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Monday, July 23, 2007

Ray Ortlund, Prominent Pastor and Radio Broadcaster, Passes Away

By Mark Ellis
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
Ray & Anne Ortlund

NEWPORT BEACH, CALIFORNIA (ANS) -- Ray Ortlund, a beloved pastor, author, and radio broadcaster -- who touched the lives of many through small-group discipleship, went to be with Jesus July 22. He was 84.

Ortlund slipped away peacefully at 8:00 p.m. PST yesterday, surrounded by his wife Anne and their immediate family, at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. He bravely endured the complications of pulmonary fibrosis, an insidious lung disease that also claimed the life of Campus Crusade Founder Bill Bright.

He maintained lucidity until the day of his passing, and was able to speak and sing hymns with family members yesterday morning. His last words were, “Amen and amen.”  Dates and times for a public memorial service have not been released.

Ray and Anne founded Renewal Ministries after he led two of the most prominent churches in Southern California. Together they authored more than 25 books and traveled extensively throughout the world speaking on behalf of renewal and revival among God’s people. For 19 years Ray was the speaker for the “Haven of Rest” radio broadcast.

In 1950 Ortlund graduated from Princeton Theological seminary, was ordained a Presbyterian minister, and accepted his first pastorate in the small town of Christiana, Pennsylvania

In his years at Princeton Seminary, he heard fervent debates about the veracity of the Bible as many sought to diminish the stature of God and the scriptures. “After going to Princeton, I made some very strong decisions for the Word of God,” Ray said in a 2005 interview. One of his mentors was Donald G. Barnhouse, because of his “huge view of God.”

Anne grew up on military posts, the daughter of a U.S. Army General. After graduating from the University of Redlands in California with a major in organ, she married Ray, who was drawn by her sense of purpose.

After he led two smaller churches, Ray accepted his third call to the pastorate at Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena, California. Lake Avenue become their home for the next 20 years.

During those years, Anne’s musical gifts flourished, and she became the organist for the “Old Fashioned Revival Hour” radio broadcast with Dr. Charles Fuller.

But perhaps the most pivotal event to shape their future ministry was their involvement with the revival at Wheaton College in 1970. “Once you’ve seen that you will never be the same again,” Anne said. “We desired with all our hearts that God would make us instruments of renewal and revival around the world,” she said. “That became the passion of our hearts.”

Ray referred to the years at Lake Avenue as “slow burn revival,” as clusters of their flock accepted Ray’s challenge: “Lord, make my life a miracle.” That was also the title of his first book, published in 1974, which explained his theology and statement of purpose for the church. “I never thought I’d write a book,” he said, as he asserted that Anne is the “real author” in the family. Indeed, her book “Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman” has sold more than a million copies.

The Ortlunds’ ministry philosophy has always emphasized three simple priorities: First God, then other believers, and third—reaching the world for Christ. The other vital component of their ministry, which led to rapid growth at Lake Avenue, was small group discipleship. Beginning in 1970, Ray and Anne began leading their own small groups each year. Over 37 years, they’ve discipled and mentored hundreds of younger leaders and pastors, a practice that continued for Ray until his passing.

“What we want most is to leave other footsteps along the way,” Ray said, as he recalled the man he met in the U.S. Navy who discipled him, which altered the course of his life. “I’ve preached to thousands, but I find this is the way lives can be changed,” he said. “That’s reaching into society on the inside.”

Mark Ellis is a Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service. He is also an associate pastor in Laguna Beach, CA. Contact Ellis at

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