Jonathan McIntosh has launched Rethink Mission, an initiative to inspire gospel-centered missional churches. I met Jonathan a year ago at an Acts 29 bootcamp in St. Louis and benefited greatly from both his preaching and hospitality. We've had the opportunity to interact a bit since then and this is a guy I want to continue to listen to and learn from - I'd encourage you to do the same.
Here's a blurb from the Rethink Mission site on gospel-centered churches:
Christian churches that do not preach the gospel? Wait. Are they teaching anti-Christian doctrine? Satanism? Snake-handling? Neo-shamanism? (I don’t really even know what neo-shamanism is, but it sure sounds cool.)
Often, it’s not that these churches have fallen into some gross heresy. Most likely, it’s just that over time, they’ve let the gospel slip in favor of another way to try to draw people and change people.
A few of the most prevalent things I’ve seen that can crowd out the gospel:
Moralism – using fear, rules, and commands as the basis for discouraging sin and encouraging holy living, which sadly results in increased self-righteousness among rule-keepers and absolute despair in those who are unable to live up.
Pragmatism – when in an effort to reach new people, church leaders spend more time teaching helpful techniques or useful principles than actually pointing people to the only thing that has real power to change both hearts and lives.
Political agendas – out of a desire to get involved in the public square and to influence policy, Christians of every political stripe often begin to equate the spread of the gospel with the growth of a specific political party or platform.
What’s tricky is that usually these –isms start with a noble aspiration: a desire to help people change & grow, a desire to reach out to people far from God, a desire to use influence to change the way things are done.
Unfortunately when something other than God is our primary goal, no matter how good that goal is, we will eventually start taking short cuts to get what we want accomplished.
A gospel-centered church understands that change or transformation of any kind, especially authentic heart-transformation, cannot happen apart from the gospel of grace.
A gospel-centered church roots and keeps the focus of all its activity – teaching, worship, outreach, social activism, and discipleship – honed in on the gospel: the riches of the grace of God available through of the sacrificial death of Jesus for sinners.
Because of this, a gospel-centered church is committed to:
• Reading & teaching the entire Bible in light of the gospel.
• Preaching the gospel to believers, not just unbelievers.
• Leaders applying the gospel to themselves first; church leaders are the first repenters.
• Cultivating a leadership culture marked by ever increasing “gospel astonishment.”
• Being known for an atmosphere of grace; gospel-centered churches are safe places for seekers, skeptics and those outside of the faith.
• Producing people who don’t just know the doctrine of the gospel but who love the person of Jesus Christ.
These are the themes that we are committed to fleshing out together in greater detail at Rethink Mission.
At the end of the day, grace isn’t just something we “get” and the cross is not just some object in time. These things hinge on a person. At the center of it all is a person.
In an age when his name is easily tossed around or relegated to some minor point of doctrine used to win arguments and manipulate people, we long for the day when Jesus is seen for what he is: the hero of the story.