First Look: The Gospel-Centered Community

GCCCoverArtBy God’s grace, Will Walker and I have had the privilege of doing some writing that has been well-received by the broader church. Our first project was a small-group study called The Gospel-Centered Life, which has sold over 100,000 copies to date. I tell the back story on how that resource came into existence in this post, and in this one from back in 2007.

I’m excited to announce that on August 26, 2013, the follow-up to GCL rolls off the presses, thanks to our good friends at Serge (formally known as World Harvest Mission) and New Growth Press. It’s called The Gospel-Centered Community. Below is an outline of the content to whet your appetite.

If you’re interested in ordering a copy, you can do so in late August by visiting the NGP online bookstore. And of course, we’d appreciate your help in getting the word out…

The Gospel-Centered Community contains nine lessons that are grouped into two major sections.

The Foundation of Gospel-Centered Community

Lesson 1: Created for Community

This lesson explores the theme of community through the redemptive storyline of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation. How does being created in God’s image provide the foundation for meaningful community? How does the fall destroy community? How does redemption in Jesus renew our capacity for community? And how does community provide the context for our ongoing transformation? This lesson lays the foundation for a biblical understanding of the gospel and community.

Lesson 2: How Community Shapes Us in the Gospel

This lesson focuses on the way community exposes our sin and unbelief, pushing us into a deeper dependence on what Jesus accomplished for us in his death and resurrection. When we begin to see community as a means of spiritual formation, we see every struggle or problem we have in relationships as a “gospel opportunity”—a chance to believe the promises of the gospel more deeply and to rely on the Holy Spirit to change our
hearts and lives in the ways God desires.

Lesson 3: How the Gospel Shapes Community

In this lesson, we want to explore how the gospel empowers and enables deeper community. By “deeper” community we mean community in which relationships are increasingly shaped by the good things that come from trusting Jesus and the promises of the gospel: things like a growing trust, openness, humility, service, teachability, and accountability that reflect God’s character and his intentions for human relationships. We’re still working out the same concepts, just coming at them from a different angle. As a result of this lesson, your group should begin to confront some of the barriers to deeper, more life-giving community.

Lesson 4: Faith Working Through Love

This lesson is a “hinge point” in the study. It introduces the concept of “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). We will never love one another as God intends unless we understand how faith in the work of Christ provides the foundation and the motivation for love. This lesson establishes a core principle that we’ll return to in Lessons 5 through 9.

The Fruit of Gospel-Centered Community

Lesson 5: A Joyful Community

In this lesson, we begin to look at some of the characteristic marks of gospel-centered community. The first—and perhaps the most important—is joy. If joy is missing from Christian community, it’s a clear indication that something is amiss in our understanding of the gospel. This lesson will help us understand why the relationship between justification and sanctification is crucial to experiencing joy in Christ.

Lesson 6: A Humble Community

Another mark of a gospel-centered community is humility. To grow in humility, we need to identify the ways pride manifests itself in our lives, and we need to put pride to death by looking to Jesus as our example and experiencing his grace personally. This lesson seeks to help us understand biblical humility, become more humble people, and shape a more humble community that is eager to serve.

Lesson 7: An Honest Community

Authentic community means being known “as we really are.” But most of us are worried that others would not accept us or like us if they really knew us. So instead of letting our true selves be known, we hide behind
a false self. The apostle John urges us to turn from this darkness, this denial of truth, and “walk in the light” instead. This lesson explores how the good news of the gospel frees us from slavery to the approval or disapproval of others. When we are confident in our identity in Christ, we are free to be known as we really are and to love others as they really are.

Lesson 8: A Grace-Filled Community

A gospel-centered community is a grace-filled community. But sin has distorted our understanding and tainted our desires in this area. Sometimes we settle for a flimsy sort of “acceptance” that doesn’t confront unbiblical beliefs or behaviors. In other situations we can make people earn our acceptance through their performance. Our deep dysfunction in this area is only healed when we allow the gospel to transform our hearts and lives. When we understand and believe that God accepts and forgives us in Christ, we gain a right understanding of what it means to accept and forgive each other.

Lesson 9: A Missional Community

In this last lesson, we consider one final characteristic of a gospel-centered community: mission. A gospel-centered community is a community that is moving toward others as God has moved toward them. All Christians are called to leave their comfortable routines and move toward their neighbors who don’t know Christ. The Father sent the Son; the Son sent the Spirit; and the Spirit sends the church. As those changed by the Spirit through the gospel, we are a “going” people, always moving toward others as God has moved toward us.

Disclaimer: This content is reproduced from The Gospel-Centered Community, Copyright © 2013 by Robert H. Thune and Will Walker. Used by permission of New Growth Press ( and may not be downloaded, reproduced, and/or distributed without prior written permission of New Growth Press.

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