Book Review | The Gospel-Driven Church

The Gospel-Driven Church by Jared Wilson is a gamechanger. Books about church growth are a dime a dozen. Everyone has ideas about what you should do with your greeting strategy, following up with first time guests, and the perfect recipe of sermon, music, offering, and the ever important and always dreaded…announcements. What I love about this book is that Jared Wilson has actually spent time as a pastor and now he is investing his intellect and experience into a whole new group of pastors in his role at Spurgeon College and Midwestern Seminary. I’ve read a good bit of Wilson’s writing and he definitely has a Kingdom mindset. He makes a great point here, “The way a church wins its people shapes its people. Consumeristic values and pragmatic methodology will win consumers and pragmatists. If they aren’t won by the glory of Christ, they aren’t won to the glory of Christ.” It’s not about “nickels and noses”, but rather people whose lives have been radically changed by the gospel for the glory of God and the good of others.

It was so interesting to read this book in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic while all of our churches were only gathering online. Most of the churches in our area have announced that they are reopening over the next few weeks. My hope and prayer is that regathering will be an opportunity for us to major on the majors and stay focused on what the Lord is truly calling our churches to be.

I highlighted several things while reading and posted those notes below…

  • Gospel-driven church cares about width and depth. Churches that grow deep without growing wide are probably not as deep in Jesus as they think because Jesus came to seek and save the lost. In the same way, churches that grow wide without growing deep are probably not as wide as they think because heaven counts disciples, not decisions. A church’s ultimate impact is not only measured by the disciples it makes but in making disciples who make disciples. Location: 170
  • An attractional church conducts worship and ministry according to the desires and values of potential consumers. This typically leads to the dominant ethos of pragmatism throughout the church. Location: 340
  • What you win people with is what you win them to. The best motives in the world cannot sanctify unbiblical methods. Location: 349
  • If consumerism is a subset of pragmatism, then pragmatism itself is a subset of a far larger problem: legalism. Location: 374
  • When the gospel is peripheral, occasional, or incidental to our mission and our preaching, we cannot trust that the gospel is truly drawing and shaping those who respond. Pragmatic methodology is legalistic because legalism is what happens when you disconnect the Christian’s “do” from Christ’s “done” in the gospel. Location: 399
  • The way a church wins its people shapes its people. Consumeristic values and pragmatic methodology will win consumers and pragmatists. If they aren’t won by the glory of Christ, they aren’t won to the glory of Christ. Location: 546
  • Not All That Counts Can Be Counted Location: 636

Here is Edwards’s list of the deeper measurements—the characteristics of a genuine move of God’s Spirit. 

  1. A Growing Esteem for Jesus Christ 
  • Is your church growing in its affection for Jesus? Is he actually more important than everything else? 
  • Are the people good repenters? Repentance is a sign of genuine fruitfulness.
  1. A Dogged Devotion to the Word of God  
  • Edwards put it this way: “The spirit that operates in such a manner as to cause in men a greater regard to the Holy Scriptures, and establishes them more in their truth and divinity is certainly the Spirit of God.”4  Location: 939
  1. An Interest in Theology and Doctrine 
  • Having a mind lovingly dedicated to God is biblically required of us, most notably in the great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). Loving God with all our minds means more than theological study, but it does not mean less than that.12 Location: 1,013
  • Our growth in the grace of God is connected closely with our pursuit of the knowledge of God’s character and works as revealed in God’s Word. Location: 1,020
  1. An Evident Love for God and Neighbor 
  • We’ve come to the end of Jonathan Edwards’s list of distinguishing marks of a genuine move of God’s Spirit. The checklist is as daunting as it is concise, isn’t it? I refer to these marks as “the metrics of grace,” and I’ve chosen that term for three reasons: (1) measuring this way requires going deeper than fleshly measurements, to a place only grace can take us; (2) getting healthy in these ways requires being empowered the way only grace empowers us; and (3) applying these marks requires a courageous self-evaluation through which only grace can secure us. Location: 1,066
  • The metrics of grace are harder to quantify than simply counting hands and bodies. Location: 1,073

Here are just a few diagnostic questions to help you begin “measuring” your church and the spiritual growth of its people: 

1. Are those being baptized continuing to walk in the faith years down the line? 

2. Do we have a clear way of discipling people? Why or why not? 

3. How many of the attendees of the worship gathering participate in community groups? If the percentage is small, what are some reasons for this? 

4. Can our members articulate the gospel? How would we go about finding this out? 

5. If we asked ten people in our community who do not attend our church to describe what they think of it, what would they say? If the church shut down tomorrow, would our community care? Location: 1,099

  • Prayer is expressed helplessness. When we’re not engaged in prayer, it’s because we feel like “we got this.” The extent to which you are not engaged in prayer is the extent to which you are relying on your own strength. Location: 1,262
  • The gospel of Jesus is so simple that a child can understand it, believe it, and be saved, yet the gospel is so vast, complex, and glorious that we along with the angels will revel in it for eternity. If we cannot see how it might hold someone’s attention week after week, the deficiency is with us, not with it. The gospel will preach, so preach the gospel. You can’t wear it out. You can’t outperform it. You can’t find anything more interesting, more powerful, or more relevant than the gospel. The real foolishness is not to center on it. The gospel will hold and sustain your church in a way all the relevant programming, applicational teaching, and worship experiences never will. As Tim Keller notes, “Because the gospel is endlessly rich, it can handle the burden of being the one ‘main thing’ of a church.” Location: 1,420
  • Do we want the church to move in a direction that emphasizes that the church exists to meet their needs (consumerism)? Or do we want the church to understand the Bible as the central, most authoritative, most life-giving well of revelation available to them? Location: 1,595
  • Our church worship gatherings ought to be welcoming and comprehensible to unbelievers, but the Bible does not envision orienting the gathering to them. Location: 1,854
  • The only thing of value the church has to offer is the gospel. I believe that one result of the emerging Experience Economy will be a longing for authenticity. To the extent that the church stages worldly experiences, it will lose its effectiveness.2 Location: 1,889
  • Feelings about God detached from knowledge of God indicates we are more worshipers of feelings—of ourselves. Location: 1,897
  • Too much of our Sunday morning worship sets the cart of affections before the horse of belief. Location: 1,900
  • The worship service is primarily about helping people behold and believe, not behave and feel. Our behavior and feelings are implications of our beholding and believing, but the beholding and believing must come first. Location: 1,960
  • Worship services that do not include much prayer, or have perfunctory prayers that function as transitions, run the risk of representing God through the lens of the prosperity gospel, as if we are in charge, calling God to account. Location: 1,990
  • Could it be that one reason we see dwindling baptism numbers in some churches is because we’ve effectively turned “go and tell” into “come and see” and turned the long-view of missional expansion into the instant gratification of microwaved spiritual experience? Location: 2,280
  • How do we prepare our people, and our church as a whole, to live every day ‘confidently sent’ as missionaries and not as individual religious journeymen?” Location: 2,545

There are at least five ways to focus your preaching on the gospel mission. Location: 2,629

  1. Put the Text in the Context of God’s Mission 
  • The Bible has a metanarrative, a grand story of God’s redeeming purpose and Spiritual mission in the earth. We often miss this grand story in our preaching and teaching. Help your hearers make the connection between the narrative you are preaching and the big story of God’s mission. This will help them begin to see their own story in the context of the big story of God’s mission. Make regular, explicit application of biblical texts to their missional contexts, drawing out their missional implications, and this helps influence hearers to begin to think in missional ways. Location: 2,630
  1. Make Application Mission-Oriented 
  2. Confront Idols 
  • Explicating how the gospel subverts and conquers specific idolatries in your context can (1) help lost people present in the room encounter God, (2) help Christians in the room repent, and (c) train the Christians in the room to identify and address the effects of idolatry in their daily lives and mission. Location: 2,643
  1. Anticipate the Right Questions 
  2. Give the Motivation of Grace Location: 2,674

The motivation of grace better triggers a church’s impulse for gospel mission. Location: 2,682

  • Offer Training 
  • Engage in the Mission Together 
  • Be an Example 
    • You cannot tell people to be on mission if you cannot show them what it looks like. Location: 2,726
    • Don’t just tell—show. What the leadership is, the church will become. Location: 2,730
  • Commission Community Groups 
  • Plant Churches 
    • Pastor J. R. Briggs writes, Prioritizing sending capacity over seating capacity isn’t a small tweak or a new paint job; it doesn’t entail a few programmatic changes to the church calendar. No, it means cultivating a new ethos, shifting the paradigm and changing the posture of the community, which ultimately shapes everything the church is and does. Location: 2,765
    • An excellently run attractional church has centripetal force, ever drawing people to the center. A gospel-centered missional church has centrifugal force, where people brought into orbit around the gospel are sent out into the world on mission in response to the explosively glorious power of grace. Location: 2,771
  • Conviction 
    • To lead a transition to become a gospel-centered church you will need conviction, a settled conviction that gospel-centrality is right and is the best thing biblically, ecclesiologically, culturally, and missionally. Gospel-centrality cannot be just another church style or approach. Location: 2,840
  • Courage 
  • Commitment 
    • My ministry theme verse will forever be 1 Corinthians 2:2. Here it is (emphasized) within its immediate context: When I came to you, brothers and sisters, announcing the mystery of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power. (2:1–5 CSB) Location: 2,997
    • You’re just a worker. The church is God’s field, God’s building. The church belongs to him, and he will cultivate you, he will build you, he will sustain you, he will empower you, he will nourish you, he will transform you, and he will save you. “For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down,” Paul writes (v. 11 CSB). “That foundation is Jesus Christ.” It is far better to inherit the legacy of Christ than to build a legacy of your own. Location: 3,269

Ten Keys to Shepherding the Transition 

  • The church needs a team of shepherds, especially during significant transitions, who will feed the flock. After you’re sure you’re shepherding, here are ten keys to administer a transition in a gracious way. Location: 3,296

1. Take It Personally, but Don’t Make It Personal 

2. Practice the Spiritual Fruit of Patience 

3. Move Slowly and Strategically 

4. Show Meekness and Give Mercy 

5. Employ Plurality and Embrace Parity 

6. Overcommunicate 

  • Thom Rainer says, “I have never seen or heard a major change initiative and its accompanying vision repeated too much.” Location: 3,372
  • What may be compelling and settled in your mind is likely the result of months of deliberation, study, prayer, and collaboration with other leaders. Your congregation has not had that advantage. What will feel old to you will feel brand new to them. Even your enthusiasm may unsettle them at first because as they wrestle through comprehension they will feel the “pressure” of your excitement pushing them to process more quickly than they feel able. The authors of Leading Congregational Change write, In the excitement to announce the vision and begin implementation, change leaders often forget that the rest of the congregation has not been a part of the intense dialogue and soul-searching that are a part of discerning and articulating the vision. In forgetting this key fact, they underestimate the amount of communication that will be required. To expect commitment from the congregation without adequate interaction and understanding is unrealistic. Location: 3,373

7. Show Your Cards 

8. Operate Consistently 

9. Cheerlead and Celebrate Wins 

  • Don’t just be a barometer for change, be a thermostat for optimism, setting the temperature to joy for your church. It’s a joyful thing to focus deliberately on Christ and his glory. Go first in that endeavor and set the example. Location: 3,443

10. Keep Preaching the Gospel Location: 3,445

The Metrics of Grace (Ch. 3) 

1. A growing esteem for Jesus Christ 

2. A discernible spirit of repentance 

3. A dogged devotion to the Word of God 

4. An interest in theology and doctrine 

5. An evident love for God and neighbor Location: 3,514

Missional Molding (Ch. 8) 

1. Specific training 

2. Organized opportunities 

3. Leadership examples 

4. Repurpose programs or structures 

5. Commissioned community groups 

6. Plant churches Location: 3,556

Ten Keys to Shepherding the Transition (Ch. 10) 

1. Take it personally, but don’t make it personal. 

2. Practice the Spiritual fruit of patience. 

3. Move slowly and strategically. 

4. Show meekness and give mercy.

5. Employ plurality and embrace parity. 

6. Overcommunicate. 

7. Show your cards. 

8. Operate consistently. 

9. Cheerlead and celebrate wins. 

10. Keep preaching the gospel. Location: 3,571

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.