"Gospel-Centered" is a phrase that has become more popular over the last few years. It has been used to describe everything from children's ministry to counseling and recovery ministries. There are books on Gospel Centered preaching, discipleship, small groups, and more. But there is one area that it seems to be dangerously lacking: Local Mission. We talk about the Gospel in every ministry that relates to us but as soon as we talk about the poor or the widow or other marginalized populations in our city, Gospel Centrality fades from our conversation. It is often replaced with talk of helping the less fortunate or focussed on alleviating suffering.
The great irony is that God uses the experience of the marginalized as some of his clearest metaphors for the Gospel. In our sin, we are described as poor, slaves, orphans, lost, helpless, oppressed, addicts, and criminals.
The story of Christ's redemption of His church is perhaps best described in these terms because it helps us to see that we need Christ like those being trafficked need freedom, like those addicted to drugs or alcohol need rehab, like the homeless need a safe place to rest away from the elements. In fact, we need Christ even more because our spiritual situation is worse. Many churches have started to understand this and to teach it as a way to understand the gospel better, but few have applied it to their actual local mission strategy. To simply use the suffering of someone else to help us understand our own need for Christ is dehumanizing. On the other hand, to see this as a starting point and the motivation to go and make disciples of all people, is perhaps the most humanizing thing we could do, as it helps us to see every situation caused by the fall as common to our human experience and equally in need of the grace and mercy of Jesus. How can you make your Local Mission efforts more "Gospel-Centered?"