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Saving Souls, Serving SocietyUnderstanding the Faith Factor in Church-Based Social Ministry$
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Heidi Rolland Unruh and Ronald J. Sider

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195161557

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195161556.001.0001

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Conversionist Churches and Social Action

Conversionist Churches and Social Action

(p.171) 9 Conversionist Churches and Social Action
Saving Souls, Serving Society

Heidi Rolland Unruh

Ronald J. Sider (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The current conversation about faith-based initiatives calls for closer attention to socially active conversionist churches—those that serve society alongside, or motivated by, a desire to save souls. Five main dialectical qualities depict these churches' public mission: engaged orthodoxy that balances this-worldly engagement with anticipation of other-worldly salvation; a whole-person anthropology, concerned with meeting both spiritual and social needs; invitational voluntarism that recruits others to Christian faith while respecting their free will; expressive relationalism that promotes caring relationships as a channel for communicating the gospel; and expanded individualism that values personal regeneration and structural reform as mutually reinforcing objectives. These attributes help to explain how conversionist churches are able to adapt and diversify their outreach strategies to expand their access to secular resources. The impact of socially engaged conversionist churches is likely disproportionate to their number, particularly among evangelical, inner-city and ethnic minority congregations.

Keywords:   faith-based initiatives, churches, engaged orthodoxy, voluntarism, individualism, relationalism, public mission, resources, evangelicalism, ethnicity

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