Topical Sermons



1.     When we teach on the social gospel, we generally speak in terms of “fellowship halls, potlucks & other recreational & social events being planned, promoted & provided for by the local church.”  This study will be no different, since these are innovations of which the NT does not speak.  (Examples)

2.     We will see that the social gospel an invention of the wisdom of men 1 Cor. 2:5; Gal. 1:6-10

3.     “Social gospel” is not a New Testament term - 1 Pet. 4:11.

4.     Social Gospel defined:

a.     “Social Gospel, in U.S. history, a religious social reform movement that was prominent from c. 1870 to c. 1920, especially among liberal Protestant groups dedicated to the betterment of industrialized society through application of the biblical principles of charity and justice....Labour reforms‑‑including abolition of child labour, a shorter work week, a living wage, factory regulation, and improvement of the working conditions of women‑‑constituted the Social Gospel's most prominent concerns.”  (Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 10, p. 920)


b.     “American Protestant movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to awaken Christian concern about social injustices. It was a reaction to the type of religion that concentrated solely on the spiritual redemption of the individual and ignored such social and economic problems as poverty, war, and human exploitation.”  (Herbert A. Wisbey, Encyclopedia International, vol. 16, 569)

5.     The social gospel:  Focuses on the wrong message, misunderstands & misapplies the work of the local church & leaves man in his sin.



    A.    Spiritual in Nature – Jno. 18:36; Lk. 17:20-21; Rom. 14:17.

    B.    Built Through Gospel Preaching – Matt. 16:18-19; 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 2:1-5; 1 Ths. 2:11-13.

    C.    Christ’s Purpose:  Save Sinners From Their Sin – Matt. 1:21; Lk. 19:10; 1 Tim. 1:15.



    A.    Social Reform Through Social Activism (Classic Social Gospel).


    B.    The Social Gospel Adopted & Adapted by Churches of Christ

        1.     General benevolence.

“Surely that same divine love which led Christ to die for us while we were yet sinners (Rom. 5:8), and to feed the hungry multitudes, most of whom followed him mainly for the loaves and fishes,  and to heal  the sick and diseases just because they needed healing,  will lead His body the church to do what it can to alleviate human suffering, and to meet human needs wherever and whenever possible, even of those who are unsaved, recognizing always that the ultimate goal of all such efforts is the saving of the souls of those who are aided.”  (Gaston Cogdell, The Cogdell‑Turner Discussion, p. 91, GOT Pub.)


        2.     Church-sponsored social activities (fellowship halls, meals, camps, crafts, sports, etc.).

            a.     Food, fun & frolic – Planned, promoted & provided by the local church.

            b.     Example:  Highland church of Christ (Abilene, TX) website.

        3.     Social Gospel as a tool for evangelism.

            a.     Medical Evangelism (clinics, hospitals, etc.):

(1)  “Today medical evangelism continues to open doors not only in developing countries, but in other places as well. Medical missions programs sponsored by the Churches of Christ have allowed Christians to enter places once thought to be impossible, such as the countries formerly controlled by Communism in Eastern Europe and Communist countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.  Opportunities abound in much of the world for the sharing of the good news through the compassionate ministry of medical evangelism.”

(Phillip Eichman, Medical Missions Among the Churches of Christ, 2nd Ed., chapter 1;


(2)  “Unfortunately, we can no longer heal by laying our hands upon the sick as Jesus and others at that time were able to do. We can, however, still pattern our ministry after that of Jesus. Medical missions is one way that we, as the church, can combine a ministry of both healing and teaching.


“Mission programs often emphasize evangelism, which seeks to reach the spiritual needs of individuals primarily through teaching. This is, of course, a part of the Great Commission—to go and “make disciples of all nations.” The approach of medical missions, or perhaps a more descriptive term, medical evangelism, is broader, seeking to reach both the spiritual and physical needs of those who are served.”  (Ibid., chapter 1)


(3)  “These congregations, along with numerous others, have expanded the role of medical missions in the overall evangelistic efforts of the Churches of Christ. Much good is being accomplished, many individuals in developing countries are receiving much needed medical care, and the borders of the Kingdom are being extended through the efforts of these congregations.”  (Ibid., chapter 6)


            b.     Secular education:  English language instruction (Example:  World English School).

“The Bel-Aire church of Christ has been supporting the World English School ministry since February 1995. About 5 (sic) twenty-two teachers are involved in teaching the Gospel through this effort.


“The method used is to teach English through a correspondence school using the Bible as a text book.  This method of teaching English is being conducted in many countries; however, our congregation supports this effort in Romania to compliment our missionary efforts there.  Students requesting special attention in the study of the Bible and/or requesting baptism are referred to our Romanian missionary.”

(Website, Bel-Aire c of C, Tullahoma, TN;


    C.    The View is That the Church Should Provide for the “Whole Man.”

        -Example:  Bridges to the World:

The Whole Church.  To the Whole Person.  In the Whole World.

“Bridges to the World is a non-profit Christian organization meeting basic human needs while supporting and sustaining local initiatives to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   We link resources and Christian volunteers with missionaries and churches in developing countries to equip all for service in the body of Christ.


“Professionals and students offer curative and preventative expertise in fields such as nutrition, education, agriculture, construction, and economic development. Volunteers' talents are combined with the local expertise and direction of third-world Christians to create sustainable practices through agencies or custom-solutions.”

- (

“Bridges to the World is a church of Christ based organization (emp., jrp) based in Abilene, Texas. Their group was made up of primarily university students from Abilene Christian University.”

(Jarrod Brown, West Houston Church of Christ, Honduras Mission;



    A.    Misunderstands the Nature of the Kingdom.

        1.     Social gospel:  “One early influential writer in this movement wrote, ’The kingdom of God is a great social synthesis which includes the whole life of man, spiritual, moral, mental and physical; its field of manifestation is man’s personal, family, social, political and industrial relations.”  (Stan Cox, “The Social Gospel,” Watchman Magazine,


        2.     Kingdom“Not of this world” (Jno. 18:36); “Within you” (Lk. 17:20-21); Not “eating & drinking, but righteousness & peace & joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

    B.        Misinterprets the Purpose of the Gospel:  Salvation from Sin – Rom. 1:16-17.

        1.     Not:  Social reform but soul reform1 Tim. 4:8-11 (cf. Acts 17:30).

        2.     Not:  Bread before the Bible (to draw the masses to the Bible) – Jno. 6:26-29.

        3.     Not:  Medication to encourage the message – Mk. 16:15.

        4.     Not:  Secular education to promote spiritual edification – Acts 19:8-10.

        5.     Focus of the gospel is:  Conversion, not culture; salvation, not society; a new birth, not a new social order; spiritual regeneration, not social revolution; evangelism, not economics; faith, not food!

        6.     When the gospel reforms the soul, the life of disciples will help influence society – Matt. 5:13 (Gal. 6:10; Jas. 1:27).

    C.    Misconstrues the Work of the Local Church1 Tim. 3:15.

        1.     Not:  Health & social reform, recovery & recreation.

“H. Glenn Boyd, president emeritus of International Health Care Foundation, answered the question ‘Why practice medical evangelism?’ in the following way:  There are millions of sick people in developing countries where we are preaching the Gospel.  Shall we ignore their physical needs and say “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled” (James 2:16)?  It seems only natural to Christianity for those of us who claim to be following Christ to respond with compassion when we see hurting people.  Yes, we must try to lead them to Christ, but if they do not see Him in our lives and in our treatment of them, it will be hard for them to grasp the meaning of our message.  When they see that we care, their hearts will open for the Gospel. . .  Opportunities abound for evangelism through rendering ministry to the suffering bodies of lost souls.”

(H. Glenn Boyd, “Why Practice Medical Evangelism?,” Gospel Advocate, Vol. CXXXII No. 12, December 1990,  p. 7; Cited by Eichman, chap. 1)

        2.     NT:  Gospel teaching & assisting needy saintsActs 2:42-46; 6:1-4.

        3.     Gospel is the drawing power of God – Jno. 6:44-45; Acts 2:39.

    D.    Mistakes Individual Action for Church Action:

        1.     Helping the poorMk. 14:7.

            a.    Local church:  Needy Christians – Acts 4:34-35 (6:1; 11:27-30); 3:1-7, 16 {1 Tim. 5:16}.

            b.    Individual Christian:  All men (opportunity) – Gal. 6:10; Jas. 1:27.

        2.     Social activities:

            a.    Local church:  Forbidden – 1 Cor. 11:22, 34.

            b.    Individual Christian:  Allowed – Heb. 13:1-2.



    A.    Current Examples of the Influence of the Social Gospel.

    B.    What is Next?  (We have only to look at the institutional churches of Christ & the denominations to answer that question!)

        1.     Gradual changes will begin to happen (step by step - not all at once)!

“Now, brethren, I wish to share with you a portion of a letter which I have on my desk before me. It was written by some elders to their congregation and this congrega­tion is less than an hour’s drive from my front door. Here are the quotes:

“Women make up a significant portion of our worship team. They now teach and co-teach co-ed adult classes. They serve as ministry leaders and coordinators. We have women who are both small group leaders and assistant leaders. Women have been in public presentations, dramatic pro­grams, making announcements, recognition programs and the reading of scripture in our Sunday morning worship services. Their participation in small group discussions and chain-prayers has been strongly encouraged by our eldership.


“In addition to these roles, it is our intention to, in the near future, begin using women to serve the communion em­blems, to preside at the communion table and lead public prayers during our regular worship services. We have no intention of expanding that role any further than this. Ad­ditionally, we have no intention of installing women as elders at ____________, or using a woman in the role of pulpit minister.”


“Read the above quote carefully.  How did they get that way?  Did it happen overnight?  Let the same elders tell us, in another quote from the same letter, “We recognize that the congregation’s thinking on this subject has been evolving for the past several years.”  Yes, it took years, but step by step it’s getting there!  And, they express their intent to go further.”

 (Olen Holderby, A Challenge – Youth Forums – Ladies’ Day, Truth Magazine, 9/5/2002, p. 18)


        2.     Gradual breakdown in distinguishing between individual & church action appears to be occurring.

        3.     Will hear more & more calls for blending social activities with the spiritual work of the local church.

        4.     Special interest groups will be targeted:  Youth (forums & rallies);  Women (Ladies’ Retreats, Day…).

        5.     Lessons like this will be viewed as extremist, fear-mongering, irrational & fanatical - Gal. 1:10; 4:16.



1.     We must adhere to the NT for our pattern in work of the local church or fall victim to the same drifting and eventual apostasy!   (Col. 3:17; Heb. 8:5)

2.     The social gospel:  Focuses on the wrong message, wrong  work of the local church & leaves man in his sin.

3.     It is truly the wisdom of men!  (1 Cor. 2:5)