What does a gospel-centered church look like?

I find myself constantly thinking through the implications of the gospel in my personal life and in the life of the church. In fact I want my mind to be like a gospel grid in which I see, interpret and understand everything in this world. With that said, here is a wonderful description from Tim Keller, Center Church, of how the gospel impacts every aspect of the church. First of all let’s articulate what the heart of the gospel is…

New Testament scholar Simon Gathercole offers the following outline of the gospel taught by Paul and the Gospel writers:

1. The Son of God emptied himself and came into the world in Jesus Christ, becoming a servant. This is the incarnation and the upside-down aspect of the gospel.
2. He died on the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice. This is the atonement and the inside-out aspect of the gospel.
3. He rose from the grave as the firstfruits of a whole renewed world. This is the resurrection and the forward-back aspect of the gospel.

So those are three key aspects of the gospel. How does that impact the church?

A church that truly understand the implications of the biblical gospel, letting the Word of Christ dwell in it richly (Col 3:16), will look like an unusual hybrid of various church forms and stereotypes. Because of the inside-out, substitutionary atonement aspect, the church will place great emphasis on personal conversion, experiential grace renewal, evangelism, outreach, and church planting. This makes it look like an evangelical-charismatic church. Because of the upside-down, kingdom/incarnation aspect, the church will place great emphasis on deep community, cell groups or house churches, radical giving, and sharing of resources, spiritual disciplines, racial reconciliation, and living with the poor. This makes it look like an Anabaptist “peace” church. Because of the forward-back, kingdom/restoration aspect, the church will place great emphasis on seeking the welfare of the city, neighborhood and civic involvement, cultural engagement, and training people to work in “secular” vocations out of a Christian worldview. This makes it look like a mainline church or, perhaps, a Kuyperian Reformed church. Very few churches, denominations, or movements integrate all of these ministries and emphases. Yet I believe that a comprehensive view of the biblical gospel-one that grasps the gospel’s inside-out, upside-down, and forward-back aspects-will champion and cultivate them all. This is what we mean by a Center Church.

It is critical that we are teaching and training our people to think about how the gospel plays out in the context of everyday life (home, neighborhood, work, culture). It is equally as important that we are equipping our leaders to deeply reflect on how the gospel affects every area of ministry in the church. The moment we divorce the gospel from life and ministry we, and our church, become more religious than we are Christ-centered (gospel-centered).

Taken from Center Church, Chapter 3, “The Gospel Affects Everything”

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