Throughout history, Christians took the lead in solving the social problems of their communities: medical care, trade unions, prison reform, abolition of slavery, establishment of orphanages, etc. … This approach to ministry grew out of the awareness that God made human beings physical beings with bodily needs; social beings with community needs and spiritual beings in need of salvation. Therefore ministry should involve works of relief, development, and evangelism.
Yet according to the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, the primary need of humanity is salvation — the need to be made right with God (Luke 12:4-5). Salvation, as one has said, “bind’s man’s will afresh to the Creator and Lord of life.” According to the biblical model, the gospel changes people, and changed people have a beneficial influence on society (as salt and light, Matthew 5:13-16). The vertical dimension of reconciliation sets into motion the horizontal benefits. The regeneration of individuals within society precedes and gives way to reformation of society.
Any ministry that fails to respect this priority departs from historic Christianity. Yet, to ignore the physical and social needs of our neighbors is less than consistent with the love of God and disrespectful of the way God created humanity. The Apostle John wrote: “If anyone has material possessions, and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (I John 3:17-18). “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).