Help them or tell them? Be like Jesus or talk about Jesus? Social action or gospel proclamation? It seems the two are often pitted against each other, as if they are mutually exclusive. But the New Testament paints a different picture where both aspects are valued. In this plea for a renewed understanding of the Christian calling, Chester argues that faithfulness to the gospel necessitates a commitment to evangelism and social involvement. To that end, he structures the book around three basic theses: 1.) evangelism and social action are distinct activities, 2.) proclamation is central, and 3.) evangelism and social action are inseparable. Responding to Christians in both camps, Chester helps people to talk the talk and walk the walk.
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What does social action that is distinctly evangelical really look like? That’s the question Tim Chester sets out to answer in Good News to the Poor: Social Involvement and the Gospel. Chester is a pastor and seminary founder in the UK who self-identifies with the “Reformed, evangelical and missional” streams of the Christian faith. Previously, Chester worked for Tearfund, a Christian international development organization that does incredible work around the world.
Many readers of my blog will be sympathetic with the bulk of what Chester has to say in Good News to the Poor. The biblical and historical case for social action is well established, as Chester demonstrates quite well in the first chapter. From what we learn about the heart of God in Isaiah, to what we see in the life of Jesus, to the example of the early church in the book of Acts, the biblical record is clear that love for God is tightly knit to concern for the poor. The church fathers...
This has become my favourite work on the Christian response to poverty. Chester outlines something of the history of social involvement and fighting poverty in Evangelicalism, but then firmly roots his arguments in the character of God. He demonstrates very clearly that God is concerned about the plight of the poor and oppressed, particularly as related to issues of Justice. He concludes very simply, 'The appropriate response to the God who upholds the poor is for us likewise to uphold the cause of the poor.' He then argues for Christian involvement in all areas the public sphere on the basis that Jesus is Lord of all.
Next, Chester outlines the case for evangelising the poor. He discusses the often-perceived tension between humanitarian help and evangelism, meaning sharing the gospel. He states unequivocally that the greatest need of the poor, as with everyone else, is for restoration of righteous relationship with God. Therefore Christians ought to declare the gospel to...
Another great work from Chester. Both evangelicals and social gospel advocates will be challenged to be more biblical and holistic.
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