Evangelicals are frightened of TSG – The Social Gospel. It brings to mind names of people and other denominations who have called Christ imaginary, as Someone not really risen from the dead, and putting humanistic niceties before evangelism. Oh people… (insert sad shaking of head here).
In the early 1900's, North American Christianity went through what is called The Great Reversal — instead of the government taking charge of caring for the poor, oppressed and orphaned, evangelicals felt they needed to focus solely on church planting and evangelism. We didn't lose our mandate. We gave it up. It's a period in history rarely spoken about because to even suggest that there's far more to The Great Commission than evangelism and discipleship is heresy… or at least some very prickly stares.
Why the division between The Gospel and TSG, I don't know. They are the same thing! I look at the life of Christ — the very same man evangelists preach about and imitate and love — and He, poor Himself, loved the poor, walked with them, talked with them, ate with them, healed them, and spent Himself on behalf of them. Sounds pretty "social" to me, and nowhere did He ever deny His deity or His identity or His amazing message of salvation for all.
What's the issue?
Some religious figures who engage in social justice deny a literal resurrection or stray from a Christ-centred life, and suddenly anything attached with a social gospel is blacklisted. What's the deal?
Some of us will be called to evangelism, like the apostle Paul. But I'm thinking Paul didn't forego caring for the poor and neglected only to talk their ears off about Christ. To make the entire Christian focus one of evangelism is entirely unbalanced and taking the New Testament, indeed all of Scripture, out of context.
The social aspects of the Gospel are not actions and lifestyles to be feared. To remove them from Christianity removes Christ Himself. To remove Christ from the Gospel, and you have a barn raising… nothing more. See the picture? Both scenerios scream a distorted Christ.
Evangelicals, fundamentalists, Right-wingers, The Moral Majority… whatever you choose to call yourself, don't be afraid of "The Social Gospel". When Christ is at the centre, it's the Gospel. Period. No fear here.
"I don't preach a social gospel; I preach the gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned with the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn't say, 'Now is that political or social?' He said, 'I feed you.' Because the good news to a hungry person is bread." – Desmond Tutu