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Ray Ortlund responds to those who says, “My passion isn’t to build up my church. My passion is for God’s Kingdom.” He thinks such a sentiment sounds large-hearted, but is wrong–and can even be destructive:

Suppose I said, “My passion isn’t to build up my marriage. My passion is for Marriage. I want the institution of Marriage to be revered again. I’ll work for that. I’ll pray for that. I’ll sacrifice for that. But don’t expect me to hunker down in the humble daily realities of building a great marriage with my wife Jani. I’m aiming at something grander.”

If I said that, would you think, “Wow, Ray is so committed”? Or would you wonder if I had lost my mind?

If you care about the Kingdom, be the kind of person who can be counted on in your own church. Join your church, pray for your church, tithe to your church, participate in your church every Sunday with wholehearted passion.

We build great churches the same way we build great marriages — real commitment that makes a positive difference every day.

See also Derek Thomas’s recent meditation on why it’s wrong not to love the church and to love being a part of her.

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14 thoughts on “Love Your Church”

  1. Frank Turk says:

    Someone should write abook about this subject.

  2. Rick says:

    Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, has a gentle pushback on aspects of this view.

    1. Church planting here in Scotland suffers from this very problem. So much ‘para-church’ stuff, but few commit to the hard grind of supporting a small group of Christians seeking to diseminate God’s word. I’d like to use the quote here, thanks for it.

  3. R. Delaney says:

    At what point do you leave your church? Stay there in spite of the pew potatoes and pastors who love their studies and preach on Sunday, but are not in the hearts and homes of their people? I’m very discouraged by my church…

    1. Russ says:

      Sometimes I feel the same way. Justin posted a post a little while back about being “easily edified”. I think it’s worth taking a look at, if you could find it. Sorry I can’t point you to the month, but I think it was in June.

      Biblically, I think we need to see the church as imperfect people, striving to worship a Perfect God, but knowing that on this side of Heaven, we will do that imperfectly. I know it’s been a help to me to be in a good deal of prayer about how I feel about my church.

    2. Frank Turk says:


      I am 100% able to believe that is how your church is right now.

      What was it like when you joined?

      1. R. Delaney says:


        It was the same, but then I was a new convert coming to understand the doctrines of grace. I thought my church had “the truth” and I was very rigid about everything. We have always been an island unto ourselves, getting smaller and smaller as we battled about this church practice or that issue about worship, etc. We won’t let professing Reformed Christians join our church unless they commit to attend every service. PM service was the latest blow up. Let me tell you, I’m tired of controversy…

        I think it’s a tool of the devil to get Christians fighting about non-essential matters while the world perishes around them. Nothing cripples evangelism like infighting

      2. R. Delaney says:

        So, to answer your question directly, I guess I’m the one who has changed…not the church.

  4. Bryan Cross says:


    Ray says:

    If you care about the Kingdom, be the kind of person who can be counted on in your own church. Join your church, pray for your church, tithe to your church, participate in your church every Sunday with wholehearted passion.

    Those imperatives do not follow the antecedent of the conditional (i.e. “If you care …) unless “your church” is the Kingdom or is part of the Kingdom. In other words, if a heretic or a schismatic joins “his church” and tithes to “his church”, he is not ipso facto building up Christ’s Kingdom. For him to be building up Christ’s Kingdom, the ‘church’ that he is building up must be Christ’s Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

    1. Frank Turk says:

      Justin —

      You give an interesting problem to solve here: heresy vs. Christ’s Church.

      Is there a present, local, inhabited-by-humans church which has no mixture of error in it?

  5. Bill says:

    Thanks for the post. I appreciate your posting of Ortlund’s thoughts. I’m about to disagree, so I hope I don’t come off as sounding contentious, argumentative or disrespectful. I’ve been serving as part of the pastoral staff of a church for more than 17 years. I’ve also had the privilege of speaking at many churches–most in Southern California. I am currently serving as a pastor and have also led a ministry in Korea for three years.

    By far, the best of my ministry experience was in Korea where I served as lead Pastor of Foreign Ministries. This church was unique in many respects because of it’s focus and priority on the Kingdom of God.

    It has been said that a Christian’s priorities can be measured by his checkbook. The things we prioritize are the things we spend the most on. If this can be said of individuals in the church, then can it also be said of the church as a whole? Let’s look at the average sized church with maybe 500 attendees. They will usually not hesitate to spend 30,000 on the sound/multi-media system, but struggle to find 4,000 annually missions. In fact, I’ve heard that the average church budget is about 5%. In Korea, my church of 10,000 people was committed to minimum of 70% for missions. In order to do that the entire church had to agree that there would be certain things that we would have to give up. The nice buildings, the best equipment, etc. The church did not look pretty on the outside or the inside. However, with almost 400 full-time missionaries on the field and an average of 80 new missionaries in training each year, at the school of missions, some sacrifices had to be made. With the leadership of the retired founding pastor as well as the present senior pastor, we were able to expand the church as well as the Kingdom of God.

    I’m not trying to brag or compare, just trying to point out that a church can be the servant of the Kingdom (as G.E Ladd states). After all, the Great commission is “Go and make disciple.”

    I hope my thoughts make sense. God bless you guys and thanks for the thoughtful blogs.

    1. Frank Turk says:

      Bill —

      I think you have missed Ortland’s point broadly, because I think what he says is in full agreement with your experience.

      Follow the link and ask him.

  6. R. Delaney says:


    Did you have a point with your above question? You have not followed up…

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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