Ray Ortlund, pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, TN, explains what it means to be a gospel-centered church:
A gospel-centered church holds together two things. One, a gospel-centered church preaches a bold message of grace — so bold that it becomes the end of the law for all who believe. Not our performance but Christ’s performance for us. Not our sacrifices but his sacrifice for us. Not our superiority but only his worth and prestige. The good news of substitution. The good news that our okayness is not in us but exterior to us in Christ alone. Climbing down from the high moral ground, because only Christ belongs up there. That message, that awareness, that clarity. Every Sunday.
Two, a gospel-centered church translates that theology into its sociology. The good news of God’s grace beautifies how we treat one another. In fact, the horizontal reveals the vertical. How we treat one another reveals what we really believe as opposed to what we think we believe. It is possible to say, “We are a gospel-centered church,” and sincerely mean it, while we make our church into a law-centered social environment. We see God above lowering his gun, and we breathe a sigh of relief. But if we are trigger-happy toward one another, we don’t really get it yet.
…A gospel-centered church is a variegated collection of sinners. They come together and stick together because they have nothing to fear from their message or their culture. The theology creates the sociology, and the sociology incarnates the theology.