As I step into our church pulpit, sometimes one particular memory comes back to me: I remember being a kid, having a cold, and being unable to go to kids ministry. So I would sit with my parents out in that same auditorium. On the back row in the midst of sniffles and tissues, I heard our pastors preach. And I remember two things pretty clearly about the messages I heard: I remember that the pastors would yell a lot, and I remember that they would yell about Jesus.
Decades later, I’m proud that those two things haven’t changed about our pulpit—we still yell a lot, and we still yell about Jesus. Our family of churches has made gospel-centered doctrine and preaching one of our seven shared values. Let’s break down what that means and why it matters to my church and yours.
Gospel-centered—who we preach
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3 what is of “first importance”: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Our gospel is good news because it is the news about Jesus and what he’s done for us. Jesus is the core message we treasure and proclaim. Being gospel-centered isn’t just about what we’re centered on, but who we’re centered on.
This has huge implications for our local church and our message to the city around us. In a relatively religious city like mine, it’s far too easy for our “gospel” to the world around us to become, “become a good person like us.” But the center of our faith doesn’t rest in what do but in what Jesus has done. We don’t preach simple moralism or vague spiritualism; we preach Jesus. We don’t preach ourselves; we preach Jesus.
Gospel-centered doctrine—what and how we preach
After his resurrection, Jesus meets two disciples on the road, and Scripture says that “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). The good news about Jesus shapes everything in Scripture and has implications for every doctrine in Scripture. The value of gospel-centered doctrine provides our theological framework with a center.
This affects our theology and ministry for our church. While God’s immutable nature is glorious, while eschatology builds our hope, while polity affects us on a day-to-day basis, none of those things are the center of our theology the way the gospel is. Then practically, this means that whether we are developing a theology for our benevolence ministry, considering an approach for kids ministry, or evaluating our approach to international ministry, the gospel gives us a place to be rooted and grounded.
Preaching—that we preach
In 2 Timothy 4:2 as Paul’s end is quickly approaching, he charges his protégé, Timothy: “preach the word.” I so appreciate that we value not just holding the gospel as of first importance but preaching the gospel as of first importance.
This shapes our calendar and our life as a church. We love and pursue many types of ministry––for women, for active duty military, for youth, for our city community––yet none of these take the place of our Sunday meeting, and our Sunday meeting is centered on the preaching of God’s Word. When we gather, we hear preaching. Then we leave to preach Jesus to others as witnesses of the good news about Jesus (Acts 1:8).
All this is why I’m so grateful that my church and our whole family of churches has put a stake in the ground here. While the cultural winds may blow here or there, while our churches may grow and change, we are binding ourselves to this value of gospel-centered doctrine and preaching. As long as we plant and build, may there be pastors in pulpits yelling loud and long the glorious good news of Jesus.
Now excuse me, I need to get back to working on my sermon.
Ricky serves as the lead pastor at Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas. He grew up in El Paso and has a deep passion to see the gospel proclaimed in the city. His primary responsibilities include overseeing vision, preaching, and leadership of the pastoral team. Ricky graduated with Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from UTEP in 2008 and graduated from the Sovereign Grace Pastors College in 2010. He is happily married to Jenn, and they have one son. You can watch Ricky share his testimony here.