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A Gospel-Centered

Philosophy of Ministry
By Brian W. Evans, DMin (2009)

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the
way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the
LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by
streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all
that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3

“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” -
African proverb

The greatest need of the church today is what it has always been: to treasure what
God treasures. So the follow-up question is simple: What does God treasure?

First, we know from the Scriptures, that God is a jealous God who treasures His own
glory (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; Ezekiel 39:25, etc). But this
understanding is abstract—and thus we need to dig further with this question:
Where is God’s glory most aptly, most beautifully, most thoroughly demonstrated?

While pictures of God’s glory shine in the creation of the universe (Genesis 1-2), or
his glory is seen in the sovereign election and calling of Abram and creation of Israel
(Genesis 12:1-4), the glory of God is brightest at the centerpoint of the Cross. This
is why the Apostle Paul labeled the Cross—the Gospel—as of “first importance” for
the Christian (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-3). To embrace Jesus is to embrace the Gospel
—to embrace the Gospel is to truly embrace Jesus. You cannot have one without
the other. This is also seen in Romans 1:1-3 when Paul refers to the Gospel as
“concerning his Son”—which means that there is a dual aspect to the Gospel
message: it contains the Who (Jesus Christ) and the What (what Jesus accomplished
in his life, death, and resurrection on our behalf).

Even Jesus made it clear to the disciples on the Emmaus road that all of the
Scriptures point to the Gospel (Luke 24:13-32), and the first martyr Stephen
followed that pattern in the sermon he preached just before his death (Acts 7:1-60).
Therefore, the Scriptures testify to what God treasures, namely the Gospel of His
dear Son. Thus, the church is never closer to its true calling than to be a people
who treasure the Gospel and proclaim it in and through their daily lives.

It is as this point that I believe we must help the Body of Christ to realize once again
the greatness and functional centrality of the Gospel. The Gospel is more than
simply a doorway to eternal life, but a functioning power (Romans 1:16) that
transforms our daily living into a God-honoring and God-anointed way of living. In
fact, according to this guiding hermeneutic, every problem is a failure at some point
to properly apply the Gospel. Therefore, the pastor’s greatest calling (and
challenge) is to proclaim the whole counsel of God with a lens towards the Cross as
its ultimate key to meaning and application.

It is helpful at this point to refer back to Psalm 1 with its analogous reference to a
tree as a symbol of the God-centered person and his/her life. At risk of
oversimplification, there are three basic components to the tree: the root system,
the skeletal system of branches and connections, and the fruit that is produced. In
the same way, the Gospel-centered person who embraces the Gospel grows in
these three areas.

First, the Gospel-centered person realizes that his/her roots must be the very
Gospel message itself. In other words, the Gospel contains five powerful truths that
are crucial to the success of one another, and cannot exist without the other. These
are: regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification. These
five roots go deep in the Scriptures, drawing nourishment since the Scriptures all
point to the Cross of Christ.

Second, with a strong root system in place, the believer grows in his/her skeletal
connections. In other words, the Gospel bears connections that connect the
believer to a supernatural life with God. For example, Romans 5:1 (“Therefore,
since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord
Jesus Christ.”) connects the believer with peace because of the objective fact that
now, because of the Gospel, they are at peace with God.

Another example is seen in Romans 8:1 (“There is therefore now no condemnation


for those who are in Christ Jesus.”) which connects the believer to a life free from
past guilt because of the Gospel. Romans 8:32 is another clear example that
shows how God’s provision of the Gospel gives us the ability to trust in Him to meet
our needs (“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will
he not also with him graciously give us all things?”).

Finally, the tree would be unfulfilled in its purpose as a tree if not for the fruit that
God has designed for it to bear. In the same way, the Christian whose roots are
deep in the Gospel-content, who understands the connections the Gospel makes to
a new life in Christ (Gospel-connections), is now enabled by God to bear fruit with
Gospel-conduct. The apostle Paul shows this understanding in his admonishments
to the Christians in various churches. He wants them to realize that their behavior
is not good behavior for its moral quality alone—but should be practiced because of
the Gospel. Rather, he shows that because of the Gospel their behavior is directed
and God-honoring. Notice the following examples and how each is tied back to the
Gospel itself:
• Instead of simply telling the Corinthians to be sexually moral, Paul ties it back
to the cross as the ultimate motivation for their sexual purity…
• 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a
person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins
against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of
the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
20
for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

• Instead of telling the Ephesian Christians to simply be nice and forgiving


towards one another, Paul again ties it back to the very DNA of the Gospel
itself…
• Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one
another, as God in Christ forgave you.

• The reason husbands should sacrificially love and care for their wives is
because of the model of Jesus upon the cross…
• Ephesians 5:25 “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and
gave himself up for her”

• With reference to why the Corinthians should support the famine relief efforts
in Jerusalem, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:9 “For you know the grace of
our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became
poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

Over and over again in Scripture, we see the Gospel-content (roots) growing in a
believer’s life to bring about a true Gospel-connection (branches) to the abiding
presence of God, which in turns bears fruit (Gospel-conduct) in how these
believers actively live their daily lives. Therefore, this overarching philosophy not
only sums up the Old and New Testaments with the Gospel message, but show how
the Gospel itself, centered upon the Person and work of Christ, should play a
functioning centrality in the believer’s life. This will result in the believer living a life
of Soli Dei Gratia (“to God alone the praise”).