>The Only Thing I Do At Which I Can’t Lose

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Bible quizzing. Sounds boring, ey? Brings forth images of “sword drills” if you are old enough to remember those…But Bible quizzing, Bible Quiz Fellowship style, is exciting, intense, and, more importantly, the only thing in which I am involved in which I can’t lose.

I can preach and blow it (yes, I hear the amens…thankfully I try to please the Audience of One (and fail all too often) so, candidly, don’t give-a-flying-rip of “critiques”); I can counsel and blow it; I can just have conversations and blow it…but for over thirty years I’ve been encouraging, directing, and assisting students get into the Word, and thus the Word into students.

And tonight at 10pm I board a bus and journey to Pittsburgh, Pa for yet another Nationals tournament.

And will see hundreds of teens from across America…many of whom I see annually, my good friends from Family Life, my new good friends from Washington state, and a ton of other people that I’ve served with for a loooong time.

Most of us work in what are called “parachurch” (how I hate that term) ministries. We are centered on the gospel, but there can be disagreements on secondary issues. Some of us are probably too competitive, some adults probably try to relive their own quizzing careers through students (similar to sports)…but the focus is usually on Christ and His kids…trying to nurture spiritual growth even in the arena of competition…or especially in the arena of competition?

So pray with us that 2010 Nationals will be a time of salvation for those who are religious but lost; a time of recommittment for those who have wandered, and an effective witness for all of us on the hotel staff and others with whom (or who?) we interact.

And help me…help us all…to be able to walk and work hand-in-hand even if we don’t see eye-to-eye on relatively mickey-mouse issues. May we all focus on “that which is of first importance,” the gospel! (1 Corin 15)

>"Gospel-Centered" – What Does It Mean?

>Beatles - Sgt Pepper
“. . . a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”  Luke 7:34

What does it mean for a church to be gospel-centered?  That’s a popular concept these days.  Good.  What if we were scrambling to be law-centered?  But the difference is not so easy in real terms.

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 looks something like this album cover — my all-time favorite.  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.

The one deal-breaker in a gospel-centered church: anyone for any reason turning it into a culture of legal demandingness and negative scrutiny.  Few would do that in the theology, of course.  But still, a church with a message of grace can stop being gospel-centered in real terms.

A major part of pastoral ministry is preaching the doctrines of grace and managing an environment of grace.
 
The latter is harder to accomplish than the former.  It is more intuitive.  It requires more humility and self-awareness.

May the Friend of sinners grant beautiful gospel-centricity in all our churches.

RAY ORTLUND