So if an editor is faced with a deadline and has no lead article, she might choose, as I have done, to fill the space with my, our, hopes and very real prayers for the life of Redeemer as it moves on post-founder.
As Tim and I keep pointing out, we are not retiring, just moving out of leadership roles in Redeemer and into teaching/mentoring roles at the Seminary and the New York Project. We will still worship at the congregations and participate in all that God is doing in NYC.
However, there is no denying that we will be leaving the roles we’ve had since Redeemer began, and that our influence on the culture and philosophy of ministry will wane as other leaders take over the reigns.
This is what I meant when I said that THIS was Redeemer’s defining moment. Will it go from strength to strength, proving the power of the Gospel? Or will it become “church as usual,” with lots of nice, helpful programs and services, but without the driving engine of gospel-centered evangelism?
The Gospel is the power …
… not programs, or clever preaching, but the Gospel. Yes, I know Tim is a good preacher. I’ve heard him more than anyone. But I’ve also sat under the preaching of pastors who did not have good speaking gifts and wept, and seen people converted. It was the clarity of gospel, not the level of giftedness.
Friends, always trust the power of the message of the mystery of Christ, God come to save his people through his life and death applied to our need. Knowing that you are not facing the Ultimate Taskmaster and Judge, but the open arms of your loving Father changes everything.
The Gospel must stay central to everything …
… and not just be a department or a line item on our statement of faith. Many gospel preaching/teaching/faithful churches nevertheless allow the gospel to slide out of central focus. Instead of the Good News being heard in every sermon, testimony, seminar, and mercy/justice/faith&work program, Good Advice takes its place. How To — live a better Christian life, have better relationships, be more compassionate to the poor and marginalized, more humane at work — all of this is good advice, but it is not the power that changes everything.
Keep the Gospel in the center and everything else will spin around it — put something else in the center and it all falls apart. Let’s not let happen what often does happen — departments jockeying for budget and air-time, leaders with individual agendas, decisions made for the sake of someone’s taste rather than the needs of those who don’t know Christ. Not here, O Lord, we pray.
The Gospel must be clearly seen, heard and felt in worship.
This is harder than you might think. One must always be thinking of the people who aren’t in the congregation, not the people who are. If you worship at Redeemer, presumably you are here because your heart most desires that the Gospel reach those who are furthest away from hearing it.
That means several things: that our communication must be Christian-jargon free. As Director of Communication, then Assistant Director, and editor, I have gotten to see and hear a lot of material produced within Redeemer. It is so easy to slip into Christian-talk, and I don’t just mean the sub-cultural buzzwords that are fairly easy to catch.
We can’t make assumptions that the people to whom we are speaking don’t share, and to avoid that, you have to spend actual time listening to non-believers, reading their books, magazines, and newspapers.
It also means that our worship must be what Edmund Clowney, former president of Westminster Seminary, called “doxological evangelism,” by which he meant worship that led people into the presence of God where they could experience for themselves his reality. So often we assume that our own tastes and experiences will be shared by everyone else, but, oh, it is not so! Believers are exhorted by Paul to give care to how they worship so that when (not “if,” you notice) unbelievers attend they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!" 1 Corinthians 14:25
Additionally, when part of the worship service becomes “and now these commercial messages.” Testimonies (something I have spent a great deal of time with) can so quickly degenerate into This-Is-a-Really-Worthy-Use-of-Your-Time or I-Was-Nervous-About-Doing-This-But-It-Turned-Out-All-Right-and-I-Made-New-Friends-and-Learned-a-Couple-of-Valuable-Lessons. We are so caught up in the needs of those who are already believers that we forget to tell non-believers that it was the Gospel that changed us, and that can change them.
Paul said in 1 Corinthian 1:23 that he would only preach “Christ crucified.” That is our lodestar, our plumb line, and our fountain of youth. It is what will keep Redeemer evergreen and faithful to its call, and we pray it for you all.