This isn’t the first time that Ray Ortlund’s expression for Christian discipleship has been shared here; but he’s posted it again recently, so why not?
Listening to conversations about how churches can produce and measure spiritual growth is wearying; especially conversations devoid of mention of Holy Spirit, grace, corporate worship, and assurance.
Those sorts of conversations sound like pastors have quotas to fill, and programs that guarantee outcomes.
There is usually an attrition rate of those who find the expectations involved exhausting.
So, here’s what Ortlund means by Gospel + Safety + Time:
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 cornering anyone. No shaming. But respect and sympathy and listening and understanding, so that people can exhale and open up 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.