October 18, 2017

I’m a Little Confused About Being “Gospel-Centered”

gc-starFor the past couple of years, the term “Gospel centered” has become ubiquitous in the blogosphere. And as the use of this term has become more and more common, I’ve become less and less certain that its meaning is simply….being Gospel centered.

I’m not saying that it means something other than Gospel centered or something less than Gospel centered, but I am suspicious that it might mean more than just Gospel centered.

I’m sure I’ve used the term many times. I don’t know any way to use it other than to mean….we’re centered on the Gospel. But as I think about how the term is now evolving and how it is being used in various quarters, I think we may need a clarification.

So anyone who considers themselves qualified may write me in the comments or via email and help me here. Does Gospel centered have some fine print? Should those of us who occasionally use the term be aware of exactly what flag we are waving?

Specifically, here are my questions:

1) Does Gospel centered mean reformed? Specifically, young reformed Calvinists looking for a label that doesn’t complicate relationships with the debates about predestination and infant baptism?

2) Does Gospel centered imply that other Christians aren’t Gospel believing? Every group of Christians I’ve been around recently- from mainline liberals to emergers and Arminian leaning evangelicals- would passionately argue that they are Gospel centered? For example, are conservative evangelicals in the PCUSA Gospel centered? Is the Billy Graham Association Gospel centered? Is the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Gospel centered?

3) Who- specifically- isn’t Gospel centered? And I don’t just mean TEC. I mean, who in some proximity to those using this label, isn’t described by this label? What disqualifies?

4) What is “centered” as compared to believing, or motivated or preaching, etc.?

5) Is this describing an existing group or is it a way of doing church? If so, what are we talking about? A certain emphasis on preaching? An intentional effort to put the cross in all sermons and all songs? Fewer church programs?

6) Is Gospel centered the beginnings of a label to create a sub-denomination in the SBC? A kind of signal to those who might be considering leaving the SBC that a network of churches is forming with similar values to the Great Commission Resurgence? Is this a label to build a kind of evangelical ecumenism within and outside of the SBC?

7) Is Gospel centered the beginnings of a door out of the SBC to a “Together for the Gospel,” Acts 29 or “Gospel Coalition” shaped network or denomination?

8) What is most distinctive about a “Gospel centered” church that allows the term to cross denominational boundaries and still be descriptive?

9) Plenty of people will say I’m not Gospel centered even though that’s my passion. Who makes the call? Why can so many bloggers use the term and it be meaningful if there’s no specific content?

Timmy Brister has a collection of Gospel Centered Resources at his blog.

Comments

  1. I guess I’ll start us off here. I’m simply going off my experience with the term, so this is in no way the be-all, end-all of the discussion. In a nutshell (& I could spend hours talking about this) I’m a former independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB-I grew up in that kind of church & went to Bob Jones) who’s now a licensed preacher in the PCA.

    Gospel-centered, in my mind, refers to a way of preaching, living, counseling & ministering that seeks to be motivated, driven & grounded in the Gospel, i.e., Jesus perfect life & perfect death. I first heard the term associated w/ Tim Keller at Redeemer PCA in Manhattan. This Gospel-centeredness, at least in preaching, seeks to take every text & a) expose how the text reveals the deep idols of our hearts (our tendency to exchange the creature for the Created, e.g., security, power, comfort, etc.); that, b) reveals how Jesus’ death has delivered us from the consequence & power of those idols; c) reveals how Jesus’ perfect life gains the Father’s approval for us, & thereby, provides for us Ultimately in God what we were seeking in the idol. It thereby motivates us by love for God to do the required commandment or behavior, rather than being motivated by guilt.

    It’s a philosophy of ministry that subscribes to the idea that the Gospel is not only necessary for conversion, but it’s also necessary for sanctification. The Gospel isn’t just the ABC’s of Christianity, it’s the A-Z of Christianity (that’s not my quote; don’t credit me for it).

    Most Fundamentalist preaching isn’t Gospel-centered, even they would believe in the Gospel, i.e., that God in Christ is reconciling man to Himself. . It’s rather guilt-driven w/ calls to moralism, try harder, do better, etc. While Jesus is our Example, He’s not only our Example; he’s our Savior.

    I’m not sure if it’s a sub-denomination or halfway house for SBC’ers b/c I’m not in those circles. Maybe someone else could comment about that. It frankly matters not if I say the iMonk is gospel-centered or not. I may have an opinion about that (I don’t yet), but it’s irrelevant.

    For a great explanation, see Intown Community Church’s (PCA in Atlanta) Philosophy of Ministry:
    http://www.intown.org/Page.aspx?pid=713

    • Thanks for clarifying, brother. I know you were describing, but not necessarily defending the “Gospel-centered” movement, but your description raised some questions in my mind. Is this thread about dialogue or just clarification?

      This Gospel-centeredness, at least in preaching, seeks to take every text & a) expose how the text reveals the deep idols of our hearts (our tendency to exchange the creature for the Created, e.g., security, power, comfort, etc.); that, b) reveals how Jesus’ death has delivered us from the consequence & power of those idols; c) reveals how Jesus’ perfect life gains the Father’s approval for us, & thereby, provides for us Ultimately in God what we were seeking in the idol.
      I like preaching that exposes these idols, but is the most appropriate label for such preaching “Gospel-centered”? This sounds a lot like Robert McGee preaching. McGee is great, but I don’t think I’d call his system “the Gospel”–it’s self-help moralism of another kind (“believe the right things and everything will be okay”).

      Most Fundamentalist preaching isn’t Gospel-centered, even they would believe in the Gospel, i.e., that God in Christ is reconciling man to Himself. . It’s rather guilt-driven w/ calls to moralism, try harder, do better, etc. While Jesus is our Example, He’s not only our Example; he’s our Savior.
      Perhaps this exposes the true nature of the “Gospel-centered” movement. It’s the “Reformed Gospel-centered” movement. The Gospel is bigger than substitutionary atonement. Jesus himself preached a lot of moralism; was his message not “Gospel-centered”? The Bible is more than just Ephesians 1–2!

      Ultimately, labels aren’t about accuracy, they’re about rhetoric. Churches call themselves “Gospel-centered,” not because they are actually Gospel-centered, but because they want to take potshots at other traditions. The implication of the label is “If you’re not Reformed, you’re not preaching the Gospel.”

      • I’m not sure what you were reading, but this doesn’t sound anything like Robert McGee preaching & it’s self-help moralism of another kind. I’ve seen the fruit of idol-exposing, Gospel-centered preaching that I describe in teens, adults & myself; it’s how we grow in grace.

        I’m not sure what you mean when you say that Jesus preached alot of moralism. Really? Jesus preached that you can do good apart from his redemptive work if you just try harder? No. Not really.

        It sounds like you have some kind of beef w/ the Reformed community that you tried somehow to work in here. That sounds a bit arrogant when you say that churches that call themselves Gospel-centered are taking potshots at other traditions. You must have some sort of revelation &/or knowledge to which I’m not privy.

        Even tho I’m Reformed, I know the point of my post was not to advertise the wonders of Reformed Theology. And, judging from iMonk’s questions, I don’t think the point of his post was to say anthing for or against Reformed theology, per se. To answer your question, iMonk said his post was about clarification.

  2. Many people in an effort to be heard, throw all kinds of terms around and fail to adequately define what they mean. Confusion ensues.

    I have the same problem with the term “justice”. Too many talking heads and not enough real definition and therefore not enough understanding.

    Sorry I did not answer your issue. I just share some of the frustration when I see the suspension of critical and charitable thinking and conversing just so some can get heard.

    Peace.

    • But justice is simple – and I think people mean the same thing. Justice is things being made right. Throwing around judicial language ends up clouding the meaning but God’s justice is described in Romans 3: Jesus perfect justice was sacrificing himself to make us whole. Justice and mercy go hand in hand. Same with social justice – systemic wrongs made right through merciful sacrifice of followers of Jesus.

      • To me justice consists of giving a good reward for good works and giving a punishment for bad works. Justice can’t bestow a greater punishment that in is deserved, or a lesser punishment than is deserved.
        To me, mercy means giving a greater reward for good works than is merited and giving a lesser punishment for bad works than is deserved.
        The gospel is the means by which we activate the mercy of God on our behalf through Christ through the following steps:
        1)Faith in Christ’s suffering for our sins and His resurrection
        2)Repentance of our sins
        3)Baptism by immersion
        4)Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost
        5)Enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God (loving God, loving our neighbor, etc.)

      • Look at the reply below yours. This proves my point. People don’t mean the same thing. Part of what I do is police chaplaincy. I have a view of justice too. Throwing around any language w/o definition is a significant problem and it’s not charitable.

        “To me justice…” Yes to some justice this, justice that. For some justice means feed senior citizens meals at the rest home. Nice word, nice concept but no definition and it’s darn confusing.

        So back to gospel-centered and what that means. It depends with whom you speak, how loudly you speak, what Reformer you align with if you align with any reformer (God help you if you don’t), what chapter and verse you prooftext with, from which talking-head you take your queues and on and on it goes. It’s not only confusing; it’s boring.

  3. I imagine you’ll get a variety of answers, which may testify to how helpful (or unhelpful) “gospel-centered” may be as a label, but here I go with my 2 cents.

    1) Does Gospel centered mean reformed?

    No.

    2) Does Gospel centered imply that other Christians aren’t Gospel believing?

    No. But believing it — even believing it is important — and being your theological, ecclesiological, practical, and missiological center are two different things.

    3) Who- specifically- isn’t Gospel centered? And I don’t just mean TEC. I mean, who in some proximity to those using this label, isn’t described by this label? What disqualifies?

    Easy answer is the TBN crowd, at least the ones who acknowledge the gospel.
    Most fundamentalists, even with their revivalistic emphases.
    Many of the attractional-type churches still mired in the seeker movement. I haven’t heard a Willow Creek message in a long while, but at my last familiarity with them they specifically were not gospel centered despite being evangelical and gospel-informed and perhaps even motivated.
    Ed Young Jr., Joel Osteen, Perry Noble, et.al. All guys who “use” the gospel, may even present the gospel at the end of messages, but whose messages and ministries are not gospel-centered.

    4) What is “centered” as compared to believing, or motivated or preaching, etc.?

    It means the gospel is articulated strongly as the means and message of every portion of the church and colors all it does. I know that may sound fuzzy as well, but it is the differences:
    a. between preaching a message with the gospel as the main point and preaching a “how to” message with some or no gospel in it,
    b. between small groups that study topics or issues peripheral to the gospel and small groups or classes where the teacher is conscious to tie the emphasis of the group (and even the purpose of the group) to the gospel
    c. between church care/mercy ministries that exist to do good and get the word out about the church and ministries that exist to live out the gospel of the kingdom and share the gospel with others
    ETC.

    5) Is this describing an existing group or is it a way of doing church?

    Not sure I understand the question even with the follow ups I excised.
    It describes an existing group that is centering on the gospel but also is a way of “doing church.”
    Like the gospel itself, gospel-centeredness is one thing, and it is more than that. 🙂

    6) Is Gospel centered the beginnings of a label to create a sub-denomination in the SBC? A kind of signal to those who might be considering leaving the SBC that a network of churches is forming with similar values to the Great Commission Resurgence? Is this a label to build a kind of evangelical ecumenism within and outside of the SBC?

    I’m sure some SBC’ers hope it is.
    I believe it is larger than the SBC.
    I am not SBC and don’t aspire to return to the denomination, so denominationalism doesn’t factor in for me and I don’t believe it does for many others. Most of the guys I read, even young SBC guys, are demonstrating, even if they’re not articulating, a sort of evangelical ecumenism like you mention here.

    7) Is Gospel centered the beginnings of a door out of the SBC to a “Together for the Gospel,” Acts 29 or “Gospel Coalition” shaped network or denomination?

    No idea. For some, perhaps.
    I don’t see “gospel-centered” as confined to a particular network or denomination, even more cross-denom networks like Acts 29, etc. It’s bigger than that. Although the overlap can be confusing, I suppose, as Acts 29, etc. insist on gospel-centeredness in their organizations. But I don’t believe the aim is to make any organization itself synonymous with gospel-centeredness.

    8) What is most distinctive about a “Gospel centered” church that allows the term to cross denominational boundaries and still be descriptive?

    The gospel itself? (Neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female . . . Baptist or Presbyterian, Acts 29 or ARC . . .)

    9) Plenty of people will say I’m not Gospel centered even though that’s my passion. Who makes the call? Why can so many bloggers use the term and it be meaningful if there’s no specific content?

    I think this is where cross-denominational statemetns like those from T4G or Gospel Coalition come in handy. I know those orgs have become synonymous with Reformed evangelicalism, but I kinda smell sour grapes from some folks. The Reformed camp talks about the gospel more and discusses gospel-centeredness more than anyone else. A lot of hyperactive hypos in that camp, but the reason many equate gospel-centeredness with an emphasis on Calvinism or whatever is not because that is being pushed but because it’s Calvinists who are pushing gospel-centeredness most strongly and loudly.

    There’s no pope. Nobody makes the call and everybody does. 🙂

    I think there is content. There’s content in the different network, organizational, coalition statements. There’s content in journal articles from Keller, from the pulpit of the conferences. Keller’s message at the inaugural Gospel Coalition (“What is Gospel-Centered Ministry?”) is the bee’s knees.
    And bloggers are articulating. Tullian Tchividjian via Bob Thune just outlined some markers in a blog post, as did Joe Thorn in a recent blog post.

    There are people talking clearly about what gospel-centeredness entails.

    I think that’s important. But I also think it’s important that the centering be colored by different voices and emphases, so there’s, as you may fear, not one guy calling strikes and fouls.

  4. I have simply defined the term as being Christ focused in our daily lives and decisions. To be centered in the Gospel (Good News) is to have Christ know you personally.

  5. well, I was thinking about the whole idea earlier today and up pops your post. The term does get tossed around a fair amount. I wasn’t stewing over the rift between the Acts 29 guys and the SBC (Jared’s post you linked to was helpful. I realize the Acts 29 guys are bending over backwards to mend the fence that’s been erected). More of this is going on elsewhere and the problem isn’t going away (as you point out in your last podcast). By “gospel-centered” I think those of us who identify with the term mean our primary ambition in our proclamation of the scriptures and the crux of our message has to do with the gospel (i.e. Christ–his cross and resurrection) vs. a whole cart load of “other” lesser important things. Simple I know, but so am I.

    Mark Galli wrote a good piece in CT today titled “A Pretty Good Religion” (it’s what got me thinking about the whole “gospel-centered” thing myself). He writes, “…The gospel isn’t primarily about helping individuals to live the life they’ve always wanted; it tells people to die to their yearning for self-fulfillment. It is not about helping people feel good about themselves, but telling them that they are dying. It’s not about improving people, but killing the old self and creating them anew. It’s not about helping people make space for spirituality in their busy lives, but about a God who would obliterate all our private space. The gospel is not about getting people to cooperate with God in making the world a better place—to give it a fresh coat of paint, to remodel it; instead it announces God’s plan to raze the present world order and build something utterly new.”

    I’d recommend an entire reading. I think he explains what it is to be “gospel-centered” as good as anyone and it’s timely for sure.

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/augustweb-only/134-41.0.html

    • ““…The gospel isn’t primarily about helping individuals to live the life they’ve always wanted; it tells people to die to their yearning for self-fulfillment.”

      This sounds extremely unappealing. I don’t want my self to be obliterated and I don’t beleive God expects that either.

      • I’m with you, Tim. That stuff was preached to me in my last church and it had a very negative effect; as soon as I woke up on Sunday morning I would find myself saying ‘no,’ steeling myself to withstand being scolded and reject any demands the pastor made on me. I eventually decided I should stop pretending to be a Christian, because the Christian god thought i was trash and I thought he was evil. Worshipping him, I thought, was working for the triumph of something I wouldn’t want to triumph over my worst enemy!

        Luckily, I was led to a church where the preaching is like that described in the first comment of this thread. It’s taken a few years to regain my trust in God, but I now wake up on Sunday mornings saying ‘yes’. And I am a much better person.

  6. also, which gospel must we be centred around to be gospel-centred? Does this mean romans and altar calls every week?

    • which gospel must we be centred around to be gospel-centred?

      The gospel of Jesus Christ. Grace for sin in the cross of Christ. The “first importance” gospel of 1 Corinthians 15.
      There aren’t multiple gospels. There’s the true gospel and then false ones, correct?
      Acknowledging the bigness of the gospel and the many facets of his implications, of course.

      But “the gospel” is the news of the historical event of Jesus Christ’s sinless life, sacrificial death, and firstfruits bodily resurrection.

      My take, anyway.

      Does this mean romans and altar calls every week?

      No.

      • Scott Eaton says:

        I personally agree with you, Jared. But that’s the rub, isn’t it? There are alot of evangelicals who define the “gospel” differently. Some say it is a message to proclaim and others claim it as something to perform. Some will include obedience while others only think of faith. And so it goes.

        There can’t be more than one “gospel.” So who makes the rules? This is where I think confessions are immensely helpful.

  7. I suspect it’s becoming like the term “Bible-believing”, which has come to be more about what the user is implying about Others than what it actually means for those claiming it.

  8. The Gospel is absolute truth. Regardless of anyones claims of being “Gospel centered”, the Scriptures are our standard by which to measure how well the Gospel is being articulated and/or lived out by someone in any given situation. None of us are perfect in the articulation or living out, although some may be closer than others. Personally, I don’t think we should have to claim to be Gospel centered – it should be an obvious outflow of our pursuit of Christ as individuals and groups of believers.

    • correct I’d say, we shouldn’t have to point it out. But the term isn’t used by the majority of those using it to pat themselves on the back. Its merely a point of reference if you ask me. And no, not a one of us can claim to be “perfect in the articulation or living out” of the gospel. That’s one of the larger points of gospel-centeredness.

      • Yes, it seems those claiming to be Gospel centered feel the need to do so in order to differentiate themselves from other Christians who are not centered on the Gospel. I just think we need to be humble in our use of that claim. I have seen cases of “Gospel-centeredness” being used as a battering ram against others who don’t measure up to that person’s definition of what it means to be Gospel centered (not the majority as you mention). Let’s let our Gospel centeredness speak for itself, if that makes sense!

        • couldn’t agree more Clay, but just because something is used as a “battering ram” doesn’t mean we need to ditch it–the name of Christ has been used for all sorts of garbage. I’m one of the last guys (or gals) you’ll find using the term “gospel-centered” to differentiate myself from other Christians… But like I said, I get your drift. I would argue though that w/o the gospel, there is no Christianity to speak of.

        • Clay, do you think there’s ever a place for telling someone that something they’re doing may be wrong?

          • Yes.

          • I am not being critical of people who differentiate themselves from others who are not Gospel centered. I was simply agreeing with Ken’s assessment of why people use the term.

        • and on the need for more humility or “a need to be humble in our use of that claim”… I am all for more humility but not as much I’d like you to believe. I can be a proud dude. I will say that guys like Jared Wilson (see his blog) don’t use the term as a “claim” as much as a rally cry for the rest of us who need the reminder, that’s just my not so humble opinion.

          • My comment wasn’t directed at guys like Jaren Wilson.

          • gotcha Clay. I read Jared’s blog regularly and know imonk has good things to say about Jared, it’s the main reason I pointed to him (and it didn’t hurt that he was commenting). I do know of some other bloggers who use the term (or terms closely related to “gospel-centered”) that don’t hold to the same ideals as Jared does in dealing with those of a different persuasion or cut from another cloth theologically than him. If I named another name or two, it might raise the ire of more than a couple of the readers on here. There is way too much of the “we’re better than so and so” and “we’re smarter than those knuckleheads” to go around. I don’t see any caveats that read “unless someone is a…” when I read verses like Phil. 2:3.

        • I do feel that sometimes Gospel centered can be use to distance one from seeker or purpose driven, liberal agenda centered, or fundamentalists traditionalism. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things….

          • While the Gospel may eventually end up leading me to “distance myself” from misdirected teaching (depending on the serioussness of the error), the Gospel should first cause me to reach out. The Gospel should not create an us vs. them divide in the Body of Christ.

          • Excellent thought! Reach out first… Very “Jesus shaped” 😛 There are so many divisions in the body of Christ, unfortunately. However, anything that causes them by definition is NOT the gospel. And the Gospel IS one of the most divisive truths in the history of the world.

          • The Gospel should not create an us vs. them divide in the Body of Christ.”

            Great way to put it Clay. We need to look at the “gospel” we have a little closer if it does create such a divide.

            But bear in mind, even when false gospels abound (and they do, make no mistake), the gospel itself remains intact and is as potent as ever. When somebody preaches a gospel that’s nothing more than self-help it doesn’t undermine the gospel and it doesn’t threaten God. Jesus is gonna build his church (or so he says) and there isn’t anything that will prevail against him from doing so (and that “church” includes a whole lot of different types of folks–you, me, and maybe a woman that wouldn’t walk into the church you or I worship at because she thinks the name of our church is offensive).

            I do think it’s imperative that we who believe the gospel examine “other gospels” that do not center (there is that word again!) in on Christ and his accomplished work and identify those “other gospels” as such–God doesn’t need us to, but others may.

  9. Calvinism is the gospel. All of it. Plus the stuff he never said.

  10. It is possible that I am qualified, as I think I am in a Gospel Centered ministry, although i have no membership card or framed plaque to prove my “Gospel centeredness”. To me Gospel Centered is a ministry based on the Good News that is the message of Jesus and the early church. It should ignore or at least minimize all else for the cause of spreading this story of hope and love, there by expanding the Kingdom.
    1. Gospel Centered should mean “label free”. Labels only divide. If it works for young Calvinists, fine, something has to get us on track and away from the factions of the multiple personality Bride of Christ.
    2. I could easily believe that many God-loving, God- serving groups are Gospel centered. Pot roast and tacos use beef, but local flavorings and attitudes give a different flavor. Noting wrong with that! If the meat served is the Gospel you know the meal will be wholesome.
    3.When a building or a man or a set of rules or a lifestyle is what the group spends much or most of the time talking about, that is not Gospel-Centered. “Repent and Believe in Christ Jesus” is the gospel message. Your order of service, hymn style, all else, could we say, is but dung?
    4. Too many church groups I have experienced serve the Gospel as a side dish, not a main course. If you are dealing with your best life now, or anything else, you are not Gospel Centered. I have heard sermons that magnified the age of the earth, political leanings, sexual practice or abstinence, these preachers seem to forget that Faith Comes From hearing the Word. They also seem to discount the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying our lives. Preach the Gospel, the rest will work itself out under the Power of the Holy Spirit.
    5. We need to quit worrying about other groups, forget “doing church”[ sorry pet peeve on the phrase, i was beaten with it once too often], and preach the Gospel as contained in Scripture, the rest will come! have faith. if there is a need someone [ maybe not the preacher] will be empowered to move toward it and it will be addressed.
    6. In King James Language, God Forbid! The SBC is a group of churches in cooperation, sometimes we forget that and get carried away, but let us keep that cart behind the horse.
    7. I have found being in the SBC to be of no hindrance to my gospel Centered ministry, why would it slow anybody down? If you don’t like what some of them say, don’t listen. My church is autonomous,
    guided by the Spirit in His service, if the SBC is not Gospel Centered, it can be ignored.
    I am just sharing my reality. If I am way out of line please be gentle, I have a long time in on this Gospel Centered stuff, if i am doing it wrong it is not from lack of honest effort.

    • 4. Too many church groups I have experienced serve the Gospel as a side dish, not a main course. If you are dealing with your best life now, or anything else, you are not Gospel Centered. I have heard sermons that magnified the age of the earth, political leanings, sexual practice or abstinence, these preachers seem to forget that Faith Comes From hearing the Word. They also seem to discount the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctifying our lives. Preach the Gospel, the rest will work itself out under the Power of the Holy Spirit.

      I am absolutely NOT a fan of the Joel Osteen/ Ed Young Jr. method of teaching the message of Jesus but I think you may have gone too far here. When you say “Preach the Gospel, the rest will work itself out under the Power of the Holy Spirit,” do you mean that we shouldn’t teach the Kingdom of God messages of Jesus? He instructs people all over the gospels in how to live out the kingdom. Are these unnecessary for teaching? It seems that Jesus didn’t think so. I think ethics matters to Jesus and the kingdom he rules.

      • The Kingdom of God messages are the Gospel! every word uttered by Christ or inspired by the Holy Spirit needs to be taught and studied. What i meant was that if you preach Scripture the One who Inspired it will drive it Home in the heart of the believer. We need the bible, all of it, to learn to live a kingdom life. Thank you for allowing me to clarify.

  11. Gospel-Centered is a marketing term, by which I mean it’s a nice-sounding phrase that seems to resonate and make the thing it’s connected with look better, but actually means nothing, or whatever the reader wants it to mean, which is the same thing. It’s a term available in the church version of the Dilbert Mission Statement Generator.

    • not sure if you are serious or not Bradford. But the term “Christocentric” wasn’t a marketing term for the likes Luther, as far as I know? It’s just a term or a point of reference, it isn’t the gospel itself. Jesus himself and his message of hope, forgiveness, and salvation found in him alone is the full expression of the gospel after all. No one needs to identify with or care for the term if they don’t like it.

  12. Well Bradford beat me to it
    I was just going to say that “Gospel Centered” is just a buzzword to make whatever you’re promoting by its use look better than the competition.

  13. Christiane says:

    I’ve seen that phrase around and, as a Catholic, I ‘assumed’ it meant that, if someone was ‘Gospel Centered’, they were ‘Christ-centered’.

    Now, I have seen some Protestants interpret portions othe letters of St. Paul in ways that did NOT line up with using Christ as the lens for interpretation. I would assume that they were not ‘Gospel-centered’, as their interpretations don’t make sense when matched up with the Words and Actions of Christ.

    BTW, what is the religion that dismisses Christ in favor of St. Paul and does not say the “Our Father” anymore? I have seen this on the web, but I don’t know what religion (denomination) it is.

  14. There are churches that are centered around the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and there are churches that are centered around the writings of Paul. I say churches, but perhaps the emphasis of the preaching of the Word would be a better way to put it.

    • it’s worth noting that Paul used the term quite regularly in his letters and was pretty emphatic that there was one genuine gospel… “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” ~Galatians 1:8

      The term “gospel-centered” isn’t the point here, it’s the gospel itself we need to be contending for, and somehow by the grace of God at that.

  15. Like all labels this term means different things to different people.

    I suspect one can ask many of the same questions about the term “Jesus shaped” …

  16. My guess is that due to the clash over the NPP and Wright, it means “substitutionary atonement” and “imputation” to many folks.

  17. I use the phrase to refer to keeping focus on *the* message of the Bible–the person and work of Christ with all of the implications involved. The gospel is huge–much, much bigger than contemporary evangelicals have typically considered. It is not merely the threshold into the kingdom, it is the path we must travel and the essence of kingdom living. We never advance beyond it. We live by the person and work of Christ every day which means that we live as repenters and believers every day.

    When I keep this in focus I am saved from moralism as well as libertinism. I am free to keep the law, free to be enslaved to Christ as Lord. In this sense the gospel serves as a gyroscope to keep me rightly oriented toward God, others and myself. The more this perspective dominates my thoughts the more grace-filled my life becomes.

    This is not exclusive to the reformed crowd. Though every reformed person should be this way (and many are), sadly, many who wave that flag miss it, in my estimation. There are others who are self-consciously not reformed who do get it. I’ll pitch my tent with a gospel-centered non-reformed brother over the most stridently reformed brother for whom the gospel is simply one idea among many or, worse yet, simply assumed.

  18. I think that too many churches focus on the temporal. It is more about how to get through this life, keeping all of your ducks in a row, than it is about God.

    If you fix your eyes upon Jesus, your heart changes. If you fix your eyes on money management strategies, and biblical sexuality, or biblical parenting etc, you might look good on the outside, but really you are just following a formula.

    I think every sermon should connect back to God’s redemptive plan. It should have an element of who He is, an element of what He is doing, and an element of what He is going to do. What that means to us is important, but it is not most important. If we get “what it means to us” right, but we don’t tell the story of God, a well intentioned Sermon becomes legalistic or self focused.

  19. dubbahdee says:

    When I hear the term, I simply hearken back to Capons repeated proclamation that Jesus death and resurrection marks the death of religion. Religion (anything we can do, be, or have that we think will reconcile us to God) is anti-gospel. Our death and our only hope of resurrection through Jesus is gospel.

    If it has to do with what I need to do to please God so that he will accept me – that is NOT gospel centered.
    If it has to do with what Jesus has done for me, and my loving response to His work on my behalf – that’s gospel-centered.

    You know as well as I do, based on some recent posts — the former is more common than the latter.

    This may or may not be what other folks mean by it, but as my understanding of the term is growing and deepening, this is how I am reading it.

  20. I know you’re being at least a little rhetorical, but I’m skipping all the comments posted so far to answer the questions anyway, because I love the questions!

    1) Does Gospel centered mean reformed?

    Hecks, no. I know many reformed folks who don’t seem to be centered on the Gospel, and many non-reformed folks who are.

    2) Does Gospel centered imply that other Christians aren’t Gospel believing?

    I think that “Gospel-centered” and “Gospel-believing” are two different things. Everyone who believes the Gospel is a Christian, but not all of us consider that same life-saving Gospel when it comes to other aspects of our lives. I grew up among a particular Christian sub-culture that considered the Gospel as the door, the starting point, but that it was just the beginning, soon left behind for a focus on “bigger and better” things, like “fresh oil from heaven.” They believed the Gospel, but didn’t understand its centrality to all of life, in my opinion.

    I know mainline liberals, emergers, and Arminian-leaning evangelicals who are Gospel-centered, too.

    3) Who- specifically- isn’t Gospel centered?

    The Word of Faith folks with which I was associated as a teen: not Gospel-centered. Not even close. Christians, well-meaning, but chasing fantasy. Many nominal Christians who are baptized or pray a “sinner’s prayer” spend at least some time pursuing anything but the cross of Christ, which is the mark, for me, of being Gospel-centered.

    There are definitely individuals and groups within the TEC that a Gospel-centered (*cough*), but churches that downplay the cross in order to avoid turning people off are unlikely to be Gospel-centered. Joel Osteen and Oprah Winfrey are not Gospel-centered.

    4) What is “centered” as compared to believing, or motivated or preaching, etc.?

    This may end up being like my response on the word “intentional.” 🙂

    In theory, to be centered on something means you consider it in relation to nearly everything you do. It isn’t something you think of once a week, or compartmentalize, but something that motivates you, off and on, throughout the week. One who preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ regularly is Gospel-centered, to my way of thinking. One who is motivated by the Gospel, to show grace and love to others as God has shown it to us, is Gospel-centered.

    One who believes that Jesus will be important when they get old and close to death, but in the meantime, life is too short to waste thinking about Him, well, that’s not so Gospel-centered.

    5) Is this describing an existing group or is it a way of doing church?

    I suspect it’s different for everyone. I think preaching about the Gospel, and preaching Jesus in all of scripture, is definitely being Gospel-centered, while preaching about scheduling or parenting may or may not be. Not all programs must strictly serve to proclaim the Gospel, but I’m generally more comfortable when most of them do in some way.

    6) Is Gospel centered the beginnings of a label to create a sub-denomination in the SBC?

    Sub-denominations suck just like denominations do. You know, Michael, that I currently inhabit a denomination in which the head honcho does not believe in the exclusivity claims of Christ. I love labels like Gospel-centered as a way to motivate myself to keep God’s grace always in mind. If people are using it as a club, fie on them. A pox on their house.

    7) Is Gospel centered the beginnings of a door out of the SBC to a “Together for the Gospel,” Acts 29 or “Gospel Coalition” shaped network or denomination?

    I would hope it would be something more like the Apostle’s Creed — a label (in this case) that individual and groups could use to remind themselves of their priorities, but is owned by none of them. Similar to the Creed, in fact, I would hope it remains a set of ideas rather than anything formal.

    8 ) What is most distinctive about a “Gospel centered” church that allows the term to cross denominational boundaries and still be descriptive?

    I believe it’s the same thing that’s distinctive about the Apostle’s Creed. God calls us to live new lives, worthy of our calling. When we do, when we recognize God’s grace in our lives and respond to it, we’re satisfied as humans. Whether we do so as IFB, RCC, TEC, A/G, or LCMS, or sitting by ourselves with a Bible, there’s life in the Gospel of Christ.

    9) Plenty of people will say I’m not Gospel centered even though that’s my passion. Who makes the call?

    I guess I set the bar relatively low, so that I myself can qualify. As you say, your passion is the Gospel. I believe this to be true, and I believe all evidence suggests it to anyone willing to see it. As for others, maybe they should focus less on judging your and more on, well, dare I say it? The Gospel of Jesus Christ!

    Seriously, that just boggles the mind. I can think of very few people in the United States who have committed even half of what you’ve committed to the Gospel of Christ.

  21. I was completely unaware that “gospel centered” was even the “in” term these days. I thought it was “Christ centered, gospel driven”. That works for me 🙂 I do feel, however, that it is becoming kind of a buzzword in the blogosphere, and especially pushed by reformed thinkers. I just don’t hear a bunch of Catholics or Methodists pushing that label on to themselves. I dunno. Perhaps some do. I suppose as the ultimate litmus test, when somebody uses the term, you can always just test what they mean by it by asking, “In your own words, what is the gospel?”

  22. Todd Erickson says:

    I think that the thread above has already pretty well established that we don’t all mean the same thing when we say “Gospel”.

    Especially since there are different Gospels in the bible. *grin* So to clarify, Jesus’ Good News is…

    I know that folks from the Baptist end of things, in my experience (My Dad, John Piper, et al.) seem to be much more interested in atonement and soul saving than anything else. So for them, the Gospel is only about sin and how we’ve been saved from it.

    I know that there are also folks for whom the Gospel is only liberation, freedom, empowerment. Or folks for whom it’s social justice, or green living, or whatever.

    Which would all seem to be parts of the greater whole. As professor Oord says, all too often we focus on elements which are actually descriptors of the core element, without ever actually touching on the core element.

    For instance, holiness comes out of love…not out of morality, or purity, or righteousness…those are descriptors of holiness, and come out of it, but they have to come out of love, or they become their own gods.

    In the same way, far too often, our use of “Gospel” exists outside of Isaiah 61, or only takes the portion of it that really pleases us, and thus is a violent hermenutic upon the original intent of the text.

    • goes to show some people have a way with words. Well stated. Yeah, when it comes the gospel we need to keep first things first and keep second things out of it.

  23. Ben Cheney says:

    In my humble, drive-by opinion, yes it is basically synonymous for Reformed, if one is to judge it’s intended meaning by looking at its common usage. I think you could also safely say that it has a big emphasis on PSA as a prerequisite to qualify for the term. Looking at that list of Timmy Brister’s, I don’t know all of the authors but is any one of them non-Reformed? Anyway, I don’t really have a problem with its use, or with Reformed beliefs (not exactly sure where I fit on the spectrum at the moment), but that’s what I think the term generally means when people use it.

    • Ben Cheney says:

      Gah! Apostrophe abuse! Apologies to grammar-centered folk. 🙂 Would love a preview button, iMonk…

  24. Just putting this out there, but it would be awesome if somebody would provide some links to non-Reformed guys calling and arguing for gospel-centeredness, drivenness, or whatever you want to call it.
    That’s what we’re talking about here, right? Not just folks who mention or talk about the gospel.

    Michael Spencer is the only “name” guy I know of who is not Reformed but is relentlessly focused on the gospel.
    Ed Stetzer might qualify but only because he NEVER talks about Reformed theology.

    That doesn’t mean I don’t read or know of non-Reformed writers, thinkers, bloggers, etc.
    I just see them talking about other stuff mostly.

    Open to more names. Let’s pick on Brister’s “reader,” sure, but who’s missing?

    I confess to bristling a bit when people accuse “gospel-centered” of being a smokescreen for TULIP. I know the weirdos exist who do mean it that way. But I think as a stereotype it is largely false and derives from the obvious fact that no group fixates on the gospel these days more than the Reformed.

    Instead of grumbling and playing “us vs. them” by accusing them of playing “us vs. them,” perhaps we join them in the reformational (but not Reformed 🙂 campaign for gospel-centeredness?

    Or are we too thankful we’re not like those Calvinists?

    • Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet are Christ/Gospel centered in their “Jesus Manifesto”. Andrew Marin is very Gospel Centered in Love Is An Orientation. Just three examples of non-Calvinists who are contending for the Gospel (at least not in-your-face Calvinist – I’m not sure where they stand on the TULIP).

    • Ben Cheney says:

      Just to clarify, I’m not suggesting that non-Reformed people are not “gospel-centered”, in the literal meaning of the term. I’m just saying, Gospel-Centred(TM) is by-and-large a Reformed brand name, and that’s all I’m saying. Just Google “gospel centered” and flick through the first few pages – the vast majority of results (not all) are associated with Reformed ministries, blogs or pastors.

    • “But I think as a stereotype it is largely false”

      The “gospel-centered” nomenclature comes from good intentions of folks who really want gospel transformation in their churches rather than behavior modification and seeker manipulation.

      The problem comes when often if your theology is not of calvin, then you are seen as having a reduced gospel and are by definition not as “gospel-centered” as the reformed. The jargon quickly moves to “man-centered theology” when teaching on predestination, then my systematic theology is better than yours, all before the reformed bloggers even start. So I think the stereotype is not only there, but was generated largely from the superior-theology mentality within.

    • Northeasterner says:

      Todd Wilkin, Lutheran, speaks of his program as “Christ-centered, Cross-focused.” I think the intended meaning is the same.

    • Graeme Goldsworthy – Australian Anglican

      http://www.amazon.com/Graeme-Goldsworthy/e/B001JS62SG

  25. I really haven’t heard this buzzword before, but then I live out on the left coast, so maybe it just hasn’t gotten here from the bible belt yet. Not sure.

    If one (individual or church body) is actually behaving in a gospel-centered manner, though, won’t people come to know it fairly quickly without your having to label it prominently and promote it with a new catchphrase?

    • John, for many of us it is not a catchphrase or buzzword. It reflects a transformation in our lives and consequently our ministries.

      Essentially what you’re asking folks like me to do is be gospel-centered but not talk about it. I can’t do that. And nobody who really cares about evangelicalism’s drift from the first importance of the gospel will.

      • Essentially what you’re asking folks like me to do is be gospel-centered but not talk about it

        Not at all, and I don’t doubt your sincerity in the least. What I’m saying is that a lot of American evangelicalism markets these things to death rather than focusing on living them out in deep and meaningful ways. It too often becomes a mile wide and an inch deep.

  26. I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite preachers, Major Ian Thomas. When asked by an attendee of one of his conferences whether he was planning on preaching a “gospel message” that evening, he responded, “well of course I am. What else am I going to preach — Budhism?” The Gospel is the good news of Christ Jesus. It can be narrowed down to some fundamental principles, but it also encompasses all of scripture. The term “gospel-centered” then, is somewhat superfluous. Just say Christian and be done with it.

    As it is presently used, however, I have always understood “gospel centered” to describe the paradigm through which a person approaches scripture and ministry. It is not so much about the conclusions that are reached (e.g. reformed theology, litrugical worship, etc.) but about the prism through which one views all things.

  27. I never consciously thought about it until now, but sadly, I guess I had always assumed……

    “Gospel Centered” = the right to tell people “There’s a tornado coming for YOU!”

    • if your kidding Bill that’s funny. If not, the odd thing is everyone but the people we have an issue with are allowed to make mistakes–or sin. But the folks we don’t care for, well, we are all over them when they mess up.

      “Gospel-centered” means gospel-centered.

      • I was totally kidding (with reference to a recent event), Ken, but sometimes I forget to use the smiley face! 🙂

        • knew about the recent event, tough to miss with the blogging adiction I have (imonk mentioned consumeristic sins in his pocast recently, one of my too many to list sins is blogging when I should be quiet)… initially, I chuckled when I read your comment but then thought, “I don’t know, he might be serious”. Thanks for the clarification Bill. Dry humor is tops. I guess gospel centered can also mean “be careful where you drive, a bridge might be looking to fall on you.”

  28. This is probably old hat to many, but here is an interesting clip of John Piper and Matt Chandler answering the question, “Should you talk about the gospel in every sermon?”.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okb0Lc5UmeI&feature=related

    If someone has a link to the entire discussion, I would love to see it!

  29. Like the phrase “Bible Believing”, “Gospel Centered” seems to be more an advertising term – like “Great Tasting” or “Less filling” or “full bodied” or “no additives” ” all natural”. Take your pick. It also like patriotic, kind of like wearing a lapel pin of the US flag.

    It is an attempt to get people to believe, or to reassure yourself, with one short phrase that you are better than the competition. Let’s be honest, if you are a Trinitarian Christian, you are trying to be Gospel Centered. Oh and lets also be honest about the Gospels; they each can be taken to be as legalistic (Matthew) or grace filled (John) as you like.

  30. Let me add a bit to what I said as I penned the post:

    1) During my Calvinistic years, Calvinists were very “out front,” a la James White, R.C. Sproul, etc. I think we have a move away from that. In fact, preachers like Matt Chandler- who has said he has an emotional aversion to Calvinists most of the time- haven’t done much to convince me of their Calvinism. I’d say the same about my friend Jared Wilson. The entire Calvinistic foundation is very far under the radar. What’s emerging in its stead is “Gospel centered,” which seems to be a largely reformed term with very few exceptions. It’s more workable, more ecumenical and sounds a lot better on a book cover.

    2) The inclusion of Paul Zahl in the Gospel Coalition shows me that there is a broad definition of Gospel Centered. It also leads me to hope that the Gospel Centered movement will link arms with the many evangelicals remaining in mainline churches who need some encouragement from evangelicals. Zahl remains TEC.

    3) Lutherans must really laugh at this post. They are the ultimate Gospel centered movement and they aren’t represented AT ALL in most descriptions of all this, with the exception of Rod Rosenbladt and WHI/ACE.

    4) I think that if we looked closely, we’d find some serious hand wringing happens among the “Gospel Centered” when you mention Wright or say theories of the atonement are secondary (which was Lewis’s position in Mere Christianity.) I’d count PSA, inerrancy. claims to practice expository preaching and a moderate hostility to seeker methodology as characteristics of this movement.

    5) People in every corner of Christianity claim to be Gospel centered. That a group of generic Calvinists, Presbyterians and so-called Reformed Baptists are now claiming this label and drawing organizational, even confessional boundaries, is significant. I’d hope that many of these brethren would get out more.

    6) Tim Keller is the epitome of much of what this movement wants to think of itself, but I think it’s interesting that Keller has written the most widely read evidential apologetics book of the last 30 years. Cross centered? Hmmmm.

    7) In the SBC, there’s no doubt this label has political meaning: Mohler led, less interest in denomination, questioning and abandoning church programs, networked theological influences, replacement of the great denomination model with something else. The Gospel Centered guys know they are preparing for life as a network within the SBC, a sub-denomination or, in combo with Acts 29, the outlines of a new denomination.

    peace

    ms

    • Tom Meacham says:

      Thanks for steering us back on course, Mike. I’m going to be bad and go off-course, but no one has to come with me. I’d rather talk about the Good News more than the “centered” part.

      Someone called the Gospel “absolute truth.” And it is, but it’s not a rational proposition. It’s outrageous, it’s more than counter-intuitive, it’s madness. We are saying Absolute Holiness has taken on, actually become Sin, for us. We talk about it like we understand it, but it is irrational, it is abominable, it is horrible, it is blasphemy beyond blasphemy. It cannot happen, but it did, in some way our human minds have no privy to.

      We are saying that the Uncreated, Infinite Source of Being became part of creation. Imagine a musician becoming his music, an artist becoming “Art”, not just as a representation (all creation is an image of God) but in actuality. The idea is absurd. It’s not like changing one thing into another thing. It’s nonsense, like changing Justice into a porcupine or morphing quantum physics into cheesecake. God can’t become “not-God”. But we say God did.

      We say this astonishing News is “Good” because God has crossed impossible hurdles to come to us. It sounds like madness. So if we are Gospel Centered, shouldn’t we seem a little like madmen (women) to the world? Mike, am I nuts?

    • I’m Lutheran, and I ain’t laughing, because the ELCA is less Gospel-centered every stinkin’ day. “Social Justice”, anyone?

  31. I think much of the confusion over what we mean by “Gospel centered” is not as much confusion over our beliefs about the truth of Gospel as it is our application of the Gospel. We all believe basically the same thing about Christ. However, under our western denominational church structure, we separate ourselves around one particular facet of the Gospel rather than around the person of Christ. So instead of churches raising up disciples of Christ, we raise up baptists to believe that moral living is the most important application of the gospel, reformed-types to believe that a proper understanding of God’s sovereignty is most important, charismatics to believe that gifts of the Spirit are the most important, and the list goes on (I realize I’m generalizing here…I don’t mean to offend any particular group). Christ and the Apostles focused on all of those things, but any one taken in isolation leads to an incomplete understanding of the Gospel. So a Baptist preacher can preach week after week about the importance of moral living and honestly believe he is preaching the Gospel, because he knows the Gospel should lead to moral living (I can pick on Baptists because I am one). Rather than separate ourselves around one facet of the Gospel, or a non-essential doctrine, we should gather around Christ, as His Body, and allow Him (through each other) to give us a balanced view of the Gospel an how it applies in different circumstances. This, in my opinion, is the only way to truly be “Gospel Centered”. So, the answer is, do away with denominationalism!!! Glad that problem is solved 🙂

  32. I am going to be “full Gospel centered” 😉

  33. Michael,

    I believe that I can say with full confidence that I’ve never heard “gospel centered” used except to differentiate or distinguish “our team” from someone else’s (typically orthodox) church or movement. It’s a term more often than not used to highlight the fact that “we’re theologically sound” and someone else isn’t. I’ve sometimes wondered as well if, over the next number of years, there will be a move to craft Sovereign Grace + sub-denomination elements of SBC into a larger denominational-like structure, perhaps on the basis of the T4G Affirmations and Denials.

    Best,

    Brian

    • Brian,
      I support the idea of being gospel centered.
      But after reading most of the comments here and reflecting on this issue, I am agreeing with you. – It’s a term more often than not used to highlight the fact that “we’re theologically sound” and someone else isn’t.

      We’ve found what really works.

      Some are genuine in their love for the gospel. Others are tag alongs. And others are putting on the name as a guise for self-righteousness.

  34. As a practicer and not a preacher, I can only comment ‘from the pew’ that living Gospel centered to me means that as I struggle with my “self” thinking and worldliness throughout the week, it gets easier because Christ’s work means I don’t have to carry the “guilt” of failure with me, and His grace DOES transform me. Unbelievers can learn to try and be virtuous, but will always end up compromising their virtues at the point where “guilt” stops them. At one point, an unbeliever has to say, “Well this is okay to do, okay to be just this self-centered and worldly” even when it’s not, because to be anymore virtuous and fail consistantly would bring guilt. They reconcile themself to the self-seeking (sinful) world, and are at peace (sic) with it. The freedom in Christ is that we don’t have the weight of guilt to stop us from going farther and becoming more like Christ in an upside down world. We are reconciled to Him, not the world. We focus on Him instead of ourselves and go where unbelievers cannot go. And trusting in Him there is true peace. Sounds elementary, but so few Christians are actually letting Christ transform them as a lifelong thing.

    So gospel centered preaching would by and large NOT be a 40 minute thumping on trueisms from the bible on how to live our life by stopping our sinning, without giving equal time to the gospel reasons that we can and will only through Him succeed and always improve in Godly living. It separates our “obedience” from Christ’s work on the cross. Gospel centered preaching gives hope not condemnation. And that is entirely different then just being a good “bible centered” message. We want to obey the bible because it expresses our love, not just to keep the rules, and we thirst for all things Christ, as keeping our eyes on Him is our passion, instead looking at ourselves. We depend on Him, not ourselves for our daily bread. You’d be suprised how many preachers preach the bible without preaching hope. Gospel centeredness is a correction of the wrong thinking of many faithful bible believers and preachers that wed obedience to faith as co-partners eliminating Jesus’ work on our behalf. Obedience should be wed to love.

    My hope is that it helps the drifting church. The Reformed seem to be the first ones to make it Vogue, but it should really unite everyone, as it is the power of God for the saving of souls, and I don’t see it exclusive for any doctrinal reasons. It’s the same Gospel for all.

  35. I’ve met a “gospel centered,” “Jesus shaped,” “Christocentric,” kingdom focused,” “Bible-believing,” individual. He used our entire conversation as a vehicle for finding which labels fit me. Needless to say we never became great friends.

    • Well…. some people just absolutely have to have a box to put EVERYTHING in. It’s almost like ideological obsessive compulsivism… yikes I just tried to categorize it…

      • …we’ve all had encounters of the weird kind with those people ecumenicalpilgrim. So let’s not turn this into a label but lets just keep it a secret. Seriously, the folks who identify with the term aren’t trying to start a new sect, and if they are, we can just make other friends.

        Your takes are funny, imonk seems to attract comedians and God knows we all need it.

    • BTW, Jesus shaped is entirely my word. I never assume anyone else is using it or that it can guide you in who is the right team, etc.

  36. cermak_rd says:

    I’ll have to admit the first thing I think of when I hear the word Gospel is the music. I love Gospel music. Even though I’m Jewish and don’t accept the theology, I love those old tunes.

  37. While I would admit to have a few reformed leanings and i have used the term gospel centered i am not part of the SBC Calvinists and the TR’s sometimes make my teeth itch.

    For me gospel centered been a broad term that sits on top of words like accepted, forgiven, whole, humility, peace, restoration, reconciliation and trust. It means experiencing Christianity through the lens of the gospel in every dimension of life.

    I have not intentionally used “gospel centered” to be exclusionary but all terms with some actual meaning are inherently so.

    if I were to characterize the obverse it would be law, pride, fear, performance, failure, striving, condemnation.

    I can readily find people from many theological camps, including traditional SBC and Calvinists, in both groups.

  38. I don’t think its as complicated as some are making out out to be. I take “gospel centered” to be in contrast to “seeker-centered.” I recently came out of an anthropocentric church which was driven by its desire to connect people to God who normally might not visit a church. Though well-intentioned, it has devolved into a need to be ever more entertaining, shocking, “cool,” to the point where the focus is so much on numbers and conversions that they have lost sight of the call to make disciples, niot jjust win converts.

    A seeker centered church lives by the verse, “I have become all things to all men that I may somehow win some…” while a gospel-centered church lives by “If Christ is lifted up he will draw all men to Himself…”

  39. I’m Jesus-centered because He is my center. He is my life. (Colossians 3:4). The rest is just religion. When, oh when, is the church going to get fixed back on Him instead of all the other encumbrances and drivel?

  40. I do not like the term, “gospel-centered”. I do not like the term “Jesus-centered”. As a Lutheran of the evangelical Catholic tradition, I order my faith and my life according to Sola Scriptura giving equal weight to the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament. Accordingly, if I were required to characterize the basis for my faith using the word ‘centered’, I might use “Holy Scripture Centered”. But even that misses the point.

    More specifically,

    (1) The phrase “Gospel Centered” has come to be one of those gauzy, vague, feel-good phrases so abstract as to permit one to imbue the word with any meaning consistent with one’s world-view. Just read the comments preceeding this one.

    (2) I also hold to the cynical view that to be “gospel centered” is used by many to express a theology that permits one to escape the moral contraints of a life of discipleship. In other words, to be “gospel-centered” is used by some, unwittingly to be sure, to elevate the theology of “cheap grace” articulated so well by Bonhoeffer.

    (3) In some contexts, ‘gospel-centered’ has become a term encompassing all things evangelical, notably outreach. Many traditions these days so emphasize outreach to the unchurched (e.g., converting non-believers) as to forget the Christ ministered principally to believers in the one God (His fellow Jews), but needed to reorder their lives according to His will, i.e., confess, repent, and change their ways (e.g., some in the Jewish clergy, tax-collectors, prostitutes, etc.,).

    Peace,

  41. I’ve thought that “gospel-centered” meant a focus on the spiritual truth contained in the NT gospels rather than on the OT. It would follow, then, that “gospel-centered” de-emphasizes the Law as our primary focus in favor of Christ’s redemptive love and kingdom-building.

    For some I suppose it’s a buzzword-and calling something a buzzword is usually a fairly perjorative description-though it could also be shorthand for a focus, a set of assumptions, a call for how to live one’s life.

  42. I think Gospel centered in the SBC means, “Don’t ask me about what I drink.”

  43. I really have no idea. Personally, I think it’s another label of Christianese that we toss around. Kinda like the term “Full-Gospel”. Is there such a Christian church that’s only “partially-Gospel” or “mostly-Gospel”? And what’s that look like?

    What’s the difference between Gospel-centered and Jesus-centered?

    Does this have anything to do with Tony Campolo and the Red-Letter Christians?

  44. Coming a little late to the party, but back a few years ago when I was reorienting the way I read scripture to a more Christ-centered approach, a series of posts by Dan Cruver really helped out a lot. I know its not an exact response to the post but I think its close enough to add to the conversation and it may help out someone else. Read from the bottom up :

    http://www.eucatastrophe.com/blog/archives/category/is-it-a-christ-centered-sermon/

  45. Can we follow Jesus instead of labels?