A good Christian gentleman once said, while preaching: “If your theology will not drive you to respond with compassion to the social ills in society – then seriously consider changing your theology!” It is strange that any evangelical Christian should ever have needed to ask whether social involvement was their concern, and that controversy should have blown up over the relationship between evangelism and social responsibility. The Holy Writ, both in the Old and New Testaments, is replete with injunctions and examples of practical social involvement. We can even draw this biblical lesson from the ministry of our blessed Saviour, Jesus Christ, during the days of His flesh. It is evidently clear from His public ministry that Jesus Christ both “…went about…teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom…” (Matt. 9:35a) and “…doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). Our Saviour saw no dichotomy between evangelism and social involvement. Consequently, “evangelism and social concern have been intimately related to one another throughout the history of the Church… Christian people have often engaged in both activities quite unselfconsciously, without feeling and need to define what they were doing or defend why they were doing it.”1

But how are we to go about responding to the overwhelming social concerns that are so prevalent in our society today – the HIV/AIDS pandemic claiming its victims in the thousands, the levels of corruption threatening the very moral fabric of our civil society, the non-service delivery on the part of elected government, and much, much more. The list is almost depressingly endless! How are you and I, as Reformed Christians, to respond to these numerous social issues? How are we to translate our rich theological heritage into practical social involvement? Are we to simply terminate our social responsibilities at merely providing social services to the needy, or are we to also seriously consider more radical social action? The Grand Rapids Report distinguishes between ‘social service’ and ‘social action’ by helpfully drawing up the following table:

Social Service  Social Action

Relieving human need  Removing the cause of human need

Philanthropic activity  Political and economic activity

Seeking to minister to  Seeking to transform the

individuals and families  structures of society

Works of mercy  The quest of justice2

Yes, are we to only take up social services to the exclusion of social action? These are some of the real and contemporary issues facing many Christians of a Reformed persuasion today. How are we going to respond to these social concerns in our society? What form is our social response going to take? Of course, this is a very basic question to many of us: we need to appeal to the Word of God, the Bible, and hear what the Lord is saying to us. It is sola scriptura, tota scriptura! That is exactly what this issue is all about.

Our second issue of Reformation Zambia is dedicated to this all-important matter facing many of us in Zambia. It is our earnest prayer that these articles will stimulate much profitable theological discussion so that together we may seek to understand what the Word of God teaches us concerning this matter, and to reduce the same into practice: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). That, without a doubt, is our sure calling!

In this issue, I bring a challenge to you, from the Bible, on the issue of the Christian and whistle blowing. Yes, with the alarming levels of corruption in society, the non-service delivery approach adopted by those who exercise civic authority over us in the community, the selfish manipulation of certain civic processes by the powers-that-be; the list goes on. How are we to respond to these social ills in society? Are we to remain quiet, and mind our own business? Do we have any biblical injunction to support us in this matter? If we can, what counsel do we need in order to effectively carry out whistle blowing?

Paul Sakala comes along and discusses the other side of the coin: The Local Church and Social Concerns. Are we to be involved in social issues as local churches? How far are we to get involved? What are some of the practical biblical guidelines we are to employ as we consider social involvement as local churches? Pastor Sakala guides us to consider some of the theological issues we need to come to terms with as we think of social involvement.

Isaac Makashini addresses the vital subject of The Pastor and Social Concerns. He examines whether the Pastor, in his individual capacity, can get involved in social concerns, and if so, how far he can go. He comes forth with much needed warm pastoral counsel, wisely piloting through some tempestuous and treacherous theological rock falls that are just hiding below water-level, that so easily cause shipwreck to many a pastoral ministry.

Choolwe Mwetwa brings biblical wisdom to bear on the subject with pastoral warmth. He addresses some of the pertinent questions that usually tend to nag so many sincere Christian people, who, when faced with the question of social responsibility, do not want to make mistakes that will undermine their Christian testimony.

Our earnest prayer is that this issue of Reformation Zambia will enable us all to begin to openly discuss the theological issues surrounding the practical social involvement by the evangelical Christians of a Reformed persuasion. Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us: “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world…” (Matt. 5:13, 14). One of our Lord’s apostles writes: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). What are some of the practical applications of these biblical injunctions? How are we to translate these and many other biblical injunctions into practical acts of obedience? Read on, and enjoy your reading. Amen!

NOTES:

1 Evangelism and Social Responsibility: An Evangelical Commitment, The Grand Rapids report (The Paternoster, 1982), p.19.

2 ibid. p.44.