What is the Church’s Social Responsibility?

I believe the primary mission of the local church to the lost is to provide not material, but spiritual relief by proclaiming the good news of eternal life by grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In times of crisis, our primary mission as the local church is to offer comfort, hope, and biblical counsel to help people respond to trials and suffering in a way that glorifies God and helps them grow to better know, love, and follow Christ.

This position is rather unpopular in our current climate, especially in light of the recent conversations surrounding social justice and the gospel. One of the issues that I’ve seen rise to the surface in the midst of the vitriolic attack, debate, and defense of the SJ&G Statement, is a failure to distinguish between an individual Christian’s responsibility and interaction with the world, and the local church as a corporate body holding the keys of the kingdom. That distinction is crucial in understanding our role in the community, culture, political sphere, and world.

It’s challenging to sort through the various factors at play in seeking to understand the church’s social responsibility, and especially difficult to articulate this position, for a number of reasons. I encourage you to prayerfully consider this list of resources as you seek to understand the church’s responsibility, our responsibility as individual Christian citizens, and the relationship between evangelism and material aid.

The Social Responsibility of the Local Church and the Mission of Missions

Series on Christians, the Church, and Culture

Are All Biblical Commands Corporate?

My Church Loves the Poor, So I Don’t Have To

Discontinuity, Israel, and the Church

Mercy Ministry is not Kingdom Work

Responding to Tragedy by Giving Money (practical steps)

The Call to Minister to the Poor

Dispensationalism, Keller, and the Poor

Biblical Pillars of Mercy Ministry

Examples of Mercy Ministry

What’s Wrong With the Recent Evangelical “Social Justice” Movements?

“Churches” or “Christians” and Culture?

How Christians and Churches Prioritize Going About the Doing of Good

Transforming Culture with a Messiah Complex

The Social Responsibility of the Church (PDF by Benware)

Problems with Social Action in Missions (Cripplegate Series):

Missions: Ecclesiology with a Passport

2 Problems with Social Action in Missions

8 Problems with the Theory of “Social Action” Missions

8 Problems [part 2]

So, What is the Mission of Missions?

Emotional Decisions

In Ecclesiastes 5:2, King Solomon says,

“Do not be rash with your mouth, and do not let your heart be quick to utter a word before God. For God is in heaven, and you are on earth; so let your words be few.”

And in verse four, he says,

“When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it, for He takes no pleasure in fools. Fulfill what you vow! It is better that you not vow than that you vow and not fulfill it.”

In other words, we should not be making extremely gravitous decisions quickly, lightheartedly, or under the stress and excitement of emotions. Don’t commit yourself to doing something before God, out of the excitement of emotion. Sometimes people get so excited about something, and worked up in passion, that they declare that they will do some great thing for God.

Often, this happens in the form of committing their lives to the mission field, when they really haven’t even thought through it that much. That scenario happened a couple of times in chapel when I was in college. There were a bunch of missionaries there and they were preaching on the necessity of world missions for every individual Christian, saying “you better be planning to go, but willing to stay!” Which I don’t agree with anyway, because I don’t think that God calls every individual to go to China, India, Haiti or Chad. But they would get the students all on fire for world missions, and then they would have some emotionally impactful music playing for a while, and then give an invitation to anyone who felt they were being called to devote their lives to overseas missions — and hundreds of students went forward.

But even just the simple, small, evangelical church service can run the risk of catering to people’s emotions to the point that they are prepared to say or do something rash, under the pretense that it is truly out of a deep-seated love and respect for God. But this is so, so dangerous, because emotion only has the content of what has already been put in. Gene Cunningham used to say that emotion had no content. And when I was in Israel with him a couple of years ago, he mentioned that he used to say that, and then he said that that’s not right. Actually, emotion has content; the problem is that if you haven’t been putting good, doctrinally sound, spiritual truth in, then what comes out is not going to be based on the truth — it’s just going to be coming out of our sinful nature.

I always think of this illustration: If I’m carrying a glass of water, and you bump into me, what spills out of the glass? Water. If I’m carrying a glass of coke, what spills out? Coke! Because what spills out, is whatever has been put in. And as we go about our lives, when we bump into each other, or when something comes into our life that causes our emotions to spill out, whatever spills out is whatever has been put in.

So what must we do? We need to be putting the right content in constantly, so that when it spills out, what comes out of our hearts is truth. How do we get this? Pour over the Scriptures. We need to be striving for a closer walk with God. It’s only through His Word that we can grow in our knowledge of God. And it’s through His Word that we learn how to worship Him in spirit and truth.