Spiritual Christianity Versus Social Christianity

Spiritual Christians focus on the Lord Jesus Christ.  Social Christians focus on each other.

Spiritual Christians are the church.  Social Christians go to church.

Spiritual Christianity is about living righteously, doing the right thing.  Social Christianity is about living religiously, attending the “right” church.

Spiritual Christianity is about doing the right things in the right way.  Social Christianity is about holding the “right” views and identifying  with the “right” group.

Spiritual Christians seek the approval of God.  Social Christians seek the approval of each other.

Spiritual Christians seek time with God.  Social Christians seek time with other social Christians.

Spiritual Christianity is based on faith in God.  Social Christianity is based on faith in other social Christians.

Spiritual Christianity is directed by God.  Social Christianity is directed by human beings.

Spiritual Christianity is true Christianity, the purpose for which Christ died and was raised.  Social Christianity is a poor and misguided imitation of the real thing.

Pursuing spiritual Christianity will make you a new person in the midst of people you already know (i.e., your family, friends, and coworkers).  Pursuing social Christianity will leave you as the same old person in the midst of a different group of people (i.e., your new church).

There is a world of difference between spiritual Christianity and social Christianity.  Choose the real thing.

Don’t be someone who professes Christianity while practicing atheism.

For more context, see this overview.

See also:

54 Replies to “Spiritual Christianity Versus Social Christianity”

  1. Wow! Nice post. I really appreciate the distinguishing between social and spiritual christians, there is most definitely a line there. Very thought provoking!

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  2. I am not a Christian, I’m not religious at all actually, but I liked your post. I find myself being disappointed with people often who claim to be Christian because they do not seem to live as they preach or care about other people very much. I guess that’s part of the reason I “lost” my faith. It’s good to know there are people who understand what christianity is supposed to be about. 🙂

    1. Being “disappointed with people” is not a valid reason to “lose your faith!” No offense, but someone who loves his Lord, has relationship with Him and what other humans do is, just what they do. Humans are by their very nature, untrustworthy. God is very trustworthy. I encourage you to love the Lord Jesus and put your trust in Him only.

      Peace and blessings to you.

      1. Whoops! You mis-read, or it was shown to you out of context? – I was responding to something that Moriah Bethany said on March 18, 2010 when I put in that comment –

        i.e. moriahbethany said, on March 18, 2010 at 11:27 am I am not a Christian, I’m not religious at all actually, but I liked your post. I find myself being disappointed with people often who claim to be Christian because they do not seem to live as they preach or care about other people very much. I guess that’s part of the reason I “lost” my faith. It’s good to know there are people who understand what christianity is supposed to be about

        1. Thanks for clarifying that, Janice. I should have caught it but did not have the context when I read your comment. I have removed my response, which I now realize doesn’t apply.

          Having said that, however, I would urge you to think about the original post and my message. It is the Lord who heals us so that we can love all people as He does. Encouraging people to go to church often just encourages them to put their trust in people which is what led to their disappointment in the first place.

          We should not put our trust in people but rather put our trust in the Lord and love people.

          1. And encouraging people to go to church can place them in an environment where they learn how to love. After all, that is the central failing of mankind.

            Reading the Bible is always edifying (along with the occassional blog), yet God also uses men, who share the same purpose of “loving one another,” to challenge, encourage, and “sharpen.”

            That may be a fair definition of “church,” but labels sometimes (oftentimes) get in the way.

            1. Brother Ben, I can agree with you that failing to love is the central failing of mankind. However, we don’t need to become churchgoers to find someone to love.

              What will really help us to love others more is to stay conscious of Jesus who lived His life in love for others. Living life in service to Him leads us to love others as we should.

              Furthermore, if we define “church” as everyone we see, then we don’t have to “go anywhere” to find people to love.

      2. “Being “disappointed with people” is not a valid reason to “lose your faith!””

        This is very true, and is why I became a Chrsitian, and also why I go to church. The church is full of judgmental foolish sinners– just like me, but the benefit I get from sound doctrine, constant fellowship, and regular ministry are a boon to my spiritual walk. Of course I can do these things on my own, but the magnification of these commandments (care for widows and orphans, etc.) achieved by the Church building seems to better meet scriptural obligations to see the whole world changed for Christ, to see more of my neighbors loved and served, to see less people go to hell, etc. Further, I live in a place that can be pretty hostile to my faith, and I live in a place full of public sensuality- something I feel the need to flee from and escape. Church is a safe place for me to recover from my old fleshly habits and desires.

        Your list is kinda judgmental against church-goers. You do not give them charitable thoughts. “Spiritual Chrisitans seek the approval of God, social Christians seek the approval of eachother?” That’s not very charitible. It does not describe me. You’re apparently trying to define a group of people, “Spiritual Christians”, for whom you speak, as though you are an authority in their collective beliefs. You lay out these terms and distinctions to draw a line by which we can (as blog readers) identify those who are truly spiritual and those who you believe are probably just faking and thus ruining Christs teachings. Your list is little different than a pastor telling his flock that “spiritual Christians” just don’t want to tithe because they’re money grubbers.

        1. You miss my point in several important regards.

          The only person I want you to judge is yourself.

          I am not trying to identify and distinguish people. Rather, I am trying to identify and distinguish attitudes. There is the way of God and the way of man, the way of the spirit and the way of flesh, the way that is true and the way that is false.

          “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14 NASB

          That you are turning from the evil in your environment and seeking to hear and do the word of God is a good thing. Don’t end your seeking with the church, however. Keep seeking until you find the kingdom of God.

  3. Wow, I was just blog surfing and I stumbled upon your blog. Very profound. In a similar vein, I’ve been going through a social justice series at my church and I find it so interesting how there is always that dichotomy between liberal and conservative Christians and how one group focuses too little on the Gospel and the other focuses too little on social justice. I wonder why it’s so hard to find that middle ground.

    1. Groups such as liiberal and conservative Christians are subsets of social Christians. People in them only find common ground when they make devotion to the Lord more important than devotion to their group identities and political persuasions.

  4. I just happened to have found this site. Your ariticles really interests me. Thank God. But do you think social Christianity is only a Sunday concept? And there is no real love.

    1. Sunday is the common gathering time for social Christians. There can be love there, but not substantially different from what you could find in a family, office, or other social gathering. Social Christians seek each other and the approval that comes from the group. This is why its motivations and behaviors are not substantially different from that of most social groups.

      By contrast, the truth is that Jesus is with us seven days a week and calls us to love people to the degree that He did. Spiritual Christians seek God and the approval that comes from Him. Do this and your motivations and behavior will change markedly.

      There are many well-intentioned people who are caught in social Christianity only because they have not been presented a better way. Once they understand that they can follow Jesus without following the church, they will be free.

      1. Obviously being a social Christian without being a spiritual Christian is little more than playing pretend with you life.

        But, as Christians we should also be social. Other believers can play a key role in encouraging us. And it looks like you are doing a degree of that with your blog.

        1. I am glad you see the superior value in being a spiritual Christian. What you still need to recognize is that it is mutually exclusive with being a social Christian (re-read the list of comparisons in the post to see what I mean). That is, it’s like serving two masters – and the reality is that you can’t serve both. You will either serve one or the other: in this case, God or people.

          I agree with you point that we should be social, which is another way of saying that we should keep the Lord’s commandment to love one another. For how can we say we love God who is invisible if we don’t love people who are visible (1 John 4:20). My point is that you do not have to go to church to find people to love; there are plenty already around you.

          And, yes, your comments encouraged me. Thank you.

      2. Yep, you definitely summed my thoughts up when you said that we should love one another.

        Looking back, what you call “Social Christianity” I have been calling “Secular Christianity.” Secular Christianity, to me, is a religion where we worship our people (living and dead) and our past. It is very anthropocentric, and closely tied to Patriotism.

        Actually, as the world is become more globalized, “Secular” Christianity is taking on a more jingoistic tone. That is why conservative politicians will often compete to see who believes the Earth has been around briefest, and why many mainline Christian denominations are failing to reach immigrant/migrant populations (like Hispanics or college students).

        Sorry, to go off a bit on your blog. 😉

        1. The apostle Paul called this problem “walking in the flesh.” We become earthly-minded, focused entirely on what we can see with our physical eyes. We dwell the identities we create for ourselves and live in the fear of man. The solution Paul prescribes is that we “walk in the spirit.” This means focusing on the world we cannot see, fixing our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2). We die to our earthly identities and live according to who we are in His sight. This is faith, and it is the only way to please God (Hebrews 11:1, 6; Romans 8:5-8).

  5. Very, very true. I just recently commented on another blog on this very topic.

    This is where the difference between a religion (social Christianity) and faith (spiritual Chrisianity) comes in. Jesus and the apostles rebuked the Pharisees for their religion. The Pharisees would pray loudly at the street corner, and neglect their appearance when they fasted so people would see how “holy” they were. Paul called the high priest a “whitewashed wall” for his hypocrisy. The secular world sees right through the Pharisaism of social Christianity, and they assume that this is what true Christianity is. Social Christians (religious people, Pharisees) are a great cancer in Christianity.

    Spiritual Christians adhere to faith. They don’t care who sees them but God. They are sincerely trying to better themselves and the world around them. These are what Jesus called “the light of the world”. These are the people who are humble, who pray in an inner room, who seek not the admiration of men — these are the true church.

    Excellent post. I agree with every word.


  6. I have been thinking about this issue for 20 years now and have come to some conclusions about why there is this polarity. 1). There are two different origins for believers in Jesus: those who have had a born again experience and those who have attended church all their life. For the first group, the change is dramatic and they can compare what they were to what the Holy Spirit is making them to be. The second group continue in the church mode and report periods when they fell away from church attendance and then came back. You cannot say they have not been saved, nor can you say they are not listening to God. I see people in all sorts of denominations, who attend church, who communicate with God. This leads to 2). The attitude of American churches. What I am about to say I have seen in different denominations, conservative and liberal, and I think it is a result of humans forming a social group. I have seen the same thing in square dance clubs, model railroad clubs, etc. It starts off with group identity and rules. After all, you can’t have a group if the group is not defined. Adopting the identity means not adopting other ideas and practices. This then becomes the “us” and “them” situation and of course “we” are better than “them.” Further, it develops into the concept that you can’t do or be a Christian unless you go to church, because that is what we do and what they do, so you have to do it also. The biggest insult religious Christianity pulls is the villianization of the “lone Christian.” They claim you can’t be a lone Christian that you have to go to church. This is not a Biblical statement and is a fabrication of the church. To be a follower of Jesus, you need to repent and continually seek God’s guidance. Now, these people are showing their spiritual infancy as they need help to pay attention to God. This is not a bad thing, that they need church, it’s just that they don’t know what they’re talking about when judge those of us who don’t. Another insult is those who want to minister to the “unchurched.” They think they are going to convince us that we need the crutch in order to be whole? I am not against church or church people, its just that they get very little guidance on how to become more secure in their relationship with God. Not that the Holy Spirit is not working in their lives, just that sermons are usually so lame, they have people who don’t have any training attempting to teach the Bible and everyone is so concerned about the picnic or some event they have planned. A lot of churches don’t even talk about the Bible, God, or understand and promote the concept of faith. I once heard a Pentecostal pastor say that the Holy Spirit only deals with church people! God is the sovreign of creation and deals with everyone as he sees fit, the church building is not a limitation. Church sees itself as important and wants the congregation to serve it. I get the feeling that if I go to church I am expected to obligate myself in some way.

    1. I encourage you to find a church that fits your needs, even if it means getting a group of your friends together to meet occasionally. Jesus instructed us to “not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.” To me, that means not give up on church. It’s not my favorite thing to do either, sometimes I take the year off!, but, eventually I know I need to get back to it – otherwise, how is God going to “rub off MY rough edges by using others?” Everyone is at a different place in their walk with God, we are all imperfect and do rub each other the wrong way, but we need each other to finish the race we started.

      God’s peace and blessings to you!

      1. I appreciate the good will in your comments, but it is as if you haven’t read anything of what I have written above. I didn’t give up on church. I sought the kingdom of God and through that seeking learned that the kingdom of God has replaced the church. I no longer seek church for the same reason I don’t seek to go to Jerusalem and find the temple where I can sacrifice a lamb – something greater than the temple and the church is here today. It’s the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

        Yes, there was a time that the Bible instructed believers to not forsake the assembling of themselves together, just as there was a time when the Bible instructed Jews to come to Jerusalem to worship. The time for those injunctions is past because Jesus now fills the heavens and earth…and they are His temple. He does not need a temple “made with human hands.”

        Seek Jesus and His kingdom. Church is only a distraction to that effort.

  7. Your post struck a cord with me. As of here lately there seems to be an ongoing debate with those I know on the right religion and using the Bible to benefit what it is the particular person is trying to relay.

    One sentence in your post “Spiritual Christianity is about loving everyone, especially the least of humanity,” really stood out to me for the fact that I am constantly telling those around me that loving everyone is important.

    In my eyes and I may very well be wrong: I see the Bible as teaching love, kindness, forgiveness, hope, and many other things. I do not see the Bible as teaching me that it is okay to be judgemental and hateful towards others. Thank you for your post.

    I intend to read more of what you have written so I can possibly get another point of view! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Indeed, the Bible is all about “teaching love, kindness, forgiveness, hope” and all things pertaining to godliness. It does this through teaching about the person of Jesus Christ, who transcends political persuasions and religious affiliations.

  8. Interesting post, Mike. I can say I agree with some of it. My wife is a Social Christian. I’m not sure too many Christians today would agree that I fit the appelation of Christian at all.

    1. You’re moving in the right direction, Don!

      It matters not what we call each other. It only matters what kind of person He sees when He looks at us. And human sociological labels like “Christian,” “Muslim,” “Jew,” “atheist,” “agnostic,” and on have no meaning to Him.

  9. Jesus was pretty clear about being non institutional and non traditional.

    He could have taken over the world and was tempted to do so. But didn’t.

    He chose to accomplish his goal of becoming THE sacrifice for our sin.

    Jesus rules!

    1. The distinction between the glory of men and the glory of God is indeed of monumental importance. And, you’re right: Jesus does demonstrate the right choice. Far better to be despised by men and esteemed by God than the other way around. Jesus was despised greatly by men but esteemed greatly by God. He is thus our example for how to live in this world.

  10. Mike

    You said…

    Yes, there was a time that the Bible instructed believers to not forsake the assembling of themselves together, just as there was a time when the Bible instructed Jews to come to Jerusalem to worship. The time for those injunctions is past because Jesus now fills the heavens and earth…and they are His temple. He does not need a temple “made with human hands.”

    Jesus does not “need” us at all. However, He commands us to do much. You say you believe the Bible is true, yet you dismiss Scripture with your own dispensational concepts when you say, “The time for those injunctions is past”. Says who? There are 112 references to “the church” or “churches” in the New Testament. None of these dismiss the church as unnecessary. But you do… based on what?

    I agree with many of your comparatives between social Christians and spiritual Christians. But doing church poorly is not an excuse not to do church at all. Our relationship with God is commanded to be both vertical and horizontal.

    When the Pharisees asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment, Jesus said…

    37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

    Everything we know about God boils down to two commandments, Love God; Love your neighbor. Vertical; Horizontal. Church is the Lord’s way of helping us do both.

    Other verses…

    Matt 18:20
    For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.

    Eph 2

    19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

    Phil 1:27
    Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.

    Heb 10
    24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

    The church is the bride of Christ. We cannot just discharge of the church on a whim…

    Rev 19
    6 Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying,

    “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.

    7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.


  11. Curt,

    Yes, the Lord commands us to love both vertically and horizontally. When we love horizontally, however, we are not to exclude anyone. See the story of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus told when someone asked Him if we should be selective about whom we loved.

    There was indeed a time for church – it was in New Testament times, just as there had been a time for temple in Old Testament times. We, however, live in the day of the Lord (i.e. the time of the kingdom of God) and therefore we should regard the Lord as holy at all times and in all places – not just in special times and in special places.

  12. People do not let you down….your expectations of people ….let you down… Your only expectations should be how YOU act….not how others react.

  13. I am sooo Happy to find other “like minded” christians. So, I guess that I am a Spitirual Christian 🙂

    I believe that you can practice any religion you choose or no religion at all…For religion is MAN Made. As long as you have a personal relationship with Fahter…the Creator of Heaven and Earth…(aka GOD)…you may practice whatever you wish…(as long as you do no harm to others).

    The ONLY way for a Person to have a Relationship with our Creator (our father) is through his son Jesus Christ….His Rules…not Mine 🙂 something about one man brought man into sin (blocked our relationship with our creator)…and one Man brought US OUT of sin ( removed the BLOCK from us having a open-loving relationship with our creator)

    Father choosed his only Son to remove once and for ALL time…this Block on our relationship.

    For True Spirutalist…who love the earth and it’s bounty….but knows not God….is like a person who loves to rock in a beutiful rocking chair…and admires it’s craftmanship …but does not reconize the Carpenter who built it 🙂

  14. I recommend the book “Spiritual Christianity” by C. A. Tulk, however to comprehend it one needs to be familiar with the theology of Emmanuel Swedenborg.

    1. David, I myself am familiar with the works of Emmanuel Swedenborg as well as other writing. I see that there are actually three forms of The Word of God to Man. Whether we choose to be a “Spiritual Christian” or a “Social Christian”; our real concern should be to follow the Word of God. Those in Modern Day Christendom often “interpret” the Written Word (the Bible) to suit their own sociological biases. They also frequently ignore just what the Spoken Word of God says to justify their own interpretations ‘apart from’ the Holy Spirit’s instruction. The Living Word of God (The Truth as only is found in the Lord Jesus Christ) is often avoided to supplant a more “liberal” stance of interpretation. So, how do we ascertain the “True” Word of God? At Romans 8:27 we read: “And he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Therefore, to know the will of God concerning ANY MATTER we must know the mind of the Spirit. Not our own spirit, but God’s Spirit. Herein is how to distinguish the so called “Spiritual Christians” from the “Social Christians”. The “Spiritual Christians” will be always “Spirit Led Christians”; whereas the “Social Christians” may only rely on their own staunchly held opinions of interpretation. I hope this distinction helps those who are seeking His Will and not their own. Let us live by the Spirit of the Word of God rather than the letter alone of the Word. Timothy

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