One of the bad rubs about Pietism is the charge that it is separatist, individualistic and other worldly–“being so heavenly minded that it is no earthly good.” This is far from the truth. Pietism at its best has always been engaged in the world, hoping for and working towards a better church and society.
Pietists have been engaged in programs for social improvement–public relief and care for the poor including feeding, clothing and educating. Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom notes:
“Wherever he ministered, Spener demonstrated his knowledge of and advocacy for the “ least of these” — widows, orphans, peasants, unemployed, refugees, migrants, beggars, and invalids. He encouraged his parishes to work as Christians in partnership with the government to provide things like aid, jobs, relief, homes, and medical care” In Olson, Roger E. Reclaiming Pietism.
Followers of Jesus Christ are engaged in work that seeks to make the world right. Follower of Jesus expect that the resurrection power of Jesus can impact our world. Our love for Jesus compels us to share the good news of Jesus Christ and not ignore a person’s situation. John Stott noted: “Our neighbor is neither a bodyless soul that we should love only his soul, nor a soul less body that we should care for its welfare alone; nor even a body-soul isolated from society. God created man (sic), who is my neighbor a body-soul-in-community. Therefore if we love our neighbor as God made him, we must inevitably be concerned for his total welfare.”
This is a far cry from the escapist view of Dwight Moody who saw his work as rescuing people from the troubles of this world: ”I look upon this world as a wrecked vessel. God has given me a lifeboat and said, ‘Moody, save all you can.”
The Evangelical Covenant Church emerging from the Pietistic movement makes this Affirmation about world transformation: We affirm a commitment to the whole mission of the Church. The early Covenanters were known as “Mission Friends”— people of shared faith who came together to carry out God’s mission both far and near. Mission for them and for us includes evangelism, Christian formation, and ministries of compassion, mercy, and justice. We follow Christ’s two central calls. The Great Commission sends us out into all the world to make disciples. The Great Commandment calls us to love the Lord our God and our neighbors as ourselves.
One scholar notes that for Pietists: “Conversion to the Lord resulted in service to one’s neighbor. To be converted was to commit oneself concretely to the building of God’s Kingdom on earth.” This impulse towards social transformation is for God’s glory and the neighbor’s good.
For God’s glory-and the neighbor’s good. This is something we work out together in each of our neighborhoods, as followers of Jesus Christ–mission friends.
Check out this book (available on Kindle for $9.99): That Their Work Will Be a Joy! A book by Cameron Lee and Kurt Fredrickson
And, this piece that I wrote for Fuller Theological Seminary about resilience in ministry: Keeping the Joy in Ministry