I’ve recently finished reading Ray Ortlund’s new book, The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ. This book is a gold mine of thoughtful reflection on the ways in which the church should express gospel happiness and holiness. One memorable bit of advice Ortlund provides is this:
The family of God is where people behave in a new way. I think of it with a simple equation: gospel + safety + time. The family of God is where people should find lots of gospel, lots of safety, and lots of time. In other words, the people in our churches need:
- multiple exposures to the happy news of the gospel from one end of the Bible to the other;
- the safety of non-accusing sympathy so that they can admit their problems honestly; and
- enough time to rethink their lives at a deep level, because people are complex and changing is not easy.
In a gentle church like this, no one is put under pressure or singled out for embarrassment. Everyone is free to open up, and we all grow together as we look to Jesus. Behaving well in the household of God sets a tone defined by gospel + safety + time for everyone. This is what sets a church apart as a new kind of community.