Center Church For all of you Canadian readers, I’m enculturating myself by spelling centre in the American form: center. Center Church is the title of a book written by Tim Keller. It has also been (bar none) the most helpful book on church planting I have read. The book is not even about church planting! It’s a textbook summary divided up into three parts: Gospel, City, Movement. In other words, Keller first defines the Gospel, how to contexualize the Gospel, and how to move the Gospel forward. Seriously, anyone in church leadership must read this book!
To whet your appetite, here are a few quotes from the three parts:
From Part I: Gospel “The Gospel, then, is preeminently a report about the work of Christ on our behalf--that is why and how the gospel is about salvation by grace. The gospel is news because it is about a salvation accomplished for us. It is news that creates a life of love but the life of love is not itself the gospel . . . The ancient church father Tertillian is reputed to have said, “Just as Jesus was crucified between two thieves, so the gospel is ever crucified between these two errors.” What are these errors to which Tertullian was referring? I often call them religion and irreligion; the theological terms are legalism and antinomianism. Another way to describe them could be moralism and relativism (or pragmatism). These two errors constantly seek to corrupt the message and steal away from us the power of the gospel. Legalism says that we have to live a holy, good life in order to be saved. Antinomianism says that because we are saved, we don’t have to live a holy good life . . . If our gospel message even slightly resembles ‘you must believe and live right to be saved’ or ‘God loves and accepts everyone just as they are,’ we will find our communication is not doing the identity-changing, heart-shaping transformative work described in the next part of this book. If we just preach general doctrine and ethics from Scripture, we are not preaching the gospel. The gospel is the good news that God has accomplished our salvation for us through Christ in order to bring us into relationship with him and eventually to destroy all the results of sin in the world.” (pg. 31) From Part II: City
“Contexualization is not--as it is often argued--‘giving people what they want to hear.’ Rather, it is giving people the Bible’s answers, which they may not at all want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and form they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them. “ (pg. 89) In this particular section, Keller discusses the thoughts of Richard Niebuhr, Abraham Kuyper, and Jamie Smith. He even mentions Al Wolters name, which is cool because Al was part of a small group with me and other pastors in Hamilton. Amazing guy!
I have not yet read the third section yet, but I am eager to. The point of this blog is to simply encourage people to pick up this book and read it. It’s a great teaching tool and gift to the church. How would you define the Gospel, how do you bring it to real life in your context, and how is your life a response to the Gospel?