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Gospel culture is a word thrown around nowadays in various ministry contexts. Many leaders long for their churches and ministries to be marked by gospel centrality. But often, the definitions for gospel culture or gospel centrality can be too broad with few ways of assessing where our current ministries are.

We’re beginning another semester, and many of us are moving into a season of evaluation and reflection. Every semester, I like to evaluate where my ministry is regarding core mission and values while also evaluating whether the ministry I’m leading is actually developing a deeper gospel culture.

I learned these diagnosing areas of gospel ministry a couple years ago and they’ve helped me evaluate whether what I am seeking to build is in fact a culture centered on the gospel. As gospel ministers, our core longing should be to create a culture shaped and fueled by the greatest news. Once this culture is in place, your students and ministry will begin to flourish and truly bear lasting fruit.

Three areas of assessment help us evaluate where we are in building gospel culture: Gospel Content, Gospel Community and Gospel Call.

Gospel Content: This first section is probably the biggest “no brainer” for us as gospel ministers. But it is the most important. I tend to label this section gospel clarity. This means we are seeking to build a ministry that is always growing in the depth and understanding of the gospel message and its effect on our lives. It also means that all we do—teaching, events, trainings—are influenced, motivated and guided by the message of the gospel. And this will bear fruit in the lives of your students.

Another way you could word this section of evaluation is “truth.” What truth am I presenting? This one may be the easiest for you to assess.

Questions to ponder about this area:

  • Are my students (and I) growing in their understanding and articulation of the gospel (Ephesians 3:14-19)?
  • Are my students (and I) growing in their gospel confidence (2 Timothy 1:15-16)?
  • Do my leaders (and I) operate out of Jesus’ love for them or out of duty or mission obligation (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)?
  • What foundation am I seeking to lead my students to build upon (Matthew 7:24-27)?

Gospel Community: This second section is an outworking of the first and directly shapes the third section. All of us know that the Christian life isn’t meant to be lived alone but in the context of deep relationships with others. We don’t want to be leading ministries where we are merely “plugging students” into various groups without shaping the lives of those groups.

The two words I use to shape the community of leaders, groups and students are safety and intentionality.

Gospel community only happens when those two words are marking our ministries, creating a place where students and leaders are free to be honest in their relationships because the community is a safe space to be real and is a place where there is intentionality and accountability in formation and mission.

Questions to ponder about this area:

  • Is the community I’m building a place of safety? Can students be honest with where they are in maturity and mission without fear (James 5:16)?
  • Is the community I’m building intentional? Is it a culture calling students to take their next step together on mission (Acts 2:46-47)?

Gospel Call: This section is usually either the most neglected or the most championed in collegiate ministry. Either our ministries are too “inward” and lack living out the mission the gospel calls us to, or we’re too “outward” and the health of ourselves, our students and leaders can be neglected. This neglect happens when we’re not letting the necessary time for true growth and maturation to take place in the messy lives of those we lead. I know that’s been me at times.

But we must be building cultures that take seriously God’s mission and our role in them or our discipleship is lacking. Our content must be clear, our community must be safe, but those should always be applied in the context of mission.

We must always make it a priority to be empowering and equipping our leaders and students in mission to be a true gospel culture.

Questions to ponder about this area:

  • Is this community too “inwardly” focused?
  • Are there clear pathways for my students to participate in God’s mission?
  • In what ways am I empowering students to participate?
  • What avenues of equipping am I providing?

When all three of these areas are evident and active, you have a gospel culture. The problem is that we can center too much on one of these areas and completely neglect the other two. We may be the best communicators and teachers of deep gospel theology yet neglect the call to do that in the context of community and mission. We may have great avenues for students to connect with other students, but those communities aren’t truly intentional. We may have students equipped in their calling, participating in their mission, but all the while their hearts aren’t going any deeper in Jesus’ love and commitment to them that they need for lasting fruit.

When there’s a gospel culture of deep knowledge and love for Jesus, applied through disciplines, lived out in safe and intentional relationships, in the context of gospel mission, there’s no telling the fruit that will bear for years to come.

Let us be leaders and ministers who never get over the beauty of the gospel, and let it influence and shape the ministry culture we’re building.