"If your preaching never gets to Jesus, and particularly to his life, death and resurrection, then no matter how good it is, it isn't Christian." I don't remember who said it, but it has greatly impacted my life. What makes Christianity unique is Jesus, the gospel. No matter how good our teaching may be, no matter how helpful it is with life's problems or how morally good it is, if Jesus makes no difference in the sermon or teaching then it simply is not Christian. Christianity is about the Christ.
Take a minute on that one.
I was reminded of that this week as our staff talked about an article by Tony Merida featured on The Gospel Coalition website. Read the article below. We say the word "gospel" a lot at New City, but does that make us gospel-centered? We preach the Bible at New City, but does that mean we are gospel-centered? Maybe. Maybe not.
Where would you see yourself in Merida's explanation of churches and the gospel?
Your Church May Not Be as Gospel-Centered as You Think
APRIL 10, 2018 | Tony Merida
"The book of Romans is about more than the “Romans Road.” It’s not just a book about individual salvation (though it certainly communicates this glorious message). It’s also about gospel-centered community and gospel-centered mission.
Michael Bird says Paul is “gospelizing” the believers in Rome. He wants every aspect of their lives to be shaped and empowered by the gospel. This is reflected especially in the latter half of the book. Therefore, Romans stands as a great book to consider, not only for theological clarity, but also for insights on gospel-centered leadership.
Before discussing the benefits of gospel-centrality, it’s important to understand how it differs from other approaches:
These shouldn’t be called churches. Various cults and extreme brands of liberalism would fit this category. They deny the essential truths of the gospel.
Related to the previous category, these add to or subtract from the gospel. Examples include the prosperity gospel and the social gospel.
These churches say they believe the gospel, but they rarely preach it plainly and deeply. It’s “Christianity-lite.” Leadership talks, therapeutic sermons, and practical-improvement messages fill the air.
Like the previous group, these churches believe the gospel doctrinally, but the gospel is only meant for evangelism, and it is segmented out of the life of the church.
These churches are known for preaching the gospel every week in corporate worship. But the gospel is still viewed as simply evangelistic. The gospel tips people into the kingdom, but it isn’t taught as that which also shapes and empowers Christian living. Often what is communicated to believers is some form of post-conversion moralism.
These churches preach the gospel every week explicitly—but not just to the unbeliever. They also preach and apply the gospel to Christians, as Paul did for the Romans (Rom. 1:15). It shapes and empowers Christian ethics and the life of the Christian community.
For example, marriage is taught by looking at Christ’s love for the church (Eph. 5:25); generosity is viewed through the lens of Christ’s generosity (2 Cor. 8:9); the call to forgive is rooted in Christ’s forgiveness of us (Col. 3:13); hospitality reflects the welcome of Christ (Rom. 15:7). Calls to social action—like caring for the orphan, the widow, the refugee, and the poor—are also made to believers with reference to their own identity in Christ.
We could give many reasons to pursue gospel centrality, but I’ll limit it to five.
1. The gospel changes lives
If you are a church planter, pastor, missionary, or ministry leader of any kind, it’s imperative that you have an unshakable confidence in the gospel. It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). God loves to save sinners, and he does so when the gospel is proclaimed. Further, God loves to sanctify his people, and he does this as the gospel is applied.
If you are a church planter, pastor, missionary, or ministry leader of any kind, it’s imperative that you have an unshakable confidence in the gospel.
2. The gospel leads us to worship
The gospel transforms us from the inside out. And when affections change, everything changes. If a person loves Jesus deeply, it will change his or her behavior dramatically. Paul’s theology regularly leads him to doxology (Rom. 8:31–39; 11:33–36).
3. The gospel lifts us from despair
Sin, suffering, and death cause us to despair. The gospel lifts the saints from dark nights of the soul by reminding us that God’s verdict has already been pronounced; that though we suffer now, we’re still in the grip of the Father’s grace. Even death cannot separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:31–39).
4. The gospel unites diverse believers in community
In Romans 8, Paul is exulting in glorious gospel promises. It’s important to see the plural language Paul uses: “us,” “we,” “brothers/sisters,” and so on. Paul is seeking to unite both Jews and Gentiles in Christ, so he labors over the beauty of the gospel for several chapters in Romans. He wants to help them pursue unity in the gospel, and to consider how they should love one another practically (Rom. 12–14).
When we get to chapter 15, Paul’s appeal to unity climaxes with this prayer: “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 15:5–6). Paul is applying his theology to build a unified, diverse people.
5. The gospel fuels our mission
You can endure opposition when you have promises like those in Romans 8. When you have a gospel this big, you’ll want to take it to the nations. Many don’t have a passion for the nations precisely because they don’t have a gospel worth preaching.
When you have a gospel as big as the one in Romans, you’ll want to take it to the nations. Many don’t have a passion for the nations precisely because they don’t have a gospel worth preaching."
Our desire at New City is to be gospel-centered in everything that we do, every ministry, every outreach, every service opportunity, every Missional Community and MC discussion. We pray that we might become gospel-centered in every area of life - where we live, work, play and worship. We know that we can't be that church if we aren't those people - gospel-centered leaders, worshipers, church-goers, parents, children, students, employers, employees and friends.
It isn't enough to use the word "gospel" a lot. It isn't enough that we are "biblical." There are many religions and plenty of people who are morally good and who serve their communities. We must be wholly Christian. We must learn to see all of life through the lens of the gospel - the life, death and resurrection of Jesus - how we work, how we parent, how we relate to others, Christian and non-Christian... we must be truly gospel-centered.
How did you evaluate yourself?
Gospel-Denying? Gospel-Redefining? Gospel-Assuming? Gospel-Affirming? Gospel-Proclaiming? Gospel-Centered?