Gavin Ortlund, the senior pastor of the 100-member First Baptist Church of Ojai in Ojai, California, says he is quitting the pastorate to do full-time ministry through his Truth Unites channel on YouTube, where he has already amassed more than 3.6 million views and more than 40,000 subscribers.
"YouTube is such a strategic place for ministry; the opportunities are just unbelievable," Ortlund declared in his recent announcement on YouTube.
Ortlund, the brother of Pastor Dane Ortlund of Naperville Presbyterian Church in Illinois, said giving up the pastorate for online ministry will allow him to reach more people with the Gospel who have been abandoning traditional church pews for a while.
"As you know, I mentioned this a lot that in the United States, we're going through the greatest season of religious decline in our nation's history. About 40 million people have stopped going to church. And then those who don't have any religious affiliation, which is a little different demographic, interestingly, has spiked up to over 30%," he said. "Thirty years ago, it was only 5%. It's just this massive sea change, and especially in the younger generation, there are so many people leaving their faith."
Through Truth Unites, which "exists to promote gospel assurance through theological depth," Ortlund, who has a Ph.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary, says he wants to reach the people who left the Church.
"Over the last several years, the greatest passion of my vocational life has become to just spend myself doing whatever I can to address this situation, try to help people, to be a friend to those, you know, I use these words — recentering, reconstruction, revitalization, restabilizing — trying to convey what I hope my videos are doing to people out there, especially younger people," Ortlund said.
The California pastor will be moving with his wife and five children to Tennessee, where his ministry will fall under the umbrella of Renewal Ministries led by his parents. He will also be a resident theologian at Emmanuel Church in the Nashville area.
Ortlund said that since he started Truth Unites three years ago, his life has become busier, and it's also difficult to focus on the things that he's really passionate about.
'It's been a busy three years. We've had two more children in that time period. We have five kids now. I'm a full-time pastor, and I'm doing all these different kinds of things, and I love them all. So I've been able to try to kind of navigate things. Over the last year or so, it's ratcheted up to one level further of busyness. And so that is a part of this," he said. "This change allows me to focus a little bit more and not feel like I'm doing five different things all at once."
He said he will now have more time to write and take other speaking engagements with his online ministry focus.
"I want to write a book on the sacraments, for example. I'd love to write a book on existentialism and just how kind of classic existentialist philosophy intersects with our culture and some of the needs right now. That's in the vein of apologetics, and I've written a little bit about that. I also want to be free to accept speaking requests that come in," he said.
"I have to decline like 98% of them right now because, with five young kids, it's hard to travel, and I'm just so busy," Ortlund added.
"The mission of Truth Unites is gospel assurance through theological depth. And the more I do this, the more I'm just like, wow, there are so many opportunities to try to answer questions and address things and try to meet needs that are out there."
A spokesperson at First Baptist Church of Ojai told The Christian Post Thursday that Ortlund is expected to continue in his role at the church until mid-December. They currently do not yet have a replacement for him.
While members are sad to see him go, the spokesperson said many members of the church already watch his videos on YouTube and will continue to benefit from his ministry there.