“Our church is grace-centered.”
“We need more gospel-centered preaching.”
The terms “grace-centered” and “gospel-centered” are sometimes used to describe the emphasis of a church or ministry, but I suspect that not everybody knows what they mean. “Don’t all Christians believe in grace?” “Don’t all churches preach the Gospel?” In this post, I want to briefly explain what these words mean and why they matter. (Some people might draw a distinction between “grace-centered” and “gospel-centered” but in practice they are largely interchangeable)
Like most technical terms, the expressions “grace-centered” and “gospel-centered” have developed in reaction to something else. All broadly evangelical or pentecostal churches (or even liberal churches) would say that they preach grace and love the Gospel. And, of course, the words “grace” and “Gospel” show up in most discussions of Christianity. But are they at the center? Is “grace” the main thing which shapes the thinking, speech, and actions of your church? Is “gospel” something that only needs to be preached for evangelistic events? Is “gospel” simply a type of music? Is “gospel” used loosely as a umbrella term for any nice, Christian thing you do to help your community?
While people use “grace” and “gospel” in different ways, those who use the terms “grace-centered” and “gospel-centered” generally define them somethings like this: Grace is God’s unmerited favor towards sinners. The Gospel is God’s promise of salvation to all who repent from their sin and trust in Christ alone. Those definitions could be expanded on with more theological precision and nuance but the important thing I want to bring out in this post is what it means to have the Gospel of grace at the center of the life of a church. Here are three reasons why “grace-centered” churches believe it is necessary to put grace at the center of the life of the church (aside from the fact, of course, that the Gospel of grace is the center of the teaching of Scripture).