Is your church (building) “Christ Centered?”

I was not inflicted with the disease known as “Christ centered worship” when I was growing up. This seems to be an almost solely Evangelical verbal hashtag. However, I get the meaning of it. It is a way to dismiss Mainline denominations as well as the Roman Catholic Church. “Christ centered” is a code word. The phrase usually is used to suggest that the person must place his focus (are women allowed to have a focus besides their husband?) on Christ as if one group of Christians has the monopoly on that. In reality, I would suggest this phrase really points to a church that has the pastor at its center and is founded upon the “work of Christ” which is always about an avoidance of hell. It is used as a false line of separation.

"The" "Church" of Jesus Church (Portage, Indiana)

“The” “Church” of Jesus Church (Portage, Indiana)

When I began my career as a community organizer, I was invited into many different churches. I began to notice the beauty of the older churches, the mainlines. What was different? The lectern, or pulpit, was always removed to the side. What was center was the Table. I asked a UMC pastor about this once. It was because the Table represents Christ — because Christ is the center of the Church. The pastor is there to serve Christ, just as is the congregation. This startled me deeply. As a matter of fact, I began to plan my future fundamentalist pastorate around the idea that the first thing I would do as pastor was to move the focus of the church from the pulpit/pastor to the Table.

st john wv

St. John’s Episcopal Church (Charleston, WV)

Of course, I never got to that point. But, I attend a UMC that has correctly placed, in my opinion at least, the Table. It is always in the center of the Church. It is elevated. It is the image of Christ.

Christ Church UMC (Charleston, WV)

Christ Church UMC (Charleston, WV)

The use of “Christ centered” is usually a way to suggest that one congregation/pastor is preaching the real truth of Christianity while another, usually the perceived liberal mainliners, are not. Yet, if you step into most mainline denominations (even Catholic) you will find the Table, as the image of Christ, as the center of the entire service. If you step into most evangelical and fundamentalist buildings, what is the center is the pastor. The pastor, not the table, is the image of Christ. Say what you want, but the design of the sanctuary means a great deal about how you see Christ, the pastor, and the congregation.

Sure, we may not preach about hell and the countless millions going there, but we do not have as the center of our worship a man. Rather, we preach Grace and show the image of Grace, which is Christ.

Post By Joel L. Watts (10,151 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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