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Dub McClish

The Writings Of Dub McClish
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A “Method” Of Teaching The Gospel?

Jerry C. Brewer

The mission of the church is singular—preaching the gospel to a lost world. That was stated by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15, and that is precisely what the church in the first century did (Acts 8:1, 4). The mission of the church is not to feed and clothe people, pay their rent, or their utility bills. Those things fall under the category of benevolence and constitute a work of the church to aid those who cannot (not, will not) provide for themselves. However, over the years—and for several decades now—many elders and members of churches of Christ have concluded that benevolence is a method of teaching the gospel to the lost. It isn’t. Benevolence does not teach anything. It is a demonstration of our love for the poor.

This view of benevolence as a teaching “method” is an adaptation of the Social Gospel which views religion as ministering to the material needs of others—a concept entirely foreign to the New Testament. The Social Gospel began in Northern Protestant churches in the late 19th century and grew among them well into the 20th century. The following account of its beginning is from our bulletin for April 17, 2016:

“Another of the defining theologians for the Social Gospel movement was Walter Rauschenbusch, a Baptist pastor of a congregation located in Hell’s Kitchen. Rauschenbusch railed against what he regarded as the selfishness of capitalism and promoted a form of Christian Socialism that supported the creation of labor unions and cooperative economics. In A Theology for the Social Gospel, Rauschenbusch states that the individualistic gospel has made sinfulness of the individual clear, but it has not shed light on institutionalized sinfulness: ‘It has not evoked faith in the will and power of God to redeem the permanent institutions of human society from their inherited guilt of oppression and extortion.’ This ideology would be inherited by liberation theologians and civil rights advocates and leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr.”

“[Washington] Gladden (1836-1918) was an American clergyman. His words and actions earned him the title of “a pioneer” of the Social Gospel even before the term came into use. Gladden spoke up for workers and their right to organize unions. For Gladden, the ‘Christian law covers every relation of life’ including the relationship between employers and their employees. Rauschenbusch articulated the false notion that there is such a thing as ‘corporate guilt’ and that civil institutions and government are responsible for alleviating the social and civil ills of society. That is the Social Gospel in a nutshell.”

There are probably few churches of Christ which have adopted the Social Gospel philosophy in its entirety, but there are great numbers who have adopted a modified form of it. They view benevolence as a “method” of teaching the gospel. Their concept is that a Social Gospel approach makes folks “receptive.” But that’s “public relations”, not benevolence.

The 5,000 whom Jesus fed were not “receptive.” (Mark 6:35-44; John 6:4-13). After feeding them, He took a ship to the other side of the Sea of Galilee where the multitude followed Him, asking, “Rabbi, when camest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:25-26). He then taught them that He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 47-51), and they went away (John 6:66). His feeding them was not a “method” of teaching and certainly did not make them “receptive” to His truth.

The Social Gospel in its modified concept among churches of Christ today is manifested in many of their “programs.” Among those is the most popular, in which churches of Christ have fellowship with denominations—the, “unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11)—by joining them on a rotating basis to provide meals for public schools’ athletic teams. At this season of the year, many churches are feeding local football teams in their modified version of the Social Gospel. That is absolutely wrong. Jesus did not die to make His church a dispensary for local athletics.

By ignoring Scriptural authority, they commit sin. (Col. 3:17). If they cannot find that kind of thing authorized for the church to do—and they cannot—then they are adding to God’s word and sin in so doing (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18). Feeding football teams is neither the mission nor a work of the church for which Jesus died, and it is certainly not “benevolence” as defined in Scripture (Jas, 1:27). The idea that this makes folks “receptive” to teaching is a public relations ploy—a “bait and switch tactic” like the deer hunter who sets up his feeder, waits for the deer to come, then shoots them.

Members of churches of Christ which have degenerated into dispensaries of loaves and fishes need to read the New Testament, understand the grave mission of the church to preach the gospel to save souls, distribute gospel tracts, conduct gospel meetings, make personal teaching contacts, and place teaching articles in their local newspapers and on the internet. The fields are white unto harvest and souls are heading for eternal torment, while many brethren go merrily along dispensing the bread which perishes (John 6:27).

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