I’m not even going to try. For one thing, my memories aren’t as dependable as they used to be, and for another, looking back at our history runs the risk of leading us into a smug self-congratulation, rather than further on and higher up into dependence on God.
What I would rather do is talk about the NEXT 25 years.
Church growth experts tell us that the useful evangelistic life of a church plant is somewhere between 25 and 35 years. At the beginning, there is no one inside the church, so all the metabolism and strategy goes into thinking about reaching those who are on the outside. But as the church grows, members and families inside the congregation need to be cared for — nursery, youth groups, programs, conferences — absorbing an increasing percentage of that metabolism.
This is necessary and right, but it is also true that unless the church maintains a laser focus on their original vision for reaching skeptics and not just designing a church that is welcoming for Christians, it can slowly morph into a Christian club. The needs and the tastes of the insiders are much louder (because, after all, they’re THERE) than the needs and sensibilities of those still without Christ. In time, Christians are just talking to themselves, unaware that they have become unintelligible to unbelievers.
Last year’s emphasis on Public Faith and this year’s commitment to prayer represent only two of the ways that Redeemer is working to stay on course, reinventing itself back to the future. We want to continually be reminding ourselves of why God has blessed us so unusually — because we were not a church for ourselves, but a church for those who don’t like church.
We need to find new and creative ways to design what we do and say, how we communicate visually, musically, relationally, and every other way with those who don’t yet believe always in mind, while not neglecting our own members and family. This is a huge challenge, but I deeply believe it is the one God has called Redeemer to answer. A tremendous balancing act, but one I am convinced is achievable — not because we are such stellar, brilliant people, but because God, having begun a good work here, in us, in the city, will not let it go to waste, but will bring it to completion.
Imagine 5000+ people in our three congregations committed to making Public Faith a lifestyle. Imagine sending out our best leaders, servers and givers to start new churches all over the city. As we consider our first 25 years as a church, we can see how God has begun an amazing work in and through us. It will be the privilege of the coming generation to see how he continues that work.
This anniversary marks the start of something, not the end of something.