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I grew up in a healthy church in the 1950s and 60s.  It was gospel-centered before we used those terms.  I can remember some wonderful things.

I remember when churches were not commodities but communities.  I grew up in a spiritual neighborhood, where the adults took responsibility to care for the next generation.  I lived among hundreds of spiritual aunts and uncles who loved me, told me about Jesus, corrected me when I got out of line and generally sacrificed for me so that I could grow up to be a man of God.

I remember when the Bible was cherished as so sacred that we treated the very leather and paper as “The Holy Bible.”  We read the Bible, sang the Bible, prayed the Bible, memorized the Bible, heard the Bible preached, and learned the Bible from cover to cover.  I grew up knowing my way around the Bible — and knowing that it mattered supremely and eternally.

I remember when this crucial question was always close at hand in our collective and personal consciousness: Is your life fully surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ?  My spiritual teachers did not hope I might fit Jesus into the margin of my crowded life.  They confronted me, lovingly, gently, insistently, that Jesus is Lord.  I needed to know that.  No one else would have told me.  Thank God they did.

I remember when we prayed together, the whole church together.  I grew up listening to adults pray mature, adult prayers.  They showed reverence and depth and faith that with God nothing is impossible.

I remember when we tithed.  And in our home, if because of our tithing we didn’t have enough money ourselves to make it to the end of the month, we still tithed.  Jesus came first.  Period.  And with no self-pity but with privilege.

We were uncool.  We really did need some refreshing in our music and communication, and so forth.  But there was also something real and solid and powerful there.  We must never lose it.


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10 thoughts on “I remember when”

    1. Chariss Johnson says:

      I remember my beloved Presbyterian Church, it was a community of people dedicated to knowing, loving and serving God. Bible school, missionary visits, bible memorizing (I remember memorizing 100 verses and 10 Psalms in order to go to camp), choir, door to door evangelism (I was only a child of 9 or 10 but I went with the adults and prayed). I remember the holidays, especially Christmas, for me it was magical, the small but beautiful old church with its wooden pews, the Christmas tree and decorations, the choir and the Christmas Hymns, then there was all the social life of the church with dinners, picnics, even political involvement. Jesus was truely all my life, I didn’t know there was any other world, then we moved away, I grew up, Pastor died, things changed, but how grateful I am for that church and those years.

  1. Bill Bowyer says:

    Ray- What refreshing and meaningful comments! Thanks for stating what few Christians seem to be stating today.

  2. Flyaway says:

    Recently I found in my parents belongings, after they had passed away, a sermon written by our beloved pastor from the church where I grew up. It really didn’t teach the gospel and wasn’t what I would call an inspiring sermon, but I knew the love of Jesus in that church and from that pastor. The people there taught me the gospel by their love. I didn’t start studying the Bible until I was 30 years old and long gone from home. It’s amazing how God can work through any circumstance.

  3. Tim Graham says:

    Praise God for LACC and for churches like it (and for your dad, who pastored it). May the Lord increase the number of churches like it.

  4. Jeff Higgins says:

    Excellent article & a timely reminder. Cool or relevant, although important, do not equal earnestness and genuineness.

  5. Gail Hatch says:

    Ray, I was right there with you and knew you as “Buddy”, as well close friends with Margie and Sherri–loving your family. I am constantly thankful for this foundation and so appreciate your “Christ Is Deeper Still” posts. Please send my greetings and love to your family and thank you for continuing to send grounded, creative and inspirational posts…Gail (Frederickson) Hatch

  6. Karen Butler says:

    Who said the music wasn’t cool? I think the Haven of Rest Quartet was cutting edge — for proof, here’s Brian Eno, Michael Stipes and Stephen Colbert singing “Lean on Me.”,64997/

    They too are just saying no to overwrought breathy singing and are bringing back perfectly blended harmonies.

  7. Eric Shin says:

    Thank you for this reminder Pastor Ray.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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