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The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ

(9Marks: Building Healthy Churches)

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  924 ratings  ·  120 reviews
How does the church portray the beauty of Christ?

The gospel is a theological message. But this message also creates human beauty--beautiful relationships in our churches, making the glory of Christ visible in the world today.

In this timely book, Pastor Ray Ortlund makes the case that gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. In too many of our churches, it is the beauty of
Hardcover, 136 pages
Published April 28th 2014 by Crossway Books
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May 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Gospel Doctrine + Gospel Culture = A church that portrays the beauty of Christ. The first half of the book outlines the message of the gospel from the point of view of an individual, a church, and the world. The second half takes a realistic look at why it is that so many churches fail to live out a culture that corresponds with the gospel. When the gospel is truly preached, people will either respond with joy or take offence, and persevering despite the negative responses (usually fr ...more
Mark Donald
Jan 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Great book about “how the gospel can shape the life and culture of our churches so that they portray Christ as he really is”.

A church that has gospel doctrine *and* a gospel culture puts the beauty of Christ on display to the world around.

Praying this would be increasingly true of my own ministry and church.
Daniel Henderson
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Brian Parks
Dec 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great book that focuses on the effect the gospel should have in the church as a whole. Gospel doctrine creates gospel culture. Recommended.
Mark D.
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love all of the 9 Marks books. This book ends with a challenge to think about what the Gospel means in our lives. It challenges with the love of Christ. In the beginning, I thought the book would be a simple explanation of the Gospel. As with all 9 Marks book, the book is challenging and informative; far from just a repetition of the teaching of the Gospel.
Gwilym Tudur
May 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The primary thesis of 'The Gospel' (2014) by Ray C. Ortlund Jr. is that gospel doctrine should - and, indeed, will - create gospel culture within our churches. Throughout this engaging and highly readable book, Ortlund unpacks this significant theme.

Ortlund explains that the product of sound Gospel theology is real Gospel 'culture' (defined à la J. I. Packer as 'the public lifestyle that expressed a shared mindset and convictions held in common'). Our churches are, therefore, 'orthopraxy expres
Jesse Ramshaw
Jun 10, 2021 rated it really liked it
Helpful summary of the Gospel. I especially appreciated the section dealing with sharing the Gospel message and having our theology RIGHT, but having our church culture and practice WRONG (cf. Paul & Cephas, Galatians 2).

Favourite quote:
"If you feel little restlessness for new blessing on your church, maybe you have forgotten whose church it is. It is not your own. It was bought with a price, and it belongs to Another."
Shawn Moose
Jul 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is, to put it mildly, fantastic.

The main premise is that gospel doctrine creates gospel culture, and the author proves that with the Bible, sound reason, cultural examples, and many—many—past voices. Ray is careful to show you that he is not making this stuff up! This is what the Bible teaches and what Christians have taught for years.

As a pastor, it was deeply encouraging, challenging, convicting, and hope-filling.

Every Christian should read this book.
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Rafael Salazar
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Ortlund advances the thesis of the absolute imperative of Gospel Doctrine + Gospel Culture to display the Beauty of Christ to a lost world. This may be the first time I've read stirring and heart-warming ecclesiology. ...more
Nate Walker
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great little summary on Gospel doctrine and Gospel culture in a church—why both are essential.
Sam - Reading Reformed
Nov 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review was originally published on

How is Christ’s beauty put on display in local churches? That is the question that Ray Ortlund seeks to answer in his book: The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ. Ortlund is the pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee and wrote this book to be included in the 9Marks series Building Healthy Churches.

The main thrust of Ortlund is not to define and expound the Gospel but rather to show how it should work
Elijah Abanto
Mar 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ray Ortlund: If we have suffered the loss of all things in order to gain Christ—no egos to protect or scores to settle—we are free to receive his power, courage, and love. They outperform everything in this world, because they come from beyond this world. How compelling for our churches to say: “We’re not taking one more step without the power, courage, and love of the gospel for the glory of Christ alone. No more status quo!”

An excellent, illuminating, and convicting book on the gospel and how
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the most influential books in my life and one I will continue to go back and read once or twice a year. I am so blessed to be under the pastoral care of Ray and am able to call him friend. May the Lord use this book and Pastor Ray's ministry for generations. ...more
Wes Van Fleet
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Anything Ray writes is always and encouragement to me. The goal of the book is to show that gospel doctrine creates a gospel culture. The gospel is the power of God (Rom. 1:16) that creates amongst forgiven sinners a culture where love, power, and courage unite the people of God and offer something compelling to the onlooking world (John 13:34-35). Read this book and apply liberally.
Josh Smetzer
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed Ray Ortlund's work on The Gospel and how he explains gospel doctrine as well as
a gospel culture. He also shows how the church portrays the beauty of Christ by showing that the gospel transforms our relationships within the church, which can be seen by the world around us.
Drew Miller
Sep 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian-living
A great reminder that right doctrine combined with right living is a powerful attraction in today's age. Ortlund's take on the new heavens and new earth in chapter 3 was refreshing as well! While this book is fairly short, it is chocked full of helpful reminders! ...more
Matt Kottman
This is an excellent, clear, and concise work on what the gospel is all about. I found it refreshing and encouraging. Now I want my whole church to read, enjoy, and be challenged by this book.
Todd Bryant
Jan 25, 2020 rated it liked it
This book could be outstanding. It is with some hesitation that I even say every church leader should read it. I am glad I did.

The good: Ortlund stresses the foundation of the Gospel - the primacy of the Gospel. Without a clear Gospel witness, we have no right to call ourselves a church. He does a fine job of explaining the Gospel. He does a much better job of explaining how the Gospel should be lived out in church capacity. Churches are to be communities that live out the Gospel and show forth
Josh Miller
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another excellent, short read in the 9Marks Building Healthy Churches series! The subtitle of this book is fitting - How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ.

Here is a quote (among many) that jumped out to me:

"The ministry of the gospel in our churches involves more than doctrinal argumentation. The work of the gospel is subtle, like the work of a fragrance. It is not just brute facts landing hard on someone's mind, but an aroma wafting into a heart."

As articulated in a recent podcast that
Dan Montgomery
Mar 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It was the great American poet Tom Petty who said “Oh, yeah, you wreck me, baby/ You break me in two/ But you move me, honey/ Yes you do.” That’s this book.

Ray Ortlund is gifted with velvet gloves. He rebukes and corrects through the encouragement of what *can* be because of Christ. The Church really can -and ought - to be the most beautiful community on earth. Righteousness and mercy, joy and forbearance, purpose and peace. All of these things that often fly apart are Christ’s purpose for his c
Aaron Lawson
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Sort of disappointed in this book or maybe I was expecting more of something along the lines of the Gospel that Henri Nouwen or Brennan Manning would teach. I feel it takes a very fundamentalist approach to telling the reader what the gospel should look like, which initially I had no problems with. Eventually it got me to the point that if the gospel of Christ is really good news, than this book does a poor job of letting the reader know that. "The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ refuses to be h ...more
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a book our pastor encouraged the whole church to read. It may be tiny but it packs a big punch. The author’s writing was very concise- no extra fluff to be found. He pointed to Christ in every single paragraph. I underlined something on nearly every page!

My criticisms would be that I wish he could have shared even more specific examples of how he envisions this church full of gospel loveliness (mostly just lists forgiveness, love, hope, etc. in generic terms). The last chapter also was
May 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
What I liked was the correlation between the Gospel message making a transformation of hearts and thus creating a unique culture within the church.

The church is preaching the Gospel by our external testimony and inter-relationships. What is our testimony? A good question to contemplate on.

But the message of salvation and transformation are rained but he hard work the believer is to undergo in the spiritual
life. Holiness is an effort of a human according to author. I disagree.

Statement that “Ser
Jeff Short
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
It sounds correct to speak of being Gospel centered. I wonder how well we understand what it actually means to be a Gospel centered church. The author makes a case for what it looks like to be Gospel centered in practice as well as profession. Every church has a culture, whether it is deliberately shaped or more organic. Having the Gospel correct in our doctrinal statement does not mean our church body is Gospel centered in practice. Ortlund brings out that Gospel centeredness can happen, but it ...more
Apr 15, 2020 rated it liked it
It's a great concise theology that further fills your head with more knowledge of the gospel, yet it lacks in application in the day to day of a church or a people of Christ. It is solid in biblical foundations, but I believe it is a lot of head knowledge, with some heart transformation truth , but zero help in guiding how our hands should work in the day to day of a people of christ. The church is not the same as it was 2000 years ago, the gospel is the same yes and I agree, but the church as a ...more
C.J. Moore
Oct 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another great book from the 9Marks series, Ortlund deals with how the gospel should impact the culture of a church. The major theme is: "Gospel doctrine should create gospel culture." Only four stars because he could have used more practical examples in his book of what this actually looks like. I also thought that a chapter needed to be in there about the advancement of the gospel. This seems to be one of the greatest results of having good gospel doctrine - that you would make sure you're adva ...more
Steve Johnson
Sep 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A delightful and easy read about a very important topic: the good news of Jesus and what He accomplished through His death and resurrection for those who will turn to Him, repent, and trust Him as Lord. Ortlund is a gifted writer and you will find much worth quoting in this short book. (I read it while teaching a study on what the Bible teaches about the gospel.) If you want to better understand the gospel and how it is intended to transform the way you live your life, read this excellent book.
Mark Loughridge
Lovely little book - Ortlund always has a great way of putting things. Quotable and pointed. Encouraging and challenging at the same time.

It's important to note the subtitle - How the Church portrays the beauty of Christ. That's what this book is about, and Ortlund does a good job of showing how the gospel needs to impact the culture of our churches--not simply that we do evangelism, but that the gospel permeates our very character as individuals and as churches.

Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
If you’re a Christian and need encouragement in your faith, I highly recommend reading this short and enjoyable book. Biblically informed and outward focused, it spurred me on to see myself and my fellow believers in a better light. Theologically deep, but very practical. If you read one book on the gospel of Christ, make it this one.

Another brief recommendation, Greg Gilbert’s little book on the gospel is also very good.
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Pastor Ray Ortlund received a B.A. from Wheaton College, Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, M.A. from The University of California, Berkeley, and Ph.D. from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Pastor Ortlund served as Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois, from 1989-1998. He was ordained by Lake Avenue Congregati ...more

Other books in the series

9Marks: Building Healthy Churches (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus
  • Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus
  • Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus
  • Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God's Word Today
  • Sound Doctrine: How a Church Grows in the Love and Holiness of God
  • Church Elders: How to Shepherd God's People Like Jesus (9Marks: Building Healthy Churches)
  • Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus
  • Conversion: How God Creates a People (9Marks: Building Healthy Churches)
  • Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global
  • Prayer: How Praying Together Shapes the Church (9marks: Building Healthy Churches)

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“Here then are the choices we all face moment by moment: Will we aim to be impressive? Will we expect to be in complete control? Will we ensure that we always come out on top as winners? Or will we be happy for the power of Christ to rest upon us in our endless weakness? 'No man can give at once the impressions that he himself is clever and that Jesus Christ is mighty to save.' Neither can any church.” 3 likes
“The need of our times is nothing less than the re-Christianization of our churches, according to the gospel alone, in both doctrine and culture, by Christ himself” 1 likes
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