Saving Souls, Saving Society: The Role of Evangelism in Church-Based Ministries

Unruh, Heidi Rolland. “Saving Souls, Saving Society: The Role of Evangelism in Church-Based Ministries.” Revised version of a paper prepared for the Religious Research Association Conference, Boston, MA, November 6, 1999.

Heidi Unruh surveys the major findings of the Congregations, Communities and Leadership Development Project and its study of the relationship between evangelism and social outreach in programs of ministry to the larger community. Central to the study is the impact a church’s attention to spiritual transformation might have on its social agenda and ministry. <p> Unruh provides the working definitions for evangelism and social outreach the project used to guide the study. Evangelism is “sharing the Christian Gospel by word and deed with non-Christians with the intention and hope that they will repent, accept Christ, join a faith community, and enter a life of discipleship.” (2) Social outreach speaks of efforts beyond the church’s membership to influence society and improve people’s quality of life. She follows this with the seven main types of evangelism the study uncovered: network, contact, church, event, prayer, media and service. The project also brings to light three forms of social outreach—relief, development and advocacy—and two religious dimensions of social ministry—environmental and active. She then describes the relationship between church-based spiritual nurture and social outreach in terms of understanding and practice. Significant to the project’s findings are the three patterns in the relationship between evangelism and social ministry. Unruh’s paper concludes with the five implications generated by the research.