I’m not a big proponent of Social Gospel, winning soles or any other program as forms of evangelism. I think that they all have their place but they all seriously miss the mark. True evangelism is to just be there and care
Social Gospel is the idea that Christians’ sole activity should be on promoting social justice.
Don’t get me wrong social justice is integral to the gospel. James makes it perfectly clear. You cannot be a true believer if your belief is not backed by deeds to those in need (James 2:14ff). The problem comes when people become convinced that if they do good work then they are Christian. If you are a true believer you should find yourself compelled to do justice. Because of the renewing power of the Holy Spirit in your life. But doing good does not by itself make you a Christian.
Now we know that this doesn’t happen. But why doesn’t it happen? Well basically for the same reason that James had to write his epistle; people are confused by the deceiving power of the world and need to have the situation clarified.
This confusion is basically the converse of the Social Gospel and is equally misguided. I have even heard the story of Peter healing the lame beggar (Act 3:6) used as a justification that we should concentrate on “winning soles” not on social justice. It is about making converts, not social change. But the whole point of the passage is to show that the two are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other and call it God’s Good News (Gospel).
The history of the church is profoundly full of Social Justice busting out whenever there is a worldwide revival. This is seen no more clearly than in the establishment of the Salvation Army. Where their Slogan of “Heart to God’s hand to man”, is the most theologically sound and succinct expression of what the true motivation of Christians should be. How could you not be inspired by the call to fight no matter what denomination you belong to?
When we look at the state of the church generally, in western society we are losing the spiritual war at the moment. I don’t believe that God will allow that to continue indefinitely. It will turn about. But for the moment, we are focusing on the wrong thing and we need to do our part to turn that about.
As Christians, we will always have to struggle with political agendas and we will always have the drive to win soles but we must always struggle to make neither of those our main focus. Our main focus should always be God and as a result, people.
That also doesn’t mean that we should be creating more programs. Social justice, evangelical or any other kind.
One of the other big mistakes that Christians make is to create more programs. Programs are great and can be great ministries in themselves but their downside is that whilst they often help bring people to the kingdom they can often become the focus themselves rather than God and they do little to build the main congregation.
So what should be doing?
Honestly, the best thing we can be doing is to be there for people when they need us and care about what is happening to them. That does not mean you need another program to do that. it can and in fact, should be done on a one-to-one basis.
If we show genuine care for people the church will grow. you don’t need programs for that. that doesn’t mean that you should abandon programs just that they should not get in the way of one-to-one relationships.
Just be there and care. That’s the best kind of evangelism.
Maybe this video will help you understand what I’m talking about.