Our lives are wrapped up in the gospel. Sinners have escaped the wrath of God, that is to say – they have been saved and they are being sanctified all because of the gospel. In short, “the gospel is God’s reconciling work in Christ – that through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, God is making all things new both personally for those who repent and believe, and cosmically as He redeems culture and creation from its subjection to futility.” Sinners who entered into the kingdom of God owe their lives to the gospel. The church, as a result should be Jesus-centered and gospel-centered. These are the primary themes of Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church.
The authors set the stage in the opening chapter by noting that God has a purpose in bringing people to Himself: “Truly, God’s plan of redemption is about more than me and you and our neighbor down the street. It’s about men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nation on earth becoming a part of His covenant community.” They stand on the shoulders of the Reformers who believed that it was God who “spoke the church into existence,” what they referred to as the “Creature(s) of the Word.” This church “is a place where individuals are transformed and empowered to join God’s corporate family and participate in God’s plan to reconcile all things to Himself.” So from the outset, readers understand that the gospel stands at the center of God’s purposes. Therefore, the gospel ought to stand as the central and defining element of the church. The remainder of the book builds upon this reality.
The authors demonstrate how the Creature worships, how she relates to one another in community, how she serves, and how she multiplies. Perhaps a few citations will capture the attention of some and motivate them to pour over the pages of this excellent work. Notice, again how Jesus and His gospel stand at the center of the church:
“If a lack of serving pervades a church culture, the answer is not to crank up the guilt and arm-twisting but rather to instill a new, intense focus and awareness on the gospel.”
“A healthy gospel-centric culture turns the church from an institution into a movement of truth and grace where people’s lives are continually formed in the gospel.”
“It must be a continual priority to infuse the totality of our churches with the beauty and awesomeness of the gospel.”
“Without prophetic leadership centered on Jesus, the church will drift theologically either to legalism or to liberalism. Without priestly leadership immersed in the gospel, the people (in practice) will be either pampered with false love or led without grace and mercy. Without a kingly leader saturated in the gospel, the church will philosophically wander without clarity or will be clear on something other than Jesus. The culture of a church suffers if one of these critical leadership functions is missing or if one of them is not immersed in the gospel.”
Creature of the Word: The Jesus Centered-Church is the antidote to the pragmatism that is being pandered in the church. It is a not so subtle reminder that the church has veered off course and needs to return to its first love. The authors beautifully summarize their arguments on the last page: “The gospel reality awakens us to pleasures evermore and causes us to abandon our prior delusions of grandeur to readily accept the inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for those who believe (1 Pet. 1:3-5). In short, a successful church is motivated and empowered by the gospel to remain faithful to Christ and His mission to make disciples.” Read and absorb Creature of Word: The Jesus-Centered Church and use it as a litmus test in your church to gauge gospel-centeredness.