The Send Network Church Planting Blog

5 Tests to Determine If Your Church Is Truly Gospel-Centered: Part 1

August 13, 2012 by J.D. Greear
The following is part one of a five-part summation of a message given by J.D. Greear to local pastors and church leaders at the Advance the Church spring regional, 2012. The link to the full audio is below. Acts 2:41–47 gives us five "tests" of gospel-centrality. If we are preaching the Spirit-anointed gospel, these five things will be the result in our churches, just as they were in the very first one:

1. Evangelistic effectiveness AND doctrinal depth (Acts 2:41-42, 47).

Acts 2:41 tells us that in one day 3,000 people were saved and baptized, and verse 47 reports that God added daily to their number those who were being saved. The first church grew in a hurry. At the same time, the people were “devoted to the teaching of the Apostles” and were possessed by a great sense of awe over God's glory. I often hear church depth placed at odds with church width. The early church clearly did both. In reality, the one is impossible without the other. Churches that grow wide without growing deep are not creating "sustainable" width, only generating a little temporary excitement. Churches that don't grow wide are probably not nearly as deep as they may think. Gospel depth almost always produces gospel fruitfulness (Mark 4:16-17). Understanding the gospel gives you a sense of people’s lostness. You understand the wrath of God against their sin, how imminent His judgment is, how great His grace is towards them. Understanding the gospel gives you humility, because you realize how lost you were before God saved you. Understanding the gospel gives you the faith to believe God for great things, because the gospel reveals how willing and able God is to save. You show me someone characterized by a sense of urgency, humility, love and the boldness that comes from great faith, and I’ll show you someone who will be an effective evangelist! Healthy churches do both (Col. 1:5-6). Certain churches within the gospel-centered movement are surprisingly unconcerned with, or ineffective at, evangelism.  They talk a lot about “mission" and "planting churches" but somehow that never translates into evangelism. Some wear smallness as a badge of honor.
A lot of the criticisms directed at rapidly growing churches seem (to me) to be motivated by about 30 percent theological concern and 70 percent jealousy, fear and laziness.
They love to critique everyone else's evangelism, but do little of their own. Charles Spurgeon—no theological lightweight—said, “I would sooner bring one sinner to Jesus Christ than unpack all the mysteries of the divine Word, for salvation is the thing we are to live for.” A lot of the criticisms directed at rapidly growing churches seem (to me) to be motivated by about 30 percent theological concern and 70 percent jealousy, fear and laziness. This is not to say that there is no validity to the theological concerns, just that those making them should pay attention to their motives. Our arrogance may keep us from receiving the grace God works even in the midst of theological shortcomings. We ought to be humbled by the zeal for souls present in movements that do not achieve, in our view, a full gospel-centrality. As D. L. Moody said to one Reformed critic of his, “It is clear you don't like my way of doing evangelism. You raise some good points. Frankly, I sometimes do not like my way of doing evangelism. But I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.” Here is the link to the full talk.

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