Wallis: Social Change Requires Spiritual Revival

Progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis recently preached to hundreds of Presbyterians urging spiritual revival in churches today.

"There are very few things as important as evangelism in the churches today," said Wallis, who serves as president of the Washington-based ministry Sojourners.

He was addressing some 500 people at the National Presbyterian Evangelism Conference of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) which concluded Monday.

The conference in Nashville was the first of its kind and offered a wide spectrum of evangelism ministries to equip attendees with a passion for more effective evangelism, which many believe has taken a back seat in churches today.

"For as many years as I can remember, the 'E' word has been lurking in the shadows of our church vocabulary," said conference chair Philip Lotspeich in a welcoming statement to attendees.

"It certainly has become 'that which must not be named' for many of the churches in our denomination," the reverend commented, playing on a line from the popular Harry Potter fantasy series. "I'm not sure whether we are afraid that it might paint a picture of us that is unflattering or if we are merely terrified, unequipped, ill prepared or unaware of the need for Evangelism in our world today. Whatever the case, we have certainly abdicated our birthright when it comes to evangelism."

At the four-day conference, Wallis, also a well-known media figure and social activist, called for a revival of faith. But a genuine revival means it changes something in society, he indicated, noting that the best social movements have spiritual foundations.

"I believe something is happening in this country, something new and fresh ... is going on," he said, according to the Presbyterian News Service. "Spiritual power is being harnessed to address the great social challenges of our time.

"Everyone knows politics is broken, is failing to address the moral issues of our time. And history shows that when that happens, social movements rise up to change politics," said Wallis whose hot-button issues include fighting poverty, protecting the environment and protesting war.

Social justice, however, doesn't happen unless there is a revival of faith, he said.

Reading an e-mail he received from a young man, Wallis stated, "I lost my faith because of TV preachers, bad fund-raising, pedophile priests and White House theology – I didn't know you could be a Christian and care about the environment or the Iraq War."

Wallis stressed that a whole new generation wants to hear a whole new message from the Christian church, according to PNS.

Decades earlier, Wallis was a baby-boomer who joined the civil-rights and anti-Vietnam war movements. But those couldn't compare to the "radical" gospel message he discovered.

"Preaching the gospel for the sake of the world was far more radical than any of the politics I and my friends were reading," he said.

"We have mountains to move, my friends, but we're not going to move the mountains without a revival of faith."