In 1996, Christianity Today’s Cover Story featured John Stott. He was asked about whether there was tension between evangelism and social concerns:
“As I read and studied and meditated, my vision of God grew and I came to see the obvious things: that God is not just interested in religion but in the whole of life—in justice as well as justification.
I don’t see any dichotomy between the “pietistic” and social realms. To me, they’re two aspects of the same thing: a pursuit of the will of God. I have always been moved by the phrase “to hunger and thirst after righteousness”; righteousness covers both personal holiness and social justice….
I remain committed to evangelism. I have had the privilege of leading more than 50 university missions all over the world, and they spanned a period of 25 years until I felt I was a little out of touch with the student generation and too old.
I can honestly say that my social concerns have not diminished my zeal for evangelism. If anything, it’s the other way round. What people could say is that I talk a lot about social action but don’t do much about it. And that is true, because my calling is to be a pastor. Although I disagree with polarization between these two, I’ve often said I do believe in specialization.
Acts 6 is the obvious biblical basis for this specialization of roles: the apostles were not willing to be distracted from the ministry of the Word and prayer. In fact, the seven were appointed to handle the care of the widows. Both those works are called diakonia, “ministry”; both required Spirit-filled people to exercise them. Both were necessary, but one was social, the other pastoral….
God is interested in and concerned about more than religion: God is the Lord of creation and the covenant. God is the lover of justice, one who protects and champions the oppressed: this is God’s nature. If this is the kind of God we have, then clearly God’s people have got to be the same.
Second, there is the doctrine of human beings, of male and female made in the image of God—the unique dignity and worth of human beings. William Temple said, “My worth is what I am worth to God, and that is a marvelous great deal, because Christ died for me.” And I would say that the ministry of Jesus in life and death exhibits the enormous value of human beings.
Then, I would want to back up this biblical theme with examples from history. Take Mother Teresa, for example, who sees a woman on the pavement of Calcutta with awful sores infested by live maggots. Mother Teresa kisses this woman and picks her up. She sees an intrinsic value in her.
That, surely, is what has motivated people. That is why the word humanization, which was first adopted in the World Council of Churches, is something we evangelicals ought to have taken up. Anything that dehumanizes human beings should be an outrage to us, because God has made them in his image. The whole concept of the rehumanization of human beings, and the deliverance of human beings from anything that dehumanizes, ought to inspire people, and has inspired people.”