Ray Ortlund speaks with Mike about the distinction between educational Bible teaching and heart stirring, encouraging true preaching. He believes that the goal of preaching is new life, liberation and freedom, not bondage, heaviness and law. And as the wonderful gospel of Jesus is placarded in a church, a culture of safety, warmth and welcome is created.
Ray graduated from Wheaton College as a Bachelor of Arts, from Dallas Theological Seminary as a Master of Theology, from The University of California at Berkeley as a Master of Arts, and from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, as a Doctor of Philosophy. Pastor Ortlund was ordained into the Christian ministry by Lake Avenue Congregational Church, Pasadena, California, in 1975. He taught Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, from 1989 to 1998. His primary ministry, for 28 years, has been as a pastor in California, Oregon, Georgia and Tennessee.
In addition to numerous essays and articles, Ray has published eight books. His latest,Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel, was named “2017 Christian Book of the Year” in the category Bible Study. He also served as an Old Testament translator forThe New Living TranslationandThe English Standard Version of the Bible. He contributed the introduction and study notes to the book of Isaiah inThe ESV Study Bible.
Ray is also the President of Renewal Ministries and serves on the Council of The Gospel Coalition.
Ray and his wife Jani have been married for forty-five happy years, they have four delightful children and 13 amazing grandchildren.
Quotes from the Episode:
“I found a box of sermons of mine from the 1980’s.. and it was painful! I was being faithful to what I knew at the time. I was doing the best I knew how at the time. And God was so kind. I didn’t actually succeed in killing that poor church I was serving as pastor, but I did not realize how clunky, and academic, and technical and tedious and “non-Gospel-ly” my preaching was back then.”
“When I first started out in ministry I was very interested in the mechanics of the biblical text, what’s happening in the text, and that’s great. But that should have been left more in my study and translated more into preaching that would actually help people. Back then I was good as an educator. I was not good as a pastor and a helper and I didn’t even know the difference.”
“I start early in the week (with sermon preparation) because my mind needs time. And my mind needs multiple exposures to funnel down to a sermon by Sunday morning that will lift people up, that will put hope in their hearts and energy in their feet and steel in their spines and joy in their hearts. So it takes time and every day has a purpose.”
“A hospital visit is a part of sermon preparation. It’s a very significant part. It’s an essential part, along with everything else.”
“In preaching, the problem is not the Bible. The Bible is a resource. The problem is me and the underdeveloped man that I am, the underdeveloped understandings I bring to the text and to the people. And so sermon preparation, along with everything else is – in God’s mercy – a Ray expanding experience. I start out in the process as a small, narrow, unformed man with very vague concepts. And what happens is the Lord guides me, shepherds me through the week toward clarity, specificity, focus, intentionality and a greatly increased joy. Then I’m ready to preach.”
“If I am writing out a point in my sermon I have to stop and ask myself – “Ok Ray is this what you believe because you think it’s right or does this really help you?” And if I have to admit honestly that this doesn’t really help me, it’s just “formally obligatory” but personally not liberating, not energizing, then why am I saying it? I’m still not ready to preach if that’s where I am mentally.”
“A healthy church is a culture of liberation. Where we are helping one another get rid of these grave clothes that we have been wearing all our lives that have never helped us at all. The Lord called Lazarus back to life and then invited the others around him to join with him to unbind him and let him go. He didn’t say to Lazarus “tear off those grave clothes”.”
“A healthy church is a culture of liberation; where we are hearing the life-giving, resurrecting voice of Christ in the Gospel and helping one another to get free to live for Him and glorify Him as never before.”
“Powerful preaching is not just a captivating personality on stage with his Bible open. Powerful preaching is a whole congregation, a whole church, a whole community, which has – by God’s grace – stumbled it’s way into the life-giving power of Jesus through his voice in the Gospel and together they are not a culture of oppression, they are not a culture of shaming, they’re not cornering people, pressuring people, embarrassing people… that’s just the opposite of the Gospel and they know it. And the whole congregation is rejoicing to gather together on the Lord’s day to help one another, encourage one another, liberate one another, get rid of the vestiges of death that we’ve been lugging around all these years and we don’t want anymore.”
“When you have a pastor at the front of the church in the pulpit whose Bible is open so he has some authority and he is saying what the Bible says and he is preaching through a Gospel hermeneutic so that Jesus and His Gospel are every Sunday the Great Message, and the Holy Spirit is moving in power and the congregation knows what to do and how to respond and how not to respond – that’s very powerful.”