Before we can answer the question, we have to make sure something is clear: the gospel calls churches into existence. That is, the gospel creates churches. Think about it...
The gospel is the good news that Jesus has come into our world, lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died so we can be saved by radical grace. When this news is announced, people do respond in repentance and faith. Once they do, they become part of the Church (capital ‘C’). The gospel creates the Church.
So if the gospel creates the Church, it should have an ongoing role in your local church. Is your church gospel-shaped?
How would I know?
There are numerous signs that a church is gospel-shaped, but one that’s often overlooked is community. By ‘community’ I don’t mean people hang out with each other. But rather, is the nature of the community reflecting the nature of the gospel. There are two aspects to a gospel-shaped church community.
First, there is breadth. That is, the gospel brings together people who are very different from each other. Without the gospel, there is a good chance they wouldn’t be hanging around each other. This is one major difference between a local church and a local club. Clubs bring together people of similar ages, affinities, races, and/or socio-economic statuses. A gospel-shaped church will bring together people of different ages, affinities, races, and socio-economic statuses because what unites them isn’t any of those things, but rather the gospel itself. After all, the gospel unites sinful, finite, and dependent human beings with a holy, infinite, and independent God. The gospel brings together people who are very different from each other.
Second, there is depth. In a gospel-shaped church, the people will be willing to sacrifice their comfort for the good of those around them. The people in a gospel-shaped church will go to be willing to expend a good amount of energy for the spiritual, emotional, and material good of those around them. In the gospel, we see Jesus going to extraordinary lengths at an infinite cost to himself for the spiritual, emotional, and material good of lost people.
In a nutshell, a gospel-shaped church will bring together people who have very little in common other than their love for Jesus. And the people in a gospel-shaped church will show a level of generosity, sacrifice, and service to each other not found many other places in society.