Do we share the gospel or do we feed the hungry? Do we pour our efforts into evangelism or digging wells for clean water? The nature of these questions assumes an either/or answer. However, as Dr. Gary McIntosh explains, we need a holistic approach to ministry, but one which keeps sharing the gospel as the first among equals.
Our priority to proclaim the gospel of salvation to all the nations does not mean we should ignore serving our communities or mankind. Service without proclamation and proclamation without service are both futile. It is the gospel preached and lived that impacts humanity and society with power. Both need to be preserved, and the church must practice both. In truth it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to disentangle preaching and service. Preaching the gospel of salvation must be done among the people, not just to the people. Yet it must also be admitted that the best service the church can render to humanity is the proclamation of the gospel of salvation. Numerous nonprofit organizations, Christian and non-Christian, address social justice issues around the world. But only the church is called to proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ.
What makes the church unique is not its good deeds but its message of salvation in Jesus Christ. If we feed the hungry today but fail to preach the gospel of salvation and thereby see few or none turning to Christ, those we feed will ultimately die in their sins. They may be well fed, but they will go into eternity apart from Christ. The ultimate service is to win souls, whereby they go into eternity as children of God.
Gary L. McIntosh, Growing God’s Church: How People Are Actually Coming to Faith Today