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Immanuel Church | Nashville, TN

  • Ray Ortlund, Jr.
  • Sep 3, 2009
  • Series: Church Profiles
  • Categories: Church Planting Articles

The Ortlund Family

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Briefly explain your calling to plant a church.

Immanuel was birthed out of a longing for revival. The meaning of our lives is to be living proof of what only God can do for us, in our weakness, to the praise of the glory of his grace.


We live in a city of impressive outward appearances. Nashville is talented, beautiful, successful, rich, fun, cool. But just under the surface there is so much brokenness. We long for our friends to find the consolations that are in Christ alone.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in planting your church (and/or currently facing)?

Our biggest challenge is how to communicate the gospel in a city where many people think they've heard it already. And the answer is not merely to find fresh ways of expressing the old truths. That's important, obviously. But the best answer is for us to be renewed in the gospel so that we change first. Then others can see that Jesus is better than they ever knew.

How did you become involved with Acts 29? What have been the biggest benefits of being in the network?

When we were in our Sunday-evening exploratory phase, we met at the Journey Ecclesia in Franklin. (Jamie George and everybody down there really helped us.) We could see that Acts 29 was compelling the attention of the community. We wanted to know more.

We're new in the Network and have a lot to learn. But the greatest benefit already is the inspiring friendships with like-minded people who want to capture this generation for the Lord Jesus Christ.

What advice do you have for men who are wrestling with the decision to plant?

I believe that church planting is the most challenging form of ministry that exists. It is extreme in all respects -- extremely costly, extremely rewarding. Whether any particular man should plant requires a sacred call from God, received deep in a man's heart and then confirmed by competent brothers. Surrender your life completely to Jesus, with no preconditions, and pray for clarity!

How do you personally disciple your family?

With our kids grown and on their own, my wife and I are loving these years of walking together with the Lord. This morning we had a special breakfast together and discussed a book on contemporary Christianity Jani had just read. Next time, we will discuss a book on evangelism I have just read. But in a larger sense, we try to live together in God's presence all the time. Prayer is constant.

How can we pray for you?

Thanks.  Always pray for the greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  That’s the main thing.  But also pray, please, as we develop (1) a growth-conducive leadership culture, (2) music ministry that unleashes the amazing talent in and around our church, (3) our own personal rapport, evangelism and discipleship with the young men and women we want to give this church to.

Immanuel Church

Church Profile: Immanuel Church
Launch Date: January, 2008
Location: Nashville, TN

Mission, Vision, Values of Church

Immanuel was born out of a longing for revival – believers renewed in the gospel, unbelievers won by the gospel.  Many people in Nashville think they’ve heard the gospel, but what they’ve heard is religious moralism.  It isn’t freeing them; it binds them to smiling outward appearances with much brokenness under the surface.  We all feel this.  Our mission, therefore, is not first to change our city but first to be changed, so that others can see the difference Christ makes and join in.  As God visits us and our city, we long for the world to hear the gospel through this wonderful megaphone called Music City, USA.

We envision a church clearly marked by biblical preaching, honest answers to honest questions, personal reality with God, and the beauty of human relationships (Francis Schaeffer, Two Contents, Two Realities).

We value bold witness.  We want to stand out for Jesus "so boldly it scares us."

What is your philosophy of community in your church and what does that look like practically? 

No one needs to stand alone. That means, of course, a network of small groups. But something else we do is called "Three-on-one." At a low level of visibility, so that no one feels awkward, we quietly arrange for three adults to take on each teenager in the church, to befriend, to pray for, to go to their sports events or plays or whatever. We want everybody feeling loved.

What is your philosophy of evangelism in your church and what does that look like practically?

Deeply dependent on God, we try to do four things.

First: Preaching the gospel every week so that believers are built up and unbelievers can think it through. 

Secondly: "Elevator conversations." Living at our crazy pace of life, it's rare that we can sit down with a friend for a long talk. More frequently, our interactions are like an elevator conversation between the first and fourth floors. Maybe 45 seconds. So we equip every member to do two things. One, explain the heart of the gospel, and two, give their own "what Jesus means to me," each in a way that could be useful in an elevator conversation-format. 

Third: Special bringer-events, especially music. After all, we're in Music City USA. 

Fourth: Community service. We have to prove that we care. If we don't care, why should anyone listen to us?

What are some examples of God's grace that you have seen in your life and/or the life of your church?

Maybe the biggest example of God's grace is how I personally am changing. I am rediscovering the wonder of his grace these days with clearer theological/personal awareness than ever. I thought I got it before, and I did. But wow, justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone apart from all my works -- I never get tired of it, keep going deeper, want to go after it and preach it and demonstrate it like never before. Everybody has got to know about free access to God through grace!

Another article on Ray from the Resurgence

Audio interview with Jani on her book, His Loving Law, Our Lasting Legacy

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