I was a very naive, impressionable fifteen-year-old boy with a volatile battle between carnality and spirituality raging in my soul. I was very enamored with the pastor of my local church.
He had baptized me. In many ways, he had befriended me. And he had welcomed me into the small-town church, which was now growing because young people were bumping up against each other, carrying the fellowship they felt at school into a second Sunday morning experience.
I had also made another friend. He was a young minister from a different denomination–a forbidden one–who was cool, cared about me and loved rock and roll music.
So when I was talking to the pastor of my “every week church” about this young fellow, he suddenly frowned and warned, “Stay away from him. He preaches a social gospel.”
I did not know what that meant, nor did I ask. But it sounded really bad. And the delivery was enough to nearly make my heart stop. “Social” could be “socialist,” which was communist. Don’t want any of that. So I cut off all ties with the young minister, much to his chagrin.
For you see, my pastor taught redemption. “The blood of Christ cleanses from all sins.”
And later on in my life, as a young man, I ran across those who preached “the full Gospel.” They believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit and miracles were just as available to believers today as they were in the time of Peter, Paul and Mother Mary.
The bizarre fact is that these three renditions of the Gospel of Jesus–social, redemption, and full–don’t generally get along very well.
It is troubling.
It’s what makes the evangelical church anemic–because it lacks social passion along with personal motivation.
It makes the “social Gospel people” appear to read from a book that in many ways they no longer believe in.
And often the “full Gospel people” contend that without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you don’t have the presence of God working in your life.
It’s really quite befuddling.
- Because you can’t start a fire with just a match.
- Nor can you ignite a flame with kindling.
- And no fire is possible minus oxygen.
It is the joining of all these forces that makes fire ablaze.
Therefore, to follow Jesus, you must have a social consciousness that shares a redemptive message, believing that God is still in the business of healing and moving by the Spirit.
Why would we want anything less than that? Why would we want to focus on one of these factors of fire, yet end up flameless?
I deeply believe in the social Gospel of Jesus. I believe there’s no need for me to bring my gift to the altar if I am not reconciled with my brothers and sisters. I believe I am to be the salt of the Earth and the light of the world.
But I also believe that when I have obvious, evident weakness, it is the redemption of God’s grace, through the life-saving blood of Jesus, that pulls me through. But once I am redeemed, I am compelled, challenged and exhorted to trust that the same spirit that dwelt in Christ also dwells in me.
My gospel should be full.
And when it is full, redemptive and socially aware, I become of value to myself, mankind and the heavens.