ELEVATE: Making the Gospel the Center of Ministry
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:1-2
When was the last time you heard the gospel presented clearly? Better yet, when was the last time you clearly presented the gospel to someone?
Depending on the church you go to, you may hear a very clear gospel presentation every Sunday or only at special events or never. Maybe you share the gospel almost every day when you’re out in public or you’ve never shared it in your life. Growing up, I never heard the gospel, as the church I went to never shared it—on Sundays, Wednesdays, special events, VBS—it just never happened. Praise be to God though, in ninth grade, I had the opportunity to go to a Student Life camp and hear the gospel presented clearly by Louie Giglio and that was the night I surrendered my life to Christ. If you want some clarity on what I mean by gospel, please read this!
The gospel is the only story that, by its hearing, we can be moved by the Holy Spirit to repent of our sins and surrender our lives to Christ. The gospel is also what humbles us and reminds us of our need for Christ every day of our lives thereafter.
Just as I said in the discipleship blog yesterday, our need for hearing the gospel is not a one-time need just as salvation is not a one-time event. We should be preaching the gospel to ourselves daily, and that looks like reminding ourselves that we are sinners in need of a Savior and that we could never be righteous on our own, and it looks like praising God for sending his Son down to die and rise again so we can have abundant life with Him. I daily say something like that in my prayer, to remind myself of the never-changing truth that I am just as in need of Jesus’ payment for my sin today as I was before I gave my life to Christ. No matter how “holy” I get and how much I look like Jesus, which I totally don’t by the way, but we’re working on it, I NEED Jesus to save me.
A lot of times though, in the church, we think that the gospel is elementary doctrine and we build from there, but we do not center everything around the gospel. Tim Keller, in his book Center Church (which is SO good) says, “It is one thing to have a ministry that is gospel believing and even gospel proclaiming but quite another to have one that is gospel centered.”
If you’re thinking, “But what is wrong with teaching more complicated doctrines and theology and other specific issues of the faith?” The answer is nothing, unless we forget where we started and do not bring everything through the lens of the gospel and our deep need for Christ. When we do not make the gospel the center of our ministry, something else is… that something else can vary depending on our church and specific ministry, but it is never worthy of being the center. Sometimes we make the pastor the center or social justice or discipleship or evangelism or prosperity or us, and while some of these things have a right and proper place in the church, their place should not be the center.
Keller also says in his book,
“Most of our problems in life come from a lack of proper orientation to the gospel. Pathologies in the church and sinful patterns in our individual lives ultimately stem from a failure to think through the deep implications of the gospel and to grasp and believe the gospel through and through. Put positively, the gospel transforms our hearts and our thinking and changes our approaches to absolutely everything. When the gospel is expounded and applied in its fullness in any church, that church will look unique. People will find in it an attractive, electrifying balance of moral conviction and compassion.”
Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said he wanted to remind them of the gospel he preached to them. He told them to hold fast to the word he preached to them, that word being the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-2). He said this because the gospel had become secondary and was not in the proper place of being center in their lives. They were a hot mess, falling into sin and falling for false teaching, and Paul directly attributed this to them forgetting the gospel, the very message that has the power to change lives.
If you are a leader in ministry, you have a responsibility to make the gospel the center of your ministry, whether you’re a leader of leaders or a 6th grade girls small group leader. Because let me tell you, a 6th grade girl’s heart is often centered around what people think of her, friend groups, and social media, but a pastor’s heart has just as much capacity to be centered on things other than the gospel, like building up their name or an agenda or even deep-rooted sin struggles. We all need the gospel to be the center of our lives and our ministries.
In order to make the gospel the center of your ministry, try:
Bringing the gospel into every lesson you teach in some form or fashion. You don’t have to do a ten-minute gospel presentation every week during small group, but at some point, use a question or statement to remind your students of what Jesus did for them if they have given their lives to Him. What a shame it would be for someone to visit our church one night, never hear the only message the church has that can change their life, and then they never come back.
Daily remind yourself of the gospel. This has radically changed my prayer time. Every morning I start praying by speaking the gospel back to God and myself. It keeps me humble, reminding me how unworthy I am, ready to share it when the opportunity comes because it is fresh in my mind, and forever thankful for God’s grace. Reminding yourself of the gospel will help you tremendously in reminding others of it.
Share the gospel. When people are getting saved through the hearing of the gospel, there’s a spiritual fervor and energy like no other time. When we are sharing the gospel frequently, it will hopefully lead to people getting saved, believers being edified, and more people becoming passionate about the power the gospel has to change lives.