“Gospel-centered” by D.A. Carson

“Focus on Christ crucified. That is what Paul did: ‘For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2). This does not mean that this was a new departure for Paul, still less that Paul was devoted to blissful ignorance of anything and everything other than the cross.

No, what he means is that all he does and teaches is tied to the cross. He cannot long talk about Christian joy, or Christian ethics, or Christian fellowship, or the Christian doctrine of God, or anything else, without finally tying it to the cross.

Paul is gospel-centered; he is cross centered. That is more than a creedal commitment; it sets out Paul’s priorities, his lifestyle, and in this context, his style of ministry.

If he really holds that God has supremely disclosed Himself in the cross and that to follow the crucified and risen Savior means dying daily, then it is preposterous to adopt a style of ministry that is triumphalistic, designed to impress, calculated to win applause…

What then does it mean today to resolve ‘to know nothing… except Jesus Christ and Him crucified’? More narrowly, what elements in our ministries need overhauling when judged by this standard? For this commitment must not only shape our message but our style.”

–D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 37-38.

“You were bought with a price” by D.A. Carson

“Christian leaders worthy of the name will constantly be aware that they owe fealty and devoted allegiance to only one Person: to the Lord who bought them.”

–D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 98.

“There is no middle ground” by D.A. Carson

“Ultimately wisdom is from the world and is opposed by God, or it is God-given and tied to the cross. There is no middle ground.”

–D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 62.

“What an utterly profound privilege” by D.A. Carson

“There is no deep and stable spirituality that does not acknowledge what an utterly profound privilege it is to know God and be reconciled to Him by the crucified Messiah.”

–D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 52.

“The smoothness of the performance” by D.A. Carson

“We have become so performance-oriented that it is hard to see how compromised we are. Consider one small example. In many of our churches, prayers in morning services now function, in large measure, as the time to change the set in the sanctuary.

The people of the congregation bow their heads and close their eyes, and when they look up a minute later, why, the singers are in place, or the drama group is ready to perform. It is all so smooth. It is also profane. Nominally we are in prayer together addressing the King of heaven, the sovereign Lord.

In reality, some of us are doing that while others are rushing on tiptoes around the ‘stage’ and others, with their eyes closed are busy wondering what new and happy configuration will confront them when it is time to take a peek. Has the smoothness of the performance become more important to us than the fear of the Lord?

Has polish, one of the modern equivalents of ancient rhetoric, displaced substance? Have professional competence and smooth showmanship become more valuable than sober reckoning over what it means to focus on Christ crucified?”

–D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 38-39.

“When Barna becomes more important than the Bible” by D.A. Carson

“At the moment, books are pouring off the presses telling us how to plan for success, how ‘vision’ consists in clearly articulated ‘ministry goals,’ how the knowledge of detailed profiles of our communities constitutes the key to successful outreach. I am not for a moment suggesting that there is nothing to be learned from such studies.

But after a while one may perhaps be excused for marveling how many churches were planted by Paul and Whitefield and Wesley and Stanway and Judson without enjoying these advantages. Of course all of us need to understand the people to whom we minister, and all of us can benefit from small doses of such literature. But massive doses sooner or later dilute the gospel.

Ever so subtly, we start to think that success more critically depends on thoughtful sociological analysis than on the gospel; Barna becomes more important than the Bible. We depend on plans, programs, vision statements–but somewhere along the way we have succumbed to the temptation to displace the foolishness of the cross with the wisdom of strategic planning. Again, I insist, my position is not a thinly veiled plea for obscurantism, for seat-of-the-pants ministry that plans nothing.

Rather, I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed from the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the center, we are not far removed from idolatry.”

–D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 26. [HT: JT]