Influence

 the shape of leadership

Redemption and Lift

Jesus changes both lives and circumstances

George P Wood on April 5, 2017

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Missiologist Donald McGavran coined the catchphrase “redemption and lift” in Understanding Church Growth to describe the transformative power of the gospel on people’s lives, especially their socioeconomic condition.

More recently, sociologist Rodney Stark provided statistical evidence for redemption and lift in America’s Blessings. Compared to less religious and nonreligious people, people of faith:

A person renewed by the gospel increasingly acts in a self-controlled and selfless manner rather than in a self-serving one, and this produces positive change in their material circumstances.
  • engage in less criminal behavior and more pro-social behavior;
  • experience higher marital happiness and lower divorce rates, while producing more and better-behaved children;
  • report more and better sex with their spouse, and less cheating;
  • experience better mental health, and probably better physical health too;
  • give more generously in terms of money and time;
  • and are better educated, more successful and less credulous.

Why does this happen? Because conversion to Christianity entails change in three dimensions of human existence: head (our patterns of thought), heart (our patterns of feeling), and hands (our patterns of action and relationship). A person renewed by the gospel increasingly acts in a self-controlled and selfless manner rather than in a self-serving one, and this produces positive change in their material circumstances.

Consequently, evangelism is a necessary component of Christian compassion ministries to the poor. It helps such ministries move beyond the temporary relief of a person’s acute needs to the long-term development of their whole self — head, heart and hands. As Beth Grant writes in her book, Courageous Compassion, “When just actions and God’s truth are engaged together, they are supernaturally liberating — just as the One who is truth proclaimed they would be” (John 14:6).

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