Saturday, January 17, 2009

Social Gospel and Conservatism

I've been reading some posts on Facebook where those in the Conservative camp are decrying churches getting caught up in the Social Gospel.  So I decided to do some research on what it is or was and quite frankly I'm concerned about those Christians that are of the conservative persuasion who are simply carping and not doing.

Here's what wikipedia defines the social gospel as:  The Social Gospel movement is a Protestant Christian intellectual movement that was most prominent in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The movement applied Christian ethics to social problems, especially poverty, inequality, liquor, crime, racial tensions, slums, bad hygiene, child labor, weak labor unions, poor schools, and the danger of war. Above all they opposed rampant individualism and called for a socially aware religion. Theologically, the Social Gospel leaders were overwhelmingly post-millennialist. That is because they believed the Second Coming could not happen until humankind rid itself of social evils by human effort.[1] Social Gospel leaders were predominantly associated with the liberal wing of theProgressive Movement and most were theologically liberal. Important leaders include Richard T. ElyWashington Gladden, and Walter Rauschenbusch.

After the Social Gospel movement faded after 1950, many of its ideas reappeared in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Social Gospel principles continue to inspire newer movements such as Christians Against Poverty.

Now if you read thru the statement you'll see that speaking out against the oppression of people is something that should be a mark of Christianity.  Remember scripture says that Jesus went about his ministry doing good.  And James tells us not only that faith without works is dead but also that pure undefiled religion is to care for the widow and orphan.  Put those two together and I believe we have a mandate to actually do some good works and stop wringing our hands from the sideline about whether or not the church is going down the tubes because we are actually going to start doing good instead of talking about it.

Sure we need to make sure our motives are right -- ie we are doing it to serve Christ - and to share his love and free gift but as I have stressed before we need to do it with a language that is clear.  We throw around so much church jargon that no one understands.  Michael W Smith wrote the following :

Were passengers aboard the train
Silent little lambs amidst the pain
Thats no longer good enough
And when its time to speak our faith
We use a language no one can explain
Thats no longer good enough

And God knows its a shame
As we look to pass the flame
We are not the worthy bearers of his name


For the world to know the truth
There can be no greater proof
Than to live the life, live the life
Theres no love thats quite as pure
Theres no pain we cant endure
If we live the life, live the life
Be a light for all to see
For every act of love will set you free

Theres something beautiful and bold
The power of a million human souls
Come together as one
And each in turn goes out to lead
Another by his word, his love, his deed
Now the circle is done

It all comes back to one
For it is he and he alone
Who has lived the only perfect life weve known

This song was written in 1997 and we have simply gotten even more bizarre to a world around us that no longer has a Christian world view.  And so what does the conservative evangelical church do:  Complain about moving down a path to a Social Gospel mindset.  True, we have to guard against just doing good with no end game - but we need to start doing good instead of TALKING about doing good.  I am so encouraged by the efforts of some of our guys to go into the homeless camps around here and just doing good.  Some of the post'ers would say - see that's a social gospel because you didn't go in and share the gospel right away after giving them the sleeping bag.  However after a series of visits the men starting asking the why are you doing this question.  And as of a couple of weeks ago one of the men accepted the free gift of salvation.  It took our guys to earn their trust and show an interest in the men as a fellow human being and not a conquest.

We do, however, need to remind ourselves that we are 1) Serving Christ by showing love to "the least of these my brothers"  2) showing the love of Christ with the goal of sharing the clear gospel message not bogged down with our jargon that no one understands.

Let's stop worrying about the church in America going down the tubes by standing on the side complaining about folks wanting to do good works and get in the game and show love.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Green Light Blessing

I called my drive to work this morning a “blessing.”

Each morning I drive less than two miles to a parking lot, get in a stranger’s car and “slug” to Washington, DC.  The trip to the parking lot takes me through 4 traffic lights and 3 stop signs.  Two of the traffic lights are right turns so I don’t count those, the stop signs are never busy, and one of the two remaining lights is weight triggered leaving me with one annoying stop light.  Very often I get stuck sitting at this light watching the line behind me grow and a trickle of cars drive through the intersection in front of me.  (I write a few paragraphs about why it annoys me and even more reasons why it shouldn’t but that’s not what I’m going for in this post so I’ll just move on.)

Today, I caught that annoying light just right.  As I drove through the intersection I said to myself “Thank you God for that blessing.”  In that same moment, I wondered what made getting through that green light a “blessing.”  Why did I call the light going my way a blessing, but when God deems it right for the light to turn red and me to wait not a “blessing.”  Do I only consider things that God gives me that are what I want good, but when God in his infinite knowledge and love gives me things that aren’t in what I want not worthy of thanks?

What is a blessing really?

1 Thessalonians 5:18 - “give thanks in all circumstances…”

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


In the top half of the article Tim Tebow says “…I mean, more people would do those things; they just don't want to sacrifice.”  That is very true.  People don’t want to sacrifice and that’s exactly what we need to do if we are to truly make a mark.  I often times think about how we as Christians hope to make a difference.  Many think that because we don’t cuss or don’t watch certain movies that that will be enough to draw people to the Creator (making wise decisions is a good thing, don’t get me wrong).  If our language is the only difference people see in us then I’d say we’re failing as followers of Christ.  Where is the sacrifice, the demonstration of unconditional love?  I think Tebow recognizes the need for sacrifice.

Monday, January 5, 2009


I thought this was a good article about why pastors should blog and I think it can apply to us as well even though we aren't all pastors.


6 Reasons Pastors Should Blog

March 31, 2008 | By: Abraham Piper
Category: Commentary

In this article I want to convince as many pastors as possible to sit down and start a blog today. If I can’t convince them, then I want to convince churchgoers to hound their pastor until he does.

OK, all that’s overstatement, perhaps. You can still be a good pastor and not blog.

However, here’s why I think it would be good for you and your congregation if you did.

Pastors should blog…

1. …to write.

If you’re a pastor, you probably already know the value writing has for thinking. Through writing, you delve into new ideas and new insights. If you strive to write well, you will at the same time be striving to think well.

Then when you share new ideas and new insights, readers can come along with you wherever your good writing and good thinking bring you.

There is no better way to simply and quickly share your writing than by maintaining a blog. And if you’re serious about your blog, it will help you not only in your thinking, but in your discipline as well, as people begin to regularly expect quality insight from you.

2. …to teach.

Most pastors I’ve run into love to talk. Many of them laugh at themselves about how long-winded they’re sometimes tempted to be.

Enter Blog.

Here is where a pastor has an outlet for whatever he didn’t get to say on Sunday. Your blog is where you can pass on that perfect analogy you only just thought of; that hilarious yet meaningful story you couldn’t connect to your text no matter how hard you tried; that last point you skipped over even though you needed it to complete your 8-point acrostic sermon that almost spelled HUMILITY.

And more than just a catch-all for sermon spill-over, a blog is a perfect place for those 30-second nuggets of truth that come in your devotions or while you’re reading the newspaper. You may never write a full-fledged article about these brief insights or preach a whole sermon, but via your blog, your people can still learn from them just like you did.

3. …to recommend.

With every counseling session or after-service conversation, a pastor is recommending something. Sometimes it’s a book or a charity. Maybe it’s a bed-and-breakfast for that couple he can tell really needs to get away. And sometimes it’s simply Jesus.

With a blog, you can recommend something to hundreds of people instead of just a few. Some recommendations may be specific to certain people, but that seems like it would be rare. It’s more likely to be the case that if one man asks you whether you know of any good help for a pornography addiction, then dozens of other men out there also need to know, but aren’t asking.

Blog it.

Recommendation, however, is more than pointing people to helpful things. It’s a tone of voice, an overall aura that good blogs cultivate.

Blogs are not generally good places to be didactic. Rather, they’re ideal for suggesting and commending. I’ve learned, after I write, to go back and cut those lines that sound like commands or even overbearing suggestions, no matter how right they may be. Because if it’s true for my audience, it’s true for me, so why not word it in such a way that I’m the weak one, rather than them?

People want to know that their pastor knows he is an ordinary, imperfect human being. They want to know that you’re recommending things that have helped you in your own weakness. If you say, “When I struggled with weight-loss, I did such-and-such,” it will come across very differently than if you say, “Do such-and-such if you’re over-weight…”

If you use your blog to encourage people through suggesting and commending everything from local restaurants to Jesus Christ, it will complement the biblical authority that you rightly assume when you stand behind the pulpit.

4. …to interact.

There are a lot of ways for a pastor to keep his finger on the pulse of his people. A blog is by no means necessary in this regard. However, it does add a helpful new way to stay abreast of people’s opinions and questions.

Who knows what sermon series might arise after a pastor hears some surprising feedback about one of his 30-second-nuggets-of-truth?

5. …to develop an eye for what is meaningful.

For good or ill, most committed bloggers live with the constant question in their mind: Is this bloggable? This could become a neurosis, but I’ll put a positive spin on it: It nurtures a habit of looking for insight and wisdom and value in every situation, no matter how mundane.

If you live life looking for what is worthwhile in every little thing, you will see more of what God has to teach you. And the more he teaches you, the more you can teach others. As you begin to be inspired and to collect ideas, you will find that the new things you’ve seen and learned enrich far more of your life than just your blog.

6. …to be known.

This is where I see the greatest advantage for blogging pastors.

Your people hear you teach a lot; it’s probably the main way that most of them know you. You preach on Sundays, teach on Wednesdays, give messages at weddings, funerals, youth events, retreats, etc.

This is good—it’s your job. But it’s not all you are. Not that you need to be told this, but you are far more than your ideas. Ideas are a crucial part of your identity, but still just a part.

You’re a husband and a father. You’re some people’s friend and other people’s enemy. Maybe you love the Nittany Lions. Maybe you hate fruity salad. Maybe you struggle to pray. Maybe listening to the kids’ choir last weekend was—to your surprise—the most moving worship experience you’ve ever had.

These are the things that make you the man that leads your church. They’re the windows into your personality that perhaps stay shuttered when you’re teaching the Bible. Sometimes your people need to look in—not all the way in, and not into every room—but your people need some access to you as a person. A blog is one way to help them.

You can’t be everybody’s friend, and keeping a blog is not a way of pretending that you can. It’s simply a way for your people to know you as a human being, even if you can’t know them back. This is valuable, not because you’re so extraordinary, but because leadership is more than the words you say. If you practice the kind of holiness that your people expect of you, then your life itself opened before them is good leadership—even when you fail.


For most of you, anything you post online will only be a small piece in the grand scheme of your pastoral leadership. But if you can maintain a blog that is both compelling and personal, it can be an important small piece.

It will give you access to your people’s minds and hearts in a unique way by giving them a chance to know you as a well-rounded person. You will no longer be only a preacher and a teacher, but also a guy who had a hard time putting together a swing-set for his kids last weekend. People will open up for you as you open up like this for them. Letting people catch an honest glimpse of your life will add authenticity to your teaching and depth to your ministry,



Great article highlighting humanity’s desperate need for a relationship with our Creator written by an atheist.