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Galatians 2:11-21 has been unsettling me for forty years.  Paul rebuked Peter publicly — for what?  They agreed on gospel doctrine: “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (verse 16).  But they disagreed on gospel culture: “How can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (verse 14).  For that, Paul rebuked Peter publicly, openly, bluntly.

Gospel culture is not an optional add-on.  It is as necessary to our orthodox integrity as is gospel doctrine.  And if that is so, then nothing is more essential to our churches than building them as gospel cultures.  If we must preach the gospel in our church doctrine, then equally, we must embody the gospel in our church culture.  If we neglect the fullness of this pastoral responsibility, we risk allowing our churches to settle for the truth in theory but a lie in practice, as is terribly obvious in the photograph above.

Two years ago I presented a paper at The Gospel Coalition national gathering in Orlando: “How to build a gospel culture in your church.”  The PDF is here: GDGC.  I hope it helps.


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5 thoughts on “How to build a gospel culture in your church”

  1. Missy M says:

    While I appreciate the gospel culture emphasis, the picture above really isn’t what is at the forefront of gospel culture vs. racial culture in the church. That, today, is the Lawrence Wares and intrusion of the BLM, where Ware recently said, “I love the church, but I love black peple more.”

    The Klan probably loved the church in the way they thought, but loved white people more.

    Today, ironically, the roles are being reversed.

    Gospel culture for all, not just some.

    Thank you Mr. Ortland, for this piece and link.

  2. Kevin says:

    “…the picture above isn’t what is at the forefront of gospel culture vs. racial culture in the church.”

    First of all, a picture like this is very much at the “forefront” for many Christian brothers and sisters, even if they are not Lawrence Ware or even in complete agreement with the Black Lives Matter movement. So you do not speak for everyone who has standing to speak. Now it is clear it isn’t a forefront for you, but it also isn’t your Church. The Church belongs rightfully and actually to the One who died to make it whole, and rose again to unite God’s family in Him.

    Perhaps you might presume to say the picture above really isn’t significant in Jesus’ mind and will for His Church when He thinks about gospel culture and racial culture. But perhaps you wouldn’t presume so far to speak for the One who remembers every tear and endured the Cross to wipe them all away.

  3. JW says:

    The picture above illustrates the disconnect when there is Gospel Doctrine without Gospel Culture. The church pictured above has biblical doctrine. They have a satanic culture.

  4. brian says:

    thanks for the pdf! my friends and i have been running a small church service at a children’s psychiatric hospital for the past 6 years and the call to worship you shared really captures what we’ve been trying to articulate to the children there who the church is for. we’re going to use it for our next service!

  5. Ron Larson says:

    So was the photo that was used in this article have a purpose, except to antagonize. There are more relevant things those that claim the name of Christ on their lips, but their heart are far from Him in these last days. Recognition of the KKK as anything other than a demonic cult by Christians, and ignorant hatemongers within our culture is self-evident. When I see people attempting to manipulate me into guilt, or an attempt to use something so pathetic as this photo to convict me of “something” I tend to ignore this. I may have missed a good article, but this is a a scurilous attempt in my way of thinking.

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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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