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025. Biblical Principles For Social Ministry (Dr. Willie Hucks)

This week on Advent Next’s theological podcast, we are discussing the Biblical Foundations for Social Ministry with Dr. Willie Hucks, the chair of the church ministry department at Andrews University. “I think too often we allow the political conversation, to drive our theological understandings.”

Many churches can often find themselves divided into party lines when it comes to social issues. Rather than sharing a common ethic and value in Christ, we allow politics to drive the conversation rather than the Bible. How do we navigate these tensions? “Instead of allowing politics to drive the conversation, whether you stand on the right or the left, the real question is, ‘from a biblical perspective how does God see X.’”

Is the “social gospel” or emphasis upon social justice genuinely taking away from the gospel commission? How do we understand Christian ministry from the vantage point of heaven?

A Church Divided

“When we speak of the image of God, How do we define image? It’s not just spiritual, it’s mental, it’s moral, its physical. It is the sum of the human. Therefore if we see humanity in a holistic fashion, then we relate to every man, woman, boy, and girl in a holistic way. That enables us to not think on the right politically or on the left politically, but from the perspective of the divine view…and that transcends race, ethnicity, gender.”

In our present Western culture, there is an emphasis on individualism and independence. And yet, the culture from which the Bible was written indeed focused upon salvation from a community perspective. So what is the application of this communal emphasis into our present situation?

“We often fall into twin traps. We see the Bible from an individualistic perspective that the Bible is an individual thing and not a corporate matter. We can also fall into the trap of thinking that you have to preach eternal life without preaching societal relevance. The two are not mutually exclusive .”

Social Justice Vs. the Gospel?

Some churches might also fear that an emphasis on social issues takes us away from our historical identity as a church. “Often we forget that the early Adventists were social pioneers.”

Understanding our responsibility to think communally about the gospel rather than individualistic (while not negating the individual aspects of salvation), helps us come to a more practical understanding for how the gospel should be lived out in our everyday lives.

“Our responsibility then is to proclaim from our pulpits and in our daily interactions with those in our community, that we serve a Christ, and we worship a Christ that is interested in the now and not yet, the here and the hereafter.”

“If the gospel is to reach society, we have to reach society where they are.”

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