Do Evangelicals Practice What They Preach?

By Paul Raushenbush
It is encouraging to read Pastor Hybels’ post. We appear to agree that the Gospel encompasses both a concern for the soul and for transforming the material existence of the poor. I became eager to attend his church when I read his words that: “in virtually every case, when I see a life get transformed by the atoning work of Christ, it is not long before that new believer sees the plight of the poor…and (has) an intense desire to do whatever is necessary in the name of Christ to eradicate injustice, relieve oppression, and alleviate suffering of any kind.”
I have to say that I am surprised by our convergence and by this claim. I hope that Pastor Hybels is willing to say more about what form this effort takes in his own church and in evangelical churches across the country, because his description of his church is so different from my perception of evangelicalism in America today. Evangelicals seem to be more concerned with proselytizing and campaigning on social issues such as homosexuality than organizing themselves to meet social needs of the poor. Or is that just my ignorance or prejudice? I continue to associate many of the large evangelical churches more with prosperity preaching (which I consider a modern heresy) than with sustained efforts to relieve oppression and alleviate suffering. Maybe in some minds, prosperity preaching is a version of relieving oppression.


However, there are bright spots that, along with Pastor Hybels’ testimony, continue to make me re-evaluate my understanding of the “evangelical agenda.” For instance, the Christian group World Vision has gone into tough places around the world and become almost re-evangelized by their experience of the Gospel as refracted through the lens of the dispossessed. It has made them tenacious and convincing advocates for those whom they are serving. This is similar to what happened to my great-grandfather 100 years ago and why he wrote Christianity and the Social Crisis. I think it may be instructive to those like Rick Warren who dismiss Walter Rauschenbusch as merely a socialist.
The product of seven generations of pastors, Rauschenbusch started his career with a fairly orthodox Christian mission of saving souls. His first church consisted of a small community of immigrants in New York City in the area that was then aptly called Hell’s Kitchen. Through his congregation, he was introduced to overcrowded tenements with high rent, horrendous working conditions, intolerably low wages, lack of heat in the winter, and lack of recreational facilities in the summer, all accompanied by constant hunger and substandard health facilities. Rauschenbusch realized that in order to serve the spiritual needs of his congregation he had to address the whole of their lives.
As a Christian, Walter naturally turned to the Bible to see what it had to say about harsh reality which confronted him. With his new vision, granted by the poor of his congregation, he saw the “kingdom of God” as the centerpiece of Jesus’ teaching and the hope of his earthly ministry. Pastor Rauschenbusch was struck by how the kingdom of God contrasted with the lives of his congregation: “Instead of a society resting on coercion, exploitation, and inequality,” he wrote, “Jesus desired to found a society resting on love, service, and equality.” Rauschenbusch was convinced that the kingdom of God was not an apocalyptic vision that could be passively postponed, but a prophetic call for society’s transformation in the here and now.
Perhaps Pastor Hybels can say something about how his church is involved with this prophetic call for the transformation of not only lives, but of a society which allows such vast disparity of wealth between the richest and the poorest in our own country. How does the kingdom of God function as an organizing principle in his church and in his own understanding of our task as Christians?

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David W Cochran

posted September 15, 2007 at 10:48 am

I would have to say, not meaning to be a fence-sitter, that both of our esteemed debaters are essentially correct. One of our primary duties as Christians is to introduce others to Christ. But as an outflow of our own Christianity, if we neglect the less fortunate around us, we are not displaying the Fruits-Of-The-Spirit. As stated in the book of James, “faith without works is dead”. Can we truly be called Christians if we do not reach out to those in need of physical as well as Spiritual sustinence? How can we NOT do both if we are truly filled with the Holy Spirit? All too often we place emphasis on one and not the other, to the detriment of not only those around us, but to ourselves as well.

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posted September 15, 2007 at 11:14 am

i cannot help but be reminded of my beautiful daughter and the lessons i learned from her. She accepted Christ in 5th grade as her personal saviour. She recently died of brain cancer, just 6 days after her 13th birthday. During the year + of her illness, she showed grace and caring to all around her. One night, we had to stay around the hospital for more tests, but she wanted McDonald’s. We went and they had a nice sitting area with couches (It was the downtown restaurant of our city). As we were eating an obvious transient woman came in, and rudely said, “you got any money or anything? i am starving” My first reaction was being appalled. But my daughter, who truly had the holy spirit with her, went over to her with her hamburger and french fries, and said “you can have mine, i’m full” The woman didn’t say Thank You, but she scarfed down the food. Well, we all started to follow suit. i felt pride at my daughter, and shame at my first reaction. My daughter did many givng things in her life. She set the example of a child’s simple faith in Christ, but also works as an example of Christ. i know she is with Christ, waiting for me. One other thing: When she accepted Christ, she looked up at me and asked, “Mom, can we all meet in my room in Heaven?” So, needless to say, Her room, Katie’s room, is where we will all be meeting. And it will be a glorious day to be reunited.

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posted September 16, 2007 at 6:43 am

It is true that God wants us to reach out to others. I learned a very valuable lesson tat I also had to prayer about who I helped. I suffered a brain aneursm and stroke. Praise be to God even after emergency braIN SURGERY i AM STILL HERE WITH A VISION and purpose in my life. It retired me but not from nministry. I* assisted a woman who proclaimed to be a prophetess and here children. So I learned a vwery duifficult lesson. I am still a giver but I am prayerful. BE ENCOURAGED IN ALL THAT YOU DO FOR CHRIST.

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posted September 16, 2007 at 9:55 am

I grew up going to a Church of God In Christ (COGIC) facility.
At seven years old I knew that God was my father,and I wanted him to be, yet because of man’s law in the church I never got the true understanding of the Word of God. I rebelled and stopped attending regularly. I spent a lot of time doing social activities and my own thing. One day I decided to read the bible for myself and I prayed for comprehension of what I was reading. Not only did I read the parables of Jesus, and the laws of God, but he gave me a ear to hear what bible really was saying. No one can live for God and not care and do for the poor. He also said that there were those who would not be able to understand the parables, and His people were failing for the lack of knowledge. We are called to tell the Good News of Jesus coming and His soon return, but, he also said we are servants. The best way to tell people about the goodness of God is to show them. By the life we live and the service we give. God truly does love and want His people to prosper, but we have been commisioned to share that Love with others until Jesus returns. I can’t see you without shoes and not buy you a pair or, give you a pair. With God’s help my sisters and I started WayMakers because we understand the plight of the less fortunate, we also know they needed more than lip-service, they need a helping hand to get themselves out of poverty. We help start them in businesses or train them for employment. We have also fed them and offered child-care when needed. We run after-school care and summer camps. We feed the heart and no one has ever had a problem with us talking about Christ. In fact they make it a point to call us for prayer and standing in the gap intercession. I praise God for using our abilities for His kingdom. Yes I am a bible reading, foot-stomping, Hallelujah shouting Child of God, but I also love my fellow man with the agape love of Jesus. You can’t really have spiritual without social. The bible doesn’t really leave this open for debate.

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posted September 17, 2007 at 10:04 am

If we are to emulate Christ, we do both. How can you say you are a Christian and put down immigrants, aliens, and minorities? Pure hypocrisy. Learn to live like a true follower of Jesus.

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posted September 17, 2007 at 10:56 am

You can say what you like about helping the poor but if what your talking about is a welfare program then you are doing them no good. the poor that i have known and seen in this world have been changed through nothing other then the saving grace of our God. as far as the first comment says about “how can you not do both if you are truly filled with the spirit?” i think you have just hit the nail on the head. When you are “filled” with the spirit you will do what the spirit wants. You do not become “filled” and then do what you want. You will not be “filled” so that you can consume it on your lust. I am an independent baptist and i am under the belief that if we could all just stop fighting about which is more important and start doing what God has commanded us, “Go ye therefore into all the world and preach the gospel to EVERY LIVING CREATURE. Baptizing them in the name of the FATHER AND OF THE SON AND THE HOLY GHOST….” Maybe if we all got busy doing what we were commanded and left the results up to God we would find that God would take care of the rest. dont forget that I have never seen his seed begging bread.

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posted September 17, 2007 at 2:09 pm

“Evangelicals seem to be more concerned with proselytizing and campaigning on social issues such as homosexuality than organizing themselves to meet social needs of the poor. Or is that just my ignorance or prejudice?”
Let’s call it ignorance. I don’t know of a single church that doesn’t have some kind of system set up to help the poor. The megachurches I’ve attended have had very extensive systems. Could we do more? Maybe. But if what you’re looking for is support for liberal social programs, you’re not going to get it.
It’s not that we don’t want to help people; it’s that we don’t think those things will help people. You will not get conservative Christians to support social programs to “level” things. You will get their support for creating an environment where things can be leveled.

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Paul Willson

posted September 17, 2007 at 6:05 pm

I think both needs to happen. To out of hand say I will only reach out by preaching is lame. If one is hungry (fill in other needs as apply) one is not likey to be overly receptive to a Gospel message. You’re more likely thinking where is my next meal coming from.
The church needs to blend preaching with acttion> And it does happen but normslly its done by people who do it quietly without the fanfare many “evangelists ” bring to themselves. And any ministry that exults any 1 person besides the deity well thats wrong. Modern Christianity needs to get away from the cult of perssonality.Which is all too out there now.

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posted September 17, 2007 at 8:49 pm

as long as they continue to lie about the facts of science they dont practice what they preach
evolution has bee a well documented fact for over 150 years ..wh are so-called christians still lying about it and other aspects of science like a 4.5 billion years old earth
these lies only hurt christianity
for years i refused to go to church because i belived that all i would hear were lies

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posted September 18, 2007 at 12:42 am

If you help the poor you are doing both at the same time. You dont always need words to show the heart of our Lord. Not to say only help the poor. The rich can also be touched in the same means. Through your spirit filled works they will see Jesus in you.

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posted September 18, 2007 at 9:06 pm

Evangelicals ARE corrupt LIARS! Take a REAL look at America these days! Dang. I am proud to be a Gay American, I have NO interest whatsoever in children, drugs, OR public sex in bathroom stalls! Yet, these crazies are “after” me? When will they take a look in the mirror? It’s the Evangelicals who are doing all these “dumbnut” things! NOT ME!
Evangelicals lie to themselves, lie to others, and lie to their families. I live the truth. Living the truth is freeing. God wants us to live the truth. I am spiritual. I serve my community in helping others who don’t have much or are physically limited. God loves ME. Anything evangelicals say, do, promise, or otherwise espouse; is a 100% lie! I am so sick and tired of them and their judgement. They need therapy………STAT!

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posted September 21, 2007 at 4:52 am

I’m not sure if I’m an evangilical or not I’m protestant. But that’s politics for you. It never works to mix politics and religion in whatever religion.
Politics are believe is between the person doing it and God. Wether its homesexality or other countries.
Making a nice change or making a diffrence is ok but being caught up in trying to control others I’ve learned the hard way.But then again it’s good to be assertive but not go into agressive.
Actually it’s sad how the media takes the so called christens who are just loudmouths and groups christens all together into a sterotype.
Yes poor people and disabled people are left behind.
It seems there’s a hiarchy of what’s importent.
But anyway I don’t want to judge anyone but there are alot of distractions in this world I’ve noticed even for me that take my eyes off of what’s importent and I wonder if some christens are lost that way.
That’s just me I’m no perfect christen and I’ve made mistakes but probably praying for these evangilicals would help that takes action in Gods eyes.

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Camillus Igwegbe Stevens Jnr.

posted September 21, 2007 at 6:37 am

I honestly do think christianity in general should be a part and parcel of the two.It is a common knowledge that most evangelical preachers for reasons best known to them put prosperity ahead of love. we should also call to mind that the Holy book is awash with men who proclaimed Christ because of personal aggradisements.It is still the same today,because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday,Today and forever and so is the church.It is the will of Our Father that we may prosper in all things,but when the church which is the body of christ prospers so should her flocks especially the weak,old,widows,orphans,refugees,the homelesss and the poor prosper.

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posted September 21, 2007 at 6:56 am

I belong to a an evangelical congregation of a mainline Protestant denomination. Is a mainline evangelical to much of a contradiction in terms? The criticisms of the practices of evangelical Christians are certainly valid but that does not in any way compromise the validity of the Gospel. It is simply imperfect people trying to implement a perfect message.
Many people struggle with a seeming rift between science and Christianity but this stems from a lack of knowledge of one or both. Read “Genesis and the Big Bang” by Gerald Schroeder. For me as an engineer, this book rang true. Could God have created the world in 6 days? Yes. Did He? There is where uncertainty comes in because we can only assess that indirectly. The prevailing science says no. Is that science incontrovertable? Intelectual honesty says no. There are holes and flaws in the prevailing science. Science by its very nature is always in flux as more is learned and old theories disproved. The Gospel of Christ with its message of love and forgiveness is eternal.

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Pastor J. W. Binion

posted September 21, 2007 at 8:20 am

My problem with “evangelicals” is that they are extremely intent upon their agenda, no matter that most of what they preach is aimed at increasing the preacher’s fame and finances. Prosperity, in reality, is the prosperity of the TV preacher/evangelist NOT the individual to whom the message is delivered. Instead of spiritual prosperity they focus on the almighty dollar (would Jesus wear a Rolex on his TV Show). Have we ever seen the evangelical preacher present a 30 minute TV program without 14 minutes of ‘commerical’ content (buy my books, send me money)? I know the ministries need money to survive – but when 40% of their air time is spent in fund raising I question the method and the message.
If the evangelicals are truly evangelical, why aren’t they on the streets, roads, and small communities seeking the lost instead of preaching in the auditoriums and mega churches? If they are interested in spreading the Word of God, why aren’t they supporting (financially) the 40-50 or smaller churches that are struggling to exist instead of promoting their catherals and mansions? We are to be seeking the lost, strayed, and confused – MOST evangelical protestant preachers are more concerned with their own fame and fortune than marching to the orders of the Supreme Commander (our Lord Jesus Christ.)

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posted September 21, 2007 at 11:13 am

In every faction of society there are the talkers and the doers, Jesus encourages the doers but, the talkers have to realize there is no profit in alienating the gentile unbelievers with rhetoric of judgement, condemnation is not of works it is of faith, if anyone has not put his faith in the forgiveness offered by Jesus then they have condmned themselves because of unbelief [all have sinned; the great equalizer]. Christians should be circumspect how they bring Jesus to others. Some folks respond to the strong arm methods[contentious] and although the salvation is valid the bringer of the message will have to account for their words. The cause to serve is inherant in everybody, the freewill factors gives us choice in how we define ourself and who we serve, as one given to freedom from self or slavery to self. If you put your faith in Christ then he can work with you through every obstascle that needs be addressed in us. The pruning of the unproductive branches is the process of conforming us into the image of Christ. Not a cookie cutter image, but unique as who you are in the Image [traits] of holiness, righteousness, kindness all the attributes of God in the nature of What and who he is LOVE. Without Jesus all your are is yourself, and unable to do or create or understand the truth of creation or the purpose of life. All That you are able to do as a servant of yourself is to satiate the pride of your life [you define your self as…] the desire you look upon to possess [desire of sight] passion to experience union with other flesh [desire of skin]. The choice is ours?

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Alan Lunn

posted September 25, 2007 at 9:22 am

Gifts of evangelism and of mercy are both given to the church. It is probably wrong to emphasize one over the other. The task is to bring these very different approaches into a plausible alignment. The tendency of Evangelicals has been to try to stamp cultures with their own religious subculture. The new trend seems to be to conform the message to the culture it is entereing.
I think Pentecostals have tended to use the evangelist Phillip as their model. Their vision is of the preaching campaign. But the results of these campaigns, though impressive to look at, are often very short-lived. The real missions heroes are those who move into unreached cultures as friends and build. One couple I’ve met spent 26 years living with a tribe in N. Kenya. They learned their language, taught it back to them, wrote textbooks, and translated the Bible. The results are more permanent.
In the end, the Holy Spirit has to orchestrate the workings of the church as a holistic enterprise. He works it all according to His good pleasure. If there is a renewed emphasis on the missional, as among Emergents, then perhaps God is speaking new strategies into the work of the church.
We have new tools now that should not be ignored. Primarily, we now have the Internet, which will evolve in coming years. The potential in this to change the church is astronomical.

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Doug Lass

posted September 25, 2007 at 10:00 am

I agree with many of the comments made that there the mega churches and their preachers are only interested in the money and preaching hate about homosexuals, liberals,abortions and anything else that they don’t agree with, especially if it concerns the poor, disenfranchised and anyone else they feel is not exactly like them. Most seem interested in collecting money just for themselves and if that’s in the millions and they DO NOT support anything that doesn’t line their own pockets. My own personal belief is that ALL Christians should do something to help the poor, the people who have not heard of Christ AND take care of others whether or not those being helped are Christian or not. It seems to me that if a young lady is thinking of having an abortion, a lot of evangelicals will be screaming at the top of their lungs not to do it. If the young lady does give birth, the evangelicals start by saying ” hallelujah, we have saved another life.” But what happens next? they go looking for another lady considering an abortion. What if the first is a teenager who is still in school? The evangelicals don’t seem to care if the young mother can’t finish high school or get some type of training to get a job that’s better than flipping burgers and she can’t afford to get health care for herself and her child to help with medical costs! Personally, I think there should be an interdenomanatil organization that could help with getting help with these issues that could be set up as a non profit for their help.

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Matt K

posted September 25, 2007 at 1:25 pm

I have to disagree with some of these characterizations of evangelicals.
I’ve attended many evangelical churches in my life, and although I’ve often felt like a black sheep for my theological and political convictions, I can no longer make an accusation against evangelicals that “they don’t care about the poor”. Here are just a few anecdotes…
The first church I attended operated a large food pantry and participated with a network of churches to host a homeless shelter weekly at their facility–these services were offered with no compulsory religious preachiness, just love. They were generous givers to both domestic charity projects as well as international relief projects (recently I heard that when they raised money to repair their church roof, they made a goal to raise the same amount to build a school in Congo).
The second evangelical church I attended sent a team of doctors and nurses from their congregation to Indonesia just days after the Tsunami, sacrificing their vacation and many thousands of dollars to offer help to the suffering. We participated bi-weekly at a free meal program in a blighted urban neighborhood. This church also gave generously to global relief projects. Many of these “holy-rollers” were just as likely to bemoan the state of poverty in our world as they were to say anything about homosexuality.
My current evangelical church hosts its own food pantry and job-resource center. Many parishoners participate in advocacy groups for fair housing. We do letter witting campaigns to increase federal funding for anti-poverty efforts.
Consider the response of the Southern Baptist denomination in the wake of Katrina– many millions of dollars and thousands of volunteer hours have been invested in rebuilding the gulf coast.
While unfortunately nationalism has seeped in to too many churches and it has caused evangelicals to support the war more than most Americans, its been my experience that overseas evangelical missionaries have been some of the most fervent anti-war folks I’ve met.
Jokers like Falwell are not indicative of the evangelical movement. Its much more nuanced. Sure they’re hung up on some issues of sexuality, but the fact is that if progressive Christians are willing to engage them, evangelicals could be a powerful force for continued social change to bring peace and economic justice to our world.

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Tolani Anifowose

posted October 3, 2007 at 11:52 am

Thank, you very much for the enlightment the but there is that the word of God in the book of Ecc. said that money answereth all things without money the preacher get to no where to preach the gospel,i know and heard of some pastors who in all their preaching is all about money and advertising thier writen novel aand books but we should not look at them as every body rewards is in heaven and it is certain that all of us will give our sterwardship and account on how we live our life in heaven.
thank you very much and may God bless all of US (amen)
Tolani Anifowose

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posted October 23, 2007 at 1:45 pm

The processes involved in cult development include:
* Education: People, often beginning with children, are taught to hate those who are different and they are taught to interpret scriptures, like the Bible or the Koran, literally instead of symbolically: holy war, Jihad, is then externalized, waged on perceived outside enemies in contrast to an inner holy war with one’s lesser nature.
* Creating enemies: The group, whether political or religious, must create enemies to survive: other nation states, other religions, other races. Unspeakable evil is rationalized for the “greater good,” for the sake of the group’s mission and agenda. It’s “unfortunate” if thousands of innocent civilians are murdered in the process.
* Labeling: Destructive ideologies categorize others by group characteristics such as color, religion, ethnicity, nationality or economic status instead of seeing the individual human being.
* Elitism: Leaders’ ideas and agenda are sacred, inspired or beyond reproach: This produces a presumed superiority over others with different views, encouraging elitism, separation, hatred, and prejudice.
* Black and white thinking: Destructive organizations promote a fundamental separation of pure and impure, good and evil: purity equates to being in the group; impurity and evil equate to those outside the group, who must be saved, defeated or destroyed. God is always on their side.
* Exclusiveness: Belief that their belief system-whether political, economic, or religious-is the solution for the world’s problems. They have the truth and nonbelievers do not.
* Censorship: Leadership attempts to control information and communication into and out of the group as well as individuals’ inner thought processes. Doubts, criticisms and different ideas are taken as attacks, disloyalty, or lack of faith.
John D. Goldhammer – ‘Why the Bush “War on Terror” is Fated to Fail’ (
The question remains about whether certain evangelical groups become cults – and spend more time assailing their ‘enemies’ than living their faith.

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