Almost one year ago we kicked off the Rise Campaign with Redeemer Night. The prayer was for God to send Redeemer out to reach the city in new ways.
In just one year, God has used Rise to generate new leaders, start new churches and raise $62M in pledges from Redeemer congregants and supporters outside Redeemer. Though we still have some ways to go until we reach our goal of $80M, both Redeemer and City to City have been able start working towards this joint vision of ultimately tripling the body of Christ in city-center New York through new churches, new leaders and new homes for our churches.
Last year, City to City helped plant 10 new churches and this year we are projected to more than double that number. The West Side congregation is sending out the first new site, Redeemer Lincoln Square. For all these new churches we will need far more leaders trained to do ministry in the city. City to City has begun a new ministry training sequence with an accredited master’s degree, with 14 students last year and 24 this year. In addition Redeemer has been able to bring on four pastoral residents who are already serving in our congregations. The caliber, enthusiasm, and promise of even these first students and pastoral residents are all I had prayed for.
This spring Redeemer will officially become three churches. This will be the business before us at a very important congregational meeting on May 20. In that meeting Redeemer members will vote to “particularize” each congregation — transitioning from one church to three churches, each with its own lay leadership, elder boards, staff, and senior pastors. You’ll hear more about the meeting in the coming weeks, but what’s important to understand is that this is the next step in a plan that we’ve been working toward for nearly 20 years.
The original vision of Redeemer was to be a church “not for ourselves.” The very earliest members agreed that we would not try to create a church that simply pleased us, but one that also took into full consideration our non-church going and non-believing friends. In 1997, in our first capital campaign, we raised funds to begin worshipping on the West Side and to start the Church Planting Center. Why? We said then (and I quote): “Instead of becoming a mega-church, we want to become a movement of churches and a servant of the whole body of Christ in NYC.” This is also why we sent out many friends from our West and East Side congregations to create the Redeemer Downtown congregation in 2012.
That is why we acquired a building on W83rd Street, because a congregation can better reach a neighborhood if it lives there 24/7, not just appearing for a short time on a Sunday. This is the long-term vision that gave birth to the Rise Campaign itself. When Redeemer becomes three churches they will be better able to reach their own neighborhoods, raise up new leaders, and plant new churches in the center city than was the single, centralized, Redeemer,.
The vision is just the outworking of the gospel — the way up is down. The way to become rich is to give away. The way to influence is to not seek influence but just to serve. Up to this point Redeemer has grown primarily by drawing people in, but to renew more of the city and activate each of you into personal ministry, we need to send everyone out.
And that includes me.
For all this to happen I will be pivoting out of my role as senior pastor of Redeemer. You will in essence be sending me out to serve the greater movement here in NYC by releasing me to transition into a role where I will primarily equip and prepare new pastors and church planters with City to City and our new seminary. That leadership training sequence is already surging forward and I will be stepping into the middle of it.
And even though I will no longer serve as your senior pastor, I’ll certainly have an ongoing teaching role within the Redeemer family of churches. We’re already planning for a conference for Fall 2017 on how to really work the gospel deep into your heart in a transformative way at which I will be the keynote speaker. I’ll also be freed to do more evangelism in the city, so in that regard as well I will be of support to those of you looking to reach out to neighbors and friends who don’t believe. Kathy and I will remain not only here in the city but will be attending all the congregations and participating in their lives. This is our city and you are
I‘m handing the responsibility over to three men to be your senior pastors in whom I have the utmost confidence. Of course, they have already functioned in these roles now for some time — and they have shown every promise to be not merely capable, but great Christian leaders. As I leave regular preaching, and others step into that space, you will see David, John and Abe along with our other pastors, grow into a whole new generation of fine preachers who know how to apply the gospel to the heart of city-dwellers.
I know that there will be a range of responses — some rather emotional — to all this. Every major change, even the best and wisest, will be experienced in some ways as a loss. I feel it as well, and I know that many of you feel it. I am, in a sense, giving you away as you are giving me away. But when we are unselfish in Jesus’ name, he always provides. No one who gives up ‘brother or sister or mother or father or houses or lands’ for Jesus’ sake ‘will fail to receive a hundredfold’ of blessing and strength and love in this life and the next (Mark 10:29-30).
So remember ... you are giving me away, sending me out to the movement, but I’ll be right here!