What does it mean for a church to be gospel-centered?
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 message, community, and mission.
The Gospel is a message that is to be preached or proclaimed (Mark 1:14; Acts 14:21; Rom 1:16; 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, rebellion, and sin 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 and applied to every aspect of life (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). This new family becomes the conduit and vehicle for God’s mission in the world (Acts 2:42-47).
The gospel is a call to mission – a declaration that “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). Just as Jesus became a missionary in his incarnation, he sends us into the world as missionaries: “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21). We are sent to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and to work for the restoration of all of creation to its original “good” (Gen 1:31; Rom 8:19-22). A gospel-centered church will train people to live on mission in the practical rhythms of everyday life.