At this very moment, almost every single one of my earthly possessions is sitting inside a POD (Portable On-Demand Storage) ready to be shipped to Illinois. And in just 10 days, my husband and I will road trip to our new home just north of Chicago where we’ll be living for the next 3-4 years!
As we prepare to move, a lot of people have asked us if we’ve been given any recommendations for churches in the area. We’ve heard about a few but we are certainly open to more suggestions. If you know of a great church in the northern suburbs of Chicago, we’d love to know about it!
This is the first time in 6 years that I’ve had to even think about finding a new church, and the prospect is a daunting one. We’re moving to a mega-church region where the choices can be overwhelming, but we don’t want to waste a year visiting church after church after church. We want to have high standards without being overly picky about things that don’t ultimately matter, which has led me to reflect a lot in the past couple months on what I want in our next church home.
Well after much reflection, I’ve settled on the ONE thing that I want in a church. It might sound pretty basic, but it it’s actually very difficult to maintain consistently which is why a lot of churches struggle to achieve this:
I know, I know. Gospel is the “it” word right now that almost every single evangelical preacher in America drenches his sermons with. Every church planter writes this term into his mission statement and a lot of the popular books about church are written about it. Given the trend, this shouldn’t be a hard church to find, right? Not necessarily.
It can actually be very challenging to lead a Gospel-centered church. The reason it is difficult is that our human nature fights the Gospel every day. We are constantly tempted to fall into the “doing” of religion. Churches can easily get distracted with programs or strategy or being relevant. That’s why the Gospel is something you have to discipline yourself to focus on every single day. Otherwise you will gradually become a disciple, or a church, who is very busy but not all that focused on Christ.
That’s also why we have to be careful about using the word “Gospel” all the time without remembering what that word actually means. It’s so easy to use trendy Christian language that is totally disconnected from the life of your church. So when I say “Gospel,” I am referring to the reality that my nature fights God in every way that it possibly can, which is why I am utterly dependent upon God’s grace to deliver me from myself. And this redemption was achieved through Christ’s death on the cross. Through faith in Jesus, I have salvation for every day of my life, which I need because my flesh continues to fight that message even now, and always will this side of eternity.
It took me a long time to realize just how important the Gospel message is for my every day life. For the last 6 years I have heard my pastor explain the Gospel at the end of every one of his sermons. And for a majority of those sermons I tuned out at the end, or at least spent time in prayer for the non-Christians in the sanctuary who needed to accept it. But the idea that I needed to hear the Gospel myself? That wasn’t even on my radar.
Over time, however, I’ve realized that I need to hear the Gospel every week because my human nature resists it and forgets it every week. I need to preach the Gospel to myself every day so that I can live into my salvation rather than fall back into my old ways. And that’s why I need a church that is intentionally Gospel centered, not meaning that it throws the term “Gospel-centered” around a lot, but that it is driven by the knowledge that without a disciplined focus on the message of Christ in every area of the church, every day of the year, the church will lose its focus and its power. It will cease to be the Body of Christ it was designed to be.
I have been very fortunate to serve at a truly Gospel-centered church for the last 6 years. My church’s focus on the Gospel has changed my life and profoundly shaped the way I teach. So that is all I’m looking for–a church that preaches and lives out the Gospel every single day. I don’t care about the size or the music. Just the Gospel.
Let me know if you know of a church like that!