It’s very important, I think, to get “the gospel” correct. There is a push today to include a whole bunch of stuff that people want us to do and call it “gospel.” Even if it’s a good thing, that doesn’t make it part of the “good news”
I also like this quote by Carson interacting with “The Hole in Our Gospel”
Some studies have shown that Christians spend about five times more mission dollars on issues related to poverty than they do on evangelism and church planting. At one time, “holistic ministry” was an expression intended to move Christians beyond proclamation to include deeds of mercy. Increasingly, however, “holistic ministry” refers to deeds of mercy without any proclamation of the gospel—and that is not holistic. It is not even halfistic, since the deeds of mercy are not the gospel: they are entailments of the gospel. Although I know many Christians who happily combine fidelity to the gospel, evangelism, church planting, and energetic service to the needy, and although I know some who call themselves Christians who formally espouse the gospel but who live out few of its entailments, I also know Christians who, in the name of a “holistic” gospel, focus all their energy on presence, wells in the Sahel, fighting disease, and distributing food to the poor, but who never, or only very rarely, articulate the gospel, preach the gospel, announce the gospel, to anyone. Judging by the distribution of American mission dollars, the biggest hole in our gospel is the gospel itself.
Caring for the poor is absolutely a deduction and implication of the gospel, so it is surely something the church needs to be doing, but it’s not the gospel. It flows logically from the good news, but news isn’t something you do, it’s something you proclaim that’s been done (by Jesus on the cross).
Please remember, when Jesus says when we care for the poor we are doing it to Him, he’s speaking about the poor IN THE CHURCH (“to the least of these my brothers” see Matthew 10:42; 25:40). So too, in 1John 3 when we’re told to love people in deed and not just in word, it’s those IN THE CHURCH (“the brothers”). That’s not to in any way suggest we don’t have a responsibility to care for the poor of the world, but that’s not part of the actual gospel. When we (the church) love one another (also the church) we show the world what the gospel is.
I know I know… that doesn’t “feel right” and many will think I’m wrong because… well, just because it’s wrong. I understand, I’m just trying to keep really clear what the gospel is, which necessarily means pointing out what the gospel isn’t. If we don’t guard the Apostle’s teaching, within a few generations, we’ll have lost it.
As we preach the gospel, we should remember the poor, the very things we (along with Paul) should be eager to do, but that’s what goes along with the gospel, it isn’t the gospel. In other words, you have not done gospel ministry if all you do is meet the physical needs of the poor. That’s the danger. Sure, some may only proclaim the gospel without caring for the poor, and we’re told not to do that, but the spiritual IS more important… “silver and gold have I none” “blessed are the poor…”