From Brent McCracken’s recent post at Relevant magazine about what he sees as a renewed need for old-school evangelism in mission work:
I’m all for social justice. I’m passionate about it. Christians have to be serving people and loving them not just in word but in deed. But man, if I hear another well-fed, Toms-wearing evangelical kid quote St. Francis (“preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words”) one more time as a justification for their unwillingness to utter a word to anyone about Christ as the one true hope, I don’t know what I’ll do.
It’s an ongoing debate in missiology: Should missionaries in foreign countries prioritize meeting physical needs (food, water, social justice, development) before they preach the gospel, or should evangelism always be given primacy?
To me, the debate is silly. Can’t we do both simultaneously? Can’t we serve others and meet their circumstantial needs while at the same time telling them about Jesus? Yes, we should be in Africa building water wells, or in Haiti building schools, but what’s the harm in mentioning along the way that we are Christians acting as the church, loving the world because God loved it?