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Why the “Gospel Centered” Movement Scares Me

Thy Word 2There 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.  

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4 Comments

  1. Larry Shallenberger

    My fear is that -some- in the movement seem to have a narrow, individualistic, and pietistic definition of Gospel.

  2. samluce

    Wayne I think the problem with trying to be gospel centered is that most often people trying to be that are not that but are driven by self. They are seeker sensitive then, Pentecostal, then gospel centered. The problem in my mind is that we are trying to do or be something because we really want something else. We want success. We want human recognition so we are slaves to catch phrases. I don’t think you can try to be gospel centered I think it’s a revelation from God. I grew up in church my whole life but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I saw something that I will never be able to unsee. I saw the beauty of the Gospel. To me fads come and go but one thing will never change and that is the centrality of the message of the Gospel.

    I believe that the highest goal of those who communicate to kids is to help them see Jesus in all things. To find him more valuable and more beautiful than anything else. For me that is something worth dying for. I like that church is fun and exciting but those things are just bonus. I want my life to hidden the the beauty of Christ. To live for him and to die daily in him.

    The problem I have is people slapping the word gospel on their crap so they can sell it because the word gospel is popular right now.

    • Wayne

      As I’ve said elsewhere, I think you summed up exactly what I was trying to express much better than I did! The only thing I would add is that I believe it is not only publishers “slapping gospel” on things to sell them. I think it is churches and ministries and children’s ministries.

  3. Matt Norman

    It seems to me that if a person really loves Jesus and loves the Gospel, then the Gospel will naturally be a central part of the ministry that person leads. I would suggest that if a person feel the need to build a “Gospel centered” ministry, then they might need to take a step back and spend some time falling in love with Jesus and the Gospel all over again.

    Matt N.