In my last post on Gospel DNA, I laid the basic groundwork for a “gospel-centered church.” There are lots of ways to describe what a gospel-centered church might look like. This is simply one—but it is a helpful way because it is simple. In short, there are three defining characteristics or deeply-rooted values of a gospel-centered church: the gospel message, the gospel community, and the gospel mission.
When the gospel of Jesus Christ takes root in individuals and a community, it produces a fundamental change in us and how we view God, ourselves, and the world. The gospel certainly gives us a new identity (singular) as new creations in Christ (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:17). But the gospel also gives us new identities (plural). Because what Christ has done for us in the gospel, we experience a radical reorientation around gospel, community, and mission. Thus, we are:
- Disciples: We are followers committed to Jesus who are learning to obey him. We are wholly committed to Jesus and serving his purposes, not ours. He is our God, our Master, and our Teacher, and we seek to make other disciple-makers.
- Family: We are a community committed to serving and caring for each other. The gospel has created this new community of people who know and worship God as Father. Because we have been baptized into the Trinity (God is a family!) we belong primarily to him and each other, even before we belong to our earthly families.
- Missionaries: We are ambassadors committed to spreading the gospel in word and deed. The gospel creates a new community, not as an end in itself, but to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus. Just as Jesus left his home in heaven to redeem us, so we go into all the world as “sent-ones” declaring the gospel and demonstrating its life-giving power.
These three things, of course, aren’t the only identities the Scriptures ascribe to a Christian. It might be helpful to think of these as “major headings.” What I continually see as I read the Scriptures is that every aspect of our new identity in Christ can fit under one of these headings.
Having new identities through the gospel is a wonderful thing. But this isn’t an end in itself! Really, this is doctrine (what we believe about ourselves in light of the gospel), and it must lead to discipline and devotion. In other words, gospel theology paves the way for gospel-shaped living. These new identities of disciple, family, and missionary give way to new practices, or what we can call rhythms. That’s what we’ll look at in our final post.