Building a Gospel Culture
There is a resurgence of gospel talk in churches today. People are celebrating a resurgence of gospel preaching in the pulpits. We are singing more about the gospel in our songs. Everywhere we turn we hear about gospel-centered marriages, gospel- centered parenting, gospel-centered youth ministries, gospel-centered conferences, and gospel-centered pet care (well, not yet but it’s coming).
This resurgence of the gospel is good news because, as I like to tell the church, we want the gospel to be the loudest thing that people hear every Sunday. We want the name of Jesus to be ringing in their ears as they walk through the parking lot. We want the gospel to be so loud that they can’t get out their heads that “Jesus is enough” as they sit down for lunch.
While it is good news that people are talking about the gospel, do we need more than just talk?
I recently finished Ray Ortlund’s new book The Gospel: How The Church Portrays The Beauty of Christ. This book is a great challenge to the gospel-centered movement. It sounds an alarm for the gospel to be more than just talk in the pulpit, but for the gospel to bear fruit in the pews.
Ortlund recently wrote on his blog “If in our churches we have gospel doctrine only, without a gospel culture, we actually undermine the doctrine, however strongly we adhere to it. But if we allow the gospel to sweeten the flavor of our churches by the grace of Jesus, the doctrine starts shining more gloriously than ever before. A gospel culture is itself an apologetic argument for the doctrine, and the best argument.”
It should be our desire that our church doesn’t just talk gospel but that we embody the gospel. That people would gather with us and see real evidence of real gospel power bearing fruit in the way we live our lives.
Do We Have a Gospel Culture?
It is a necessary thing that the church evaluates how we are doing proclaiming the gospel message. We should strive to have every sermon filled with the gospel and clear about how someone responds to the gospel. We should evaluate the songs we sing to make sure they are about the gospel and not a song that a Jew would be comfortable singing at a synagogue. We need to strive for the gospel to be clear in our prayers, on our website, and everything else that we do as a body. But we don’t want to strive to preach a clear gospel that is only muddied by a gospel-less culture.
So let’s examine ourselves. . .
- Do we see the gospel bearing fruit in our church culture?
- Do we preach that Jesus love forgives us from our sin, but refuse to forgive a brother who offended us?
- Do we share the good news that Jesus has shown us grace we don’t deserve while we make our spouses perform in perfect ways to earn our approval?
- Do we talk about the wondrous truth that Jesus fully knows us and yet fully loves us, but we turn away from pursuing a sister in love when she comes up short?
- In short, is our church characterized by love, grace, forgiveness, peace, and hope or does the way we live contradict the gospel we preach?
My prayer for our church is that we would do more than leave the gospel ringing in people’s ears from our preaching and singing, but that they would behold the power of the gospel in lives of his people.