Why Serving the Common Good Isn’t Enough

Jeff Haanen | March 17, 2013

Recently evangelicals have renewed their interest in "the common good." Several years ago Gabe Lyons started a traveling conference called "Q," which chose the tagline "ideas for the common good." Andy Crouch, executive editor of Christianity Today, recently counseled evangelicals to restore the historic phrase to our shared lexicon. This Is Our City regularly features stories about Christians making "common good decisions" in their city. It's as if evangelicals have self-consciously come out of their narrow religious enclaves and finally care about elements of community life we share with our non-believing neighbors.

But there's something awry here.

The problem doesn't lay in the actions themselves. Cleaning a beach or planting a community garden is well and good. But what makes Christians unique in the world? Is it these types of "common good decisions"? Absolutely not. What makes Christians unique is the harmony between serving the common good and speaking the words of the gospel.

Secular people or people from other faiths make these kinds of "common good decisions" all the time. Take, for example, the Acumen Fund, a non-profit that uses entrepreneurial ventures to address poverty throughout the word. According to their website, they have affected more than…

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