‘Put evangelism first’, Lyndon Bowring urged in a lecture to the Keswick Convention in July.
Mr Bowring, who is executive chairman of Christian public affairs charity CARE, said the church’s primary responsibility was evangelism, although Christians should also get involved in social action.
He said, ‘We must not neglect evangelism and see it as secondary. The primary role of the church is to see people saved and converted. I really emphasise evangelism. There is nothing more important than seeing people saved. That doesn’t mean we neglect the poor and fatherless. Please keep both these responsibilities in creative tension’.
Mr Bowring pointed out that slave trade campaigner William Wilberforce was as much concerned about conversions as he was about social action. He said, ‘You need to be converted if you have any hope of society being reformed. But Wilberforce didn’t live to see the fruit of his efforts.
‘Evangelicals after him took up the baton, took up the call. By the end of the nineteenth century, the income from charitable giving in the UK was greater than the economies of Denmark and Portugal, and 75 per cent of all charities were evangelical in the UK in 1895’.
Mr Bowring urged his audience to pray about becoming more involved in the community: ‘I want to urge you: step out, take a risk. Step out in faith. Ask God. Faith is about taking a decision to trust God’.