We are in the midst of our Rise Campaign, and the most important part of that effort is to cast a vision for Redeemer’s ministry in the city over the next 10 years, as well as to raise the various resources we will need to accomplish that vision. We want to become a family of close-knit churches who, out of our faith in the gospel, partner with many other churches to exponentially grow the Body of Christ in quality and quantity until our presence makes a welcome and beneficial difference to the life of the entire city.
This will require the three current Redeemer congregations to become far more “generative” than they have been in the past. We must start more sites and churches, collaborate more closely with other congregations, devote energy and resources to raise up and train more lay leaders, pastors, and ministry staff — than we have ever done before. We also want to root our East side congregation in its neighborhood for generations, acquiring a ministry center to enable them to reach residents and create community in ways that the West side congregation has been able to do through W83.
This vision, if God blesses it, would allow us to minister to the city in ways we have always dreamed of — but in ways that up to now we have only dreamed of. It’s an enormous vision and a compelling one. But what’s our motivation? Is it simply the kind of bigger-is-better mindset so prevalent today? A franchise empire instead of a mega church one? No. Speaking for myself and for everyone else in Redeemer leadership, I can unequivocally say that is not the reason.
The reason is, still, always, first and last, the gospel itself. Let’s look at the components of the Redeemer vision that we have been addressing in this Spring’s sermon series.
The first sermon, on Galatians 2, was “The Centrality of the Gospel.” In this passage Paul tells Peter that his racial attitudes were “not in line with the gospel.” This means that the gospel has implications for every area of life. Redeemer’s ministry has always been noted for its “balance” — we call people to be converted but we also care for the poor, whether they believe like we do or not. We affirm the importance of serving God in one’s "secular" vocation, yet we also lift up the importance of the ministry of the Word and the critical necessity of church and Christian community. Many observers have pointed out that most churches do not combine all these emphases. But we believe these are all simply implications of the gospel itself for how we live our lives. They are “in line with the Gospel.”
As in the past, every part of the future vision we are putting forth during this season flows from our faith in the gospel and our hope of seeing its power more realized in our lives and in the city than it has been before.
Next came the sermons on John 4, “Changed Lives” and “Public Faith.” We believe that the gospel is not merely a set of doctrines to be believed, but a power that changes hearts and lives now. Our aim over the next 10 years is to take both the way we do outreach and evangelism and the way we disciple people for gospel life change to levels we have not reached or even attempted before. We have plans to train lay leaders for spiritual growth and ministry and to train people to be effective witnesses to God’s grace.
The sermon on Isaiah 58, “Doing Justice and Mercy,” and the sermon on Matthew 5, “A Counter-Culture for the Common Good,” followed. The gospel always turns people into those who care about justice and the poor. We do not simply want to multiply just any kind of church in the city. We want those churches to have hearts and skills to do justice and show compassion to the needy. To that end we will be having Hope For New York consult with our new churches and instill this mindset in the new church planters.
The sermon on Isaiah 60, “Integrating Faith and Work,” which will be preached this Sunday, reminds us that the gospel has implications for all of life, including our vocation and life in the public square. As part of the RISE vision, we plan to double the number of Gotham fellows annually in each of the three congregations. Faith-work integration will be a central in the training of all these new lay leaders and pastors.
In the final sermons, on Jeremiah 29 and 1 Peter 2, we will remember that gospel grace comes to us through Jesus’ sacrifice, and therefore we must be a church “not for ourselves” (Romans 15:1-3). We are a church for the city (Jeremiah 29), as part of a movement (1 Peter 2). Unlike past campaigns, this is not about just growing Redeemer but increasing the whole Christian community in center city. Much of the money we raise, the training we give, and the churches we help plant will not be directed to Redeemer’s leaders and churches, but will belong to other congregations in the Body of Christ in the city. To raise money that will flow out to the city like that is unprecedented. But, of course, “in line with the gospel.”
This blog was first posted in the Redeemer Report.