Social Justice and the Gospel

Social Justice means many things in the United States. Most of it comes down to politics. However, outside of America and the larger Western World, the context of social justice or social concern charges greatly.

I am a conservice politically and seem Marxism in the modern America view of social justice. However, I have recently had that view challenged by reading Pentecostals and the poor by Dr. Ivan Satyavrata.

What would a theologian from India have to tell us that would be different than the things we head on Fox News or the 700 Club? Then, I realized he is the pastor of the 4,000 strong Buntain Memorial Church in Kolkata and serves on the board of directors for Teen Challenge in India.

The question of contextual ministry matters. He would have in understanding of how the gospel connects with the social concerns of the people. In his culture, it is not social justice vs the gospel but social concerns empower the gospel.

To be clear that a bowl of rice is never a substitute for the Holy Spirit. Giving someone food or medical care without telling them of the Savior is still humanism. It must be a tool, not the purpose or it loses its purpose.

Understanding Social justice globally

For many decades, the connection of social concern and the gospel was not two different matters. Azusa Street Mission was known for its works of compassion, for example. The same is true of the earlier Bethel Healing Home in Topeka (1901). However, in recent years the issue has become more of a political one than theological one.

This is the main things that Ivan Satyavrata seeks to remind us in Pentecostal and the Poor.

The extraordinary success of the Pentecostal movement is largely due to its outreach to those on the periphery of society. (p.38)

The message of redemption to the poor found in the gospel is hope for eternity and hope for the present. Many have no choice but to trust the Holy Spirit for their daily bread (and about everything else).

Historically, we have been better at the work of compassion than we have to discussing it but in recent years, we have developed great theological works about it while our actions became less and less. While we wanted to be moved with compassion, we did not want to attached to anything that was close to a “social gospel.”

Outside of the Western context, especially the United States, social concern and the Pentecostal message that Jesus saves, heals and delivers is natural and inseparable. They are more passionate about caring for the broken man than they were having great theological discourse. This remains the case in the developing world that Quest for Souls does most of its work.

The explosion of the Pentecostal movement around the world is directly in relationship with its’ application of compassion for the poor of the nation they work among. Social engagement is the gasoline on the fire of the gospel being preached. There is no dismissing this.

Working out social concern practically

When I was in living in the Philippines as a missionary, it was critical to get people to come for a work of evangelism to give them a meal. It is just standard in many outreaches, especially in the squatters. Many missionaries did not like the model but in most cases, without feeding the people; they would not come.

There is a place that personal philosophy and missiology does not matter and only what will actually reach the lost takes importance. This was the case in the Philippines. Personally, I struggled that a plate of Chicken Abodo made the people come, not the fire of God’s presence.

There was something powerful learned that I did not know in bible college: full stomach becomes open hearts. This is not true in all contexts but this is true in the Filipino understanding. (In Japan, offering food would be offensive.)

Pentecostal and the Poor is a monograph published by Asia Pacific Theological Seminary in Baguio City, Philippines. You can find it on Amazon in the United States.

 

Why evangelism matters today!

In 1996, Pentecostal theologian Stanley Horton said the following about the need for evangelism in our generation,

The good news gives meaning to life today. We can still affect the world for Christ. We can still expect the Pentecostal outpourings and thousands saved and added to the Church, as is actually happening in many parts of the world even now.

These words are even more true today than they were over 20 years ago. Death has quieted the voice of Brother Horton but the words live on. The heart of the matter is that we do not have much time and the Lord could come for the blood bought Church at any moment.

The time is short!

The main reason that we evangelize is there is little time left before the rapture of the saints. While there are many people who have different ideas of just how much time there is, most hold that it is very limited. Even if the Lord tarries, we know that life is but a vapor and there is no promise of tomorrow.

10 Megachurches that did not compromise Pentecost (mostly)

Pentecostals are known for megachurches. Of the top 10 largest churches in America, 7 of them are Pentecostal (or Charismatic). This is not saying anything about the largest church in the world that is also Pentecostal. There are a dozen countries that have less people that that one church does.

For the sake of this article, the questions that have to answered are as followed:

  • Do they value the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?
  • Do they value praying in tongues?
  • Do they pray for the sick regularly?
  • Do they reach their community for the cause of Christ?

The list of churches that have exploded without compromise are in no order. Here they are 🙂

James River (Assembly of God)

When I was in bible college, I attended James River Assembly. They had just moved to the location in Ozark and they were quite a bit smaller those days.

Pentecostals of Alexandria

Family Worship Center

Sheffield Family Life Center

North Cleveland Church of God

Church of His Presence

Community Family Church

Times Square Church

First Assembly, Fort Myers

Angeles Temple

Oscar Wilde

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is.

Introduction

A people who do not respect the needs of the people and the oppressed and care for genuine worship can not prosper. (Kenneth L. Barker)[1] Kenneth Barker, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, p. 379

In 2016, the Holy Spirit said that “As in the days of Zephaniah so will it be at at the blessed hope!” It was a word that I had not expected or even had on my radar. Outside of a quick read in bible college for Old Testament Survey, I have never really considered the three chapters.

I would never thought I would have studied everything I can about him or write a book about the minor prophet but here I am doing just that. I am an evangelist, not a teacher. I seek to see people come to Jesus, not be another voice of biblical prophecy.

To be quite honest, I am annoyed at all the end times stuff out there and people thinking they are the only source of truth of the things to come. I do not think any of us have a clue on a timeline. Yet, here is a book adding a voice to the end times.

The continuity now becomes eschatology as the overarching category in a theology of history of the Christian life, not Spirit baptism as a pneumatological doctrine depicting charismatic empowerment. ( Frank D. Macchia)[2]Frank D. Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit, p.39

My calling is proclaim the power of God that proves the saving, healing and delivering power of Jesus to a world lost in need of a Savior. The emphasis is on here and now, not the someday and somehow theories on Daniel and Revelation. Yet, the context of pneumatatology needs a firm vision of eschatology.

It is on the foundation of the finished work of the Cross (Christology) and firm believe in the living in the Spirit (Pnuematology) that we must embrace the vision for revival in the nations before the Blessed Hope which is the imminent rapture of the Church!

Days of Zephaniah is prophetic. It is a vision from above for the things of the Spirit in our generation to complete the Great Commission, see the end time harvest, and usher in the rapture of the Church.

We know that revival is our destiny and that it is only thing standing in the way of ending the “Age of the Holy Spirit.” All of history has been pointing to the finale of the globe: the end time harvest.

Days of Zephaniah is missional. John Polhill states that the restoration of the Kingdom involves a worldwide mission.[3]John B. Polhill, Acts, p.85 Luke made an emphasis that Jesus and the believers alike had a three fold mandate: testimony, calling and anointing.

The story of the Church is not the judgement of God poured out in times of tribulation. Our story is in the midst of wars, famines,  and disaster; the gospel is taken to every tongue, tribe and nations with miracles, signs and wonders proving the message.[4]Stanley Horton, Acts, p.41-42

Days of Zephaniah is compassionate. God refers to Himself as the Father of Compassion for a reason.[5]2 Corinthians 1:3-4 In the comfort of the Spirit, we are empower in the Baptism of Pentecost to comfort the broken, the downcast and the hopeless.

Our eschatology must include social engagement to have hands and feet to the cause of Christ in the broken world in which we in.[6]See Ivan Satyavrata, Pentecostals and the poor Any attempt to proclaim a message of trouble ahead apart from the compassion of the Lord is short sighted.

Our present faded efforts to ‘reach the lost’ are pitiable, something like trying to melt a massive iceberg by holding a match to it. (Leonard Ravenhill)[7]Leonard Ravenhill, America is too young to die, p. 52

 

References

References
1 Kenneth Barker, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, p. 379
2 Frank D. Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit, p.39
3 John B. Polhill, Acts, p.85
4 Stanley Horton, Acts, p.41-42
5 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
6 See Ivan Satyavrata, Pentecostals and the poor
7 Leonard Ravenhill, America is too young to die, p. 52