Shortly after What’s Best Next came out a few months ago, a commenter on another blog said I should call the productivity approach I outline in my book “Scripture-centered productivity” rather than “gospel-driven productivity.”
It’s a good question. Why isn’t it enough to just call it “biblical productivity”? Why do I have to call it “gospel-driven productivity?”
On Not Being Boring
The first answer is simple: The phrase “Scripture-centered productivity” sounds awkward and annoying! The term “biblical productivity” would be a bit better, but that phrase is still just plain boring.
This might seem superficial, but it’s not. God commands us to communicate in ways that are interesting (Colossians 4:6). The phrase “biblical productivity” is just plain boring in most contexts, and so I reject it on biblical grounds.
The Gospel is the Heart of the Scriptures
Someone might say to this “but why do you have to put the ‘gospel’ label on it? Isn’t it actually more accurate to just say ‘biblical’?” My answer is that it is not more accurate. The reason is that the gospel is at the heart of the Scriptures. Therefore, any view of productivity that is truly “Scripture-centered” must necessarily be gospel-centered. I want to draw that connection, because it is essential.
The Essence of Gospel-Driven Productivity
The chief implication the gospel has for our productivity is that the guiding principle in all the things we get done should be the good of others. Just as Jesus in the gospel put our needs ahead of his own, even to the point of dying on the cross, we are to see all that we do as an avenue for serving others — putting their needs ahead of ours, just as Jesus did for us. And we are to do this from acceptance with God on the basis of the gospel, not for acceptance with God.
That’s the heart of what it means to be “gospel-driven” and live a truly productive life. “Scripture-centered productivity” doesn’t capture that. “Gospel-Driven Productivity” does.
What it Really Means to be “Gospel-Driven”
Using the phrase “gospel-driven” also helps capture other thing — namely, that if you say “wait, the term ‘gospel-driven’ doesn’t communicate that to me at all,” then you are not understanding the gospel.
In other words, everyone who considers themselves gospel-centered needs to understand that you cannot claim that the gospel is the center of your life if you aren’t living your life first of all for the good of others rather than yourself.
This means if you are a “gospel-centered” leader, you lead for the welfare of your people first, not your own advantage, comfort, and advancement (Matthew 20:25-28). (This means getting rid of command and control, authoritarian leadership that sees people only as tools to get the job done, rather than as valuable people in the image of God to be treated with respect.)
If you are a gospel-centered business owner, you manage your business to make a real contribution to society, not simply make a profit.
And if you are gospel-driven in the way you get things done (as all Christians should be), then you make the good of others your motive in all you do, rather than just doing things to get to the bottom of your list or increase your own personal peace and affluence.
I see many who claim to be gospel-centered because they really like proclaiming the gospel, but who don’t allow the gospel to guide and shape their actions at work. They are sometimes just as selfish in the way they do things as the world is (often more so! a true irony). This is a terrible testimony and it does a lot of harm. It undermines the gospel and therefore is not gospel-centered in the slightest. We need to change this, and become truly gospel-driven in our deeds as well as words.
Is the Term “Gospel-Centered” Cliche?
It is certainly true that some have attached the term “gospel-centered” to their ideas without actually knowing what it means. When the term “gospel-centered” is used in a trite and superficial way, it is unfortunate.
But when you understand what gospel-centered really means, it is anything but trite or superficial. It is not the “flavor of the month” in Christianity, but rather at the very core of Christianity.
Thus, from all this we can see why a phrase like “Scripture-centered productivity” actually doesn’t communicate my point. Certainly I am trying to say that we are to be guided by the Scriptures in how we think about productivity. But I’m trying to say more. My point is that since the gospel is at the heart of the Scriptures, when we think of the Scriptures we are to first think of the gospel. It is the gospel, not just the concept of Scripture in an abstract sense, that is to guide our productivity.
And to be guided by the gospel is to be guided by love, of which the gospel is the greatest demonstration in all the universe.