I do not simply mean by ‘gospel-centered’ that ministry is to be doctrinally orthodox. Of course it must certainly be that. I am speaking more specifically.
(1) All religions operate on the principle - “I obey--therefore I am accepted by God.” The basic operating principle of the gospel is - “I am accepted by God through Christ--therefore I obey.” Two people living their lives on the basis of these two principles may (do!) sit right beside one another in the pew--and both are strive to obey God’s law, to pray, to give money generously, to be good family members. But they are doing so out of radically different motives, in two radically different spirits, resulting in two radically different personal characters. Since it is easier to understand the difference between the gospel and irreligion, let’s lay out the differences of religion and the gospel.
(2) We must communicate the gospel clearly--not a click toward legalism and not a click toward license. Legalism/moralism is truth without grace (which is not real truth); relativism is grace without truth (which is not real grace). To the degree a ministry fails to do justice to both, it simply loses life-changing power.
(3) I can't tell you how important this is in all mission and ministry. Unless you distinguish the gospel from both religion and irreligion--from both traditional moralism and liberal relativism--then newcomers in your services will automatically think you are simply calling them to be good and nice people.From Being the Church in Our Culture