Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace, as Jesus himself touches us through his truths. Without the doctrines, the culture alone is fragile. Without the culture, the doctrines alone appear pointless. But the New Testament binds doctrine and culture together. For example:
The doctrine of regeneration creates a culture of humility (Eph. 2:1-9).
The doctrine of justification creates a culture of inclusion (Gal. 2:11-16).
The doctrine of reconciliation creates a culture of peace (Eph. 2:14-16).
The doctrine of sanctification creates a culture of life (Rom. 6:20-23).
The doctrine of glorification creates a culture of hope (Rom. 5:2).
The doctrine of God creates a culture of honesty (1 John 1:5-10). And what is more basic than that?
If we want this culture to thrive, we can’t take doctrinal short cuts. If we want this doctrine to be credible, we can’t downplay the culture. But churches where the doctrine and the culture converge as one bear living witness to the power of Jesus.
Churches that do not exude humility, inclusion, peace, life, hope, and honesty—even if they have gospel doctrine on paper, they undercut their own doctrine at a functional level, where it should count in the lives of actual people.Churches that are haughty, exclusivistic, contentious, exhausted, past-oriented, and in denial are revealing not just a lack of niceness; they are revealing a gospel deficit, a doctrinal betrayal.
The current rediscovery of the gospel as doctrine is good, very good. But a further discovery of the gospel as culture—the gospel embodied in community—will be immeasurably better, filled with a divine power such as we have not yet seen.
It’s what revival will look like next.