One of the biggest struggles for many pastors is merging new congregants into a church. Think of it as adopting a child while already having several children. If you have children, you have a routine; you have lingo you use together; there are known expectations; and your family may work like a well-oiled machine.
If you adopted a child into your family, adapting might be hard for this new family member who probably came from a place with a different routine, or with no routine at all. Your new child won’t know the inside jokes or shortened phrases you use, and won’t know the expectations which are different within every family.
When someone visits a church, even if they are coming from a similar denomination, it will take time to acclimate to a new church. While most churches proclaim the Gospel, every church seems to have its own flavor, as I like to say. Regular attenders should realize that it takes time to transition, and offer grace during this time for newcomers.
For a pastor this can be a struggle, because he might have spent last week, months, or even years setting down foundational truths for people. Those people understand them, use them in their conversation, and know how to apply them. Someone new can step in the door and while they see that people are using Bibles, worshiping Jesus, and loving one another, they may not understand some of the foundation which has been set.
This made me think through these things and how we can better inform newcomers to church and help acclimate them into our service. Therefore I have developed tags for my articles called “top topics.” Someone could read a handful of articles and figure out what we believe. I’d like to spend a couple weeks talking about these foundational things.
So the question becomes, what does Gospel-centered, Jesus-centered, and cross-centered mean? This will be a three-part series to explore these ideas. They are in essence three different topics, but work together much like the trinity. Part I will talk about how the Gospel must be the center of the church.
THE GOSPEL AS MOST IMPORTANT
In I Corinthians 15:3-11 the apostle Paul calls the Gospel the most important aspect of the Christian faith. The Gospel is simply that Jesus came to earth as human, but still was God. He lived a sinless life, died on the cross for the sins of man, rose again three days later and then ascended back to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. If you believe that your sins are paid through the cross, you believe in the Gospel for salvation. I do want to note here that the salvation does not come from the prayer itself, but the belief which comes from what Christ did on the cross.
By saying that the Gospel is the most important part of the Christian faith, Paul is not saying that other things in Scripture are not important. He is just saying that they are not the most important thing for someone’s faith or the church. Because if you don’t have salvation, what does the rest of Scripture matter? If you can’t believe in Jesus for salvation, why believe in any of it?
This is also to say that the Gospel is the number one thing that we should rally around. If someone abandons this most important truth, we should absolutely split over that. This primary focus should be the central ground on which Christians must take a stand.
There are churches and Christians who center on things which are not the Gospel. That is not to say that they don’t believe the Gospel, but that they have not placed the Gospel as the supreme authority. They believe the Gospel, but center their churches around denomination, politics, Christian living, race, or areas such as childhood education. Anytime you find a church which puts the Gospel as secondary to anything else, you will find an unhealthy church.
A church which stands upon the idea that the Gospel is the most important part of theology and central to its theology will have a healthy church atmosphere. In a Gospel-centered church you can disagree on secondary or tertiary doctrine, and still maintain unity in your church.
This is not to say that secondary doctrine or tertiary practical Biblical application is not important. They should be studied, preached on, and discussed. But a Gospel-centered church can have individuals who disagree on doctrinal matters secondary to the Gospel, and choose to still work together for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Gospel-centered individuals can disagree, but still worship together despite their other theological differences.
This article is intended to set up the foundations of what it means to be Gospel-centered. The next two weeks we will look at what it also means to be Jesus-centered and cross-centered. We will also see how those things relate to each other.
Think about your church. Is it a Gospel-centered church, or is there something secondary which your church is known for before the Good News proclaiming the finished work of Jesus Christ? If someone came and visited your church and observed it, and was asked that question, how would they answer it? What would they say is the center of your church? If you are not part of a Gospel-centered church, how can you start the conversation or work toward that goal?
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St., Browndale, PA 18421, on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. ? You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.