There really is an app for almost everything. An app for weather forecasts. An app for sports updates. An app for coupons. An app for color coordinating your clothes. In a world of “if you want it, we’ll provide it,” we can often think that should be true of the church we attend. But the church is not an app! So what should the church provide? The short answer is: what the Bible says it should.

But what is that?

Ray Ortlund Jr, a pastor I admire, contends people need three things. And those three things should be the same three things the church provides: gospel + safety + time.

Gospel: People need multiple exposures to the happy news of the gospel from one end of the Bible to the other.

Safety: People need the safety of non-accusing sympathy so they can admit their problems honestly.

Time: People need enough time to rethink their lives at a deep level, because people are complex and changing isn’t easy. (The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ, p. 72).

This is what people need. This is what churches ought to provide. If you’re mentoring or discipling someone or if you’re leading a small group, try adopting this as your mode of operation. Let them know gospel + safety + time is going to characterize these gatherings. These are the ingredients a community needs to become healthy and vibrant.

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