Archives For Gospel

If I heard it once I heard it a million times. It went something like this…

“I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was _____,
but it wasn’t until _______ that I made Jesus Lord of my life.”

In my tradition, it was a phrase people uttered when they were making a conscious decision to work harder at living for Christ. For example, decisions from a student camp could be divvied up into two groups: profession of faith (salvation) or re-dedication. Of the latter group, many would confess that camp was where they “made Jesus Lord” of their life. They had believed in Christ but now wanted to do more and try harder for him because their recent track record of obedience was so poor. However, often their new found enthusiasm tethered to “making Jesus Lord” would wane over time and they would find themselves depressed and defeated for being unable to sustain their commitment. Being so overwhelmed by the ineffectiveness of their “do more/try harder” strategy some even stopped following Jesus altogether. While not faulting the spirit behind this approach, one wonders if there is a better way to following Jesus?

17th century pastor Walter Marshall offers a different alternative to “making Jesus Lord of your life”:

When you trust in Christ, you will not move toward godless living, but toward holiness. Faith roots you and grounds you in holiness better than anything else can. Living by faith is far more powerful than simply consenting to make Christ the Lord of your life. When you live by faith, you have far more power to live a holy life than you do when you make resolutions to keep the law better in order to earn eternal life. 1

Marshall points believers who want to follow Christ to not build their service on the foundation of their ability to serve but upon the solid rock of Christ’s service on the believer’s behalf. This does not mean we should not seek to obey Christ in all things but to first affix our hearts to the truth that, despite our record of obedience, in Christ we are completely loved, accepted, and valued. It is to operate from the gospel-saturated perspective that because of grace our sin doesn’t cause God to love us less nor our obedience cause him to love us more. To trust in the work of grace of the gospel is, in Walter’s words, to “trust in Christ.” This faith-driven life is empowering, encouraging, and emboldening. Grace becomes the better engine for following Jesus than our strength to make resolutions. Thus, the better alternative to growth in following Jesus is to begin, continue, and finish the Christian life rooting ourselves not to our ability to perform in “making Jesus Lord” but in Christ’s accomplished performance as the Lord.

Notes:

  1. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, (trans. Bruce McRae) 58.

It is not uncommon for churches to have stated values. For example, values such as generosity, family, and service pepper the “About Us” sections of innumerable church websites. When used well, values can be a great asset to your church. Will Mancini, a well-respected church strategist and author of Church Unique, defines values as “shared convictions that guide decision-making and reveal the strengths of the church.” Simply, they are the things that matter most to a specific local church.

I would like to offer a reflection for churches who have chosen gospel centrality as a value.

If gospel centrality is a value you are saying the gospel is central to everything you are and everything you do. By definition, this means every other value must flow from and be shaped by a gospel perspective. They are different “value rivers” with gospel centrality as their source. This truth should help leaders see that if a gospel centered church is going to have other stated values, it behooves them to define them in light of the gospel. Unfortunately, other values are often framed in language removed from their gospel connections. In other words, values like family, service, and generosity are shaped with language that stands apart from the redemptive work of God in Christ. These definitions not only will weaken the values by tying them to things outside of the gospel but also belie gospel centrality as a real operating value.

Is it truly central or is that just something you say?

Align your other values to the value of gospel centrality. Write definitions tied to the redemptive work of Jesus. Demonstrate how values like family, service, and generosity have the Cross as their source, the gospel as their framework, the Person of Jesus as their reference point. Doing so will both push the flywheel of gospel intentionality in your church and more clearly display how truly centered upon the gospel you are.

Can you define your other values without the necessity of the death of Jesus? You may not be as gospel centered ‘values-wise’ as you think. Align those values with gospel centrality in mind.

***For a good reflection on why churches use stated values, read Will Mancini’s Why State Why

In addition to a filtered pass where we look as individuals for unhelpful emphases on law without context to grace, a filtered pathway through which all curricula under consideration passes, a filtered point that ensures our lessons make explicit gospel-implications in application, Clear Creek Community Church processes children’s curriculum with one final approach: a filtered people.

In other words: train your children’s ministry teams in gospel-centrality. For example, last year we gathered all of our children’s workers and devoted an entire evening to understanding the tenets of redemptive-oriented teaching. I was privileged to lead the session and was blown away at the response. Scores of volunteers came to me afterward, not to describe how they thought this gospel-centric approach would impact the kids the ministered to each Sunday, but how it had made a dent in their hearts right now!

Some adults were so overcome at seeing the redemptive scope of Scripture and its impact on teaching children the Bible contrasted with the gospel-less moralism they were taught in church as children that they openly wept in speaking with me. Others felt a deep conviction on how they were currently discipling their own children at home. There were pockets of both illumination and repentance dotted throughout the training.

Training those in your children’s ministry towards gospel-centeredness equips an entire army of men and women who love children with tools to point those same children to Jesus week after week. It allows you to create a whole force of people who now see the Bible with a gospel-impulse and desire to highlight that impulse each week. It also provides great accountability to the leadership. They become one more “filter” for you and the curriculum you ask them to use. Organizationally speaking, it completes a 360-degree awareness for children’s ministry leaders – from the elders who oversee you to the volunteers you oversee, making sure that everything in your children’s ministry highlights the glorious Person and Work of Jesus.

I don’t know if these posts are ultimately helpful or not but it is currently how CCCC processes children’s curriculum for gospel-centrality. So remember, for us, we employ:

  • A filtered pass
  • A filtered pathway
  • A filtered point
  • A filtered people

What are you doing to develop your teams in gospel-centrality? Feel free to share your strategy. Maybe we’ll wind up taking an idea here or there from churches who also want to see the gospel central to their ministries. If you don’t know a place to start for training, I know several churches who are using my article as a starting point. I humbly suggest it as a possible starting point for you as well. Wherever you are, my hope is these series of posts challenge you to do something that moves the curriculum you use and the ministries you use them in toward greater clarity with the Good News found in Jesus!