What Is The Social Gospel?


I’m hearing a lot abut ‘the social gospel’ through various websites, but am feeling confused as to the real meaning. In general, the advice seems to be saying follow the ‘true gospel’ and avoid the ‘social gospel’ at all costs – but what is the difference? I’ve also heard the term ‘friendship evangelism’. Is this the same thing and if so, why is it wrong?

I know people who have been friends with Christians for a number of years, when, being impressed by the changes witnessed in their friends lives, have finally wanted to know more about Jesus. If this is a ‘social gospel’ then why is it wrong- or have I missed the point?


Traditionally the social Gospel movement has endeavored to apply Christian ethics to social problems, especially poverty, inequality, the danger of war, etc. Proponents claim to be followers of Christ not just believers in Him. Detractors say there’s too much emphasis on good deeds and not enough on the basics of Christianity.

Friendship Evangelism is the process of introducing people to the Lord through the development of relationships. Ideally, it’s not just sharing the gospel, it’s sharing your life.

Applied effectively, these are both powerful tools for sharing the Gospel with unbelievers. But as we can see in the emerging church movement, social activism and relationship building can and often do become a substitute for evangelism instead of its method.