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

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 Unpublished paper.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.

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.