible evangelicals’.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  84. Thanks, Dr. Doran, for your response. Believe it or not, I find myself mostly in agreement with you. I am just trying to sort through the matters involved and have an informed view of it, as much as possible.

  85. Throughout this thread, it is repeatedly claimed that the church, corporately, has a responsibility to disciple children, make disciples, engage in discipleship etc. It is also repeatedly claimed that the church, corporately, does not have a responsibility to serve — or engage in social action, relief efforts, etc. Individuals, yes, but not the church corporate.

    I’m wondering, what exactly are these disciples — made in the church and Christian school — doing? What are they discipled to be and to do? Are they really to go to rah, rah Christian camps, sing Patch the Pirate songs, and play soccer corporately but help the needy in isolation? And, how are they being discipled to help the needy? Is it only acceptable to tell them to serve or tell them about individuals who have served? Is it not acceptable to disciple them by organizing something corporately so they can learn through doing?

    We are told that Christian education is to teach the truth, mold character, and produce ministry leaders, but it is not an attempt to have a social or cultural impact. If it succeeds at the former, how can it not accomplish the latter?

    This discussion also includes comments that categorize Christian education as spiritual and service endeavors as temporal, social, or (horrors) cultural. So, what do you make of passages like this: James 1:27, Matthew 25:34-46.

    I notice that Galatians 6:10 has been pushed aside as applying only to individuals. Is James’ pure religion an exclusively individual concern too? Are only individuals to serve Christ by serving “the least of these”? His body and bride is not to serve in this way?

    Perhaps some have introduced too many distinctions here. Perhaps we are working with too many false dichotomies:

    Is there really such a clean line between individual Christians and the corporate Church? I agree that our corporate worship through word and sacrament should not be replaced with organizational meetings, but why can’t we organize corporately outside the holy convocation?

    Is there really such a clean line between spiritual and temporal things? I agree that all education is theological and spiritual, but why is the same not true of service and culture? Take VanTil all the way.

    Is there really such a clean line between the applicability of Old Testament and New Testament passages?

    Is there really such a clean line between sharing the gospel with words and actions? Francis Schaeffer pointed out that the final apologetic is the observable love between Christians. An earlier Francis said, “Preach the gospel, when necessary use words.”

    Distinctions are great for refining understanding (read some Aquinas), but when taken too far they lead outside reality.

  86. Keith,

    Are you of the opinion that social action is a part of the mandate of the local church? What would your biblical rationale be either way?

    If you posit that social action is a legitimate mission of the church in any aspect, just what forms should that social action take? For example, in our city one of the more conservative Baptist groups built a lot of seniors housing facilities. In other cities, Christian denominations have built hospitals, etc. Are these kinds of activities really the mission of the church or not? Huge capital investments were made, has it profitted the kingdom? I’m not sure.

    Or should the church be involved in wide ranging world-wide (or regional) relief efforts like World Vision and the like? Millions of dollars are poured into these efforts. When you examine the stories of suffering to which these dollars are directed, your heart is stirred with compassion, or it ought to be if it isn’t.

    But, as I asked earlier, what can we really do about these problems? If all the bible believing Christians were to give all their money towards social action, the poor would still be with us. We cannot solve social ills by short term band-aid efforts.

    So for me it comes down to a question of where best to direct the resources God has given me. Can I make more of a difference supporting the mission work of the church or the social needs of the world? Does my participation or non-participation in social relief efforts really make any difference in their success or failure? I believe that Christians must carefully husband the resources God has given them and direct them towards efforts that will producet the most eternal fruit. The poor you always have with you.

    And of course, I keep banging the drum for this one: if I do engage in social efforts, I shouldn’t be making a big public noise to get people to look at what I am doing. Mt 6.1-4.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  87. I don’t have much time Don. If I can in the near future, I’ll try to give a more thorough answer. For now, I’ll just say this:

    Yes social action is a part of the calling of the church because there is no true way to completely separate things like “mission work” and “social needs.”

    There is no one size fits all answer regarding what specific needs to address. I agree with your point that we should begin with the opportunities “right in front of me.” I think the Roman Catholics call this “subsidiarity”. However, beyond that, different congregations will focus on different needs. Some will focus on translating Scripture and teaching reading (a spiritual and a social endeavor). Some will focus on caring for orphans and widows — both physically and spiritually. Etc. We serve a Trinitarian God a God of unity and diversity.

    As far as “the poor you have always with you,” no disagreement. However, it is also true that “the unbeliever you have always with you.” That doesn’t mean we quit sharing the gospel.

    God doesn’t need us to evangelize — he calls us to. Likewise, he doesn’t need us to minister to physical/social/cultural needs — he calls us to.

    I’d like to hear your answers to the questions I posed.

  88. […] A brouhaha has been raging over here for a while.  It’s a discussion of whether or not the church has a corporate mandate to minister to the physical needs of the unsaved.  Though I’m still sorting through the implications of the discussion in my own ministry, I’ve been very nearly persuaded by Dr. Doran’s remarks on the topic: “Almost thou (and thy graduates in Ohio) persuadest me.”  I’ll present his points as I understand them (and somewhere he is wincing): […]

  89. Hi again Keith

    Well, as for the questions concerning Christian education, I believe that to be a distraction from the subject at hand. I don’t see that as really having much to do with social action, and thus not germane.

    I suspect that our view of this will be widely divergent because you are not a dispensationalist. You say God calls us to minister to social needs. I would like to see where that is mandated in the NT, or how you would assert that an OT commandment is not related to national and political Israel but is a universal demand upon men at all times.

    Mainly what I object to about social endeavours is that it is much easier to raise funds and gain support for something so tangible and this worldly, while it is so much harder to recruit support for evangelistic efforts. People will stand in a Support Life chain but won’t try to win their neighbour to Christ. Somehow I think the priorities are skewed.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  90. How fundamentalists can’t see social action in education escapes me. Of course its spiritual, but how is it not social or cultural? Literate people have far different societies and cultures than illiterate people. Art, music, history, science, athletics and other educational pursuits are the products of and the producers of societies and cultures. Many “social” endeavors involve teaching people to read or teaching them a market language.

    The two passages I listed were from the New Testament. Do they not count?

    Since you brought up dispensationalism, how do you establish that the Great Commission is for the corporate church? Wasn’t that given before the church age allegedly began? How would you answer someone who argued that evangelism is an individual mandate, that the church should worship God and grow in grace?

    I didn’t bring up any OT commands. However, I’ll admit that I don’t think the command to love one’s neighbor was limited to national Israel.

    Aren’t there quite a few fundamentalist evangelists living well in their 5th wheels? The Billy Graham Evangelistic Society doesn’t seem to be hurting for money. And, I won’t even talk about the televangelists. I think fundamentalists, evangelicals, and pentecostals give quite a bit to evangelism. May not be enough, but it’s not eclipsed by crises pregnancy centers and the like (which also evangelize by the way).

  91. Hi Keith

    It looks like Chris has started another thread on this, so we’ll see if anything else happens here besides a conversation between us.

    I guess there is a social element to education, but it is not purely social and is quite different from helping flood victims, or having soup kitchens, etc. At least, to me there seems to be a difference, maybe not to others.

    I think I addressed all of those passages above. I realize the thread is fairly long. The Mt 25 passages are perhaps the strongest of the three, but it does seem to me that they are all addressing Christians as individuals rather than the church as an institution.

    How is the Great Commission for the corporate church? You point out the notion of some that the gospels are before the founding of the church, therefore not applicable… Well, that is what I consider to be an extreme view and erroneous. I was just assuming that you might be asking questions from a covenant theology perspective, so I was trying to forearm myself. Maybe I should have let you bring it up!

    I don’t know about fundamental evangelists living well, some might be. The guys I know are eking it out, but then I don’t know anybody who is somebody! But I agree, all the evangelists should give over every penny they have and solve world poverty. Then we can get on with the mission of the church! Right?

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  92. No. Not right, from my perspective. I’m glad the evangelists are out there. I’m glad people give to preaching evangelism endeavors. It’s just not the either or you suggest. People can give to preaching evangelism and mercy ministry evangelism. There could even be ministries that do both. There’s no need to make this an either/ or.

  93. […] who refute the idea that the church (as a body) has a social mandate. (See th3 discussion after this post, for […]

  94. […] You might compare Dever’s thoughts to those expressed by Doran in the comments section of this post. It’s a whopper of a thread, so you might want to search for “Dave” using your […]

  95. […] Feb. 1990. For the entire booklet see here). For a recent blog discussion by Fundamentalists see My Two Cents: “Drying Out”, accessed 9/15/2006). [↩]All past resolutions are on the FBFI web site. See here. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: