When my family moved to Melbourne to work in ministry, we knew we were coming to serve a city that was deeply secular, and where there were few faithful churches effectively reaching the city. I quickly saw that many churches were struggling to hold to the truth, power and beauty of the gospel without compromise, whilst relating the gospel to modern day culture in an appropriate way. So I began looking for resources to meet this challenge, and eventually got connected to Redeemer City to City (CTC).
As part of this year’s International Intensive, a five-week residency for church planters from all over the world to come learn from Redeemer, CTC and an array of church plants all over New York City, here’s some of what I’ve been learning:
An emphasis on the kind of person I am, how the Lord Jesus and his work are real in me, and how that works itself out in my humble dependence on him for growth and renewal through meditating on his word and prayer. My heart has really been stretched and I am very thankful for it.
2. Contextualization of ministry
The question of how we can be faithful to God and to our context in Melbourne without either withdrawing into isolated irrelevance or weakening our faith and witness to the city. This has raised many tensions for us but also strengthened our resolve to work hard at relating well to our city.
3. Communication of the gospel
Related to contextualization, we are thinking through how to talk to secular and skeptical city dwellers. One of my favourite quotes from Tim Keller is “The gospel is not advice administered but news proclaimed.” A question worth asking is, are we communicating with people where they are, and helpfully moving them from unbelief to belief whilst placing confidence in the Bible as the word of God?
4. Exposure to the church context in NYC
It has been very exciting to see what God has been doing over the last 10 years in NYC—there are dozens and dozens of new churches with approximately 25,000 more worshippers of Jesus in center-city Manhattan than a decade ago. We have been meeting pastors on the ground and seeing their work and the challenges they face. This has been paradigm-changing as we have seen CTC’s drive to resource and equip them in a way that doesn’t just build one great church but rather seeks to serve and reach a whole city.
5. Learning in community
It has been a privilege to be learning with a great bunch of men and women from around the globe who, like us, are trying to engage their city with the news of Jesus and grow God’s people. The conversation and prayer for one another is rich, the sense of common cause and fellowship is deeply encouraging, and it has confirmed to me again that truth is most transformative in the context of community.
6. The city of cities
New York’s a great city, and many of us have fallen in love with her. Like any city, it is a magnification of the very best and the very worst of humanity. And it’s been a privilege to walk her streets, ride the subways, partake in its delights, and be captured by its slightly intoxicating magnitude. I was captured by Dr. Keller’s vision that Redeemer doesn’t just want to be a great church in the city, but a church that serves a great city, and I will be praying that the Lord continues to renew this city in all things, spiritually, socially, and culturally for his glory as we look to “the city that has foundations whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
One last thing—the CTC staff are amazingly generous, mindblowingly helpful and servant hearted. I have a deep affection for each of them and great respect for this capacity building ministry. My own stingy heart has been exposed by the grace of this incredibly abundant culture and their deep drive to resource and plant churches globally. They have a humble and holy ambition for seeing a proliferation of healthy joyful gospel centered churches, and I too will be praying to that end.