What Is A Gospel-Centered Church?
Yesterday I began a new sermon series. I will be taking a few weeks to define who we are, what we're going to do and why we're going to do it, and where we're going as a local church. I explained that our one new church is going to be organized into three parts: upreach (everything we do as a church when it comes to worship), inreach (everything we do as a church when it comes to discipleship), and outreach (everything we do as a church in service to the world locally, nationally, and internationally).
But, I made it very clear that all of our efforts in reaching up, reaching in, and reaching out are a response to-and fueled by-the fact that God, in Christ, has already reached down.
The gospel is the story of God in Christ reaching down to a sinful world and our tri-fold response to the gospel (or, the gospel-centered life) is a life lived reaching up, reaching in, and reaching out. God intends the reality and power of the gospel to mold and shape us at every point and in every way-defining the way we think, feel, and live as a local church.
My seminary friend Bob Thune (pastor of Coram Deo Church in Omaha, Nebraska) has written something to describe his church that I found very helpful to me as I describe our one new church. He explains that every church has a "DNA" - a set of deeply rooted values or characteristics that define it. As one new church committed to learn from the past, live in the present, and look to the future, we can describe Coral Ridge's DNA as "gospel-centered." So what does that mean, exactly?
As Bob rightly says, "Churches often obscure the glory of the gospel by reducing it to something less than it is. Some understand the gospel only as doctrinal content to be believed. Others diminish it to a personal, subjective experience of God's presence. Still others see it as a social cause to be championed. The gospel is none of these, and yet it is all of these. A truly gospel-centered church understands and embraces the fullness of the gospel as content, community, and cause."
The Gospel is a message that is to be preached or proclaimed (Mark 1:14; Acts 14:21; Rom 1:15; 1 Peter 1:12). It is the story of God's redemption of his fallen creation. It is the good news that God has acted in history to conquer evil and reconcile sinners to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15:1-12). A gospel-centered church is one where the gospel is proclaimed clearly, consistently, and compellingly (1 Cor 9:16-23).
The gospel is not just a message to be believed, but a power to be experienced (Rom 1:16). The gospel shapes a new community as those who were formerly God's enemies are reconciled to Him (Rom 5:10) and adopted into his family (Gal 4:4-7). The church is not a place, but a people - a community that is continually being reformed and renewed by the transforming power of the gospel (Col. 1:6).
The gospel is a call to action - a declaration that "the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15). God is not just interested in the salvation of humans, but in the restoration of all of creation to its original "good" (Gen 1:31; Rom 8:19-22). A gospel-centered church will be active in the work of mercy, justice, and cultural renewal, praying and working against the effects of sin so that God's will might be done "on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt 6:10).
Thanks Bob, for putting it so well-so biblically.