Core Values Study: Gospel Centrality

In his article The Centrality of the Gospel Tim Keller explains from Galatians 2:14, “…the Christian life is a process of renewing every dimension of our life– spiritual, psychological, corporate, social–by thinking, hoping, and living out the “lines” or ramifications of the gospel. The gospel is to be applied to every area of thinking, feeling, relating, working, and behaving. The implications and applications of [life in-line with the Gospel] are vast.”

This, I believe, is a major fault of many American Christians and churches. The gospel has been misunderstood and misplaced. I am afraid (and hope I am wrong) that the concept of the gospel as being central in many churches is a more of a mirage. Here’s some reasons why I believe this…

1. Ask church goers to explain the gospel and many will stumble for words, or generalize the gospel into incomplete terms. This is why I believe it became popular to teach Christians a memorized “presentation” of the gospel. Their understanding of the gospel is absent.

2. The word “Gospel” has been trivialized or generalized. In much the same way the term “Christian” has come to be used to describe social identification, “gospel” has come to be minimized as a subculture identifier as in, for example, the field of music. Many may think they go to a gospel-centered church because they sing gospel music, for example.

3. Many are convinced that being evangelistic or seeker-sensitive means they are gospel-centered. Some preachers think that because they invite people at the end of a message to come forward and accept Jesus that they are preaching the Gospel. As a result, this has contributed to the problem.

These are not difficult traps to fall into. I have no intention to demonizing Christians and churches who fit these labels. I too have and am liable to slide into this category, but by the grace of God. Nevertheless, the consequences of these falsehoods are devastating.

So, what is the gospel? John Piper gives his explanation in this 6-minute clip.

The word “gospel” comes from a Greek word that means good news. It is the message of good news that God has sent Jesus Christ, His Son, as the only sufficient and sinless One to be punished for our sins so that by grace through faith (and only faith) in Him, we are forgiven, saved from eternal punishment, and given an eternal inheritance fit only for a child of God.”

To fully understand the Gospel, you must have an understanding of God, Humanity, Sin, and Jesus Christ:

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Core Values Study: Cultural Engagement

This is the sixth of seven core values we have studied as a group in the planning of Providence Church. So far we’ve looked at Sent Living, Family Focused, Bible Sufficiency, Kingdom Priority, and Authentic Community. Now lets look at the value of Cultural Engagement.

The New Testament reveals the counter-cultural essence of the Church as a gathering of believers living together in Gospel-centered community, while outwardly living a gospel-saturated life. The Church’s togetherness is coupled with the fact that we are also people called out to influence and impact the world with the gospel.

The word in the Greek New Testament translated “church” or “gathering” is ekklesia, which is a combination of the words “out” and “called.” Believers in the Church are changed by the Gospel and called by Christ to be a people “together” different from the world, and yet, always going out into the world with the Gospel.

What is sad in our day is that we have some Christians that are so “churched,” they’ve left this world long ago. Yet other Christians live severed from the body of Christ, and therefore, they not only live entirely in the world, but also, “of” the world. Her is the tension. New Testament Christians must pursue the balance between living together in the counter-cultural gospel community called the church, while living the called-out life of gospel living within culture.

Christians (and churches) are not called to retreat to their perspective bubbles in the world. The believer’s goal in life is not to seek a culture that makes life easier to live their convictions. The church’s objective is not simply to seek a sub-culture that promises to be better in order that they might try to convince people to retreat with them.

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Core Values Study: Authentic Community

Christ said, “A ​​new commandment I give to you, ​​that you love one another, ​even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. ​By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

An essential part of a Christian’s life, and therefore for the Church, is community. Authentic Community is community that seeks to resemble that of the early church described in Scripture. The fifth core value addressed in our study of core values for Providence Church is authentic community.

Six months ago, I read two books side-by-side that expressed the nature and need of community well: Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis; and Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. From these books I will attempt to define and describe authentic community.

Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community by Chester, Tim and Steve Timmis. Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community by Bonhoeffer, Dietrich.  New York: Harper & Row, 1954.

Chester and Timmis argue the importance of “gospel” and “community” in shaping the way we should “do church” (15). Their premise is that conservative evangelicals place their emphasis on the gospel, while others like the emergent church emphasize community. “We need Spirit-inspired imagination to reconfigure church and mission around the gospel word and the gospel community” (20).

To be an authentic gospel-community, the church must have leaders who rightly handle and apply God’s Word. “The gospel is a word; so the church must be word-centered” (32). Few Christians object to the need for being gospel-centered. “The problem is the gap between our rhetoric and the reality of our practice” (33).

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Core Values Study: Kingdom Priority

The fourth topic in our summer study of core values for a new church is Kingdom Priority. A church must recognize the priority the Kingdom of God has in the Scriptures. Jesus was clear about the importance of His Kingdom and its importance in our lives. His rightful place as Lord and King of all means the Christian life is reoriented with new priorities so that we live as those who have a Father in heaven who protects and provides for our every need.

God’s purpose for this world is to manifest His glory among all nations. The problem is that Sin has corrupted all nations and left all aspects of humanity in need of reconciliation to God (Colossians 1:20). Left to ourselves, therefore, none of us glorify God (nor can we). In order for the world to manifest His glory, God is raising up worshipers from every tribe and language through the renewing work of Jesus Christ (Revelation 21:5).

God has purposed to bring glory to Himself by advancing His Kingdom, not just over all human hearts, but all realities of human life. In other words, God plans on fulfilling His purpose for the world by making His invisible Kingdom visible. He has chosen to advance His Kingdom through His Church. Ultimately, God has chosen to advance His Kingdom by His Church with His Gospel (Romans 1:16).

God has given the Gospel of Christ to be proclaimed through His Church in order to advance His Kingdom to make known His Glory. Therefore, having a Kingdom of God mindset is essential for any church that seeks to be in line with God’s purposes. Any church that seeks to glorify God must have a high view of Kingdom priorities, if they are going to have a high view of the Gospel, the Church, and the Glory of God.

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Core Values Study: Bible Sufficiency

In planting a church, it is helpful to identify some core values that help define the new church. What makes the church significant? Why will the church be what it is and do the things that is does? What are some principles the church will hold tightly?

It is important to note that a core value is NOT a core value if your actions do not reflect what you say you value. To many people, organizations, and churches fall into the trap of saying they value certain principles, while their actions either fail to validate their claims, or even contradict their claims. If a church makes this mistake, they will come across as disingenuous and inauthentic.

Knowing this, it is important to know what you should value early, and then measure what you do against your stated values. These values can serve as measurements of accountability towards those things you recognize as most important. It is easy for an individual, church, or organization to state their values, yet have no accountability to see whether your actions verify the truth of your words. This a big reason why the early participants of this church planting endeavor are taking time to discuss core values. Do we really mean these are our values? And are we willing to be held accountable to these beliefs?

We have already discussed, in no specific order, Sent Living and Family Focused. Next we looked at Bible Sufficiency as a core value. The Bible is God’s Word intended to transform lives into the image of Jesus Christ. The Bible claims to be spoken directly from God through holy men as human instruments of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). It claims to be infallible and is without error. If we believe the Bible, then we should believe what it says about itself.

Furthermore, because we believe the Bible, we should trust the biblical text in all matters of life. God’s Word is not only inerrant and infallible, but it is sufficient for all areas of life. As a church, a primary means for this to happen is through preaching/teaching that is text-driven and Spirit-empowered such that the main point of the biblical text is the main point of the message.

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Core Values Study: Family Focused Church

The following is from our series of Sunday morning discussions with several families from Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL who are a part of the church planting efforts in eastern Lee County. We have been discussing core values for this new church.

2. Family Focused – The Bible teaches that the primary spiritual leaders of children are their parents (Deut. 6, Eph. 6). One goal of this new church will be to equip and empower families to grow in Christ and cultivate a healthy understanding of how the people of God worship together with those in their household, as well as other areas of life.

There are various ways churches are structured. There is no “right” model. Meaning, though there are characteristics and principles that every church should have, there are multiple ways to implement these principles in a church.

Some churches are designed according to departments and specialize in particular areas of ministry. An unintended consequence of this philosophy of ministry is that the family is divided into fragments while together with the church; and this implies that the church believes the primary spiritual influences of children are ministry directors, pastors, and Sunday school teachers, instead of their parents. (I know some great preschool, children, and student pastors, and all of them believe their ministries are to assist parents to disciple their children. The problem is, many parents have a contrary understanding.)

Before long, the mindset of parents conform to the belief that their children are better off under the teaching of professionals. As a result, children and teens today have a difficult time relating to adults because they are always with their peers, and not their parents and other adults. Once they graduate from the youth group, they find it difficult to join the church in adult settings. This is unfortunate and does not need to happen. Continue reading

Core Values Study: Sent Living

I know, I am endanger of letting this blog slip into the blog graveyard. As soon as I learned I was once again a church planter (back on April 26), it was as if life launched into warp speed. Nevertheless, there are great things to report.

Much of what I am doing right now is getting out into the eastern Lee County community (Alva, Buckingham, Fort Myers Shores, Lehigh Acres, East Fort Myers)  and meeting people. As I go, I have been praying God would direct my steps and allow me to see where He has been working and where I need to go. This past month I have met several great people and see God at work amidst this area.

I have been meeting with a core group of people in Lehigh for about six weeks now. My family and I are really enjoying this season of forming new friendships, and seeking God together to catch His vision for this new church. We are gelling! I use that word purposely because a few in our group are unashamed Gaither fans (southern Gospel), and yet I had them listening to Shai Linne (hip hop music) after our meeting Sunday night. Good times!

Sunday morning I met with about ten adults and ten children before we worshiped with our church family at Grace. I asked, before we can identify what values this new church will embrace at our core, what are some of your personal core values? I asked each one, including the children, to tell me what first came to their mind.

Here’s what they said: God (3), Family (7), Church Community provided through in-home small groups (3), Bible (2), the Gospel (5). Obviously, there are some that overlap. Having this discussion will be helpful for us this summer as we begin to think through what this new church will hold to firmly.

So we began looking at Sent Living, the first core value listed on our website that was prepared for us by Timmy Brister, an elder at Grace, and a brother I have grown to love over the past year. Here is what we mean by Sent Living: “The local church is realistically a church of missionaries, sent by the Father to live actively participating in the mission of God which is to bring glory to Jesus Christ.”

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