What Do We Mean By "Gospel Care"? (Part 1)
What exactly is “gospel care”? Perhaps you have asked yourself that question as this term has been increasingly heard at New Covenant in recent weeks. Is its use meant to communicate that at New Covenant we truly care about the gospel? That is certainly the case. We care deeply about the gospel message of God’s redeeming love demonstrated through the life, death, and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ. We believe these gospel truths are central to who we are as a church. In fact, we consider ourselves a “gospel-centered” church; meaning, we believe that this gospel message is not only the good news that brings us into a saving relationship with God the Father through Jesus, but it is also the key truth we need to apply to our lives daily through the power of the Holy Spirit as THE means God uses to change us more and more into the image of Christ to his glory. At New Covenant we care deeply about the gospel.
However, when we use the term “gospel care,” we are saying more than just that we care deeply about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are specifically identifying actions and activities that ought to be present in our life together as a result of the gospel’s transforming work in each of our lives. I find Timothy Lane’s definition helpful: “Words that express the fuller meaning of [gospel care] are discipleship, informal helping relationships, one anothering, growth in grace, conformity to the image of Christ, sanctification, change, growth in godliness, the fruit of the Spirit, faith and obedience, and increase in wisdom.”
The term “one anothering” is especially helpful. Think of all the New Testament commands to one another: abound in love for one another (1 Thessalonians 3:12), bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), confess your sins to one another (James 5:16), outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10), etc. My personal favorite is Hebrews 10:24: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works...” Unfortunately, the way this verse usually gets translated takes away some of its impact. As the writer to the Hebrews penned this sentence under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the object of the command for us to “consider” is not “how” but “one another.” The verse literally reads: consider one another toward the end of stirring up [or provoking!] one another to love and good works. What we are to consider is not a how-to. What we are to consider is those around us in the body of Christ. We ought to view them as our brothers and sisters in Christ purchased by His precious blood, holy and dearly loved by God the Father, chosen before the foundation of time for the purpose of doing good works which he prepared in advance for them to do, glorious trophies of grace in whom God is working out his eternal purposes with the promise to complete what he has begun. That’s what we mean when we say gospel care: all the ways that we interact and relate to one another that spur on the process of sanctification by the power and beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Think for a moment about the broadness and diversity of one anothering, of ministering gospel care. It happens in our everyday conversations with one another when we point a brother or sister to the riches of God’s Word and help them draw on his grace for the moment. It happens when you pray with someone in the church foyer after a Sunday morning worship service. At the same time, we have specific ministries of care at New Covenant that are designed to create space for the Holy Spirit to work to foster gospel care for another in the body. I hope that when you think of these types of ministries CareGroups is the first that comes to mind. CareGroups exist as a means for the members and regular attenders of New Covenant to apply the truths of the gospel to their lives in the context of relationship. When New Covenant was formed three years ago, our elders affirmed the importance of the ministry of the gospel to one another by designating our small groups as CareGroups and making them the primary means of adult discipleship for our church.
Another way to view our ministries of gospel care is as a continuum of care. As one moves across the spectrum of care ministries from gospel conversations to one-on-one personal ministry (or mutual care) to group sanctification in a CareGroup to formal counseling relationships that apply God’s Word to the difficult issues of life in a fallen world, the focus, depth, and intensity of care increases.
It is my prayer that as we continue in our life together, the Spirit of God will use the various means of his grace -- people, ministries, pastors, elders, counselors, lay counselors, CareGroup leaders -- to minister the gospel to one another so that every person at New Covenant is transformed increasingly into the image of God, for his glory and our eternal good. Please join me in praying toward that joyful end.
Giving and receiving the care of our Great Shepherd with you,
Pastor FOR Gospel Care & Outreach