Gospel centrality, keeping the good news of Jesus at the center of faith, is vitally important to me. So much so that when I find myself in settings that diminish the gospel in the Christian life (think legalistic, political, or hobby-horse environs) I get itchy. The balm for a number of years for me has been the steady and gospel-drenched writing of Jared C. Wilson.
His work has helped me in many ways and the longer in the tooth I become the more I rejoice at the words jumping off the page reminding me of who I am in Christ. But is there more to gospel-centeredness than justification? Can it actually inform life and ministry in practical ways.
Wilson’s latest is the articulation of what it means for pastoral ministry to be “Gospel Driven.” This volume follows his Gospel Driven Church which was a creative journey of gospel awakening in an imaginary, but oh too familiar church. He pressed the case for ditching pragmatism and the seeker model and hopefully many were convinced.
With Gospel Driven Ministry Wilson gets down to brass tacts and walks the reader through ministry shaped by the gospel. There is much worthwhile here and while I think men embarking on the pastoral preparation will benefit most from these chapters, even after more than a decade of ministry I found the insights helpful and acting as an invitation to step up my game, from the basis of my identity in Christ that is!
Chapters cover who the pastor is, how we worship, practicalities of preaching, loving the congregation, leading, standing firm, and living for others to see. Some moments felt like I was in class again, but Wilson writes with a winsome and genuine voice that can be heeded.
He also packs the book with rich suggestions for further reading that any minister will find appealing. All throughout there is a sense of earned humility. Through years in the trenches Jared speaks. He can be trusted.
Of all the practical insights throughout however, the final chapter, the chapter on dying is worth twice the price of the book. Wilson bears his soul and savors the gospel. A model of embracing Christ for all of life. I commend it to you.
Gospel Driven Ministry will help those in the pastorate and those praying about it. And it will do so with the grace you have come to expect from a man committed to gospel centrality whether it is popular or not.
As Jared says, “When you have tasted and seen that the Lord is good and it has ruined you for everything else, you are ready. By his grace, then, brothers, you are ready to pastor when weakness and fear and trembling actually make sense to you.”
As I sit in the dealership waiting room, expecting my name to be called as my oil change is done, I found myself in lament and praying with a directness I haven’t noticed in a while.
“What are you doing God? What’s the end point, the purpose?” After hearing a series of stories of pandemic strain on lives I think a gear is shifting for me.
Through the last twelve months I have talked about expectancy and leaning into God’s sovereignty. Of course he is at work and followers of Christ should want to come out on the other end evidencing that they have been with God.
His providence carries us through. Let him have his way.
This is still my message. I still believe it, and cling to it all for my own soul. But I am getting restless.
When will the church thrive again? When will the collective anxiety of humanity be relieved? When will revival come? When will uncertainty shift? What are you doing?
I don’t expect an answer today, though that would be nice, but I also don’t think God is dismayed by the question. Where else can I go with my restlessness? There is no safer place.
Because Jesus is our refuge, in trouble, he responds when we come to him for help. We can pray with restless hearts and voices. He hears. We can lament loss and uncertainty. He hears. We can admit we don’t have all the answers. He hears.
And he is working. We might not see it, or understand the goal, but he is holding us, and with open arms welcomes those that come to him.
Today, come as you are, restless or not. He hears.