Happy New Year! We will continue this month and until June to meditate on Generosity, our ministry year’s theme. We began last September with a seven-week sermon series on Generosity and then have continued with a study on Acts. We learned that the first community of believers was radically generous with their possessions because of their newly found boldness in the Spirit and the fearlessness that came out of an assurance in Christ’s love. It was the quality of their community that demonstrated and proved the reality that the gospel changes lives.
You may be wondering why Generosity was chosen for this ministry year’s theme. At Redeemer, our collegiate model is in full swing with three dynamic congregations. This is a model that hundreds prayed and fasted for and sacrificially gave to for years, beginning with the first Vision Campaign taking us to multiple sites, the RENEW Campaign to purcahase our W83 building and the Downtown Challenge to start a new congregation. We all stand on the shoulders of those who stepped out in faith as early as 1997 to get our church to where we are today.
In 2012 alone, we opened our own ministry center, went from 5 to 8 worship services, broke our 6,000-attendance threshold for worship services and launched a brand new congregation that is already thriving with 1,000 to 1,200 worshipping together on Sundays. What an amazing God we serve!
Although the growth we experienced in 2012 is amazing to say the least, more importantly, with it comes a level of responsibility that calls us to be more sacrificial in serving our church and our city. Because of the fruit we are experiencing from the collegiate model, this is a challenge more than ever to be a church not for ourselves. This is a challenge more than ever to step out of our comfort zones and serve on Sundays, serve with Hope For New York, serve as a Community Group leader or host.
This is a challenge more than ever to serve the city by joining ongoing hurricane relief efforts to serve the thousands who are still without power, heat, running water or homes. This is a challenge more than ever to reach out to a neighbor and invite them over or cultivate a relationship with someone in your building who may be alone. This is a challenge more than ever to serve in our vocations as a dedication to the renewal of all things and not out of selfish gain. We as a body of believers at Redeemer need this theme more than ever to work against our naturally selfish tendencies of being consumers.
If you are a believer, it’s not a question of whether God will call you to live sacrificially or not. He is calling you. And more than that, a sacrificial life is part of our sanctification. Ultimately, it’s not ‘if’ or ‘when,’ but rather ‘how.’ How sacrificial living will look in each person’s life will be discovered only by prayer, a community of like-minded believers meditating on the scripture together, and spiritual sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Last month we meditated on his incarnation and his promised second coming during Advent. If we truly believe in his promised second coming, which is the full manifestation of his redemption, we must consider how we can live in such a way that demonstrates and offers a foretaste of that full glory and joy to come. What comforts are we holding onto that are meaningless in light of the new Jerusalem? If the Holy Spirit gives us boldness and assurance of our adoption, then what can we put to death to better live out our lives as children of God? (Romans 8:15-16)
Without a community of believers living sacrificially in service with joy and gladness, our numerical growth will just be numbers of consumers and not lives that have been transformed by the gospel. In the early church of the book of Acts, through their generous community, God added new believers. “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47) What a blessing that Redeemer grew so much in 2012 and will continue to grow. As we seek ways to live sacrificially, this only makes us expectant and excited for what 2013 will hold and the new believers God will bring into our community.