Why the “Gospel Centered” Movement Scares Me
There is a new trend in churches and children’s ministries these days. More and more, people are speaking about being “gospel centered.” There is “gospel centered” curriculum for all levels of the church. There are “gospel centered” small groups, “gospel centered” conferences, “gospel centered” churches, “gospel centered” preaching, “gospel centered” discipleship, “gospel centered” missions and much much more. Soon, I imagine, we will see “gospel centered” coffee bars and “gospel centered” play yards, but I digress.
I have a pet peeve. I have several, but one is relevant to this article. It bothers me when we start to sling around lingo in lieu of of actually doing what the lingo would suggest. I think this habit is pandemic in the church. Allow me to give you a couple of examples of phrases that now make me cringe. First, let’s talk about “vision casting.” Is the idea of vision casting bad? Of course not. It simply means setting a vision for your church or ministry and helping other people to buy into and get excited about that vision. That’s a great thing and something we should strive for, but the term “vision casting” is now thrown around more often than a ball in the game of hot potato. In the process, the phrase itself has become a substitute for actually doing anything. In other words, we spend more time talking about the phrase vision casting than actually casting vision. It has become a Christian cliché.
What about “seeker sensitive.” That’s an oldie but a goody. It started as an idea that churches should be a welcoming place for non-Christians (a biblical idea to be sure). Over time though, and with overuse of the phrase, it took on a life of its own and morphed into a phrase for a kind of shallow and palatable Christianity. In its overuse, it had become useless.
Which brings me to the “gospel centered” movement. There is no doubt in my mind that the cross of Christ should be central to our lives. It is the focal point of the Bible and of human history. I was grateful to see a movement, particularly in children’s ministry, back towards Christ in all that we teach and do. I think it’s great the curriculum now exists which focuses on the gospel. I spent my fair share of time rewriting curriculum to focus more on Christ in the past. So, again, the idea is solid and biblically sound. However, it scares me that the pendulum may be swinging too far in the opposite direction. Instead of the original focus on Christ, are we now focused so much on being “gospel centered” that it has become our man-made attempt to do something that can only be done by the power of Christ? I think we are now faced with frightening possibility that “gospel centered” may have become the newest Christian cliché. For example, I wonder if when a church or ministry really is gospel centered whether it needs to continually point out that it is “gospel centered” to its members. Is it appropriate to advertise a curriculum or conference as “gospel centered” or should that just be evident by the contents thereof? God help us if we are taking something as fundamental to our faith as the gospel and somehow cheapening it in our effort to promote our churches and programs.