Over the last several years, there have been numerous ministries, books, conferences, blogs, and churches gravitating toward gospel-centered ministry. Thankfully, I was blessed to be a member of one of those churches during seminary. Through that church I came to understand that the gospel must be what all of our ministries are based on, empowered by, and result from. After seeing that modeled for three years, when I left for my first pastorate, I immediately began working to create a gospel-centered culture within my church. Three and a half years later I am still working, but by God's grace a lot of progress has been made.
Recently, I was asked what exactly I am doing to help create a gospel-centered culture here at Sycamore. Although my ministry and I are imperfect, I want to share with you six things I have been doing over my time here.
(1) Preach the gospel
Pastor, your pulpit ministry has a huge influence over your church, which means if you want your church to be gospel-centered, your preaching must be gospel-centered. Gospel-centered preaching involves more than tacking the gospel on to the end of your sermon, as if it was an afterthought. Instead gospel-centered preaching involves the gospel taking center-stage. You know that has happened when you use the gospel to encourage; convict; draw out; spur on; and promote joy, hope, and courage among your flock. So if you desire to create a gospel-centered culture in your church, make the gospel the center of your preaching.
(2) Counsel with the gospel
A pastor's ministry doesn't end after he steps out of the pulpit. In most cases, it is just beginning. That's because faithfully preaching the gospel week in and week out will inevitable draw questions and sin to the surface, questions and sin that must be dealt with in the counseling room. Just like in the pulpit, the gospel must take center-stage in your counseling. You must not motivate your people to change through positive thinking and bootstrap mentality. You have to motivate them with the gospel. Doing so is not only what is best for them, but also it's what will help create a gospel-centered culture in your church. As your people see the power and benefit of the gospel for both salvation and sanctification, they will begin applying it not only to themselves, but to those around them as well.
(3) Motivate with the gospel
When it comes to motivation, the tactic most people default to is guilt. I think that is because it works, and it is what comes most natural to us. While guilt can motivate in the short-term, it can't and doesn't produce lasting and healthy results. That's because it leaves our people feeling beaten up and, at times, depressed. I know you don’t want that for your people, which means you have to use something other than guilt to motivate them. You have to use the gospel. So the next time you need to motivate your flock to volunteer, tithe, reach the lost, or deal with their sin, apply the gospel, rather than guilt. It is not only what's best for them, but also it is what will help create a gospel-centered culture in your church.
(4) Talk about the gospel
I don't know who said it first, but whoever said, "Your people aren't really hearing what you are saying until you are tired of saying it" was right. Which means, if you want to create a gospel-centered culture in your church, you can never tire of talking about the gospel.
(5) Give gospel-centered resources
If you are anything like me, you not only grew in your knowledge of gospel-centered ministry through your local church, but also through books, podcasts, videos, and articles. Just as you benefit, your people will as well. So as often as you can, give your people gospel-centered resources to read, listen to, and watch.
(6) Pray for a gospel-centered culture
Prayer is powerful; it truly changes things. It can change the hearts of men, it can bring about healing, and it can change the culture in your church. Often times I believe we forget the power of prayer. When we do, we begin to rely on our own strength, know-how, and ingenuity. But that alone won't do when it comes to creating a gospel-centered culture because people's hearts and minds need to be changed. The only way that is going to truly happen is if God changes them. So if you want a gospel-centered culture to take root in your church, go to the Lord in prayer, asking Him not only to change your own heart and mind, but those of your congregation as well.