While one of the most encouraging trends in recent years has been the resurgence in conversation on the gospel, what has been needed is a book that looks at how the gospel impacts the local church and it’s culture. Thankfully such a book exists now in The Gospel: How The Church Portrays The Beauty Of Christ by seasoned Pastor Ray Ortlund. This book aims to help Christians apply the gospel to relationships in our churches and make the glory of Christ visible in the world today. The first three chapters look at the gospel for you, the church and for all of life. The book then moves to look at what a gospel-shaped life looks at within the local church.
As I read this book several things stood out—first, Dr. Ortlund truly believes the gospel is the power of God and the local church is the hope of the world. It’s one thing to believe that in theory but another to believe it in practice. As you read this book you will see that Dr. Ortlund not only believes the gospel but models the gospel. This is why this book is so powerful, challenging and convicting. I’ve been in churches where we proclaimed we believe the gospel only to turn around in practice to undermine our profession. As Dr. Ortlund rightly notes, “A church with the truth of the gospel in its theology can produce the opposite of the gospel in practice” (17).
At the local church I’m at now, I’m thankful that we have a gospel culture. We have a culture in the church where people can be cared for and grow in the grace of God. We have a church culture where those who are struggling with addictions, hang-ups or struggles can come out into the light and experience hope and healing from past brokenness, and the healing balm of the gospel.
You might wonder what the difference is between a church that says it believes the gospel and one that models it. This is a good question and gets to the heart of the helpfulness of this book. The main difference is in how the leadership approaches its role. For example, at my local church, the senior pastor views his role to be a shepherd who speaks truth and models grace. He often speaks hard truths in his sermons but does so with a heart motivated by the love of God. I got this exact sense from Dr. Ortlund that he is a pastor who not only loves Christ’s church but also God’s people and the gospel. This is why he says, “Gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The doctrine of grace creates a culture of grace” (21). As the book winds down, Dr. Ortlund highlights three characteristics of a gospel culture—power (from the gospel), courage and love.
Overall, The Gospel How The Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ is a very good book. This book will help Christians at all stages of the Christian life to understand how the gospel impacts relationships and how they are to engage one another within the local church because of the gospel. I highly recommend this book and pray the Lord uses it to awaken a culture in local churches where the gospel may not only be the driving force behind what is said on Sunday’s, but also in practice fuel how we do life with one another to the glory of God.