The gospel should be at the heart of everything in our churches. We often have to remind ourselves of this, and perhaps that's the Southern Baptist Convention had "The Gospel Above All" as their central theme for the 2019 Annual Meeting. But as I returned home from the privilege of representing EvanTell, I got to thinking: What does it really mean to put “The Gospel Above All” in your church? I hope you'll find some the following thoughts to be helpful.
First, what The Gospel Above All Doesn't Mean
The Gospel Above All does not mean that we emphasize evangelism so much that we exclude or diminish other important tasks of the church such as discipleship, worship and prayer. Jesus has called us to “make disciples.” While evangelism is an integral part of the disciple-making process, it works in conjunction with other spiritual disciplines and priorities.
Neither does it mean that our preaching and teaching solely focus on reaching non-believers so that every Sunday is an evangelistic crusade. One of the top priorities of the church is to equip its members for ministry. While evangelistic messages have their place in the church, the primary task of the leadership is to equip the members for ministry and outreach outside of the church.
Three Things The Gospel Above All Does Mean for the Church
- It means that evangelism is not just a program or department, it is an integral part of the DNA of the church. This means that every ministry department has a plan for outreach to non-believers. The children’s ministry has a plan to reach families who don’t know the Lord. Your community groups or Sunday school classes train their members to share the gospel. College students are equipped to defend their beliefs. A great metric for evaluating is “how many heard the gospel message through this department or initiative?
- It means that when people in your community think of your church, the gospel comes to mind. There is a danger when churches and denominations become more known for something other than the Lord Jesus, including political beliefs and involvement, celebrity leaders, infighting, etc. Google your church and denomination or just ask around. While some of the buzz or feedback might be unwarranted, some might be deserved. When that is the case, we need to respond with humble contrition and repentance for “losing our first love” and recalibrating our focus back to “knowing Jesus and making Him known.
- It means that evangelism is a priority of the leadership in both word and deed. The best way for leaders to foster a church where the gospel is above all is to foster it in their everyday lives. The priority of evangelism and outreach should “trickle down” from the top. This includes emphasizing the importance of outreach on a regular basis, providing training for church members, as well as exhibiting a lifestyle of outreach to serve as a model for your members.
The bottom line goal of all of this is for your church to reflect the heart and mission of Christ which is “to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)