I have a good friend named Toby Kurth. Last year he planted Christ Church in San Francisco. Toby and I serve together on the board for The Gospel Coalition: Bay Area. This year we have Toby coming to speak at our 20s retreat. And this past week Toby wrote a great little piece, Will Gospel-Centrality Go the Way of Fundamentalism?, that I greatly appreciate and that I’ve posted below. Enjoy.
Will gospel-centrality go the way of fundamentalism? Let’s hope not. Before fundamentalism became associated with reductionist “fighting fundies” it made many wonderful contributions to evangelical Christianity. In the face of liberalism, fundamentalism defended the basic biblical doctrines that conservative evangelicals believed were fundamental, or one might say central, to the Christian faith. Doctrines that any “gospel-centered” evangelical would still enthusiastically support: the inerrancy of the Scriptures, the virgin birth and the deity of Jesus, the substitutionary atonement by God’s grace and through faith, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and the authenticity of Christ’s miracles.
Fundamentalism equipped pastors and churches to preserve, protect, and proclaim a clear gospel message. Over time fundamentalism became little more than a slogan with no real substance behind it. Fundamentalists would doggedly defend themselves against all that disagreed with their fundamentals, but those fundamentals lost definition and connection to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Like fundamentalism, gospel-centrality seeks to equip pastors and churches to preserve, protect, and proclaim a clear gospel message. Organizations like the Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel came into existence for that very purpose.
Gospel centrality must not be reduced to a slogan or way of defining yourself that does not really describe how you view the world. Gospel-centrality says that all of life and the Scriptures must be interpreted through the person and work of Jesus Christ. If gospel-centrality becomes just a way of speaking about ministry with certain buzzwords and catch phrases then it will have lost all meaning.
We do not drift towards gospel-centrality in our own lives or in our churches. It involves an active and frequent application of gospel truth to every situation we face. What makes me nervous are phrases like “Is he gospel-centered?” or “That is not a gospel-centered church.” Let’s not settle for shorthand. Being “gospel-centered” is a life-long endeavor, not a slogan. It is not the ability to recite a few well-crafted phrases; it is rather the commitment to continually turn away from defining yourself or your church in accordance with anything other than the person and work of Jesus Christ.