I am thankful for 2016. I’m not sure I’ve said that enough, but a lot of truly great things happened around Redemption Church last year. There have been salvations, baptisms, new members, new missional communities, new ministries, and new leaders who have stepped forward. We sent a team to Sojourn Uganda on a mission trip, and we’ve had two successful fundraisers to help support their ministry. The Doris Building has hosted several events which is opening doors for us bless and engage more with the downtown community. Certainly, a very lengthy post about all that we have been able to celebrate this year could be written, but the most remarkable parts of 2016 at Redemption Church are best highlighted by the prayers that we prayed together.
Over the course of the year we paused during our Sunday services to pray together that God would use us to see the gospel advance in Augusta, GA. We prayed some specific prayers about how we would like to see God work in us and through us.
- That God would bring salvation to 100 people through our ministry
- That God would lead us into diversity
- That God would raise up leaders
- That God would use our missional communities as a place for discipleship
- That God would replicate our missional communities to create opportunities to lead people to Jesus who lead people to Jesus
In 2016 we saw salvation, we became a little more diverse, we saw new leaders step up, we saw missional communities press into discipleship and replicate. God has answered our prayers tangibly. Although almost none of it looked like we would have expected, I am more convinced than ever that we can ask our Father for anything our hearts desire, and the good news is that He will use our request to shape us for His glory and our joy.
Honestly, some of those prayers were hard to pray at first. It felt really odd to ask God to reach 100 people through our church of about the same number. In the back of my mind there was always a measure of unbelief. As we pushed forward, each time I prayed for 100 people to be saved I had to begin wrapping a prayer around it for my heart’s unbelief. Eventually, as we were faithful to pray together week in and week out, we saw people come to know Jesus. We didn’t reach 100 people, but as we’ve prayed I’ve seen the heart of Redemption Church grow more eager to spread the gospel.
As we prayed to be used by God to see His kingdom advance in our city, and as we have been making our way through the Gospel of Matthew, we have started talking a lot more about what it means to be a disciple. We defined disciple as “one who is increasingly submitting all of life to the empowering presence and Lordship of Jesus Christ.” We started talking more about what it means to submit “all of life” to Jesus in this way. How do we submit our singleness or marriage to Christ? How do we submit our work to Christ? How do we submit our homes to Christ? How do we submit our finances to Christ?
As we have been praying those prayers and asking those questions together on Sundays, in missional communities, and in DNA’s, there is evidence that God is shaping our hearts to follow hard after Jesus and to lead others to Him. Because of that, I’ve never started a year at Redemption Church with the excitement that I have as we begin 2017. I hope you’re excited too and will engage with us in three challenges.
3 things for 2017:
- We must continue to pray together. We must pray for salvation, diversity, leaders, missional communities, and DNA’s. As we pray this year, I believe, our hands will get a little dirtier as we devote ourselves to the gospel, community, and mission. See, I’ve come to realize that there is no way around messy in the ministry of reconciliation to which we have been called; it was this ministry that took Jesus to the cross. It’s messy, but is a indescribably beautiful.
- We must radically dedicate ourselves to “increasingly submitting all of life to the empowering presence and Lordship of Jesus Christ.” This can be a dirty work because we all have mess that needs dealing with, and it isn’t always fun to let others help bring the gospel to bear in our lives; it can hurt. However, it’s a good work because as we learn by God’s grace to lean into the mess of each other’s brokenness with the gospel we will experience the beauty of redemption.
- We must radically dedicate ourselves to identifying and reaching outsiders with the love of Jesus. Truly, to take the gospel to people that nobody else is reaching we have to go to people that nobody else is going to. We have to be a church that goes to the would-be outsiders and brings the gospel to bear on the brokenness and injustices of this world; it’s a work that can get messy. This too may put us at odds with each other, but I remain convinced that when we lean into the tension, the conflict, the mess, and look to Jesus, we will see the beauty of redemption at work and see the gospel advance in ways we haven’t imagined.