The Gospel-Centered Everything

Gospel-centeredness is all the rage today. We are told to live gospel-centered lives, to pray toward a gospel-centered faith, to have gospel-centered humility, to be gospel-centered parents, to form gospel-centered churches, to have gospel-centered marriages, to say goodbye at gospel-centered funerals. The gospel, we are told, must be central to all we are and all we do.

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This is good. God really does mean for the gospel to be central to the lives of his people and to be right at the center of the church. Joe Thorn defines the gospel-centered life like this: “[T]he gospel-centered life is a life where a Christian experiences a growing personal reliance on the gospel that protects him from depending on his own religious performance and being seduced and overwhelmed by idols.” Meanwhile the gospel-centered church is “is a church that is about Jesus above everything else. That sounds a little obvious, but when we talk about striving to be and maintain gospel-centrality as a church we are recognizing our tendency to focus on many other things (often good and important things) instead of Jesus. There are really only two options for local churches; they will be gospel-centered, or issue driven.”

I recently went searching for all the gospel-centered books I could find, which is to say, books that explicitly mention “gospel-centered” (or a very close synonym) in the title. Then I went a little further afield and looked for books that clearly and unapologetically teach gospel-centeredness even without using the term in their title. It is an expansive list and one I have shared below.

The sheer volume of gospel-centered books caused me to pause and reflect on both the benefits and concerns of what is clearly a contemporary trend.

Concern: “Gospel-centered” is a relatively new term. In fact, of the books listed below, only a couple of them are more than 10 years old. This may lead us to believe that this generation has captured something unique and it may feed what C.S. Lewis refers to as our chronological snobbery. Yet Christians have been writing gospel-centered books for as long as there have been books, even if they haven’t used the term. John Owen may well be the most gospel-centered writer in Christian history but you won’t find him using those words.

Benefit: “Gospel-centered” reminds us time and again of the utter and essential centrality of the gospel to the Christian life and to the Christianity community. There is no area that is outside the purview of the gospel; there is no area the gospel does not speak to. We can see this simply by looking at the list below, and can see it more clearly by reading some of the books.

Concern: “Gospel-centered” is a popular term and one we may look to as a mark of conformity or orthodoxy, as if using the term is inherently good. However, in some cases it is more of a sales strategy than a theological distinction. Further, not every author means the same thing by it and some authors understand it more fully than others.

Benefit: “Gospel-centered” books are consistently and patiently teaching us that the gospel really does apply to every area of life. As the list below proves, the gospel has direct application to everything. (Note: There is not yet a “Gospel-Centered Sex” book; however, it is probably on the way and may well be very helpful! If a couple consistently applies the implications of the gospel to the marriage bed, they will inevitably have a healthier marriage.)

Concern: “Gospel-centered” is the flavor of the day and with all the material using the term, we will eventually grow weary of it. I think it is safe to predict that ten years from now we will not be publishing nearly as many books that explicitly use the term “gospel-centered.” The danger is not in growing weary of the term—terms come and go—but growing weary of gospel-centeredness itself.

Here, now, is the big list of Gospel-Centered Everything. I have no doubt that even now it is an incomplete list and have no doubt that there will be many titles to add in the months and years to come.

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Then there are quite a few books that may not have gospel-centered in the title, but still mean to be obviously gospel-centric.