“It’s easy for the mechanics of ministry to minimize the mystery of the gospel.”
Is it possible for a church to take the gospel for granted? Can we get so accustomed to it that we miss its power and significance to ministry? Could a church be so busy doing ministry (good things) that it’s not focused on Jesus?
I think it’s possible. It’s possible in really good churches led by good spiritual leaders.
Church can be exhausting. There is so much to do. The grand irony in the church is that the human element can crowd out the divine element. It’s never intentional, but it can happen. The daily responsibilities in the natural realm can distract us from the supernatural realm.
We’re here for people. We’re here to serve. That’s a good thing. But it’s easy to get lost in individual agendas and miss the big picture. It’s easy for the mechanics of ministry to minimize the mystery of the gospel.
Let’s be candid—the list of stuff is long: things like finances, buildings, culture shifts, technology, staffing, etc. We’re currently working on evaluating our staff’s health insurance policy. Talk about things that can distract you from God!
It’s possible to go a few days, or weeks, or maybe even longer, and not lead in such a way that the good news of Jesus Christ remains central to all that is done.
There is certainly no judgment here, or I’d be judging myself, too. But I’m so passionate about the gospel and why we “do church,” that if this post serves only as a good reminder and encouragement to us all, it’s worthwhile.
And if by chance this lands closer to reality for anyone, and serves as en encouragement to get back on track, then all the better.
Here are six signs your church is gospel-focused.
1. Grace is demonstrated freely.
Grace is at the core of the gospel.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:8-10)
Grace doesn’t supersede truth. They must be received together, but it’s difficult to overdo grace.
So how do you demonstrate this grace with others? Are you quick to forgive? Will you give a second chance? Do you focus on the potential for change?
2. Faith is developed consistently.
Trusting that God will provide, Jesus is with you, and the Holy Spirit is guiding you—it’s not always easy. On a good day, it is not a big challenge. But in difficult times, the faith of even strong spiritual leaders can be stretched very thin. Let me ask you: As a leader, have you ever had doubts? Of course you have … we all have.
That’s part of the process of becoming spiritually fit and mature as a Christian. If faith came naturally and easy to everyone, I don’t think it would operate the way we know it does.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Heb. 11:1)
How do you encourage and challenge people to develop their faith?
3. Salvation is proclaimed boldly.
We don’t need to apologize for the gospel to be politically correct. We also don’t need to be culturally insensitive to prove a point.
In Colossians 4:5-6, Paul says it well: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Do you offer salvation with confidence, without hesitation … and yet with the grace that makes the gospel attractive to those who are far from God?
4. Baptism is celebrated regularly.
Baptism is an outcome of salvation and scriptural obedience. It’s not a starting place, but it’s a deeply meaningful sacrament that is part of a gospel-focused ministry.
Baptism is not something to lift above salvation or test salvation, but there is incredible beauty and power in the symbolism of dying to sin and rising in Christ. Baptism inspires people about the core of the gospel.
Are you pleased with where you are at concerning baptisms? Is your church outreach-oriented?
5. Prayer is practiced daily.
We all pray. But I sometimes wonder if we tap the full potential of prayer. I wonder if we harness the vast power available in prayer. All prayer is good. Don’t let anyone discourage you or tell you that somehow you pray “wrong.” James 4:3 does say we can ask with wrong motives, but let’s assume good motives.
The important thing is simply to pray every day.
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” (Col. 4:2-3)
How’s your prayer life? Is it where you want it? Do you consider your church a praying church? What does that look like?
6. Jesus’ name is lifted up unashamedly.
Jesus is the name above all other names.
I’ve often prayed, “Father, may we never lift up the name of 12Stone higher than the name of Jesus.” I can’t imagine anyone doing that intentionally, but it can happen.
It’s more common to say “God” than “Jesus” in current culture. There’s obviously nothing wrong with reference to God or a common phrase like, “It’s a God thing.” But I believe heaven resonates every time we lift the name of Jesus in a way that honors him.
Does your church boldly lift up and proclaim the name of Jesus?