In the US, it is hard to understand how different relationship evangelism is in countries where poverty is the normal every day reality. At times when I have explained to people that we focus on “practical acts of love” toward the lost in Africa, the question has been, “So, is YLI a social needs ministry or a spiritual needs ministry?” It has led to some very rich conversations.
The Hole in Our Gospel, by World Vision president Richard Sterns, addresses the problem this schism in American Christianity has caused. Bluntly stated: ignoring the needs of world’s poor leaves us with a gospel with a huge hole in it, of which our world is understandably skeptical.
Examining the life of Jesus we see that physical needs and spiritual needs of the world’s lost were never meant to be divided. In fact, the schism did not appear until the liberal and conservative splits that American mainline denominations experienced in the early 20th century.
As Sterns notes, great revivals in our history like the great Wesleyan revival coincided with huge social reforms to the poor as well. The Church’s commitment to caring for the poor and alleviating suffering communicates to the world that our gospel is truly transformative, not just words and personal belief.