What do we mean when we say a church is gospel-centered? The word gospel means good news and is not simply the entry point into the Christian life but it is also the foundation and power that shapes all we do as followers of Jesus Christ, both in our daily lives and in our experience as a community of Christ-followers.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is not only the fire that ignites the Christian life, it’s the fuel that keeps Christians going and growing each day.
The gospel is the gloriously great announcement of what God has done through the birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ to satisfy (or settle) the opposition against sin which God’s holy nature requires and to secure unrestricted access to God that includes the free gift of eternal life, a free and perfect righteousness for all who trust in Christ alone for salvation, the empowering gift of the Holy Spirit, and a coming new creation free from decay, disasters, disease, evil, sin, and death.
Therefore, the gospel is central because it is not what God requires it is what God provides. The gospel is not an imperative, demanding things we must do. The gospel is an indicative, declaring what God has done. The gospel is not about human activity; it’s about divine achievement. The gospel is not a moralistic “Do!” The gospel is a merciful “Done!” The gospel is not good advice – it’s good news! We want the gospel of Christ to inform and empower all that we do to the glory of God.
The Basics of Gospel Centered Preaching and Teaching
Jesus is the climax of the Bible’s storyline. Here is the way to understand the narrative arc of the Bible’s story:
Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration
- Creation (Gen. 1-2): “It was good” (SHALOM* initiated)
- Fall (Gen. 3): Sin and destruction enter the world
- Redemption (Gen 3.15 – Revelation): God’s pursuit to redeem a people
- Restoration (Revelation 21-22): Final redemption and restoration of all things (SHALOM* restored)
(*For a further explanation of SHALOM see the previous blog post or listen to the CCC sermon The Gospel of Grace: From Genesis To Revelation.)
The main idea of gospel-centered preaching and teaching is to interpret the biblical text in its redemptive historical context (see above), the sermon must also aim for change, must proclaim the doctrinal center of the Reformation – grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for God’s glory alone — with passion and personal application. Gospel-centered preaching and teaching seeks to speak in a language that connects with the unchurched in our culture with an aim to shatter their stereotypes of Christianity and bringing them face to face with Jesus Christ who meets sinners real needs, felt and unfelt. The approach then is a blend of the Protestant heritage of preaching, evangelism, and pastoral care — with a concern to make real the Biblical aspects of our heritage in the midst of contemporary (increasingly) post-Christian culture.
The Underpinnings of A Sermon
Sermons seek to be be rooted deeply in God’s word. Our call is to move people into the word through asking (at least) six questions of every Biblical text that we preach:
- What is the “takeaway” (or, big idea) in the assigned text?
- What does God want people to know? (Knowledge question)
- What does God want people to do? (Action question)
- What does this text teach about God, His character, and ways?
- What does this text teach about fallen humankind? (Unfold the grand redemptive context.)
- How does this text teach about Jesus Christ?
“Help people to worship Christ in the text.”
We want to do solid exegesis and spend adequate prayer time to get ready. We don’t want to preach a sermon that we aren’t ready to preach. We seek to take the time to do the hard work of being before God, doing the study, and spending time in prayer to prepare.
We want to apply the sermon to your life before we preach it. Asking, “How will this apply to my life?” Then we want to tell people how it applies to their lives, which can be challenging. We can’t be telling people how God wants them to be unless we are willing to go there ourselves. We want to be vulnerable without TMI. Note, “For me this means…” or “This has been a real challenge for me. I’ve been trying to make this real in my life this week but I am struggling with…”
Walk in brokenness and vulnerability before the congregation. Don’t get weird about it but do it. Each sermon should move towards Christ – or as (the late) Ed Clowney said: “Help people to worship Christ in the text.” This may take some time to figure out how to do but try to do it.
 Dennis Johnson. Him We Proclaim. P & R Publishing: 2007:54.
 Adapted from Danny Aken.
Well done Greg. I hear yer voice in this. So good to call people to worship and magnify Jesus. Vulnerability v. TMI. So easy to tip over in either direction.
Well done Greg. Gospel-centered preaching is so essential to healthy churches. I’ve wondered sometimes in looking backwards at the years of ministry and the ebbs and flows of evangelicalism, where and how and when does the gospel become eclipsed by even a hint of moralism? Preaching Christ is always wonderful, or it should be, but preaching and living the crucified live is another. Are we self aware enough of the time even as pastors who handle the Word of God regularly, to not see our own need of Christ’s atoning sacrifice for some area of our life.