Galatians 2:11-21 has been unsettling me for forty years. Paul rebuked Peter publicly — for what? They agreed on gospel doctrine: “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (verse 16). But they clashed on gospel culture: “How can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (verse 14). For that, Paul rebuked Peter openly and bluntly.

Gospel culture is not an optional add-on. It is as essential to our integrity as is gospel doctrine. But we pastors who preach the doctrine might neglect to nurture the culture, because the preaching is more easily defined, while the nurturing requires relational sensitivity and personal vulnerability. But without the ministry of gospel culture, our churches risk standing as living denials of the very truth we preach. And then we wonder why people don’t respond, why our churches don’t get more traction.

This being so, nothing is more essential to our churches than building them as gospel cultures. If we must preach the gospel in our church doctrine, then equally, we must embody the gospel in our church culture. But if we forsake the fullness of this pastoral responsibility, we allow our churches to believe the truth as theory only, while practicing lies in reality. And Jesus did not die and rise again so that we who name Him live by lies.

Several years ago I presented a paper at The Gospel Coalition national gathering in Orlando: “How to build a gospel culture in your church.” The PDF is here: GDGC. I hope it helps.

 

This post was originally published on The Gospel Coalition

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