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What is a Grace-Centered Church?

“Our church is grace-centered.”  

“We need more gospel-centered preaching.”  

The terms “grace-centered” and “gospel-centered” are sometimes used to describe the emphasis of a church or ministry, but I suspect that not everybody knows what they mean. “Don’t all Christians believe in grace?” “Don’t all churches preach the Gospel?”  In this post, I want to briefly explain what these words mean and why they matter.  (Some people might draw a distinction between “grace-centered” and “gospel-centered” but in practice they are largely interchangeable)

Like most technical terms, the expressions “grace-centered” and “gospel-centered” have developed in reaction to something else.  All broadly evangelical or pentecostal churches (or even liberal churches) would say that they preach grace and love the Gospel.  And, of course, the words “grace” and “Gospel” show up in most discussions of Christianity.  But are they at the center?  Is “grace” the main thing which shapes the thinking, speech, and actions of your church?  Is “gospel” something that only needs to be preached for evangelistic events?  Is “gospel” simply a type of music?  Is “gospel” used loosely as a umbrella term for any nice, Christian thing you do to help your community?

While people use “grace” and “gospel” in different ways, those who use the terms “grace-centered” and “gospel-centered” generally define them somethings like this:  Grace is God’s unmerited favor towards sinners.  The Gospel is God’s promise of salvation to all who repent  from their sin and trust in Christ alone.  Those definitions could be expanded on with more theological precision and nuance but the important thing I want to bring out in this post is what it means to have the Gospel of grace at the center of the life of a church.  Here are three reasons why “grace-centered” churches believe it is necessary to put grace at the center of the life of the church (aside from the fact, of course, that the Gospel of grace is the center of the teaching of Scripture).

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Homeschool 2015

Here are just a few pics I took of Sun helping Joshua and Caitlin with their homeschool work, to give you a flavor for what Monday to Friday looks like for them.

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Book Notes ~ January 2016

I am starting a new monthly feature of my blog, called “Book Notes”.  Each month I will write some brief notes on the books that I have read during the previous month.  My goal is to share with others what I have been reading and thinking about in hopes that perhaps someone else will discover a new book that will be interesting and helpful to them as well.   

Last year I spent too much time on Facebook, scrolling the newsfeed, reading interesting yet non-essential articles, and engaging in discussion and debate with other Facebookers (only some of whom are actual friends).  I don’t think that that was the best use of my time. For 2016, I have decided to drastically scale back on my Facebook usage.  I figured out that if I eliminate (as much as possible) my internet usage in the evening, I can spend an hour or more reading each night after the kids go to bed.  If I add in time spent reading on the Bangkok sky train and listening to audiobooks as I drive, I hope to dedicate a lot of time to reading this year.   

About a month ago, around New Year’s 2016, I read Tim Challies’s “100 Book Challenge” to read 100 books in 2016.  That seemed a bit too much for me but I have decided to try to read 50 books this year, or about 1 book per week.  Of course, there are no merit badges just for finishing books, but I think that reading whole books will give me much more information and food for thought than reading short blog articles that I happen to find online.  Hopefully, all this reading will help me be better equipped to teach my students at Bangkok Bible Seminary and to write Facebook and blog posts on missions, church, and theology.  It is sometimes tempting to abandon social media all together, but I can’t bring myself to pull the plug. I still see too many benefits.  However, I have decided to change my approach to social media.  I will spend less time online and more time reading books and creating meaningful content to post and share, rather than just reacting and responding to whatever shows up in my newsfeed.

So, without further ado, here are my book notes on what I have finished reading in January 2016. Hopefully you’ll find a book that you’d like to read.   

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2 Ways to Combat False Teaching

When you think about combating false teaching, what comes to mind?  A book about cults?  A discernment blogger exposing the latest heresy?  That guy who devotes all his free time to apologetics? In the mind of many, combating false teaching is mostly about saying somebody or something is wrong.  But that's not the whole picture.  In this post, I want to talk about 2 very different, but essential ways to address false teaching in the church today.  Both are needed, but they don't deserve equal time and priority in the teaching and preaching of churches.

1) The Negative Approach: "That's Wrong!"

The first way to combat false teaching is the one that most people are familiar with, but few people enjoy (though some people probably enjoy it too much).  It is the act of holding up a particular teaching or teacher and saying, "This is wrong" or "He is wrong" and then comparing that teacher and his teaching to Scripture to show where he (or she) has got it wrong.