What's in a (church) name?

Early in our dreaming and visioning stage we spent much more time figuring out the name of our church. It seemed so unimportant. What does it matter if your name is Redemption, Redeemer, Bethany, Calvary, Trinity or Harvest? What really matters is the doctrine, the ministry, the people!

But our vision drove us to come up with a name that communicates who we are and what we are aiming toward. "Redemption" reminds us that this world and the Bible are not about us, but it is God's story of redeeming the world from sin to return us to paradise. We enter into a small chapter of that story to join God in that work. Instead of saying "Community Church" or "Baptist Church" we chose "City Church" to emphasize people and the culture they make in the city. The new creation will be a garden city. What makes a city other than a lot of people and the culture they create together giving that city its unique identity? We want to embrace the people of the city and help shape its culture, not move to the edge of the city and invite people out of it.

What I found especially interesting during our research for a church name was the more recent (last 20-30 years) trend of naming churches after some scenic vista. It really struck me as I was driving past a golf course and remarked that it would make a great name for a mega church. And then I searched the internet for golf course names and looked at the lists of America's newest, largest churches. Sure enough, it is often difficult to discern the difference.

So I made this quiz to test it out. Can you guess which of the following names are golf courses and which are mega churches? 

Golf Course or Mega Church?

I wonder what they are trying to communicate when they chose those church names. I really don't know what those names are supposed to teach me about who they are and what they believe. If you have any insight let me know. I really would like to know.

I'm thankful that God led us to the name Redemption City Church. It sounds current. It has historical roots. It teaches something about who we are and what we believe. And I'm thankful for the people God has shaped in this community.

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?

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.


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.



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.



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