One of my favorite questions to ask when I meet someone new at Redeemer is “What brought you to Redeemer?” We all have a story to tell. We all have a reason for why we are here. I am no different. However, when someone asked me that question during one of my first visits at Redeemer, I was tongue-tied. I just stared at the person in fear. Finally, I said, “I could write a master’s thesis of why I am here”. My husband rescued me from the conversation and affirmed that I could write a thesis on why we were there and then he changed the subject. I will not write a thesis in this blog, but I will tell you my story.
God has used the church in my life to develop his relationship with me. I accepted him as Lord and Savior in a small Baptist church at the age of nine. I grew in an intimate love relationship with him while attending a large Christian church in my 20’s. I over served him in a middle-sized Christian church in my 30’s, and most recently, I under served him in a small Christian church in my 40’s. God has used all of these church experiences (big, small, and middle sized) to grow me and change me. I am thankful for each experience. So why Redeemer? Why now?
I knew I was in trouble when at the altar at my former church my heart cried out in prayer “Save me from the church!” I was weeping uncontrollably as I passionately prayed these words. Please notice, I did not pray this church, I prayed the church. Somehow, I intuitively knew the church was killing me spiritually. How could this be? How could the church, which God has used to grow me up in him, be killing me? The answer is the gospel, or I should say the lack of the gospel.
David Kinnaman wrote a book entitled “You Lost Me” that describes why young people are leaving the church. In the book, he describes a group he calls Exiles. Some characteristics of the Exiles include that they:
Want to find a way to follow Jesus that connects with the world they live in
See God more at work outside the church than inside, and want to be a part of that
Want to help the church change it’s priorities to be what Jesus intended it to be
Find the institutional church a difficult place to live out faith
Feel Christian community is important and want to do more than get together once a week for worship
Feel stuck between comfortable faith and the life God wants for them
The characteristics he describes, describe the way I feel. I am an exile. I am called to go to the community (Matt 28: 19) and my former churches were not supporting me with that mission.
Redeemer encourages their members to go out to the community on a mission with God. I once asked my youngest son while attending our former church, how is the church relevant to the community? He could not come up with an answer. He mentioned a prayer ministry the church had for the homeless, but that was all he could think of. I could not come up with anything either. I want to be part of a community of believers that are relevant to the community. I do not want to sit in a church pew and wonder why the community is not coming to me. I want to go. I want to be encouraged to go.
Redeemer focuses on the gospel. It is frightening to me that, in over 38 years of being in the church, the gospel was not preached to me on a regular basis. The majority of sermons over the past 38 years have been topical with scripture used as a reference. The extent of the gospel message came at the end of the service when the pastor gave a quick come to Jesus synopsis. I used to joke with my kids, if you want someone to know Jesus, do not bring them to church. No wonder I was dying! I was starving for the gospel!
This is a new church chapter in my life, in which I am confident God will use to grow me further in Him. I am looking forward to the journey and all the new people he will put in my path. I still cry at the altar on Sunday mornings, but now it’s tears of joy for what Christ has done for me. It’s tears shed that understand the magnitude of the gospel in my life and how dependent I am on it. I am ready to go. Let us go out together on mission with God.