When the gospel takes root in a person and a church there are obvious and less obvious consequences. We know the obvious. People will be characterized by prayer, humility, joy, sacrifice, generosity, and mission. But what about the less obvious benchmarks of a gospel-centered church? This is what I am after here. I have been reading, watching, listening and learning from others as well as dusting our own congregation for clues as to better discern the look and feel of a gospel-centered church. I am doing this because I believe that being gospel-centered is inextricably linked to being faithful. In other words, being gospel-centered is not one option among many, it is the only option that we are given. It really is that important.
What follows is not a complete list but it is a start. In other words, these things will be present in a gospel-centered church. If the church is not gospel-centered then they will not. I can say this confidently because they are necessary implications of the gospel.
1. A Gospel-Centered Church has a tone and character of grace.
In particular I am referencing how a church deals with sin. Let’s consider that in a church someone comes to another believer and says, “Hey, I am struggling with the sin of ____.”
In a church that is antinomian the answer will be something like, “It’s OK. You are doing the best you can. Nobody is perfect.”
In a church that is law based they will say, “What is your problem? Stop it! Are you even a Christian? By the way, This is step – 1 of Mt. 18.”
In both cases they reveal what they think about salvation. In both cases they show their hand as salvation by works by not encouraging people to look outside of themselves for the solution in Christ. Whether law-heavy or licentious churches sin won’t get talked about. On the one had because it is not taken seriously in the other because of fear of being attacked.
In a gospel-centered church people have realized that they must take sin seriously and that they have already been outed. They will not wink at sin but neither will they book their brothers and sisters a flight back to Sinai.
They will say something like, “Thanks for coming to me about this. I’m glad to hear you are burdened by your sin. I can relate. Let’s look at what the Bible says about how to deal with this sin in light of the gospel.” The gospel-centered brother would be served well to pray with him and then follow-up to see how he is doing applying the gospel.
Can you see the difference? In one cases it’s like a frat guy confessing his guilt over being drunk to another frat buddy. The solution: have another drink, you’ll feel better. In the next case it is like confessing your drunkenness to a cop. The solution: you’re under arrest. In the gospel-centered situation, it is like confessing your guilt to a peer who is in rehab with you. He understands the problems within and can walk you to the solution without.
Being gospel-centered is far more than a tag in your churches logo or a phrase we fling around like a nerf football at the church picnic. It is a description of the tone and feel of the church. If the gospel has come to town then people will not wink at sin, nor pretend they have no sin, but they will deal with sin in light of the gospel.
I’ll deal with the rest of my list in the days ahead:
2. A Gospel-Centered Church understands the place of Christian liberties.
3. A Gospel-Centered Church wants to deal with racial issues.
4. A Gospel-Centered Church prioritizes discipleship.
5. A Gospel-Centered Church prioritizes church-planting.
6. A Gospel-Centered Church works hard to build gospel allies.