Ray Ortlund and Sam Allberry introduce the first episode of You’re Not Crazy: Gospel Sanity for Young Pastors and address the idea of gospel culture—the way gospel doctrine creates an orthodox community that is equally as important.
In this episode:
- Introductions to the podcast and hosts (0:00)
- Gospel sanity (1:55)
- What the gospel says—doctrine; what the gospel does—culture (3:39)
- You’re not crazy (7:43)
- Why this conversation matters to Sam (8:33)
- Why this conversation matters to Ray (12:22)
- True fellowship (15:09)
- Felt forgiveness (20:03)
- Pitfalls of neglecting gospel culture (20:46)
- Captivating community (23:31)
- Resource recommendation: No Little People by Francis Schaeffer (24:42)
Explore more from Ray Ortlund the topic of gospel doctrine and gospel culture.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Ray Ortlund: Welcome to your crazy gospel Saturday for young pastors a podcast from the Gospel coalition. I’m Ray ortlund. And I’m here with my co host and friend and partner in crime. Sam Allberry it right now something we like to do at Emanuel church. We call it fascinating facts, because everybody is fascinating, everybody. And you just have to, you know, ask a leading question and the fascinating this starts showing up. So, Sam, tell us one fascinating fact about you.
Sam Allberry: I was once threatened with hospitalization by a circus clown. What, wait a minute.
So what happened? Thankfully, he didn’t attack me in the end. I was I wasn’t this is. Back in my teenage days, I was an eco warrior. And a few of us were protesting outside a circus that we were led to believe was mistreating an elephant. And the head clown came out and said that he would put us in hospital if if anyone was turned away because of our presence. Okay, I 16 at the time, so I was a little bit scared. I’ve always been scared of clowns that are even more scared of clowns.
Ray Ortlund: Okay, my fascinating Fact is, I saw the Beatles Live in Concert. I think it was August 26 1966. It was there next to the last public concert ever, of course, with the exception of the January 69.
Sort of impromptu concert on the roof of the, you know, Apple studio in London. But that wasn’t really a concert. But they went from LA This was in Dodger Stadium in LA. They went up from there the next day to do San Francisco. And then it was over. It was history. And it was fun to see the Beatles. I paid $2 to see the Beatles live. Wow, it was fun. Okay, now, you’re not crazy gospel sanity for young pastors. Why are we talking about gospel sanity? Yeah, what we’re trying to say is that there, there shouldn’t be a disconnect between the grace of Jesus as we receive it in the Gospel, and church life.
Sam Allberry: And yet so often there is and that’s, that’s gospel insanity. So gospel sanity is saying, Let’s build out our church life, our church culture, around the grace that God has shown to us in Jesus.
Ray Ortlund: Are you saying that a church can be orthodox in doctrine pure as the driven snow faithfulness in the doctrinal statement that’s on the sub page of the website? Right. And gospel insane simultaneously?
Sam Allberry: Yeah, I mean, it’s so easy to do. I’ve, I’ve, I feel that inclination in my own heart, we take good and precious truths that we’ve received from God trees that we genuinely believe. And we sort of put them in a mental drawer somewhere, and they don’t necessarily shape the way we live the way we we conduct ourselves that the posture we have with other people, and church wide that can then mean, a church has impeccably orthodox doctrinal standards, and yet, can be quite a graceless reality.
Ray Ortlund: When you actually get there, a church can unsay by its culture, what it says, by its doctrine, and not even realize it. Yeah, that’s truly insane.
Sam Allberry: It is
Ray Ortlund: Yeah, I think of it this way, Sam, the Gospel says something, and the gospel does something. The Gospel says the truths of Christ crucified, buried, risen again, and returning. What the gospel does through what it says is create beauty in human relationships. The vertical glories of the gospel come down upon us in a church and spread out horizontally. And when a church is only sensitive to what it should be saying, and not equally alert, and sensitive to what it should be, and, and the the vibe, the tone, the intangibles of that church, then the church can actually counter act, what it intends to do. I’ve seen this myself, I’ve participated in that. I have nurtured that without even realizing it. I would say, Sam, in the last 10 years, the definite article, most important thing I’ve learned is gospel culture. Which gospel doctrine is there to create it’s the gospel is both truth and beauty. So that beautiful human relations ships are not an afterthought. They’re not a layer of niceness on top of serious theology, those beautiful relationship, beautiful relationships, captivating, humane, gentle, healing, our show reassuring that that relational beauty is in fact, what the gospel came down to accomplish.
Sam Allberry: And you know that it shouldn’t surprise us with we’re told that Jesus was full of grace and truth. He wasn’t full of grace one day and then full of truth, the next day he embodied both and both of them rightly understood go together and him. If we if we think we have one of those things without the other, we actually have neither.
Ray Ortlund: In the last 2025 years here in in our country, we have seen a wonderful resurgence of gospel doctrine. And the gospel coalition is very much part of that. And I myself went through a sort of gospel Renaissance about 20 years ago, when preaching through Romans at First Presbyterian Church in Augusta, Georgia, I sort of rediscovered justification by faith alone, I rediscovered imputed righteousness, I rediscovered Jesus as our substitute and so forth these great doctrines right at the center of the gospel.
And it was thrilling and, and we as a church sort of felt like we went through the wardrobe into Narnia, in understanding Jesus and seeing him in his grace and glory in a new way. I don’t think that we generally, we kind of gospel coalition types, we have not expressed experienced a corresponding resurgence of relational beauty. I don’t I don’t know anybody in our circles, beyond the gospel coalition. So I’m in 100, I know 1000s of magnificent Christians all across the country.
And we’ve all been so enriched and strengthened and helped and the truth of the gospel has been clarified for us all. We have not had the same resurgence of relational beauty. I don’t know anybody, that’s downright mean. But I’m thinking the reason why we’re doing this podcast is we need to attend to very carefully, reverently, joyously attend to cultivate and build the intangibles of relational beauty that the gospel itself calls for and creates.
Sam Allberry: So the, you’re not crazy part of the title is, is really a way of saying, If as a as a church leader, you’ve, you’ve always had a hunch that, you know, church should have some felt sense of the grace of Christ about it. We’re just trying to say you’re not crazy for feeling that way.
Ray Ortlund: Yeah, the gospel both talks to us about Christ and His grace and glory, and creates in us, among us, a shared experience of His grace and glory, as we discover the safety, the gentleness, the respect, the gentle cheerfulness, the freedom of heart, the honesty that the gospel itself creates. Now, how did it tell us something about yourself, Sam, how did you personally How did this get on your radar? This matters to you? You’re you’re making this podcast a priority in your life, because you care about gospel culture? What How did you get there?
Sam Allberry: I think like, like you and so many of us. I’ve I’ve, I’ve seen churches where there felt like a mismatch between the beauty of the truth and the beauty of, as you put it, the culture of the church. And I didn’t really have words to put that into until a few years ago, I think, and began to sort of think you’ve always spoken in terms of gospel doctrine and gospel culture. I think that thing gave me the categories for thinking,
Okay, that’s why something feels off at this particular church or that particular church is that we’ve got the doctrine bit and we’re kind of super attentive to that, andcyou know, impeccable on that front, but it doesn’t feel like a place where
it’s safe to confess sin, or where there’s grace and forgiveness and abundance. I often think of it in terms of Do you. Are you relieved to walk into church on Sunday, or do you have to brace yourself to walk into church on Sunday in general terms, you know, lots of variables one week to the next. But actually, if We get the gospel culture peace, and we should feel a sense of relief to finally made in his church should be the rivendale, we’ve just been stabbed on weathertop we find ourselves in Reverend Dell. And that’s where we can find space and healing and help and care.
And all of those things become as these battered refugees in this world needing that kind of spiritual hospital. But too often that the church can actually be the place where it can feel demanding, stressful, antagonistic. All those sorts of things. I’ll never forget talking to a lady at a church I used to be at. And it was just a, you know, conversation, but the conversation became emblematic of something that I then started to see everywhere. She had, she was going through a bit of a crisis. And we hadn’t seen her at church for maybe two or three weeks or something like that.
And when I eventually was able to catch up with her, I said, you know, we’d love to see your church and she said, Well, I can’t come and tell them a bit better. And what she meant by that, as we talked was, she didn’t want people to see her messed up. She didn’t want to come back to church until she felt as though she had got her life back together enough to be able to walk through the door without sort of looking like someone who doesn’t have life sorted out. And that that was heartbreaking for me to see. And she wasn’t even identifying that as a problem.
It’s just a reality. And it made me think that’s exactly the wrong way round. church should be the place that we we sprint to when things are at their worst, rather than the place we avoid until we’ve got our kind of instagrammable Christianity back in place.
Ray Ortlund: And we’re just you and I are is wondering what would it be like for 1000s of churches across the country to find themselves helped into the green pastures and still waters of church is where I hurry to go when I need healing.
Sam Allberry: How did this… How did you get into this?
Ray Ortlund: Principally, Francis Schaffer, the Presbyterian theologian got it on my radar years ago when he talked about the two orthodoxies because the that precious lady, you were just telling us about. what she was saying about her own church is my church is not as orthodox as it thinks it is. We’re not, we’re not talking about, again, just a nicey, nice smiley faced layer on top of serious Christianity, we’re talking about allowing the gospel itself that the Orthodox truth of the gospel to have their own native natural authority, and let them let them free to shape us and reshape.
So anyway, Schaefer talked about the two orthodoxies orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of community. So if our churches are not places, and if there’s this unspoken, but clear sense in any church, I would be crazy to start talking about my real sins in this place. That church is not orthodox. So here’s how it finally made sense to me. And Sam, it was about 10 years ago, on a Tuesday night at a manual theology for men at a manual church here in Nashville.
And I don’t know how I had the nerve to do this. I don’t recommend it. But we met from seven to nine, and we have teaching and conversation discussion. It was great, great time, but I don’t remember what the context was. But I felt compelled to say, guys, we need to take a new step together tonight. What if we just break up into twos just turn to the guy sitting next to you whether you know or not, why don’t you turn to him? And tell him the worst thing you’ve ever done.
And then that guy will pray for you. And then turn it around. He will tell you the worst thing he’s ever done, and then you’ll pray for him. What on earth possessed me? I don’t know. And what’s even more astonishing is the guy said, Okay. And we actually did that. We walked into that time together at 7pm that Tuesday night as acquaintances. We walked out of that room at night. And PM, his friends and his brothers. And we followed that trajectory thereafter. And in all the years in which we lived in that kind of honesty and vulnerability and transparency together under the authority of Orthodox doctrine, I’m not aware that the trust that guys extended in doing in moving forward together that way, I don’t know that the trust was ever violated. So and then what happened next, Sam, for us was a sermon series later that year 2011, from first john chapter one.
And verse seven, of course, says, but if we walk in the light, now we know walking in the light is not sinlessness. But it’s honesty. We know that from the context here, that’s obvious. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, he’s not hard to find. He’s right out there in the light in the place of honesty waiting for us with open arms. You know, we tend to hang back in the shadows of concealment. What we perceive as self protection, denial, and sort of faking it, with a smile, and so forth. But the Lord is out there in the light of honesty waiting for us.
But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, two things happen. One, we have fellowship with one another, and to the blood of Jesus, His Son cleanses us from all sin. So what we discovered at Emanuel church, we felt that we had walked through the wardrobe into Narnia. That the first aspect of gospel culture that landed on us and on me first was honesty. And this the reason why this means so much to me, Sam, is that first john chapter one is not describing a denominational option.
This is not just for Baptists, or Anglicans or Presbyterians. This is just baseline Christianity, as opposed to heresy. So, a Bible preaching church where no one can risk honesty is in danger of heresy.
No matter how pure its theological position might be. Because there are two orthodoxies, orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of community. What if 1000s of churches across the country become fully orthodox, both in doctrine and in community, because I’ve experienced what it’s like, for, for me and for a whole church together, we finally let our guard down. We understand the ground rules between us allow for an even call for vulnerability, and gentle transparency.
Admitting what isn’t working in our lives, what’s hard for us the beliefs in the Bible we have reservations about the patterns of sin in our lives that nobody knows about. I just deeply believe Sam churches where I rarely go to make friends with one or two other guys that I trust and respect. Guys that then I let into my life at a deep level. Guys who know what’s really going on inside me.
And we work together through life that way. What if a whole church goes there together, and this church is a a gentle network of radical honesty, where there’s no face saving, no self concealment, and no pretense. And we risk transparency with one another. Two things are going to happen there. According to first john, chapter one, one. We have fellowship, it’s like at a dinner party.
When you’re sitting there at the table, and the food is great, the conversation is fun, and so on and so forth. And then somebody actually gets real. Somebody at that table starts talking about what’s what’s what’s really hard in life. And everybody at that table immediately realizes, oh, we’re going there. And the ground rules change and it gets quiet, and gentle, and powerful.
Sam Allberry: That fellowship, it just deepens the richness of a relationship, doesn’t it? You can be very familiar with someone for the course of years. I never really know them. But when someone kind of opens up their heart and spills the beans, that that’s a depth Have a relationship that wasn’t there before.
Ray Ortlund: Yes. And then second thing that happens is it says here, the blood of Jesus is on cleanses us from all sin. That’s when we start feeling forgiven. hypothetical forgiveness doesn’t really help actual centers. It’s felt forgiveness that helps serious centers like me.
Sam Allberry: And part of what makes that forgiveness felt is the experience of I’ve just shared, the worst thing I’ve ever done. And these people are still talking to me. They still they still care, they still like me. In fact, they’re telling me what they’ve done. And I still like them. And there’s a kind of, it really does embody forgiveness of God, doesn’t it?
Ray Ortlund: It’s in the New Testament. And you know, Sam, once this, these simple categories, just took a long time. But gradually, once these simple categories sort of became clear gospel doctrine, gospel culture, and the gospel doctrine, creates gospel culture, and has the same authority as gospel doctrine. Once that became clear, I began to see it all over the New Testament. And I realized there’s been a whole dimension of my ministry that I just hadn’t ever seen before.
Sam Allberry: I hadn’t embraced I hadn’t cultivated I hadn’t been attentive to, I think it’s a danger, isn’t it when we rightly are captivated by truth. And as you found teaching through Romans, you, you want to get doctrine, right? It matters. And particularly if you’re predisposed to being a thinkI type of person anyway, it’s easy for us to sort of so focused on I’ve got to get this doctrine, right, I’ve got to get this belief, correct. It’s easy to then just to have a natural blind spot to well hang on, what is this doctrine, I’m being very correct about what does it meant to be producing threw me into the lives of other people and vice versa.
Ray Ortlund: I think for years, Sam, as a pastor, I didn’t even realize that emphasizing doctrine only actually fed my pride. And the the intellectual, not overly intellectual, I don’t think it’s possible to be overly intellectual, but it is possible to be under relational. The over the, the intellectual only ministry I sustained the preaching only the preaching, you know, and just bearing down on, on the correctness of the doctrine, actually, I didn’t realize how I was, I was overbearing toward the people without realizing it.
Sam Allberry: I know for me, I spent a few years doing campus ministry in Oxford, all these bright, young things. And, again, it’s very all of them, you know, huge capacity for thinking, reading, studying articulation. And they want to be stretched, they want to be fed. I mean, it was a it was a wonderful context in which to teach. But the danger was that we, you know, you don’t go beyond just teaching, these are the things I want to get into your head. And once I’ve got them into your head, my job is done and your job is done. Maybe you get them into someone else’s head. But that’s a glorious thing. But it’s it’s woefully incomplete.
Ray Ortlund: And it’s even a betrayal of the gospel. Because what exploded across the Mediterranean world in the first century was not brilliant ideas, only what exploded and captivated the Roman Empire was a new kind of community, a new experience of community.
Sam Allberry: Well, that that raises another dimension of this, which is what is at stake in having gospel culture isn’t just the health internally of a church, though that is crucial, but actually, our capacity to compel the world with it with, you know, our message of Jesus. And it seems to me that particularly in a cultural moment we find ourselves in now there is so much anger, there is so much polarization, there’s so much anxiety. This kind of relational beauty, I think, possibly more than any other time in my lifetime, will be so magnetic, so needed, so unusual, and so attractive to people who might not like what we believe, but find that kind of relational beauty, very hard to resist.
Ray Ortlund: Yeah. Well, we’ve just begun there’s so much more we want to say and talk about I’m thinking of things right now. I really want to say right now, but this is enough for one podcast. So we love crossway books. crossway is sponsoring this podcast. And I was at the gospel coalition, national gathering in Indianapolis what, two weeks ago now, and went to the crossway table in the book area, I walked around the table, and I was struck by the high quality of every book I saw on that table, the integrity, the faithfulness, the relevance of every single title on the table.
Sam Allberry: One of the things I love about crossbow, no one has got a gun to my head right now making me say this is just simply that if there’s a if there’s a topic I need to read up on. And I see a crossword book on that topic. And maybe I don’t know the name of the author. It’s not familiar to me. The fact that it’s a crossword but it makes me think, Okay, I know I can trust that I know that will be helpful and biblical. They don’t just publish anything. They do have some theological standards, maybe not as good as they ought to be, because I published me, but it’s a it’s a, it’s a really trustworthy publisher. So we’re grateful to them.
Ray Ortlund: Yeah. And one book I want to recommend everybody is, is by Francis Schaffer, and titled no little people. It’s a collection of his sermons. And several of them have become some of the most important things I’ve ever read outside the Bible. No little people. There are no little people in the kingdom of God, even though we sometimes feel like Alright, thanks, Sam.
Sam Allberry: Thanks, Ray. See you next time. Okay, we’re so grateful for you listening to this podcast. We don’t take that for granted. Do visit tgc.org slash podcasts for more episodes and information. And we’d love it if you could subscribe to our show on Apple podcasts or Spotify or wherever you go for your podcasts. Thank you.