Using the ‘E’ Word: Evangelism, Church-Based Community Services, and Social Transformation

Citation: 
Unruh, Heidi Rolland. “Using the ‘E’ Word: Evangelism, Church-Based Community Services, and Social Transformation.” Unpublished paper. Symposium on The Faith Factor in Social Policy. The Brookings Institution and the Civitas Program, Washington, D. C., January 13, 1999.
Abstract: 

Heidi Unruh shares findings from the Congregations, Communities and Leadership Development Project on the place of evangelism in church-based community service ministries. Though historical, political, cultural and theological factors explain the lack of study in this area, Charitable Choice and the emergence of faith-based community ministries demonstrate a new atmosphere of openness toward religion in combating social decay and alienation, creating the need to pay more attention to this matter. <p> Holistic churches connect faith to their ministries of social action in one of three ways: some approach social change by way of individual change; others approach spiritual reform through social action; while a third set seeks to form Christian community as a vehicle for social change. <p> For social agencies in partnership with churches, this means that, first, they must no longer assume that the old liberal vs. conservative paradigm describes a church’s involvement (or lack thereof) in social ministry. Agencies must also learn to respect churches which see evangelism as having vital social consequences. Church-state ventures should guard against favoring “non-sectarian” faith-based ministries over more “sectarian” ones. Finally, social agencies should focus on what makes churches unique—such as evangelism—and avoid using them to achieve purely social ends.

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