Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Evangelicalism in America Today

The Gospel Coalition
is a group of (mostly) pastors and churches in the Reformed heritage who delight in the truth and power of the gospel, and who want the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected to lie at the center of all we cherish, preach, and teach. In a time of endless fragmentation, it is easy to sound prophetic from the margins, but one of the most urgent needs of any generation is to be prophetic from the center—from what the Bible makes the center. We want to be robustly biblical, richly theological, constantly elevating what God himself in his own Word makes central. We are not looking for some inexpensive lowest-common-denominator theology, as if unity that is biblically understood can be increased by enlarging the list of things we cannot discuss. Far from it: to focus on Christ and the gospel does not mean that every other subject is off limits; rather, it means we want to be able to address the full panoply of biblical topics and understanding of our times through the prism of what the Bible itself makes the focal point. We are gradually learning that our unity under the Lordship of Christ is not achieved by increasing the length of the list of things we will not talk about, but by being willing to talk about anything while bringing everything to the test of Scripture and the non-negotiable gospel it promotes.

Our theological convictions and our vision of what ministry should look like in our churches are detailed elsewhere (see the Foundation Documents at www.thegospelcoalition.org). We place the highest priority on what is nowadays often called “word ministries,” including preaching but also elevating the role of the Bible in small groups, evangelism, counseling, discipleship. At the same time, we want to encourage Christians to be salt and light in the full panoply of life, living out the norms of the kingdom in ways that do good to people around us while challenging the cultural status quo with the norms of the kingdom and the prospect of a new heaven and a new earth.

In practice our Council of about fifty pastors meets regularly, off camera, to work through theological issues in frank discussion (some of the results are posted on our website), to encourage one another in the ministry, learn from one another, and pray for one another. Our website is becoming a way of circulating more broadly the sermons, studies, discipleship ventures and the like of our Council members, both for our own encouragement and for the good of others. At the same time we are becoming a distribution center for other ventures with similar vision (see, for instance, the tab for the Christ on Campus Initiative). Our hope is to foster a network—The Gospel Coalition Network—of Christian pastors and other leaders who stimulate one another to faithfulness and fruitfulness in life and ministry in this rapidly-changing, increasingly urbanized, and spiritually hungry world. National and regional conferences constitute part of the outworking of this vision. At the same time we hope in due course to foster ties of mutual encouragement and support with believers in other cultures from which we have much to learn.

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