On a Sunday evening during the summer of 1993, a young man walked through the doors of Hunter College Auditorium. It was his first time there. He was forced to return to New York from New Orleans after two years of desperately pursuing a career in the music industry. After being thrown out of the band that he founded, he made the trek back to New York with his head hung low and his spirit broken. What complicated matters even more was the fact that New Orleans put a hurting on him in a way only New Orleans could.
Right before he left New Orleans, however, he began to search his soul. He began the process of finding answers to the bigger questions in life. “Is there a God?” “If so, what is his plan for my life?” Yes, he had an innate philosophical bent, but the exercise he was about to enter into would prove to be life changing.
Redeemer had just moved into Hunter College, and since the church’s attendance was barely 1500 divided between two services in a space that held an aggregate 4400, finding a seat was easy, even when showing up a little late. This provided a great excuse for arriving after the service had started and tiptoeing into a back row seat unnoticed. Several years passed as he worshiped and thought through his questions at Redeemer incognito. But all that would soon change.
One evening after the service, someone asked this young man to come visit a Fellowship Group that met on Friday evenings in Midtown. Unfortunately for him, her request came on the same night that Tim Keller made this statement from the pulpit: “If you’re not in a Fellowship Group, you’re not in the church.” He found himself bothered by hearing this statement, but was even more bothered by her request. Thinking that he could show up once and shut her up, he journeyed to the Midtown group that next Friday.
When he showed up that first Friday night, he was greeted by a group of people that immediately provided him with the atmosphere to process his questions. They weren’t demanding or threatening, and quite frankly, they were asking the same questions themselves (and it didn’t hurt that the snacks they provided were also good). This made it easy for him to fit in and feel comfortable searching out answers. But over time there was one question he was not asking that he soon began getting answers to: what is Redeemer’s vision for New York City and how do I fit into it? And it was this question that would soon cap off his quest for answers. He began to understand not only (1) who God was and what he did in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and (2) what God’s plan was for this young man’s life; but also, (3) how that plan would play out at Redeemer given the church’s unique vision for the city.
How do I know this to be true? I was that young man.
Beginning September 27, 2009, more than one thousand people who are not already in Fellowship Groups will be given the opportunity to process these questions during the RENEW campaign as part of a Beta Group.
The RENEW campaign is about remembering our hope for the city and renewing our pledge to love and serve it. Redeemer has been about that for twenty years and now, through this campaign, we hope to fund the first step in our 10-year-plan. This is a new phase in our church life in which Redeemer will spread out and move deeper into the city. This next step will include identifying and equipping pastoral and cultural leaders, creating three separate but related congregations that are rooted in neighborhoods through ministry centers, and empowering our congregants to serve New York and build community.
The key way to understand our vision as a church is to join a Beta Group on or before September 27. These groups will have 8 to 10 people and will meet at locations all around the city for seven weeks to process the vision we believe God has given our church. They are also the place where you can learn more about how you could fit into the next chapter of Redeemer’s story.
More than ever, and a key element of the campaign, is the need for congregants to step forward, learn about who God is and what he is doing in New York, and consider committing more of themselves to his work here. So, to find out more about what God is up to at Redeemer, join a Beta Group: www.redeemer.com/betagroups