Archive for November, 2009

Redemption and lift, reconsidered

After reading my post Redemption and lift,
Tim McIntosh asked:

Has there ever been any empirical evidence that “redemption and lift” is a reality? There are many examples of poor sectors of countries that have had genuine revivals but no lift. The redemption and lift philosophy has been used to reject the idea of getting involved in holistic ministry.

Then what a bad use of the redemption and lift philosophy: to say that salvation has economic implications so we shouldn’t encourage them. That is, to paraphrase William Carey‘s critics, “If God wants to improve crop yields or reduce child abuse, he will do it without your help or ours.” If the Gospel affects the whole person, what kind of ministry is there besides holistic?

It turns out that in Donald McGavran’s Understanding Church Growth, one of the main points which he made in his chapter “Halting Due to Redemption and Lift” was negative, not positive: when poor people respond to the witness of the Gospel, they often want to leave the neighborhood, which leaves the neighborhood without their witness to the Gospel.

So I’m applying the term differently than McGavran did. However, you’re applying the term differently than I did. Notice that the examples I gave were on a personal/family level. When one man has more disposable income because he stops drinking, that doesn’t mean his whole community has more disposable income. However, if enough people stop drinking, some bars will go out of business, which affects the whole community. That happened in the 1905 Welsh Revival, documented by J. Edwin Orr.

Just a thought: you referred to “sectors of countries” but do the words “sector” or “country” (in our sense of those words) even appear in the New Testament mandates? The Gospel can transform sectors and countries, but it does that by transforming individuals, households, and people groups: all words which do appear in the New Testament mandates.

However, in the same way that lift can be promoted by redemption, lift can be thwarted by lack of redemption. If a “holistic ministry” focuses on fighting alcoholism among people who enjoy being drunk, that ministry is going to have some problems.