The Gospel-Driven Church by Jared Wilson: a Book Review
To call something “gospel-driven” or “gospel-centered” is trendy these days. Tacking the word gospel onto something has become so common that it has almost lost its meaning. Ask any church member what the word gospel means and I can bet the answers you receive would be far and wide. That’s why we must ask if Jared Wilson’s new book, The Gospel-Driven Church provides clarity in murky water or is it just contributing to the confusion of gospel hype?
Jared Wilson is director of content strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the managing editor of For the Church (ftc.co). He is also the director of the Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri. If it doesn’t sound like he’s busy enough already, he is also an award-winning author of more than ten books and is a prominent conference speaker.
“Every church is either growing or dying,” Wilson begins (23). But what Wilson is quick to argue is that in growth and death there is more than meets the eye. “In this book, I want to offer more than just another critique of American pragmatism. In the next chapter, I will argue that judging a church’s health purely on visible metrics in unreliable and unbiblical” (26). Wilson will assert that just because there are many people in church building does not necessarily mean that there are many Christians in your church building. “If they aren’t won by the glory of Christ, then they aren’t won to the glory of Christ” (37).
Wilson will argue throughout the book for a more gospel-driven approach rather than using any means necessary to get people through the doors of your church (an attractional method). He addresses the pitfalls of relying solely on being attractional and shows the biblical necessity of a gospel-driven approach while showing those in leadership how to steer their churches toward this change. Wilson does all of this with his signature, engaging writing style, but also employs the use of narrative throughout the book. Along with Wilson’s insights, the reader will follow the leadership of an attractional church that is faced with an identity crisis and the reader will journey with them as navigate the road of what it looks like to become gospel-driven.
I found the last two chapters of the book—The Three Things You Will Need and Leading Change in a Gracious Way to be especially helpful and encouraging. Wilson is brutally honest in chapter nine stating that to make this kind of change leaders must have “conviction, courage, and commitment” (166). Being gospel-centered takes the focus off me (a focus we all can love) and puts the focus on whom it belongs—God. For some people, this won’t be a popular transition. Wilson gives much needed encouragement for those willing to face this hard task.
I love the subtitle of chapter 10: How to do all of this without blowing up your church. Wilson advocates for humility here and provides “ten keys to shepherding the transition” (192). These keys are so helpful. They are great instruction for pastors shepherding any transition. Some of my favorite quotes found here include:
Remember how patient God was with you before you “got it.” Don’t treat others who are slow to grasp gospel-centrality with pressure you were not subjected to. People rarely feel leveraged into a genuine comprehension of grace (193).
One way I have learned to work against handling conflict sinfully is to advocate in my mind for my critics (194).
Overcommunicate. Then re-overcommunicate. Then re-overcommunicate again (196).
Don’t be a lazy character in God’s story (198).
Consistency in seeing gospel-centrality through is key, and it is key to understand that you will never, ever, ever be “through” with gospel-centrality (200).
Wilson really does provide clarity in the midst of an echo chamber of “gospel-centered” jargon. He furthers the conversation rather than muddling it even further. I’d advocate for regular church members to pick up this book so they can have clarity in what their church should be. I’d advocate for pastors to pick up this book for encouragement if their church is already gospel-driven or for challenge and instruction if they find themselves more in an attractional model. The Gospel-Driven Church is a book that is needed for our time and the consumer, me-focused culture we currently live in.
You can pick up your copy of The Gospel-Driven Church on Amazon.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for a fair and honest review.