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Does "gospel-preaching church" have a shared meaning among Christians? What is it supposed to mean, and what are the signs of this "gospel-preaching church"? Is the term a tautology? Or is the negation of the term a way to criticize and slight other types of Christians or denominations that one group of Christians may disapprove of or dislike? If possible, where did this phrase come from, and by whom is this phrase typically used?

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  • I like this question...but can you be a bit more specific? Are you referring to a particular church or denomination that officially call themselves "gospel-preaching church" (as in First Self Righteous Gospel Preaching Church, Banjoville, TN) or are you wanting a definition of what a church must do to preach the Gospel? There are many overlapping denominations and sects that effectively lead souls to Christ. There are also (like David points out in his good answer) many denominations that are "Holier than Thou."
    – user5286
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 15:42
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    I just want to know what the term means. What a church may do to preach the gospel would fit under the big topic of "gospel-preaching church".
    – Double U
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 15:52
  • @ Double U See recent answer, defining the Gospel, and giving a history of the theological conflict that necessitated the phrase, "Gospel-preaching" church. Good question that still remains relevant in modernity. Peace!
    – ray grant
    Commented Mar 29 at 23:14

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The term is not one that has an official definition across the board. However, there are two meanings that are generally implied by the phrase. One is a bit.. inflammatory, even if it's not really "meant to be taken that way". It is tied up with the idea (common to most Christians) that some Churches are preaching a false "gospel". (I say it's common to most Christians because if it weren't, we wouldn't have so much division within the umbrella of what's called "Christianity".) The other is less inflammatory.


Starting with the inflammatory meaning, to get it out of the way:

It's something usually said by mainstream evangelicals, and in typical usage, it means "A church that preaches what my Church preaches.

To clarify that, most denominations agree on the central tenets of Christianity, but there are disagreements on certain points.
- Some denominations teach a works-based salvation, or faith+works salvation.
- Others are perhaps unfairly accused of teaching a works+faith salvation message. - Some denominations preach a Gospel message at the end of every service, and may include an invitation, while others don't. (I don't recall any such thing ever occurring in a Catholic or Lutheran service, come to think of it. Just the fiercely evangelical denominations.)

But typically, when you hear this phrase, it's a standard Evangelical protestant, who is a strong believer in salvation by faith alone. And they're saying, in effect, "Go ahead and go to a Baptist Church, or an Evangelical Free, or an Assembly of God, even, they all differ in some ways, but they all have the right message on what it takes to be saved. But don't go to that Catholic Church, they teach that you're saved by obedience to the Church, ordinances, and believe all kinds of wacky stuff like praying to saints and Transubstantiation. Steer clear of them and stick to the churches that teach the real Gospel message. And don't even get me started on them Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses. Go find you a Church that teaches that you're a sinner, that you need to repent and put your faith in Jesus, and trust in that alone! Don't go to some Church that teaches anything not found in the Bible".

(Again, shorter version, "Go to a Church that teaches what I believe.")


It can also have a less "I'm right, those heathens are wrong" meaning. It can also simply mean, a Church whose focus is evangelism.

As noted above, I don't recall ever hearing a message about having to repent, put my faith in Christ, and get saved in a Catholic Church. (They may preach that, but I've just missed it...) By contrast, every Baptist service, wedding, funeral, or pot-luck I've ever attended has a message, or at least a prayer that does this. Also, you don't see a lot of Catholics going door-to-door handing out tracts, inviting people out to Church. I see that in Baptist and other strongly Evangelical Churches (As well as with LDS and Jehovah's Witnesses) all the time. So in that context, "Gospel Preaching Church" can simply mean a Church whose focus is on sharing the Gospel.

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  • Who's right and who's wrong may be off-topic on this site, but it isn't in the real world. The differences in doctrine are significant, and we all believe that the consequences of being wrong are eternal. It shouldn't be surprising that we put a lot of importance on correct doctrine, and are passionate about those who we believe have incorrect doctrine, and could lead people astray. Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 2:16
  • Wow. So much sectarianism in a simple phrase!
    – Double U
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 19:29
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A church sermon can include many topics: history, language, society, morals, ethics, relationships, psychology, and more. None of these things are wrong in and of themselves, and yet if a sermon consists only of these things, that sermon is deficient. A gospel-preaching church will aim to always make the core of their sermons be the Christian gospel, out of which these other topics can be developed and discussed in the context of the gospel.

A gospel-preaching church would also want the gospel to be addressed in all the other things it does too (in its hymns/songs, prayers, bible studies, children and youth programs etc.)

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  • So, one meaning of "gospel-preaching church" is that the church in question must address the gospel in some way in whatever topic of the sermon.
    – Double U
    Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 0:59
  • I wouldn't say that if it occasionally doesn't make focus on the gospel that means it's no longer gospel-preaching, but it would be exceptional. Sadly there are churches where addressing the gospel would be the exception.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 1:02
  • And though I focused on the sermon, a gospel-preaching church would want the gospel to be addressed in all the other things it does too (in its hymns/songs, prayers, bible studies, children and youth programs etc.)
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 1:03
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My answer has a purely anecdotal basis. Being a "boomer," I am more than a little familiar with the tension which existed in my formative years--the 50s and 60s--between two distinct flavors of ethos within the nationwide Christian church in America.

On the one hand, there were the "social gospelers." These were self-confessed Christians of various mainline (and not-so-mainline) denominations who, like James, the half-brother of Jesus, weighed in on the works-side of the works-faith dichotomy. You know, "faith without works is dead." Call them realists who believe the Gospel should not be about

"Pie in the sky when you die by and by."

To them, the Gospel should make a positive and constructive difference in the life of Everyman and Everywoman in the here and now. Themes such as justice, mercy, compassion, good deeds, the brotherhood and sisterhood of all mankind, and even "All roads lead to Rome if you agree on these themes; but if you don't, then you're a narrow-minded bigot who doesn't deserve to be called a Christian."

On the proverbial other hand were--for want of a better word--the idealists, whose Gospel alone, they believed, had the power to change people's lives from the inside out so that they would quite naturally do what the Gospel requires of them, which is make disciples of those around them so that they in turn can make more disciples, and so it goes until the whole world at least hears the Gospel message at least once and Jesus returns and takes all true believers to heaven. Call them the "truth gospelers." In terms of James's theology, they leaned more toward faith than works, and while they believed good works are a good thing, in order to "count" they needed to be the fruit of conversion and not the fruit of a social gospel which to them was, in the Apostle Paul's words, "another Gospel" (in other words, a spurious Gospel which must be rejected; see Galatians 1:8,9).

Having grown up in the latter camp, I came to resent the "social gospelers" because they--wait for it--did not preach the true Gospel, but a spurious, fake Gospel. "They" preached a Gospel of good works and not the Gospel "we" preach; namely, "For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; not of works lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8,9).

With 20/20 hindsight, what we failed to do was read the next verse and take it seriously. What fell by the wayside was, "For we [Christians] are [God's] workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

What the "social gospelers" failed to do (again, from my side of the tracks) was to read and take to heart the message of verses 8 and 9, with its emphasis on grace--or God's unmerited, undeserved favor to us sinners--and faith, which was also a gift of grace and not just an intellectual affirmation such as "I'm a Christian because I was not born a Moslem in Egypt." Furthermore, "Faith without works [may be] dead, but works without faith is equally dead," which message goes back to Jesus' teaching that we "must be born again [or born from above]" (John 3:3).

By contrast, the "truth gospelers" failed to combine the best of both worlds; namely, faith AND works, in an admixture that ignored neither the importance of personal conversion (or being "born again") nor the importance of good works as an entre for presenting the Gospel to the recipients of those good works.

Two sayings come to mind, and they emerged in the decades following the tumultuous and polarizing 60s:

  • You've got to earn the right to be heard, and

  • Preach the Gospel; if necessary, use words!

In conclusion, as is so often the case with potentially polarizing issues, it's not so much a matter of either/or, but both/and. Separating faith from works is as inappropriate and as dangerous as combining faith and works in a mixture which suits us and ignores some basic differences between the two. It's not a matter of either preaching the Gospel or fleshing out the fruit of the Gospel, but it's a matter of both proclaiming the faith and demonstrating the faith in a marriage made in heaven. It's a combination of the best of both worlds, and not one at the expense of the other.

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  • Wow. Interesting personal anecdote of the religious life in America during the 1950s/1960s.
    – Double U
    Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 17:52
  • @Anonymous: Thank you. As is almost always the case, I enjoyed putting my answer together (and perhaps need to), if only to solidify some ideas which have been floating around in the mush in my head for some time now. Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 17:58
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Definitions "Preaching" is an English word that is translated from either the Greek word that means evangelize or the Greek word meaning herald. It is the act of proclaiming a special decree or announcement.

"Gospel" comes from an old Anglo-Saxon translation of the Greek word for good news. And the contents of this proclamation is given by Jesus during His ministry in Judea.

And Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.

The Gospel of the Kingdom is the good news that the King has arrived and has come to establish His Kingdom on Earth. This was the amazing news of the Magi (at what is now Christmas). Where is He who is born King of the Jews? (Mathew 2:2) And the announcement of the Kingdom of God was a continual topic in Jesus's preaching.

Many of His parables dealt with the Kingdom (Matthew 13). And He defined the Kingdom as a spiritual one that where the Throne of God resides in the heart. Therefore it was "not visible, nor coming with observation" such as the conquering Roman Empire. The last 40 days of Christ's time on Earth was a period of talking about the Kingdom (Acts 1:3)

Notice that later Paul defined the Kingdom as righteous, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

Gospel Preaching So a church is a faithful one worth attending if its ministers are sharing the message of the Kingship of Jesus, and the many topics concerning life in the Kingdom. It is one that emphasizes the task of its citizens (disciples) as being ambassadors for Christ by spreading the Good News (Gospel) of the Kingdom throughout the Earth to all peoples without prejudice or favoritism. (A church, therefore, is inclusive of everyone who is repentant.)

Modern Meaning The Apostle Paul warned of false teachers and false prophets that would---and did---come into local assemblies and teach another Gospel.

I marvel that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ for another Gospel, which is really not another, only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the Gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7)

Modern Advice So today in modern times, when someone advises a young disciple of Christ to "attend a Gospel-preaching" church, they, like Paul, are warning about some ministers who are teaching strange doctrines that don't line up with the original intent of Jesus. The list of these false doctrines are many---and better dealt with on another post. This "warning" is not an exercise in judging, but in using discernment which is legitimate.

But basically, a good Gospel-preaching church is one that maintains the centrality of the Person of Jesus as the only Savior, Healer, Baptizer, and King! And that recognizes that God desires all people to be saved and become citizens of His awesome, heavenly Kingdom!

I do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers: that God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom, and of revelation in the full knowledge of Him.
So that you--the eyes of your heart being enlightened--will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints...according to the working of the might of His strength, which He worked in Christ, raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come...
and gave Him as head over all things to the churches, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:16-23)

Historical Note From the founding of America, the preaching of the traditional Gospel was greatly influenced by John Wesley (and the Methodist circuit preacher), and Jonathan Edwards. Anglicans and Congregationalists also settled in New England.

But soon there was an influx of philosophical Enlightenment advocates and Deists in the colonies. Thus there was a tension in the offing. By the time the early 1900s rolled in, there was a definite distinction between the traditional churches, on the one hand, and those organizations which preached a Social Gospel. This led to the setting up of the dueling between the Fundamentalists and the Liberal churches. The Fundamentalists who advocated the simple, traditional Gospel, saw Liberalism, which taught the "Social Gospel," as a threat to Christianity.

To many, Liberalism seemed to downplay the unique Deity of Christ, and ignored the supernatural aspects of Christianity...and leaned heavily on man's ability to solve the problems of society. So it was natural for Fundamentalists to warn young disciples (converts) to join a Gospel-preaching Church. This was a warning, and not, as some conclude, an attitude of snobbery. (Although it could, and did, degenerate into such an holier than thou attitude in some church groups.)

Applicable Today Liberalism has not disappeared from religious dialogue. Cults have not ceased to lead converts astray. False doctrines have not quit being taught. So the admonition to seek out a Gospel-preaching Church still rings true as a loving bit of advice.

It should be noted that many denominations do preach the original "Gospel of the Kingdom" exalting the Lordship of Christ. "Gospel preaching" can be heard from many pulpits on Sunday. So there is no place for "exclusivity." Although having different nomenclatures, they are all One Body in Christ. (Romans 12:4-7, 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, 27-30)

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