In Tim Keller’s Center Church, the idea of a center church is a balanced ministry on each of three axes: The Gospel, Culture, and Movement. The first axis is the Gospel: The gospel is the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ from the wrath of God. The gospel isn’t something we do, but something that has been done for us that we respond to.
Keller cautions that a balanced understanding of gospel must avoid on one side of the axis, the extreme of relativism that teaches that God loves everyone the same and it really doesn’t matter how we live. However, before getting comfortable that the term relativism doesn’t describe you, Keller warns that on the other hand, we must avoid the arrogance that comes from trusting in our own right behavior or refined theological system as our savior rather than faith in Jesus Christ.
The church in every new generation and context must create ways to communicate the gospel in a bold and winsome way that avoids extremes of legalism and license.
The second axis is the City or Cultural Axis. Believers must identify, love, and understand their local community. We must recognize that all cultures have elements of God’s common grace and revelation and all cultures have elements of rebellion against God
Keller cautions us that we should avoid on one hand, the extremes of over identifying with our culture, and accepting everything in it that we can’t even be distinguished from it nor are we able to critique or challenge it.
On the other hand we should not withdrawal from culture to create a Christian subculture that only is a voice of critique and yet that culture can quickly become its own idol to worship that no one from the outside even listens to it.
The third axis is Movement. Movement as described in Keller’s book is the church’s relationships with its community, with its theological history and tradition, and with other churches and ministries.
Keller cautious us to avoid, on one hand, the extreme of a tight and structured organization that is wrapped up in tradition and authority. Organizations on this end of the axis tend to have strict limits on the degree of cooperation with other believers and are devoted only to the success of its own organization.
On the other hand, a completely fluid organization that resists any link to tradition and structure is weakened by it lack of history, structure and the credibility that comes with experience of effectiveness in its context.
I loved Center Church and give it a high recommendation. Its “insight per page” ratio is among the highest of the books that I’ve read this year. Go out and buy it and read it today.
Purchase audio of Center Church, click here.