The vision of Redeemer has always been to serve the City through the planting and flourishing of scores of churches grounded in the gospel. The most recent iteration of that aspect of the vision took shape in the fall of 2009 during the RENEW Campaign when we talked about Redeemer as a “generative” church.
The word “generative” has the same root as “genesis,” “generate,” and “regenerate.” All have the core meaning of “life-giving.” Being a generative community means that we are a community so overflowing with the hope of the new life that we are regularly inviting our friends, neighbors and colleagues to come and check it out. How can we begin to practically live that ‘generative’ identity out in our daily lives? We return to two foundational aspects of effective evangelism—hospitality and prayer.
Before I (Juliet) started working at Redeemer, I was a lot like many of you. I had more friends than time and I had a desire for my non-Christian friends to experience how amazing it is to follow Christ. I was the social coordinator for my fellowship group and was tasked with planning fun events. So in order to insure I could see as many friends as possible I started inviting some of my non-Christian friends to our group’s social events. Slowly, after many karaoke outings and dance parties, some of my fellowship group friends started inviting some of my non-Christian friends to events on their own. And those non-Christian friends would at-tend—sometimes without me!
Another hospitality-focused outreach initiative is what we call Seeker Groups. These are discussion groups that are primarily for those outside the faith who want to process their doubts and questions about God in general and Christianity in particular. The groups meet in people’s homes and discussions are typically held over food and drinks. My wife and I (David) have been hosting one in our home weekly for the past 18 months. The night of the first group meeting we weren’t sure if anyone would show up. After the last person left our apartment that night, following what had been a lively discussion with many unanswered questions, we looked at each other and said —“We have to pray right now!”
The people in our group have taught us so much about our God and ourselves. They have shown us love and grace and enriched our lives. And despite the fact that several people continue to resist Christianity, they keep returning week in and week out. Why? I think at least in some part it is because we have made room in our lives for them.
John Piper, summed up the importance of hospitality this way:
When we practice hospitality we experience the thrill of feeling God’s power conquer our fears and our stinginess and all the psychological gravity of our self-centeredness. And there are few joys, if any, greater than the joy of experiencing the liberating power of God’s hospitality making us a new and radically different kind of people, who love to reflect the glory of his grace as we extend it to others in all kinds of hospitality.
We have also developed initiatives that are based on prayer. In the fall of 2008, in partnership with the Prayer ministry, The Well was launched with the intention of recapturing the type of outward faced prayer that was part of Redeemer’s earliest days. The Well takes place on Friday evenings from 10:00 p.m. until midnight and includes prayer and worship that is focused on allowing God to make the gospel more real to us and to our friends. The event quickly took on a life of its own and has been the catalyst for several smaller “mini-Wells” that meet and pray for seeking friends at least twice a month. There have also been groups of people who have gotten together to walk through and pray for the neighborhoods where the four congregations will be located.
These are just a few examples of the many types of activities that exist, both formally and informally, within our community that have a ‘generative’ character to them. As the Redeemer community looks to the future it is our hope that we become increasingly known as a community that regularly prays for, and joyfully extends the hope and beauty of the gospel to our friends and neighbors. When we, as a church community live distinctively and missionally in this manner, we will see the gospel touching lives in every aspect of our ministry all over the city—a generative church moving out into every neighborhood of the city with the hope of the gospel through each of us.