Growing up, I scoffed at churches engaged in a “social gospel.” They are not “true evangelicals,” I concluded in my high-minded ways. “They have compromised the Scriptures,” I stated as I looked down my nose at them.
I have since grown up and discovered that a “social gospel” is a valid approach to ministry, provided it comes with a few caveats. (1) It is a supplement rather than substitute for the gospel. (2) It is part of a holistic approach that meets physical, spiritual, emotional, and other needs. (3) It is an entry point that demonstrates caring and earns us the right to be heard when we address spiritual issues.
Christ taught and demonstrated a balanced approach to ministry. Jesus gave us the Great Commission, to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). He also said that when we give a cup of cold water to someone, we are ministering not only to the individual but to Jesus himself (Matthew 25:31-40). Jesus preached repentance and healed people of their diseases. We are to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:2) as well as live as salt and light, doing good works to glorify God (Matthew 5:13-16).
This philosophy of a multifaceted approach to ministry explains why First Central Bible Church offers a tutoring program to neighborhood children in addition to our Awana program. This approach illustrates why we preached the gospel and celebrated communion during our Good Friday service and then served coffee, snacks, and water at the City of Chicopee’s Easter Egg Hunt on Saturday and then preached about how to move from skepticism to belief during our worship service on Easter Sunday. A balance of spiritual and social is why we have Bible studies for seniors and why we pull weeds and help with gardening at the Chicopee Senior Center. Taking a holistic approach to ministry is why we sent a short-term ministry team to Ghana to do evangelism and also sent work teams to camps in Shutesbury, MA, and Warsaw, OH, to help reroof several buildings and build a deck. It is why we offer Camp KidConnect and Awana Camp in the summer and Trunk ‘R Treat in the fall.
We want to be like Abraham in Genesis 12:2, to be a blessing to the world. We seek to bless the community by preaching the gospel and making disciples. We seek to bless the community by teaching children to read and succeed in school. We seek to bless the community by helping people grow deeper in their faith. We seek to bless the community by building camps and adding beauty to senior centers.
We want to fulfill the Great Commission, to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20), as well as practice the Great Commandment, to love God and love people (Matthew 22:34-40).