John Ortberg

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John Ortberg
Born (1957-05-05) May 5, 1957 (age 64)
Rockford, Illinois
OccupationTheologian, Author, Minister
SubjectLeadership, Theology
SpouseNancy Ortberg
ChildrenLaura Turner, Daniel M. Lavery, John Ortberg III
Website[dead link]

John Ortberg, Jr. (born May 5, 1957) is an evangelical Christian author, speaker, and the former senior pastor of Menlo Church[1] in Menlo Park, California, an ECO Presbyterian church with more than 4,000 members. Ortberg has published many books including the 2008 ECPA Christian Book Award winner When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box,[2] and the 2002 Christianity Today Book Award winner If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat.[3] Another of his publications, The Life You've Always Wanted, has sold more than 500,000 copies as of 2008.[4] On August 13, 2012, John Ortberg's book Who Is This Man? debuted at #3 on the New Release chart[5] at[6]

He resigned from his position as pastor of Menlo church in July 2020 after it was revealed that he had allowed one of his sons, John Ortberg III, to continue volunteering in working with minors at the church after the son had confessed to having a strong sexual attraction to young children.[7][8][9] The allegations had arisen in late 2019, initially without identifying his son as the volunteer in question.


Ortberg was born in Rockford, Illinois. He earned his undergraduate degree from Wheaton College, and his M.Div. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has also studied at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. From 1985 to 1990 he served as senior pastor at Simi Valley Community Church, and then from 1990 to 1994 at Horizons Community Church (now Baseline Community Church) in Claremont, California. He then moved from California to Illinois to serve as a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois until 2003, when he assumed his current role at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, a multi-campus church in Northern California.[10]

Ortberg is married. His wife Nancy is also a Christian pastor and they have three children: Laura, Daniel, and John III. Laura is a writer for The New York Times, New York Magazine, and BuzzFeed.[11] Daniel M. Lavery is the founder, writer and editor of the now-defunct feminist humor blog The Toast[12] and was the author of the "Dear Prudence" advice column for the Slate online magazine from November 2015 until May 2021.[13][14] Their youngest is John III, known as Johnny, who was born around 1990 and had been volunteering at Menlo Church as a youth leader and coach[15] until about 2020.


Spiritual formation[edit]

A central theme of his teaching and books is spiritual formation, the transforming of human character through authentic experiences with God. Ortberg argues that the desire for comfort and security often stands in the way of an authentic relationship with God – when people place too high a value on being secure and comfortable they may be reluctant to make the sacrifices God asks of them.[16]

Eternal cravings[edit]

Ortberg has warned against the societal pressures which tell people that bigger is always better, saying "I think for all of us, whatever your ministry or job, bigness will never satisfy the call."[17] In his books he has described his own desire for importance and success, and how achieving them did not ultimately bring him happiness.[18] "Your cravings," according to Ortberg, "if you could get to the bottom of them, are for the eternal."[19]

In media[edit]

Ortberg's retelling of his experience of playing Monopoly with his grandmother was used as the beginning narration of Peter Joseph's 2011 documentary Zeitgeist: Moving Forward.


Ortberg has been a featured speaker at many events, including

Revelation of inaction, temporary leave and resignation[edit]

In the summer of 2018, John Ortberg's son, John III confessed to him that he was sexually attracted to minors. At that time, Ortberg did nothing to ensure that his son stopped his volunteer activities with minors at Menlo Church. Ortberg also did not alert other church leaders to the situation. [7]

On November 15, 2019, per a twitter message, John Ortberg III disclosed his 'obsessive sexual feelings about young children' to Ortberg's other son, Daniel Lavery.[7] Upon discovering that his father had not shared this information with Menlo Church Leadership or the Elder Board, Lavery went to the church's leadership himself. Lavery has stated that Ortberg dismissed his concerns in part because Lavery is transgender.[22]

On the 22nd of November 2019, he went on leave from his position. The reason for his leave was not stated at that time.[7]

On the 21st of January 2020, Menlo Church issued a statement indicating Ortberg's reason for being placed on leave, that he had allowed a church volunteer (John III was not named in that statement) to work and travel with children, despite that volunteer's confession of a lifelong sexual attraction to children.[23] Ortberg was reinstated after an investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing.[7]

On January 24, 2020, Ortberg returned from leave. He has stated that he "failed to do the right thing" and apologized for his "lack of transparency".[24] After completing a restoration plan, Ortberg returned to the pulpit on March 7, 2020.[25]

On July 29, Menlo Church announced that Ortberg had resigned his position, effective August 2, 2020, citing broken trust and fallout from the “poor judgement” in decisions he had made in allowing his son to continue to volunteer with students after his confession of an attraction to minors.[8]

It has been alleged by Lavery that the investigation into his father's misconduct was inadequate: the lawyer who conducted the investigation has no experience with matters of sexual misconduct, rather he is a specialist in protecting clients from litigation.[26]

Works published as author[edit]

  • Grace: An Invitation to a Way of Life (with Laurie Pederson and Judson Poling). Zondervan, 2000 ISBN 978-0-310-22074-9
  • If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat. Zondervan, 2001 ISBN 978-0-310-22863-9
  • Love Beyond Reason. Zondervan, 2001 ISBN 978-0-310-23449-4
  • The Life You've Always Wanted. Zondervan, 2002 ISBN 978-0-310-24695-4
  • Everybody's Normal Till You Get To Know Them. Zondervan, 2003 ISBN 978-0-310-22864-6
  • Living the God Life: Finding God's Extraordinary Love in Your Ordinary Life. Inspirio, 2004, ISBN 978-0-310-80195-5
  • God Is Closer Than You Think: If God is Always with Us, why is He So Hard to Find? Zondervan, 2005 ISBN 978-0-310-25349-5
  • Now What?: God's Guide to Life for Graduates. Zondervan, 2005 ISBN 978-0-310-80282-2
  • When the Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box. Zondervan, 2007 ISBN 978-0-310-25350-1
  • Know Doubt. Zondervan, 2008 ISBN 978-0-310-32503-1
  • The Me I Want To Be: Becoming God's Best Version of You. Zondervan, 2010 ISBN 978-0-310-27592-3
  • Who Is This Man?: The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. Zondervan, 2012 ISBN 978-0-310-27594-7
  • Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You. Zondervan, 2014 ISBN 978-0-310-27596-1
  • The foreword for Vanderbloemen, William (2014). Next: Pastoral Succession That Works. Baker. ISBN 978-0801016479.
  • Eternity is Now In Session: A radical rediscovery of what Jesus really taught about salvation, eternity, and getting to the Good Place. Tyndale, 2018 ISBN 978-1-4964-3164-6


  1. ^ "Pastors and Ministers". Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. Retrieved January 9, 2009.[dead link]
  2. ^ "2008 Christian Book Awards Winners - Christian Life category". Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  3. ^ Staub, Dick (May 1, 2003). "The Dick Staub Interview: John Ortberg's Freak Show". Christianity Today. Retrieved January 9, 2009.
  4. ^ "Gold / Platinum / Diamond Book Awards Winners". Archived from the original on 2010-02-10. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d e Smietana, Bob (February 3, 2020). "John Ortberg Investigated After Church Volunteer Confessed Attraction to Minors". Christianity Today. Religion News Service. Retrieved April 22, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Kelliher, Fiona (2020-07-29). "Bay Area megachurch pastor resigns amid scandal fallout". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved 2020-07-30. A Bay Area megachurch pastor has resigned amid growing fallout over his handling of a volunteer's professed sexual attraction to minors – and the recent public revelation that the volunteer was his son. Christian author John Ortberg will no longer serve as pastor of the 4,000-member Menlo Church, the church said Wednesday, a decision that came after mounting calls for his resignation and a secondary investigation into the volunteer's behavior with children.
  9. ^ Kuruvilla, Carol (January 14, 2020). "A Megachurch Reels After Learning Pastor Let His Professed Pedophile Son Work With Kids". HuffPost. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  10. ^ " John's Bio". Archived from the original on September 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-20.
  11. ^ "Selected Work". Laura Turner. Retrieved 2019-09-02.
  12. ^ "Gabbin' About God: Predestination and/or Free Will". The Toast. January 8, 2014.[dead link]
  13. ^ Turner, Julia (November 9, 2015). "Meet Our New Dear Prudence Columnist". Slate. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  14. ^ "Recently in Dear Prudence". Slate. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  15. ^ Rosner, Stefan (June 13, 2019). "A three-peat for Gunn Control Ultimate Frisbee team". Palo Alto Online. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  16. ^ Duduit, Michael. "Preaching Through Their Defenses: An Interview with John Ortberg". Preaching. Retrieved January 9, 2009.[dead link]
  17. ^ "Good Drive, Bad Drive". Ministry Mentor. November 2005. Archived from the original on July 14, 2011. Retrieved January 9, 2009.
  18. ^ Creel, Colin (2005). Perspectives: A Spiritual Life Guide for Twentysomethings. Relevant Media Group. pp. 137–138. ISBN 978-0-9760357-8-7.
  19. ^ Trueheart, Charles (August 1996). "Welcome to the Next Church". The Atlantic. pp. 37–58. Retrieved January 9, 2009.
  20. ^ "Promise Keepers Announces Keynote Speaker for 2006 Conferences". Christian Today. March 8, 2006. Retrieved January 9, 2009.
  21. ^ Doane, Guillaume (May 3, 2007). "Westmont Graduation to Honor Students, Mark Departure of Outgoing President". Montecito Journal. Archived from the original on November 27, 2010. Retrieved January 9, 2009.
  22. ^ Smietana, Bob (July 6, 2020). "Megachurch pastor John Ortberg kept a family member's attraction to children secret. Then his son blew the whistle". Religion News Service. Retrieved July 7, 2020.
  23. ^ Roys, Julie (February 3, 2020). "Prominent Pastor John Ortberg Disciplined for Failing to Protect Minors From a Volunteer With Attraction to Children". The Roys Report. Retrieved March 8, 2020.
  24. ^ Briggs, Megan (February 4, 2020). "John Ortberg Hoping to Regain Trust After 'poor judgment' at Menlo Church". Church Leaders. Retrieved March 8, 2020.
  25. ^ "Lessons Learned on Leave".
  26. ^ Silliman, Daniel (July 7, 2020). "John Ortberg's Church Says 'No Evidence of Misconduct' As More Details Emerge". Christianity Today. Retrieved July 8, 2020.

External links[edit]