In many ways Church with Jesus as the Hero is the fruit of thousands of conversations amongst a church staff that has remained intact and unified in gospel ministry for over ten years. The book’s value rests not only on its indispensable theme of Christ-centered ministry, but also on the fact that these ideas have been battle-tested “in the trenches” of local church ministry. The contributors did not write these chapters based solely on theory; these chapters are the fruit of years of laboring together to contextualize Christ-centered preaching and ministry at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. We put this resource together because we believe that what God has enabled us to do here is unique. But we also believe that every church should be laboring to make Christ the Hero of every aspect of its life and mission.
I am thrilled about the plethora of Christ-centered and gospel-focused resources that are being published today. It seems that in recent years, God has providentially led a movement back toward the gospel in evangelical churches. We are pleased to place Church with Jesus as the Hero alongside many of these wonderful resources. However, it is one thing to target the problem and quite another thing altogether to begin charting a path toward the solution. We believe that there is often a disconnect between agreeing with the notion that the church must be centered on Christ and actually knowing how to begin practically inching toward the goal of a fully Christ-centered church. I believe that Church with Jesus as the Hero is a wonderful starting point for connecting these dots.
Ideas like “Christ-centered ministry,” while helpful to a degree, remain rather abstract. What Christian would ever disagree with the opinion that the church should be more Christ-centered? The problem lies in ascertaining what exactly we mean when we assert such things. In order to be most beneficial, we must begin working toward displaying Christ-centered ministry in action. We are attempting to show in Church with Jesus as the Hero that Christ-centered ministry must work to situate the gospel of Jesus Christ as the foundation, method, and goal of every aspect of the church’s life together, and then we uniquely provide various examples of what that looks like in our specific context.
With that said, I would like to offer a little guidance on what is needed to see Jesus truly become the Hero in your ministry context. Yes, please read our book, but please also realize that reading our book won’t actually solve any of the problems you may be facing in your church:
- Put your ego aside. In order to work toward any goal, you must be willing to be critiqued. Christ doesn’t become the Hero if you are still trying to be one. I don’t offer this advice as some sort of expert in the field. I write as one who has endured hundreds of Tuesday morning staff meetings where I have listened to other wiser ministers critique everything I am doing from a Christ-centered perspective. These conversations are not always easy, but they are necessary. I just got back from a mission trip to Ica, Peru, where I had the privilege of training pastors and other church leaders on the themes if this book. Tragically, many of the believers voiced fear that moving in a more Christ-centered direction would be opposed by egotistical pastors. There is no room for ego where Christ is the Hero. Sadly, the converse is also true: There is no room for Christ where egos reign.
- Work toward staff unity and solidarity. Is your church staff truly unified? The implementation of any type of culture change in the church depends on unity of purpose among the leadership of the church. Again and again, the New Testament emphasizes the need for the church to be “of one mind” (Rom. 15:6; Phil. 2:2; 1 Pet. 3:8). Practically, I would recommend planning ministry together and discussing in detail what it means to make Christ the Hero of everything you are doing. Our staff discusses these things even down to the level of what specific language we use when presenting things to the congregation. We want everything we do to have a consistent Christ-centered flavor.
- Is Christ the Hero of your life? You can’t even begin thinking about making Christ the Hero of your church unless Christ is the obvious Hero of your life. Pastors who live on a performance treadmill before God will inevitably be demanding and performance-driven when they lead the church. Pastors that are self-sufficient in their own lives will be unable to lead their congregations toward dependency on Christ alone. Christ-centeredness in the church always begin with you.