Gospel-centered. What does it really mean anyway?
After all, Gospel-centered sounds great, doesn’t it? But what does it really mean for us? And how can you apply this mindset to your youth ministry? Great questions. Glad you asked . . .
To define this idea of Gospel-centeredness, I want to take us back to Scripture. Let's look briefly at Paul’s words in Romans 1. This is where Paul is telling the Roman Christ-followers how much he has “longed” to come visit them. He talks about looking forward to hanging out with them, so that they can learn from each other. And then, in verse 15, Paul says:
So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Paul is eager to preach the Gospel to the Romans. But wait! They’re already Christ-followers, right? So why would Paul be so eager to preach the Gospel to people who already know it? Precisely because Paul knows something that we should all hope to internalize . . .
THE GOSPEL IS NOT INTRODUCTORY MATERIAL. IT’S NOT BASIC. IT’S NOT 101. YOU DON’T GRADUATE FROM THE GOSPEL. IT’S NOT SOMETHING YOU MOVE ON FROM.
In fact, in verse 16, Paul would say that we can’t move past the Gospel because it is “power”! Peter understood this, too. In 2 Peter 1, Peter talks about the idea of being “reminded” of the foundational principles of the Gospel. Knowing he is nearing the end of his life, he writes:
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder . . . (2 Peter 1:12-15)
Peter is saying, “Yeah, I get that you are Christians and that you have a solid faith. But don’t forget the ‘first things.’ Don't forget the elemental truths of your faith." And I love that Peter said the goal of this reminder is to “stir up” his audience. Peter and Paul both knew the power of the Gospel.
I believe many Christ-followers see the Gospel as something they move on from. It’s essential to salvation, but once saved, it’s something that can be moved past. The Gospel is too often taken for granted, passed over without much in the way of deep consideration. All because, for many, it feels like something that is basic.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In another one of the great paradoxes of Christianity, the Gospel is at once simple in its basic truths, and deeply profound in its implications.
In his excellent book Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Jonathan Dodson writes this:
The Gospel isn’t just for evangelism, the initial making of disciples, but for discipleship, the continual making of disciples.
So how does this concept impact what we do? In our curriculum, we constantly go back to the plumbline of the Gospel. How does the Gospel transform us? How is it shaping us? How are our todays and tomorrows different because of it? GENERATE, our summer camp experience, is literally built on the idea of teenagers “getting” the Gospel, and being equipped and challenged to “give it away.” When we craft a resource, when we lead a workshop, even in our staff devotions, we make sure the Gospel is driving what we say and do.
I want to challenge you to do the same in your youth ministry.
There are various components to your ministry. You do events. You have fun. You hang out. There are times when you’re goofing off. There are times when you’re serving. There are times when you’re teaching. There are serious times. There are sad times. There are laid back times. In every single element of your youth ministry, there is room for the Gospel.
WHETHER IN WORD OR DEED, THE GOSPEL HAS TO BE CENTRAL TO WHAT YOU DO.
If it’s not, you run the risk that what you’re doing isn’t that much different from anything the world has to offer your kids.