We’re currently accepting applications for our 2014-2015 class of church planting residents. One of the questions we often get from potential residents is what the Summit Network is about. To answer that question, I’m going to unpack our network distinctives over the next couple of weeks.  To find out more about our residency, go to

Distinctive #1: we are gospel-centered.

Now that phrase means different things to different people, so let me define what we do and don’t mean by it. Gospel-centeredness is not a buzzword to us. Nor is it merely a euphemism for a certain theological system. It means that we seek to make Jesus the center of all we do, because we believe the gospel literally changes EVERYTHING:

The gospel changes us. The gospel is not simply the means by which we are converted – it is the message by which our lives are transformed. Only the gospel can change our hearts to love and follow God; therefore, as pastors and leaders we need to continually be reminded of the good news of what Jesus has done.

The gospel changes how we do ministry. Because it’s the gospel that transforms people, our job as pastors is to point people to Jesus. The gospel should be at the center of everything we do. That includes not just our preaching, but our worship, our discipleship, our leadership, our staff culture…everything. In my experience, this is where we often fall short. Our preaching may be gospel-centered, but when it comes to how we shepherd people or how lead our teams, our practices reflect anything but the gospel. We point our people to the gospel from the pulpit but expect them to change without it everywhere else.

The gospel changes how we plant churches. Paul said, “…the (gospel is) the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). In other words, the gospel is all we need to plant churches. That does not mean we ignore methodology – far from it – but it does mean that our primary method, the method behind our methods, is the gospel. At the end of the day, the good news is what we stand on.  And we can do so with great confidence, because it contains all the power of God.

Mike McDaniel (@mikermcd) is the Director of The Summit Network and serves as a Church Planting Pastor at The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC.