We’ve all heard the saying “It’s not about you!” Well, this time, it is “about you.” Or, more accurately, it’s about your involvement.
By now you have probably heard that Redeemer will be conducting another vision campaign this fall. During a serious recession like this one you might ask, “Why is the church doing a campaign now?” Looked at one way, this is the perfect time to get engaged with vision, giving, and sacrifice.
In the course of the campaign we’ll look ahead to Redeemer’s next ten years of working with neighbors to build a great city, acknowledging our past twenty years of service, and we’ll each have the opportunity to ask ourselves, “Why am I in New York, and why should I stay at a time like this?” It’s our hope that now and in the coming months you’ll consider how you might play a role in the campaign to advance the gospel movement here and around the world. Let’s take a look at vision, giving, sacrifice, and the gospel.
Every four years or so we need to revisit Redeemer’s vision, as we did in the 2005 Vision Campaign. There is about a 25% annual turnover in our congregation. As happens each summer, many new people will move to New York to pursue a career or a dream. Those who are new to the church may not have had time to become familiar with our vision, which is, “to spread the gospel, first through ourselves and then through the city by word, deed, and community; and to bring about personal changes, social healing, and cultural renewal through a movement of churches and ministries that change New York City and through it, the world.”
This is the vision that led Tim and Kathy Keller to pack up their three young sons in the minivan and move to New York in 1989 to pursue that dream. The first evening service was in April, 1989; the first morning service took place at the end of September of that year. This is also the same vision that has motivated many of us to come to the city. For some of us, we heard the gospel for the first time at Redeemer, repented and believed, and now we are captivated by this vision—devoted to sharing it with others and expressing it through our work in vocational ministry, in business, in the arts, and in serving the poor and marginalized.
For others, who might be brand new to Redeemer and are hearing bits and pieces, this is intriguing, and you want to learn more. This vision is not Redeemer’s alone, of course. It is rooted in the historic gospel message, and yet many reading this have never explored the way Redeemer articulates this vision in this unique city.
This fall we’ll go deep into the vision for cities in God’s redemptive plan.
Because we believe in the gospel message held by orthodox Christians, we are both humble and bold to move ahead in planning our next ten years, which this campaign will address in part. At the end of Redeemer’s third decade, in 2020, Tim Keller expects to be more of a player-coach, mentoring emerging pastor-leaders at worship sites rather than the single senior pastor of all the sites and the primary preacher. This campaign, one of probably three over the next decade, will address the first set of objectives to reach the next milestone. As Tim mentioned from the pulpit in late April, the vision includes finishing the west side building, church planting, and new ministry initiatives.
This is an expensive undertaking and one that is done with deliberation in light of what many in our congregation are going through. In our church, both rich and poor are poorer, and many from all across the spectrum are out of work or soon may be. College graduates who moved here in September to fill job offers in August find themselves looking elsewhere. Yet we are a larger church: on Easter Sunday, more than 8,200 people worshiped at Redeemer, surpassing last year’s record turnout of 7,923. There has never been a shortage of the need for the gospel. Therefore, those of us with the means to give must now step forward and do what we can so that those whom the Spirit draws to hear the gospel will find a healthy and growing Redeemer.
Some have jobs and can give money—sacrificially, over and above what they give to the Operating Budget. Some have time and could lead a vision group this fall, serve in some other campaign role over the summer, or get involved in an aspect of Redeemer’s work on Sundays (ushering, Information Table, etc.). Some have skills to offer ministry fronts like the Center for Faith and Work.
The common thread here—the uncommon call—is not to flee the city but rather stay and serve the common good. As Christians stayed in New York after 9-11 to minister to a hurting city and as Christians stayed in cities during difficult times throughout history to minister to those who were suffering, now is the perfect time for us to not only revisit our vision and our own calling to the city but also our willingness to continue the commitment to stay, serve, and give. The converse is true: the city will not know Christians truly care until and unless we give and serve when it is most difficult to do so.
Giving during the coming months and years will be sacrificial for each of us. And yet, as we sacrifice, and to the extent we do so, we enter a holy place that is inhabited by the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This holy place is where extraordinary giving meets extraordinary need. It is the Cross. When Jesus had truly “emptied himself of all but love,” is where we see the riches of heaven—the inestimable blood of Jesus—poured out at the feet of those who crucified him, indeed at our own feet, the feet of those who need him most. We can never give as much as he gave in our behalf.
And that is the point. Since we can never fully match the gift of God’s love, our giving can be freed from a performance mindset and from selfish motivation, and can be released to be an expression of our love for Jesus: for what he has done, as a spiritual act of worship. Then, in that holy place, where his sacrifice was suffering, our sacrifice becomes joy, because we can endure it knowing that the Cross has gone before us.
This campaign is about the next ten years for Redeemer and our coming together as a community to realize that vision. But it is also about each of us revisiting why we have come to New York and why we have stayed. If we desire to be a part of the gospel movement in New York and movement partners with other global cities, now is the perfect time to strengthen our individual and corporate commitment to serve the city through Redeemer.