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Gospel + safety + time.  It’s what everyone needs.  A lot of gospel + a lot of safety + a lot of time.

Gospel: good news for bad people through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the endless power of the Holy Spirit.  Multiple exposures.  Constant immersion.  Wave upon wave of grace and truth, according to the Bible.

Safety: a non-accusing environment.  No embarrassing anyone.  No manipulation.  No oppression.  No condescension.  But respect and sympathy and understanding, where sinners can confess and unburden their souls.  A church environment where no one seeking the Lord has anything to fear.

Time: no pressure.  Not even self-imposed pressure.  No deadlines on growth.  Urgency, but not hurry, because no one changes quickly.  A lot of space for complicated people to rethink their lives at a deep level.  God is patient.

This is what our churches must be: gentle environments of gospel + safety + time.  It’s where we’re finally free to grow.


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4 thoughts on “Gospel + Safety + Time = a church where anyone can grow”

  1. Gail (Frederickson) Hatch says:

    We appreciate your wise insights into church life- as we are involved in a start up church in Oakland, Ca. Very timely–thank you!

  2. RA McGuire says:

    Hello, I agree with some of what you have stated above, but feel strongly that you have left out the holiness of God, and our need as sinners! Initially to acknowledge our sin, and to be exposed to the facts of why we need a savior. Then for someone who is a current believer to be dealing with our sin, (moment by moment)…as stated in 1 John chpt. 1, and also as stated, in numerous other passages of the Bible. A person in an un-saved condition of the heart, doesn’t even have the understanding and knowledge of why sin is wrong, in the same way a believer does. There is a vast difference in expectation before a Holy God, and the believers life, as to how you have it stated above. A believer that has very little to none, accountability, before the Lord and even other believers, will end up being left to their own vices. God equips each believer, in the finished work of the cross…the power to overcome sin/sins! It will not be a state of sinlessness, (while yet on earth), but we are given the power and strength through Christ, to admit to him, and others if needed our sin, (when we do sin). Christ gives us power to resist temptation, as we trust Him off and on throughout each day. The believer does not have that power, prior to salvation, to resist as a believer does, but to state that believers are just fine in what so ever state of mind that they are at/in, and are “ok”, is opposite of what the Bible teaches….James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. Also…2 Timothy 2:19 b The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. We are accountable to a Holy God, who wants us daily to be striving, to live in His power and strength, so that we can live out Romans chapter 8, to the fullest (in His strength)!!

    1. Ray Ortlund says:

      Thanks. Note the subtitle: “where anyone can *grow*.”

  3. Nathan says:

    Where is a church like this?

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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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