The emerging church was all the rage, and I had just picked up Don Carson’s book Becoming Conversant with the Emergent Church. I noticed that he mentioned a church I’d never heard about before: Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York. Speaking of Redeemer, Carson wrote, “It displays all the strengths of the emerging church movement, while avoiding most of its weaknesses.”
I began to look into Redeemer, and soon discovered a world of gospel-centered renewal that I never knew existed. My own soul was changed through Keller’s preaching, and then by discovering others like Jack Miller. My ministry approach changed as I began to see the centrality of gospel doctrine for the life of the church.
It feels like the other shoe dropped last year. When I picked up The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Ray Ortlund, Jr., I expected a good read about gospel doctrine. I didn’t expect that it would go deeper and describe something I’d never really considered, never mind experienced: the importance of a gospel culture. It’s a manifesto. Ortlund writes:
The current rediscovery of the gospel as doctrine is good, very good. But a completely new discovery of the gospel as culture — the gospel embodied in community — will be infinitely better, filled with a divine power such as we have not yet seen.
From a distance, I’ve been sensing some of that culture through Immanuel Church in Nashville. It’s made me jealous that we experience that here as we plant a church in Toronto. “A gospel culture is not easy,” Ortlund writes. “But it is possible.”
There are a handful of books that have gotten under my skin. This is one of them. I’m forever grateful the current focus on gospel centrality. I’m so hungry now that we experience what Ortlund describes as gospel culture, or die trying. Maybe you’ll join me.