Baptism at Redemption

 
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Baptism is a topic that has caused a lot of confusion among Christians. As we have gotten to know one another's stories that confusion has shown to spread across the board. To try and bring clarity we have written the document below: Preparing for Baptism at Redemption City Church. It is our aim to bring some clarity to this important identifier of Christ's body.

 

Christ-Centered

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These days everyone is gospel-centered, Christ-centered, God-centered, Bible-centered, etc. It all sounds so spiritual, but for so many people it is simply another language that has little meaning. So is this just a way that we are trying to look like we've got it together without actually having any day-to-day meaning? 

As our first Core Value, we really do mean it when we say we strive to be "Christ-centered." We say, "Christ is the light of the world, bringing salvation to all who believe. By his blood, he has redeemed his people and has brought us from death to life. This Christ exalting message is the hope of all men and women, and is the focus of every endeavor at Redemption City Church."

Everything we teach points to Christ

In John 5:39 Jesus confronted the religious majority of the day saying that they had missed the entire point of the Scriptures they thought they knew so well. He says these Old Testament texts all "bear witness about me." The Jews should have known Jesus before he even came because their book told them all about him.

In Luke 24:25-27 two men are walking on the road to Emmaus discouraged that Jesus had just died. When Jesus appears to them they are surprised wondering how such a thing could happen. And in verse 27, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." Jesus began going through every section of the Old Testament showing them that they should have known his life, death, and resurrection would happen.

So we preach, teach, and disciple at Redemption City Church not just to improve our lives, but to show from every text how Jesus is the main character in the story of the Bible and the story of our lives. The only way to defeat sin, overcome shame, guilt, and sorrow, is to look to Jesus in his word from beginning to end.

Everything we do is about Christ.

But we don't just focus on Jesus when we are in the Bible. He is the point of everything we do. "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. 3:17). "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31). Everything we do points to God's work toward us in Christ. We strive for great marriages because marriage points to Jesus (Eph. 5:32). We work in our jobs as we are working for Jesus (Col. 3:23). We care for one another as unto Christ (Matt. 25:40). We eat food in anticipation of the coming marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:6-9). We sleep because of the rest and peace with God that Christ obtains for us (Psalm 2:12; 3:5-6; 4:8). We play as children adopted into the family of God through Christ (Matt. 19:14; Rom. 8:15-17). We do evangelism not simply to save people from their sins, but in order that they would delight to worship God in Christ (Psalm 22:27; Matt. 5:16; Rom. 9:17; 15:9).

Everything we do as the people of Redemption City Church is done so that people will see Jesus, become like him, rest in his protection rejoice in his provision, and exalt in his glory. We do all these things because all things were made by him and for him (Rom 11:36; Col. 1:16).

The Bible: The Source of Hollywood's Humor?

A bit of light humor from the blog this morning.

I've been reading through Samuel lately and twice was caught up in a moment of laughter when I was reading the words on the page but imagining scenes from modern movies. I had to re-read the text to make sure I understood it correctly. But sure enough there it was.

In 1 Samuel 19:11-16 we read:

[11] Saul sent messengers to David's house to watch him, that he might kill him in the morning. But Michal, David's wife, told him, “If you do not escape with your life tonight, tomorrow you will be killed.” [12] So Michal let David down through the window, and he fled away and escaped. [13] Michal took an image and laid it on the bed and put a pillow of goats' hair at its head and covered it with the clothes. [14] And when Saul sent messengers to take David, she said, “He is sick.” [15] Then Saul sent the messengers to see David, saying, “Bring him up to me in the bed, that I may kill him.” [16] And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats' hair at its head.  (ESV)

Every time I read this I think of Ferris Bueller and his intricate contraption that he built to make it look like he was still in bed sick. His sister is onto his trick and bursts into the room to reveal he is not really in bed.

"And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats' hair at its head."

"And when the messengers came in, behold, the image was in the bed, with the pillow of goats' hair at its head."

Every kid has tried this trick. It shows up in TV and movies as one of the oldest tricks in the book. So I was a little surprised to find it also in the Bible! Perhaps Michal was the originator of the "dummy in bed" trick.

So I got a few good laughs out of that thinking it was a rather isolated incident until I came across Absalom's (David's son) demise in 2 Samuel 18. He is trying to run away from the soldiers trying to kill him and we read:

[9] And Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was suspended between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. (ESV)

Seriously?! The knocked-his-head-on-a-low-lying-tree-branch-while-riding-a-horse gag. Samuel is full of hollywood source material.

It's a common bit in all kinds of B-movies and even Disney movies. Yet, here it is in the Bible. 

Okay. Enough silliness. I need to get back to sermon prep.

If He is God, He Will Contend for Himself

I often feel this great contradiction in church planting. I see the work ahead of me. I feel the weight of responsibility calling God’s sheep into the fold and feeding them good food. Then I look around at all the skilled, gifted, talented people in the world and wonder why God would call me to this task. I am not a church planter. I am not an energetic, extroverted, eloquent entrepreneur. I didn’t have a desire for planting welling up in my heart desperate to find a people to reach. I am just a regular guy with a list of faults whom God has called to love his people.

No doubt I am called to this task of planting Redemption City Church. God has confirmed that in a thousand different ways over the last couple of years. But my call to church planting isn’t because I am somebody uniquely skilled for the task. There are thousands of dynamic young men who could gather a crowd and motivate them for mission far better than me. Some would say that this is confirmation that I am not called (or simply that I am confused about my calling). But I think this is an essential element of a calling.

In Judges 6 God tells us the familiar story of Gideon. I’ve loved the beginning of this story for a long time because it shows that not every hero in the Bible was a hero in the way we expect. After Israel had abandoned God and the neighboring nations were taking over, God called Gideon to be the instrument of redemption. Instead of getting excited about it, Gideon responded,

“Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15)

But God did not hesitate to shut down every excuse, “But I will be with you…” (6:16)

I loved this encouragement because it reminded me that I didn’t need to be a certain person to be called, I needed to be with a certain Person. Jesus echoes this encouragement when he calls all believers to make disciples of the earth:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. –Matthew 28:19–20

Jesus isn’t looking for the guy already equipped, he is equipping everyone he calls. And most of the time he doesn’t even equip us before we are told to obey. He equips us as we are doing it. We are building the plane while we are flying it.

But why does God do it this way? Because he wants to be the hero of the story.

Too often we read Bible stories and see Noah, Moses, Gideon, David, and Esther as the heroes. But each of them were just tools in the hands of the real Hero of the story. I noticed something new this morning as I read the story of Gideon again.

After Gideon tears down his father’s altar and Asherah pole the men of the city and his family threaten to kill Gideon. They are so afraid of their false god, Baal, that they are in a frenzy. Then Gideon’s father, Joahs, speaks up and says something incredible:

“Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him?...If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” –Judges 6:31

This seems like a rather innocuous statement in the storyline, but it is a key turning point because at this point we see God begin to contend for himself as the true God of Israel. Just a few verses later we begin to see how unfit Gideon is for this task (in terms of expected military leadership skills) and God actually makes him worse off. Gideon’s faith is weak as he tests God multiple times. Then God cuts his army down to 300 men. But God emerges as the hero when he saves Israel against impossible odds, defending his own honor as God.

So we see that God calls weak, unskilled people precisely because he wants to be sure the glory will be all his own when the victory comes. He delights in using people who, against every worldly measure, appear to be destined for failure. This way when victory comes everyone will be standing in awe of an amazing God who is powerful to accomplish his purposes and delighted to give us the victory.

This is my hope in church planting. I don’t want the glory of a successful church because I don’t want to contend against Jesus for his work to get glory for the Father in the church. So I am happy to step forward day-by-day with my simple pastoral efforts always pointing people to Jesus so that he will get the credit for any victories in my life and so that they will find hope for victory in their own.

Am I called to plant a church? Without a doubt. But it is not because of who I am but because of the One who is with me. He will contend for himself. And it is his delight to use simple people like me.

What's Going On Here?!

As Jacob and I were praying about planting a church in Rochester word began to permeate throughout town that a new reformed baptist church would be coming soon. Many people contacted us expressing interest and others graciously revealed to us that they had been praying for such a church for many years. This positive response made us eager to get on the ground and start being used of Christ to build his church.

And the response ever since has been quite encouraging. However, we have heard that perhaps we haven’t been entirely clear as to what we are currently doing and what the schedule is for the year. Many have said they are confused about when they can join us. Our website says our core group is meeting on Sundays, but doesn’t say we meet for worship. We say we are launching in the fall, but it doesn’t explain what we are doing now. Some have said they weren’t sure if they are allowed to join us now or if they need to wait until the fall.

So let us try to clarify that a little bit and unfold the general plan until the launch date.

Right now we are meeting Sunday afternoons until we can find a place to meet on Sunday mornings (please pray for the couple of options we are investigating). We call ourselves a “Core Team” because we are in an awkward transition phase between a couple of guys who want to start a church and a church with committed members, preaching, and ordinances. When we say we will launch in the fall, we simply mean at that time we intend to be preaching regularly, covenanting in membership, practicing ordinances, worshiping through a planned order of worship, and launching home community groups. We say we are a “Core Team” just to let everyone know that we are still assembling and working out the kinks.

This is not at all to say that you are not invited. By all means, please join us! We would love to have the wisdom and gifts that God’s Spirit has given you to help us do this preparation work for the fall. It is our delight and joy to see new friends visit us on Sundays. We long for more laborers to help us in Christ’s great work of building his church and reaping a harvest of eternal joy in Christ.

The following is a loose schedule of the work we are anticipating over the next few months. Please email us with any questions you may have about any of these or to let us know you would like to visit. We are looking forward to meeting you!

 

Timeline:

April – Break from Ephesians preaching series (continue Acts teaching series on doctrinal distinctives)

  • April 9 – Palm Sunday
  • April 16 – Easter Sunday
  • April 23 – Ephesians 1–3 Summary
  • April 30 – Mark 4:35–41

End of May – Covenant Membership Ceremony (begin practicing ordinances of baptism [Lord willing] and the Lord’s Supper)

Early June – Move worship to mornings at new location

Summer -

  • Begin weekday community groups
  • Determine order of worship logistics
  • Increase outreach efforts for launch

September – Soft launch (practice worship liturgy set)

October 1st, 2017 – Public Launch of Redemption City Church

 

Slow and Steady Love and Generosity

Recently we talked together about our Core Value of diversity. To us diversity means more than being multicultural, it also means crossing social boundaries and being multi-generational. This allows us to see how God is at work in different people. It deliberately seeks out people who can see into our blind spots.

This value is more than just a dream but a pressing need for us every day. This week I especially felt the need for wiser older men in our church as the pressure of planting and the passion for our vision overwhelmed me with the feeling that we aren’t growing fast enough, we aren’t engaging enough people. Yet we were reminded that we have only been doing this for a few weeks. No church achieves their goals in three weeks. Younger people have passion and energy to go after a vision, but older people have the wisdom and insight to guide youthful passion into a positive direction. We must have a long-term focus while we do the daily and weekly plodding along in the basics.

But what are the basics? How do we get to where we need to be? God’s plan is quite counterintuitive, but its results are far more dramatic and longer lasting.

A new friend this week challenged us to focus on two things: taking good care of our families and being generous. We wondered at first if he even heard us clearly when we asked how we will grow toward our vision. Yet he reasserted that a strong family bond flowing out in hospitable generosity toward other families must be the foundational steps to get this massive vision rolling.

It is interesting that the qualifications for a church leader (1 Timothy 3:1–7) include things like: “husband of one wife,” “manage his own household well,” and “hospitable,” exactly what our friend was saying. Yet we like to focus on “able to teach” (the part we went to seminary for) and think that quality (which is rather distinct from the other character qualities) is the one thing that will grow our church.

We had a huge blind spot and our new friend was able to show us what we couldn’t see. Did I mention he was West African?

The need for diversity shows itself again. The majority evangelical culture has a huge blind spot that so many other cultures take for granted. Other cultures think we are strange for being so individualistic. Sure, our churches say we are about families, but we split up into our own age groups for discipleship, we retreat into isolation throughout the week, we abandon responsibility for one another when things get difficult.

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We are missing something vitally important if we think we are going to build a church on awesome children’s ministries, persuasive preaching, and good coffee. Marriage is one of the most visible and powerful pictures of the gospel in the world (Ephesians 5:22–33). The family displays the committed love that the more permanent church family should have in Christ (Matthew 19:29; John 13:35). Opening our homes is how we model to the world what God did for us bringing wandering, suffering strangers in as his own family (Leviticus 19:33–34; Ephesians 2:11–19).

The way we are going to build a church isn’t with fancy programs and pretty people. We do it by displaying God’s generous love toward us in generous love toward one another in our own homes (in our marriages, parenting, and hospitality toward our neighbors). It is a long and often painful process, but the resulting joy is far greater and much longer lasting. It often takes a resolve to push through the discomfort and fear of learning something new, of hearing someone else’s perspective. But this push is what stretches us to receive fuller joy from our shared heavenly Father.

John Piper, preaching on Romans 12:9–13, commented: “Strategic hospitality is not content to just have the old clan over for dinner again and again. It strategizes how to make the hospitality of God known and felt all over the world, from the lonely church member right here, to the Gola farmers in Tahn, Liberia. Don't ever underestimate the power of your living room as a launching pad for new life and hope and ministry and mission!”

A Delicious Helping of Humble Pie

There is tremendous pressure on a pastor to be the agent of bringing a vision to reality. He feels like he needs to prove to those watching that he really knows what he is doing. He wants to convince those who have bought into the vision that we are really going to achieve that vision sooner than later. More practically, he wants to be sure there are going to be enough people joining the church so he can feed his family. So the pastor works feverishly to study well, teach well, smile often, and shake a lot of hands.

From the outside this can look like a diligent pastor working hard to love his people. But most often it is a thin veneer covering up desperation, anxiety, shame, and (really) faithlessness.

Yesterday was our first gathering in becoming Redemption City Church. It was an exciting milestone at the beginning of this journey together. The voices of those gathered sounded incredible acapella. We were delighted to meet two new families who walked in the door without any previous contact. We counted 17 kids (ages 9 and under) and had to catch our breath when we realized that there were another eight from families who couldn’t make it. And we ended with a bountiful feast of delicious food.

But I drove home with an unsettled stomach resulting from God serving me a huge helping of humble pie. I was exhausted. Setting up the building to welcome people in, managing kids, trying to welcome people in the door, leading music, preaching, shaking hands, engaging in conversation, and cleaning up left me feeling more tired than I have ever felt on a Sunday.

My mind was swirling wondering what everyone else thought of our time together. Where were the few other families that said they were coming? Will our visitors even come back? How in the world are we going to take care of so many kids? I have so much work to do to make next week better. I need to call those who couldn’t make it. I need to meet new people.

Then despair started to creep in. I don’t think I’m made for this. What am I getting my family into? I can’t do this. I’m not a church planter.

And then God convicted me that I will not be the one to build this church. I can not. I am not smart enough, wise enough, eloquent enough, hospitable enough, and organized enough to grow a community based on my own charm (God help us if people want to join a church because they think I’m charming).

I was trying to be the Holy Spirit. No wonder I was exhausted from the evening. I was trying to do the work that only God’s Spirit could do: delight people’s souls, change their hearts, inspire worship, and convict them of their mission. My responsibility of sowing seeds are so much lighter and joyful, but instead I attempt to make growth happen by making the sun shine, causing the rain to fall, and injecting nutrients into the soil. God has control of these things and I should be able to sleep much better at night knowing he has better control of them than I could.

Thankfully the humble pie had settled in my bowels before lying down to bed and I did sleep well. I woke up today thankful that his mercies are new every morning. I am glad our name is Redemption City Church so I can be reminded every time that I say it that God delights in using messed up people to accomplish his work. What glorious kindness the Father has shown us in Christ that he would use me as an instrument to gather and feed his people. And what kindness to show me early on that I cannot do it on my own, that his intention is to use a diverse people and all their gifts to make this community a family together in Christ.

I am looking forward to seeing how God is at work in each one of the people he is bringing into this family so that his glory may shine in their weakness too.

                                                                                                

The Plan

I was reading in my Bibliotheca reader’s bible this morning the story of Jacob (Isaac’s son). Without the clutter of chapter and verse numbers, cross-references, study notes, and reference book formatting it is easier to see how the story of redemption flows from one character to another. The story of Jacob really struck me as we plan for what Redemption City Church will become.

God promised that the whole world would be blessed through Jacob. God always keeps his promises and would see to it that this would happen. But as my eyes cascaded over the pages I was left in awe of what a schemer Jacob was. He had a vision for what becoming a blessing to the world would look like; then he began to manipulate the details to make it happen just as he saw fit. He stole his birthright and blessing from his brother Esau. He tried to manipulate Laban so he could marry the woman of his dreams. He wanted a bunch of sons, but instead of trusting God to provide he let his wives bicker and compete taking turns using their own bodies and their maidservants’ bodies to gain favor in Jacob’s eyes. All the while he is lying in his defiled bed receiving these women and thinking he is becoming a great nation who will be a blessing to the world. Then he tricks Laban into giving him the best of his flocks so that Jacob can return home with both of Laban’s daughters and all of his wealth.

In the end Jacob received God’s blessing yet he became a shell of a man to obtain it. This is both a warning and an encouragement to us as we begin this new journey.

First, it is a warning that our ways are not better than God’s ways. He has promised to grow his church and Hell cannot withstand its advance. He has promised to bless the entire world through the good news of his Son, Jesus. He has promised to preserve his people unto eternity when we receive our inheritance. He has promised that those who lift up His name will be exalted. He has promised that his word will accomplish its work.

Yet too often we put our trust not in his promises and His Spirit who will fulfill them, but we begin to scheme like Jacob. We manipulate circumstances. We make promises to people that we could not possibly fulfill. We want to look good in the eyes of others so we begin to compromise to grow our own kingdom in our own ways. And in the process it usually destroys us. God will not share his glory, so he will humble us when we try to take credit for his blessing.

We would be wise to be careful when making our own plans for Redemption City Church. Sure we have a vision for what we would like to become and we pray that it is in line with God’s will as he has revealed to us in his word. But we must be careful not to try to make it happen in our timing and in our own way. God is much more patient than we are and his ways are much wiser than ours. Our plan must be more than a mission statement, core values, by-laws and a constitution, and detailed programs executed to achieve our goals. Every day we must submit our plans to God in humble, prayerful dependence upon a powerful, loving Father who will provide for our every need.

Second, there is encouragement for us in Jacob’s story as well. God does not forsake his people when they fail. He redeems them. He picks them up out of the mire that they got themselves stuck in and puts them right back up into a place of prominence, into a position of blessing again. God didn’t abort his plan when Jacob made a mockery of it, he redeemed it. Jacob’s sons continued the pattern of scheming, but God used it to birth a great nation out of Egypt who would one day give rise to the Redeemer.

Redemption is the theme of our church. We are a people who are broken, who have sinned and have been sinned against. We are people who sometimes feel like we have failed too much to be useful again. We feel like we are too damaged to be loved, to receive blessing, to be supremely happy. But when we look up there stands our Redeemer ready to restore us and make us useful again still pouring out his affection for us.

Sure, I have plans in mind for how we might achieve our vision. I’m sure many of you do as well. But the truth is none of them are going to achieve God’s purposes. We must all submit them to his rule and look up to Him in utter dependence to redeem our lives and make us useful for his kingdom work again. Paradoxically, we will be more satisfied in the work he calls us to when we daily lay down our plans, lay down our self-pity, lay down our baggage, and look up to Him still smiling at us in love because of His Son at work in us.

We are going to stumble and fall (if we haven’t already). But we serve a God who loves us deeply and will accomplish his purposes through us anyway. In fact, it is his delight to use us when we are at our lowest because then we will rejoice all the more when he showers his love on us anyway. Will you walk along with us in this humbling work of redemption?

What does it mean that we are "Reformed"?

One problem with new pastors coming right out of seminary is that they have all kinds of theological categories and communicate with such a distinctive vocabulary that they come across as unhelpful. They have spent so much time in books and classrooms and have forgotten how to have a conversation with regular people. Being “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2) doesn’t mean full of intellectual knowledge, but able to open up big truths to all kinds of people.

One of those confusing theological words for us already has been “Reformed.” We claim that to be one of our key identifiers as Reformed Baptists. We have found since getting on the ground here in Rochester that there are many people who are thrilled to find out we are an explicitly Reformed Baptist church. However, many others wonder what that even means. They want to know how this theological claim matters to their daily Christian life.

So, let us briefly offer an explanation of what this label “Reformed” means to us and why it is so important for what kind of people we desire to be. The word can refer to an entire theological system (embraced by Presbyterian churches and Covenant Theologians), a doctrine of salvation (borrowing only parts of the previous system), stating a lineage dating back to the Reformation, or simply meaning “changed.” Most of these rabbit trails can be confusing to most people or even turn off the average person to hearing more. Who cares about a theological system when my job is horrible, my mom is suffering, I am really depressed, or I wonder how I am going to pay my next month’s utility bills.

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What do we mean when we say we are “Reformed”?

We believe that God planned from eternity, accomplished in Christ, and applies by his Spirit the redemption of his people for his own glory.

This statement has four parts that we think are important: (1) Trinitarian, (2) redemptive, (3) personal, and (4) God-centered.

Trinitarian

God effects every part of our salvation. The Father planned our salvation before the foundations of the earth (Eph 1:4). The Son accomplished salvation for his people proclaiming “It is finished” meaning, the debts of his people were paid in full (John 19:30). The Spirit brings new life (John 3:7–8) to those the Father planned to save and the Son paid for on the cross and He guarantees that his people will receive their eternal inheritance (Rom 8:17). God guarantees salvation from the plan in eternity past through his work in creation unto our eternal inheritance.

 

Redemptive

The Bible is not simply a list of rules on how to make God happy or a nice collection of inspiring stories. It is the multi-faceted story of God working to redeem his people from the curse of sin and bring them into ultimate joy and rest in Christ for all eternity. Sin pervades every aspect of our lives and culture. God is always at work breathing new life into the burned ashes of this world. And we are always at work to find a way to be a part of that redemptive work.

 

Personal

The very beginning of the Bible opens by telling us that God created people to be his image-bearers. This is a complex statement requiring a lot of unpacking, but a big part of that is that we were made to be relational people, in relation with one another, but primarily in a relationship with God. We were made to represent God’s rule over the earth. We were made to display his joyful love of others. The rest of the Bible tells us how he worked to redeem people through a very specific plan to regain this original intent. He had the names of every person planned out; whom he would use to accomplish his redemptive work. The Son knew exactly whom he was purchasing on the cross. The Spirit goes to and fro throughout the earth to find the people whom God has called to be his forever. Salvation isn’t just a general call where God wonders if some people might take him up on a pretty good deal. It is the unfailing work of God to complete the work he planned and began in those whom he adopted as his own children.

 

God-Centered

“The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever” says the first answer in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Everything about this eternal redemptive work is to make God’s beautiful character shine toward his people so that they would delight in him forever. Isaiah 48:9–11 says, “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” Amazingly, God has created and redeemed his people not just to save them from the consequences of sin, but to delight in a relationship with him forever so that for all eternity we may proclaim how kind, generous, beautiful, and loving he is.

 

All of this is important first because we believe it is what the Bible teaches. But we also believe that these truths are life-giving. It is emboldening to know that the Godhead works harmoniously to ensure my personal salvation. God wrote my name in his book of life before I even existed. The Son paid my debt in full on the cross. The Spirit sought me when I was wandering and guarantees that he will bring me home to the Father. God is so invested in his own glory that I can be certain that his work will never fail. No matter how dark things are in my life, he promises to be my eternal light. No matter how lonely I am he guarantees he will be with me always. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. I can proclaim the gospel to my neighbors, my city, and the world and be confident that God’s lost sheep will hear his voice in me and will eventually come to repentance and faith. I know that I can overcome my sin and temptations because God promises that he is working to complete what he began in me. I can live confidently in Christ knowing that my life in the Spirit will be a pleasing aroma to those God is working to save even though it will be a repulsive aroma of death to those who hate Christ.

These truths give life to us and we strive to teach these things in everything we do and say. “Reformed” isn’t just a buzzword or some unhelpful theological system. It is our declaration of confidence in God’s sovereign control over every thought, every molecule, and every distant galaxy alongside his incredible love toward his little children. And so we proclaim:

We believe that God planned from eternity, accomplished in Christ, and applies by his Spirit the redemption of his people for his own glory.

Our First Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Redemption City Church!

Before even becoming an official church God has blessed us in many ways. We are thankful this Christmas for the many people who have shown excitement about the work God is calling us to. We are grateful to God for the multiple churches who are partnering with us so we can begin serving his people and searching for his lost sheep. We are glad to have met so many wonderful people already and are thrilled to meet more new partners whom God has prepared for this very exciting time.

We have much to celebrate this Christmas as Redemption City Church. God has given us his only begotten Son who became one of us, suffered like one of us, felt the joys and sorrows of this life like one of us, and bore the wrath of God against our sin for us as one of us. He didn’t come into this world to show off his God powers, but to live by God’s Spirit as a perfect human as we have been unable and to die for the most guilty sinner as justice demands. From the moment the Spirit placed the Son of God in the Virgin Mary, Jesus began his earthly work of saving his people from the judgment and consequence of their sins. He would not stray from his mission. He would accomplish his work until he would cry out, “It is finished!”—that moment when the debt for all the sins of his people was paid in full.

Redemption City Church is greatly anticipating the new year that God will make in 2017. We are excited to see the first fruits of God’s blessing this Christmas grow into a great harvest as Redemption City Church grows from a vision, to a small group, to a thriving community of people worshiping Christ in all we do and blessing our neighbors with the love of Christ.

We are excited that from the beginning of the year we intend to be on mission for God and his people. On January 12th we will kick things off with a dinner gathering of all who want to hear more about our vision. In the weeks following we will begin meeting weekly as a core group to learn more about how God intends to use us for his purposes in Rochester. By March we hope to begin meeting a bit more formally on Sundays to put some practical work in toward our vision. And in the Fall of 2017 we intend to officially launch Redemption City Church for public worship of our kind and generous King.

2017 holds much excitement for us and we hope you will consider joining us for this joyful ride.

Why another church in Rochester?

One of the most common questions we are asked is: "Why does Rochester need another church?"

That is a really good question that every church planter (and existing church pastor) needs to ask himself. There are over 200 congregations in Rochester, MN, why can't we just help one of them become stronger and grow?

The answer to this question has many good answers. For us it comes down to reach, theology, and relationships.

Reach

First, Rochester, MN is a quickly growing city. Currently it is the third largest city in the state but investors are pouring billions of dollars into the city to grow its medical facilities, business and education opportunities, and improve its infrastructure. Rochester is just over 100,000 people (not counting the additional 50,000 in the outlying towns), but could easily become a city of 200,000 people in our lifetime if it continues to have such a worldwide reach.

200 churches in a city of 100,000 people means that if every citizen were to attend a church each congregation would need to contain 500 members. That is a lot of big churches and very unlikely. If Rochester grows to 200,000 people each church would need to have 1,000 members! The average church in America is less than 100 people. To reach even half of a population of 200,000 people we would need 1,000 churches. A more modest goal of reaching 25% of that population means 500 churches. We, the corporate church, have a long way to go to reach this city with the gospel of Christ.

Additionally, every church has a different flavor mixed from ingredients of different kinds of people. Some churches are going to reach different kinds of people than other churches. It is a team effort to serve and teach children, parents, retirees, doctors, teachers, chefs, artists, laborers, homemakers, rich, poor, black, brown, and white. Some might be really good at reaching college students while others are really good at connecting with suburbanites.

Statistically, new churches have shown to be better at reaching non-Christians. They offer a fresh perspective not yet controlled by history and tradition ("the way we've always done it"). They attract people through a vision of what Christ will do instead of hanging onto what he has done in recent history. They are excited and motivated people willing and able to take more risks and try new things than an established church may be willing or able to. We believe that the corporate church in Rochester should always be planting new churches to keep our eyes forward and challenge others to take risks so that God can show off his fierce love for his people.

 

Theology

The second reason we are planting a new church in Rochester is because of theology. Currently, of the approximately 200 Christian congregations in Rochester, MN maybe 50 are conservative evangelical churches that have some true gospel witness (50 may be generous). Sadly, a country that was founded on  many Christian principles has gotten comfortable with some of the principles, forgotten others, and completely abandoned the Person those principles point to. Those 50 churches represent about 20,000 people in Rochester giving a true Christian testimony (assuming that their membership reporting accurately represents 400 people per congregation who are all faithful followers of Jesus).

In addition, there are now no churches in Rochester that are explicitly Baptistic in polity and Reformed in soteriology. We know many good pastors in the city with Reformed theological leanings, but would not teach such doctrines publicly (for various reasons). We know many people in Rochester who feel out of place at a baptistic church that is uncomfortable with Reformed theology or at a Presbyterian church that differs on baptism and church government. Some have expressed to us that there is no place for a Reformed Baptist to be free to express their views and know that every week they will grow more in love for Christ through the teaching and preaching of his Doctrines of Grace.

We desire to plant a church that is unashamedly Reformed and Baptist. We joyfully proclaim God's sovereign work in this world to save his people from every nation, people, and language. And we diligently work to build a church that reflects the pure bride of Christ through meaningful membership, independent congregational authority, a plurality of elder leadership, and entrance into the covenant community through believer's baptism.

 

Relationships

This culture is growing more isolated. People huddle into groups that affirm their own perspectives. They interact with the world mediated through the sterilized world of their devices yet are left unfulfilled relationally. Part of being made in the "image of God" is reflecting the relational nature of God's very nature in Father, Son, and Spirit. We were made to be with others. Redemption City Church wants to be a people that expresses its identity in the world, not in a building on Sunday mornings. We show hospitality in our homes by sharing meals with neighbors and providing lodging for the traveler. We encourage each other through life not just with an inspirational message on Sunday morning, but by living, working, and playing together throughout the week. We encourage interaction with people who are different, people who believe other things, and people who look different.

We don't want to plant a church that is in competition with other churches but is a partner to other churches.  We need each other and our unity over essentials is a testimony to God's work in us. Yes, secondary issues will require us to work on the details in different ways, but we want to come together regularly with other congregations to serve the needs of the community and display the mighty love of God for all kinds of people.

 

Tim Keller explains further why we need to be busy planting more churches. In summary: 

  1. Planting is the pattern we see in the Bible.
  2. Planting is effective evangelism.
    1. Plants reach different groups of people.
    2. Plants are more effective at reaching non-Christians.
  3. Planting is good for the corporate church.
    1. Plants bring new ideas and perspectives.
    2. Plants empower new leaders.
    3. Plants challenge existing churches to self-examination.
    4. Plants help fill other churches.
  4. Planting promotes an outreach mindset in existing churches