In the last few days, I’ve been thinking about this whole idea of centeredness in the Christian life. When churches and individual Christians talk about what they believe, inevitably a phrase ending in -centered crops up.
So readers, I ask you to fill in the following with your answers to the centeredness question. I’m not going to try to persuade people one way or the other, so despite the fact that many good answers can fill the blanks, most of us know the terms most commonly used by Christians. Please fill in these two questions:
“As a Christian, I try to live a __________-centered life.”
“My church emphasizes a __________-centered Gospel.”
Thank you for your two responses. If they differ, please share why, as that would be very helpful to the theory I’m developing.
I’ll add my thoughts on this later in the week.
34 thoughts on “Finding the Center—The Question”
I’m fine with “Christ-centered” for the first one. I think my church would be best described as “church centered.”
Note my question of Michael about the exclusivity of Christ-centered.
As to your comment about church, that’s pretty typical, actually. How does being church-centered play out in practical living?
As a Christian, I want to live a Christ-centered life. But I tend to live, day by day, a self-centered life.
My church emphasizes a Christ-centered Gospel. Really!
If you live a Christ-centered life, where does that leave God the Father and the Holy Spirit in the mix?
Thanks for the challenge!
“Christ-centered” may be a good answer. The Father attests of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (Luke 9:35) Jesus asserts his position in Matthew 28:18, “All authority iin heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He says that the Holy Spirit will convict “in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me,” (John 16:9) He sums it all up in John 16:15, “All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”
Paul says, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) Christ-centered to the max!
But yes, there needs to be a balance — once we have gotten **centered** on Jesus Christ. See Dorothy Sayers’ book “The Mind of the Maker for an outstanding illustration of the balance of the Holy Trinity.
It’s easy to talk glibly about God, or even the Father (but not to a feminist). It’s even easy to talk about the Spirit (if you’re not too specific about which spirit). But mention Jesus Christ and normal conversation ceases!
P.S., I find our church to be Christ-centered in word but more Father-centered in practice.
I think as a Christian, I try to live a God-centered life. Sadly, it usually turns into a me-centered life…God-centered because that is what Christ lived, and what God calls us to do: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, body,etc.
My church, I think, emphasizes a worship-centered gospel. I haven’t been in a church like it since the 70’s.
In what way would being God-centered differ from being Christ-centered?
Well, we are called to be “like Christ” and He was all about doing the work of His Father. So a God-centered life would be one of seeking God, knowing God, loving God, being filled by His Spirit, and being obedient to Him as His Son was. Jesus said doing the will of God was His food. How much more central do you want? 🙂
Now there are those who will say, “What about the neighbors?” But if I am loving God will all my heart, mind, soul and body, then there is nothing left of myself to love the neighbors with…Only God loving the neighbors through me.
Then what about Christ? Well, centering on God what Christ did, and so if I am to be a “little Christ”, then that is what I should be doing. God was the center of Christ’s life. He should be the center of mine as well.
Seeking to know Christ gets one only half way. Christ is the model, the anti-Adam. He is our Savior, our Brother, our Leader, our Head. But He leads us to the King.
“As a Christian, I try to live a gospel-centered life.
The gospel (life, death, and resurrection of Christ) I think can fit here as well as Christ centered. The gospel meaning I try to live in a way that reflects the whole picture. I try to not only be focussed on Christ (who truly is the centerpiece), but what I have because of Christ. I have the ability to come boldly before God and confess and repent of my sins because of what Christ did. I also have the ability to extend forgiveness to others (which is practiced daily in my home with my husband and without this forgiveness in our relationship, our relationship would not bring Honor to God) because of the grace that has been shown to me. Living in a manner than reflects these things can be a witness to others and will also bring a great amount of joy to my own life. I hope to live this way with my children so that they can see how powerful what Christ did.
As far as the church goes, in a lot of ways I think emphasizes a “consumeristic-centered gospel.” It’s all about whether you enjoy that particular type of music or the style of the Pastor’s speaking/preaching. It’s all about whether your kids like the children’s department. Many churches are also centered around Sunday mornings and not living things out the rest of the week. Music, speaking abilities, good teaching for your children; these are all good things if taken the right way and not taking the place of what church is really about.
I think the church should definitely emphasize a “Christ-centered gospel” but for the sake of plugging in a different word, I will say a “community-centered gospel.” Not community in the sense of being in the community (which is good too but not the focus) but in the sense of living in community with the other believers/members of the body. I was a part of a church that emphasized this and grew tremendously. I lived out my life with other Christians who challenged me, called me out on my sin, and repeatedly shared the gospel with me so that we could remain focussed. I learned from women older than me how to be a Godly wife, mother, and woman (of course not perfectly, but you know what I’m saying). Joh 13:35 –
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
There are countless other places where Paul is speaking to the church about living in unity, about being together and edifying and building up the body. Churches should emphasize things like this so that Christians will grow and learn more about the gospel and share it with others.
Of course, everything should be centered on Christ so even this should be done in a way the centers around Christ.
And even that opens up doors. Because Christ doesn’t make up God…the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make up the triune God. So, we have to make sure we’re not leaving out the other pieces too. But I’m going to stop here for the sake of not going on and on (like I somewhat already have)
Thanks for dropping by!
Can you unpack a bit further what you mean when you say Gospel? That’s a loaded word. I’m also not sure how your examples of practical living are different being Gospel-centered than any other option.
Thanks for expanding on your comment.
Christ-centered for the first, and grace-centered for the second.
What does it mean for you to be Christ-centered and for your church to be grace-centered. How does a grace-centered church practice the faith?
Well, I think the difference between the terminology is how our society views Christ. For me, I know who Jesus is, what the Bible says about who he is, etc. So, to me being Christ-centered will naturally encompass that grace-centeredness- I’m saved by grace through faith, etc. However, I know people from different denominations who all have a very different perception of who Jesus is (from despot in the sky to genie in a bottle or just a good man)- which means that when the church wants to be “Christ-like” then everyone around interprets that differently. It seems to me that the choice to be more “grace-based” is to emphasize that salvation isn’t about religion or rituals…. it’s about Jesus. I’m not sure I’m expressing that the way I want, but I’m going to leave it.
As far as how a grace-centered church practices the faith, I think it does so by focusing on the relationship between the individual and God. The church makes sure that people know it’s by grace they have been saved, and that they can’t earn their salvation by what they do. It eschews legalism, but upholds the importance of being in relationship (which will in turn produce the changes needed in lives). It’s not about doing the right things, it’s about being in the right place with God.
As a Christian, I try to live a Kingdom-centered life.
I’ve found the “cross-centered life” keeps people from living in the reality of the Resurrection. The “Christ-centered life” feels like it’s just basically a repackaged “WWJD?” People who talk about a “gospel-centered life” tend to either think of the Gospel in terms of “The 4 Spiritual Laws,” or drop into patterns found in the other two “centereds.” They all seem to wind up being pretty individualistic (“me and Jesus”).
Jesus told us to seek His Kingdom and His Righteousness above all else. The way I see it, the common “centers” all put their focus on His Righteousness, while neglecting His Kingdom (much like the rich young ruler kept all the “Godward” commandments but fell short of loving his neighbor as himself).
As for “my church”…I’d say most congregations I’ve been around over the past half-decade have all been emphasizing an organization-centered “gospel.” None of the pastors I’ve gotten to know over that past few years seem to have much interest in anything Jesus is doing outside their sphere of authority and influence.
They’d never say it to your face, but it seems they’re so wrapped up in their own plans that they don’t really have time, energy or interest to even mention other nearby congregations’ needs in their bulletins. The mere suggestion seems to throw them for a loop. It’s like all these pastors are out to make names for themselves, and even if they’re friendly with each other, they’re all still “competitors.”
I swear, it’s like we’ve gotten to this point where “‘I follow Apollos,’ ‘I follow Paul'” is seen as “proper,” rather than something to be repented of.
Correction: “None of the pastors I’ve gotten to know over that past few years seem to have much interest in anything Jesus is doing locally, but outside their sphere of authority and influence.”
What do you think are the shortcomings of being Kingdom-centered?
“Organization-centered church”—hmm. How does a church avoid falling into that trap?
I think I’d have to say that my pastor doesn’t fall into the type you discuss, but then he wasn’t seminary trained and lacks a college degree, coming instead from the business world. Perhaps that makes a difference.
Looking over my 1st comment again, I made it sound like I was talking about “Kingdom-centered” as opposed to seeking God’s righteousness. Oops!
“What do you think are the shortcomings of being Kingdom-centered?”
– It’s lonely?
– Other Christians put less effort into getting to know me, because I’m not a regular in their club?
– Pastors constantly look at me with suspicion, like I’m a heretic or a potential “sheep-stealer”?
“‘Organization-centered church’—hmm. How does a church avoid falling into that trap?”
I’m actually just starting to open up dialog with local pastors about this very issue. It seems the pastors themselves are comfortable around each other, but when they get up in their pulpits it’s always about the congregation working under that pastor to influence the city. I’m going to try and start making connections between congregations… for example, where (x) has a cleanup project and (y) has an abundance of strapping young men, or where (a) has some big arts event happening and (b)’s burgeoning arts ministry doesn’t seem to be aware of it.
1. Balance of Scripture/Revelation from Holy Spirit cross-centered-life
2. (Sadly) my church is sliding into liberal Protestantism as most are today..they are emphasizing a social gospel Gospel.
1) Christ (with emphasis on try
I regularly pray for the empowerment, conviction, leading, and understanding of the Holy Spirit, and I often find myself addressing my prayers to God the Father, but Christ is my example and my Messiah.
The Spirit flows to us from Christ and access to the Father comes from Christ. Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” and the head of the church. I can’t see trying to be anything other than Christ-centered as a person or a church.
*** I think my church would be best described as “church centered.
I have to ask, what is your church centered upon?
I guess I would loosely define the Gospel as the life, death, and resurrection of Christ with a lot of “why’s” in there. Like why Christ had to come (which stems back to Genesis), why he had to die (to be the sacrifice for us), and why he had to be resurrected. All parts are essential for salvation. Also, I think of why I need the gospel (which I guess can be said why I need Christ, too). So I guess to me, the word Gospel brings a lot to mind to be centered around. I doubt that anyone here feels this way but I have met people who would call themselves Christ-centered and throw out the old testament…like it’s not important anymore to be studied because Christ has already come (the first time). I think being Gospel-centered definitely includes the whole story of the bible. Practically, I’m not sure how different this looks from being Christ-centered because hopefully, when we say Christ-centered, we’re taking all these things into consideration.
I haven’t had a chance to read a lot of the other answers so I don’t know if living this way could look different from what other people are saying. I’m not the most theological person and probably not the most clear either. That was my best shot 🙂
Maybe this article will help nail down some of my thoughts.
I wonder how many of us would admit to a revenue-centered life? Or how many churches would admit being revenue-centered in their growth strategies?
I was listening to a discussion about medical care in this country, and the argument that being revenue-centered was not resulting in better care. Yet I think that for most of us, revenue is a major concern in our lives, so much so that it more or less becomes the central purpose for our existence: Making enough to pay the bills.
How does this affect our life in Christ?
I would place faith in both blanks.
I don’t think I would use -centered as a way to describe my own faith or my church. I’m sure I’ve used those phrases before, but I can only think of times when it’s been in the context of a larger conversation. Where using -centered had some frame of reference.
I dunno, maybe I’m the odd one on this.
The Christ, the living word of God, the one who; all things were made by, for, and through Him. ( pretty much covers it all ) He is the very center, and reason, for all created things in the universe.
1.) Christ Centered
2.) Biblically based/Christ centered
The Word of God is the infinite truth, anything outside of that is dangerous and heretic. I am learning to trust in His Word, all of the anwsers are there. I don’t just want the outward expression and the symbol of the spiritual reality, I want Him, in and of my life.
Christ x 2
Forgiveness of sins.
His work, not ours.
He must increase, we must decrease.
His faithfulness, not ours.
His decision for us, not ours for Him.
Christ and His work centered.
#1- New testament centered
#2 – Pentecostal centered
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. (2 Tim 2:8-9)
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved– and that by God.
2. Program-centered, pastor-centered, propping-up-the-institution centered 🙁 (but the people are nice…) 🙁
“As a Christian, I try to live a grace-centered life. That grace is from Christ, of course, who points me to God the Father and empowers through the Holy Spirit. This, unfortunately, makes me feel very off-centered among many in my church family, because …
“My church emphasizes a behavior-centered Gospel. I fear that puts the emphasis on us, rather than grace … which motivates further grace in gratitude, drawing ourselves and others closer to God through Christ in the power of the Spirit.
Hmm, I know I”m coming in here late but better late than never eh? I’ve just read your most recent post on Kingdom -centred and well, I need to print it out and re-read it…a few times. It’s not that I disagree with you – the terminology just has a few negative connotations *for me*. A church that I used to be a member of many years ago (the church I attended when first came to know God) claimed to be kingdom oriented and well, suffice to say that I have had to unlearn a lot of mis-teaching over the years…mis-teaching from my early years.
I’ve always preferred the term ‘Cross-centred’ for without the Cross, it is all nothing. The Cross is the very centrality of my faith. The gospel (Jesus the Messiah, His death & resurrection, repentance, forgiveness, grace, being brothers & sisters) is not the gospel without the cross…so it is central/core to my life, to my faith. To take the cross out of Christianity simply makes it ‘just another religion’ where man tries to work or philosophise his way to God.
Hmmm, interesting. Thanks!
A Kingdom-centered view can’t afford to lose ANYTHING, especially the cross. It all fits together.