Gospel Culture: Part 1By Scott Hamilton
February 22, 2021
What is your church like? I wonder as you think of an answer to that question you might talk about the content of the services. I don’t mean what the singing is like, how the Bible is preached, the demographics of who attends; is it friendly, high-impact, sound, authentic (fill in your adjective)… But what is it really like? When you scratch below the surface to the kind of things that feel intangible. The sort of descriptors that have you trying to prise the words off the tip of your tongue only for someone else to get there first and you to cry, “Yes! That’s it!” What is your church like in her bones, in the deep parts of who and what you are together?
I think we could get wide agreement that the purpose of the church is to glorify God. But how does God get glory through the church? God gets glory through the church when it has a gospel culture. By culture, we mean those common character convictions that make somewhere compelling. And by gospel culture, we are talking about when the gospel is the thing that sets the tone and character of the church. We are all called to be in membership of a local church and, as such, to play our part in creating a gospel culture. Whether you realize it or not, we all contribute to the culture of things we are connected to. You are always affecting the culture of the place you are. You are always communicating what you think belonging involves. Even when we think that our engagement is set to neutral, more likely than not it is actually set to negative. Such is the nature and opportunity that influence has. Culture is more prone to drift than we might imagine and the ballast of our influence is usually on one side of either negative or positive. In other words, you are always influencing and more people are watching you than you might think. Your influence will either infect or impact the culture around you.
Ephesians 4:1-3 gives us a great insight into the kind of cultural elements that a healthy local church can and should be wholeheartedly pursuing. These verses offer us 5 cultural distinctives that are wholly Biblical and create holy disciples. Over the next few articles, I hope to explore them. My hope is that these articles will serve our churches in pursuing a gospel culture.
1. Surrender: He is worthy.
By introducing himself as a prisoner Paul is indicating that he has made a decision somewhere along the way that Jesus is worth surrendering his liberty for. He has come to the conclusion that the gospel is worth suffering for. It kind of makes our internal gripes about inconvenience or our excuses about busyness or our evident reluctance to live all in for Jesus seem abundantly lame. Here is Paul, in prison, writing to the church. Here it is in God’s Word: ‘I urge you.’ A healthy local church has this urgent calling to surrender as part of its culture. Jesus is a better prize than my presumptuous entitlement & precious comforts. It shows up in seeking the grace you need to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.
We walk worthy of the gospel when we are surrendered in worship. It involves us moving towards something. It is an invitation to live up to something. We walk towards gospel promises and we seek to live up to gospel promises by gospel power.
Surely if nothing else this year of lockdowns and restrictions have given us a minuscule taste of the restrictions our brothers and sisters in places where Christians are persecuted live under. The question that springs up is whether our everyday lives will reach the same conclusion as Paul and our spiritual siblings in places like North Korea. Jesus is both worthy and worth me walking away from the things that are to do with death, disobedience & sin dependence. Will I wholly surrender my life to him on the basis of that reality?
Is Jesus who died for you worth your inconvenience?
Is he worthy of you setting aside time to be with him each day?
Is he worthy of you surrendering your weekly scheduling preferences?
Is he better than football, Netflix, Facebook, or your internet habit?
Is time with Him a higher priority than your social life?
Is his glory worth you getting over your grievances, setting aside your selfishness, and planning your life with him as your priority?
Ephesians 4 says that you have been called to a calling. That means don’t get caught 2 minds about it. Jesus hasn’t given you cause to question his voice. Jesus is worthy and his design is to keep on working in you as evidence of that. His glory in your life is always the highest good in your life. Don’t allow that to become a question in your heart.
A culture of surrender is one where we should expect to do things that make little sense to the world around us but rather flow from the significance we see in Jesus. We live and we serve and we give with Christ as our king. Our families and our finances and our futures have stopped belonging to us. Everything I have belongs to Jesus and so all those things are now about figuring out how to maximize the glory he gets from them.
Gospel culture defines the sort of person I am and, therefore the sort of contribution I make, by the significance I see in Jesus. I surrender because I see that he is worthy.
Check back in to Great Commission Collective in the weeks to come, as we explore the other distinctive of a gospel culture.