The Send Network Church Planting Blog

5 Tests to Determine If Your Church is Truly Gospel-Centered: Part 2

August 14, 2012 by J.D. Greear
The following is part two 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.

2. Gospel-centered churches are characterized by the presence of God  (Acts 2:43).

This first church was full of the Spirit. There are a few things in that chapter that we will not likely experience in our congregations, but verse 43 gives you a classic description of the effect of the fullness of the Spirit—it says the people were “filled with awe.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said (and I paraphrase), The presence of God is a felt-sense of the attributes of God as revealed in the gospel. Their sense of the “presence of God” was not the result of a musical crescendo or an emotive preacher. It came simply from the preaching of the gospel by ones who really believed it and felt its passions within their souls. Another of my favorite theologians, Jonathan Edwards, described his sense of the presence of God like this: “Sometimes only mentioning the name of Christ or an attribute of God will cause my heart to burn within me. Suddenly God appears glorious to me. When I enjoy this sweetness it seems to carry me outside of myself. I cannot bring myself even to take my eye from this Glorious Object.”
How can we claim to have gospel-centered churches if our services are not characterized by exuberant joy?
Note that this sort of experience is not at odds with doctrine, or even beyond doctrine, but flows out of good doctrine. It's not less than doctrine, it is more. God's beauty and majesty are not just to be perceived with the mind, but they are to be felt in the soul. Where this happens, there is the joy you see in Acts 2:46-47. It is hard for me to believe that a church can really “get” the gospel when its services are not characterized by joy. Yes, there are times for somberness and mourning and repentance in worship, but the predominant motif of biblical worship is joy. Multiple places in Scripture command us to clap our hands, shout with joy, and to sing and delight in God. They tell us that in God's presence is “fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). So how can we claim to have gospel-centered churches if our services are not characterized by exuberant joy?  Here is the link to the full talk.  

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