When I was in my early twenties I was involved in establishing a crisis pregnancy center in our city. I was working with a great group of people who had a heart for the unborn: physicians, young moms, business executives, and two area pastors. Although diverse, the group was unified by our mission to rescue the helpless.
We remained unified until the day the decision was made that our center was not going to focus primarily on rescuing the unborn, but our first priority would be sharing the gospel with women in need. A sharp division came when some in the group decided the gospel didn’t fit with their idea of what the center should offer. They threatened to remove their financial backing if the center was going to go this route.
But how could we be committed to preventing death without offering eternal life?
How could we reach out to save babies from physical destruction without offering life to their mamas as well? How could we ignore the most urgent need for the mothers of these unborn? How could we truly minister with compassion without the gospel of the cross?
There is debate among Christians about this topic. One popular writer recently stated, “Most Christians have no idea what the gospel really is.” He then proceeded to enlighten readers to his version of “the gospel.” He contended that the Church has ignored the “true gospel,” which is ridding the world of social injustice, poverty, racism, and the ills of mankind.
The reality of the gospel absolutely compels us to tackle these injustices through mercy ministries. We must convey the reality of God’s love in a real and tangible way.
But we must never replace sharing the gospel of the kingdom with the kingdom service of the gospel.
Replacing the Gospel
When serving in mercy ministries, it is easy to become so overwhelmed by the needs of the outcast and afflicted that we become fixated on the physical and leave out the message of the cross (Romans 5:8–10).
In living out the gospel, we must always remember that the ultimate concern when ministering to the needy is their soul-need.
Reaching out to administer true love to those in need will include evangelism. We must be careful not to leave out evangelism when doing mercy ministry. If we do not present the gospel in our acts of service we may be doing “works of compassion,” while neglecting our responsibility to evangelize. True mercy, sincere love, will include the most loving act of all—sharing the life-giving truth of the gospel.
The term “evangelism” is derived from the Greek term euaggelizo—“to announce good news, especially the gospel: declare, preach the gospel.” In other words, evangelism requires someone to speak or convey the “good news” or the message of the gospel.
Social ministry is incomplete unless the gospel message is the foundation and purpose.
Rescuing the unborn or filling empty stomachs alone is not fulfilling Jesus’ commission. Meeting physical needs is a demonstration of God’s merciful character. But those living in darkness need the light of the gospel more than anything else.
Yes, we must take a stand against social injustices. Yes, we are to feed the hungry, to rescue those who are being led to slaughter, to stop sex-trafficking, to care for the orphan and the widow—but as a means of evangelism as well as mercy. Meeting physical needs are temporary solutions; giving the gospel message is of eternal importance. If the cross is central, mercy ministries will be an outflow of the gospel.
The Rest of the Story
By the way, although some said the center wouldn’t be able to survive financially when high-level supporters pulled out because of our decision to share the gospel with every client, we survived! Not only that, since the center was established, thousands of babies have been rescued from abortion and hundreds of people have placed their faith in Jesus. That is the power of the gospel at work!
What avenues is God providing for you to share the gospel today? How is the message of the cross motivating you to reach out to others?