Pastor and author urges that Gospel should be pervasive in churches
Riverside, Calif. (Feb. 14, 2019) – The Gospel must touch everything in a church—the doctrine, culture and spirituality—for it to be effective, Dr. Ray Ortlund told a California Baptist University audience on Feb. 14.
“Gospel doctrine is heard in a church and gospel culture is seen in a church,” Ortlund said. “Gospel spirituality is how we’re lifted up and carried along as we serve the Lord, here in this world of exhaustion and inertia.”
Ortlund is lead pastor at Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as president of Renewal Ministries, a council member of The Gospel Coalition and author of multiple theological works. He spoke as part of the School of Christian Ministries Lecture Series at CBU.
Expounding on Galatians 2:11-21, Ortlund said gospel doctrine is often easier to know, but culture, which is more readily seen by the watching world, is often overlooked.
“Gospel culture is the grace of the doctrine made visible and real in the relationships and tone and vibe pervasive in a church. It’s difficult to define but when you walk into that environment you know it,” Ortlund said.
Yet even with the right doctrine, churches can lose their way, Ortlund cautioned.
“It is possible today to unsay by our church culture what we say by our church doctrine. Which means we can defeat the advance of the Gospel—however biblical our exposition, however brilliant our apologetics—by the conduct we display toward one another,” Ortlund said.
Justification by faith alone is the article on which the church stands or falls - therefore it should not be a mere abstraction but a gospel reality, Ortlund said. But when the love of Jesus moves hearts, he continued, believers can keep in step with the truth of the Gospel and preach and embody the doctrine.
“That reality has the power to refresh and unify exhausted sinners. That’s why our goal every Sunday is to shepherd people back into enjoying the love of Christ,” Ortlund said.
“There is nothing in all this world so happy, beautiful and prophetic as a church displaying before the world what it looks like really to believe in the dying love of Jesus. Then, church politics dies, dividing walls crumble, and we experience reformation and revival as unlikely people come together with a happiness from above.”
Genesis Kendal, an applied theology freshman, said the lecture highlighted what makes Christianity and the church different.
“Your doctrine, what you learn about Christ, what you learn about the Bible, has to be translated into your life and if it’s not, then you are really doing the doctrine injustice,” Kendal said.
J.J. Rodriguez, an applied theology freshman, said he learned from the lecture how sound doctrine and biblical church culture are equally important for a healthy church.
“The lecture series has been amazing for me. I’ve been able to hear highly educated speakers communicate the Gospel very clearly and speak on matters that are applicable to our faith,” Rodriguez said.