Remembering Ray Ortlund Sr.

Eight years ago today on July 22, 2007 Ray Ortlund, Sr. passed through the veil into the eternal world of the Father. Ray was the most enthusiastic, and devoted disciple of Jesus I’ve known. He was a dear friend and spiritual father to me. I miss him.

One day when Ray was in his eighties we were having lunch and he looked at me with misty eyes and said, “When people are at my memorial service I want them to say, ‘Look at what God did! That couldn’t have been Ray.’ I want everything I do to touch Jesus in some way or why do it?”

A Celebration of Discipleship to Christ

Sure enough, at “A Celebration of Discipleship to Christ” service in Ray Ortlund Sr’s honor I was one of 800 pastors and leaders who gave testimony to how God used Ray to help us “Be all and only for Jesus!”

I’d never seen anything like this! Much of my career had been focused on getting more people to come to my events or buy my books. Then I recalled the time Ray beamed over me, “Bill, it’s a blessing to be with you. I’d rather be here talking with you then in India where I spoke to 100,000 people in an outdoor auditorium. Thanks for giving me a piece of you! When I’m up in heaven I’ll be praising God for your life and that I was blessed to be your friend.”

That’s how Ray cared for me and how he riveted my soul to the Lord Jesus! He “wasted” himself on me, repeatedly pouring into me for hours at a time. He did the same thing for 800 other pastors! These 800 shepherded over one million people! Discipling 1,000,000 people to Jesus is way better than preaching to 100,000! (This was Jesus’ method of ministry that Paul learned and taught to Timothy. See 2 Tim. 2:2.)

Ray and Anne called this “Renewal Ministries.” Their love-your-neighbor-pastor ministry became the inspiration and model for Kristi and I to start Soul Shepherding in 2009.

Ray Ortlund Sr’s Goals Just Before He Died

Right to the end of his 84 years on earth Ray kept his worship of God fresh and was seeking to renew pastors. He never “retired” from serving God! Like Caleb in the Bible he was taking the hills for the Lord in his eighties! In fact, just one month before he died of the lung disease that had made him house-bound and tied to oxygen tubes he wrote down some new goals for his life:

  1. See to make each day a “Masterpiece Day!” Ask God for it at the beginning of each day. Write a post-it note as a reminder and put it on my mirror at the bathroom sink.
  2. Do one different thing each day to make that day unique. Help someone with a note, phone call, or visit with them to encourage them.
  3. Get to bed before 10:00 pm so I’ll be fresh from my quiet time the next morning.
  4. Watch TV no more than an hour and a half to give time to read J.I. Packer: A Biography by Alister McGrath and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

The last time I visited Ray I experienced one of his last “Masterpiece Days.” He put down the devotional book he was reading and in between gasps of oxygen he encouraged me and prayed for me.

(Ray Ortlund Sr’s goals were shared by his son, Ray Ortlund Jr, in the Renewal Ministries letter for June 2015. Today Renewal Ministries is located in Franklin, TN.)

Your Masterpiece Day

You could make it a “Masterpiece Day” for Christ by sending a note of encouragement to a pastor you know.


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