This month we enter a season where all of Redeemer will focus on a bold vision that will shape our church and our city for a generation or more. It’s a vision we believe God gave us from the earliest days of Redeemer’s formation, when it seemed to be a great but far-off prospect. Today we are at a wonderful crossroads — we can move toward the actual fulfillment of that calling.
In 1988 when we began to work towards holding our first service, we asked God not just for one congregation but for a whole movement of churches. At the time less than 1% of the people in center city New York attended what could be called a gospel teaching church — today it’s 5%! Although Redeemer and its partner City to City gave crucial help to many of these new churches, that extraordinary growth can only be attributed to God’s Spirit at work.
But what if it’s just the beginning? What if, in the next ten years, the number of churches and of people attending those churches tripled, to comprise 15% of center city residents? At that level we could begin to see gospel values — radical generosity, mercy and justice, work as a vocation, racial reconciliation, loving neighbors, and joyful hope — begin to permeate every sector of life here. It would bring positive change not just to individual lives, but could enhance and shape how life is lived in the whole city.
Through the Rise campaign in March and April every Redeemer attendee will be asked to think through how he or she could invest themselves more deeply in the vision God has given us. It entails prayer, and I mean serious prayer. It means being open to being sent out into your neighborhood to reach and serve in new ways. It means giving of your resources.
That’s what Rise is about. It’s about activating everyone in our church community into new areas of service and ministry all across the city. In Isaiah 6:8 we read: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
Will you take the first step? Rise starts by asking everyone to say: “I’m in.” I’m in to pray, engage, and give as part of a gospel movement for the good of the city and in ways that invest not just my resources, but myself in this movement for our city.
Here’s what we hope to accomplish together: First, we need many new gospel teaching churches rising in neighborhoods without access to the good news all across the city. Church planting is the most strategic way to grow the Body of Christ in our city.
Second, we need new leaders rising in every sector. Gospel-shaped leaders can serve people at every level of culture, through ministry, the marketplace, arts, medicine, education and every other way that humans serve the common good. I hope many of you will step forward to be trained and sent out.
Third, we need new buildings rising for all to share. Putting down physical roots in a neighborhood is essential to reach rooted New Yorkers and serve the common good. We have seen how incredible the difference has been for the West Side since opening W83. The building is an asset to the neighborhood; used by schools, community board meetings, film crews, support groups, performing arts, and much more. It greatly enhances the creation of community and friendships among members of the congregation. And we have found it makes us visible and able to reach many New Yorkers with the gospel that were previously inaccessible.
So how can we do all this? It’s going to take financial resources, yes, but more importantly, people like you. We need YOU to rise. In the past Redeemer has grown by bringing people in, but as we look ahead this movement that God has started will grow by Redeemer sending people out.
There are many ways to get involved and learn more about this vision: attend a Community Group, use the daily Rise devotionals, or sign up to be invited to a Neighborhood Gathering. I hope everyone will take this opportunity to see where God is calling you to Rise and say: “Here am I! Send me!”