Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that . . . you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel. (Philippians 1:27)
We talk a lot about being a Gospel-centered community, but what does this actually look like in practice?
It obviously means, first, that we think hard about understanding the actual content of the Gospel, which is why we care about theology. We can’t be Gospel-centered if we don’t know what the Gospel is.
Second, being a Gospel-centered community requires engaging not just our heads, but our hearts. We want the Gospel to do more than affect the way we think. We also want it to transform our desires and delights. This is one reason why we do more than just read and teach Scripture. We also sing and pray and take the Lord’s Supper as we try to push the Gospel deeper into our hearts.
And when, through these various methods, we grasp and are grasped by the message of the Gospel – that though we’re bad enough to deserve judgment, God loved us so much that he took that judgment himself – we will be amazed at the wonders of his love and will overflow with creative expressions of worship.
Third, being a Gospel-centered community involves a certain vision of the church and our role within it as both givers and receivers. Sometimes we focus mainly on receiving (what will I get out of this service?) and adopt a consumer-mentality. The paradox of the Gospel is that the greatest receiving actually comes through giving. We are most blessed when we invest our time, thought, energy, and resources into serving others. That’s one reason why small groups are so central to Fulkerson – they are the primary context in which receiving through giving happens.
The Gospel also shapes the life of our community with its balanced approach to relationships within the church. In particular, we want our relationships (primarily through small groups) to be characterized by the following three pairs of characteristics:
- Accepting and holy. In the Gospel, we’re accepted though we were God’s enemies. In the same way, our small groups graciously accept people as they are – steeped in the full impact of their sin. But the Gospel is also a power operating in us to transform us to Christ’s own image: God loves us too much to let us stay as we are. So even though our small groups accept people as they are, we (like Christ) love people too much to let them stay there.
- Truth-telling and encouraging. In the Gospel, Jesus delivers the ultimate negative verdict: we’re so wicked we deserve to die. Voicing this conviction was costly to Jesus – and in the same way, our small groups have the courage to confront people with what can often be harsh truths. But though the Gospel delivers bad news, it also tells us that God wants to build a new community (see 1 Cor. 3). So, though we never want to shrink away from gentle yet forceful confrontation, our primary goal is to build each other up.
- Evangelistic and sacrificially generous. In the Gospel, we learn that though Jesus was rich, he became poor so that through his poverty we could be spiritually enriched. When that sinks in, our small groups will pour themselves out for each other and the rest of the community in both spreading the Gospel through our words and showing the transforming power of the Gospel through our deeds.
Fourth, being a Gospel-centered community requires our devotion to the mission of the Gospel. When we talk about being a “missional church” we mean several things: (1) that we care about outsiders and want to welcome them in; (2) that we care about spreading the message of Christ to others and are actively building relationships with unbelievers and having spiritual conversations with them that point them to Christ; (3) that we care about the “great commission” – making disciples among all the peoples of the world – and are actively engaged in giving, praying, sending, and going to the hard to reach people of the world; (4) and that we care about social justice and are actively engaged in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and standing up for the rights of the oppressed.
The Gospel. Theology. Worship. Community. Mission.
That’s what we’re about.