It started with a question. The core leaders of Redeemer Church got together in one couple’s family room to hear how each person would answer the question “Should we keep this church going or should we close?” The question was really: After years of dwindling numbers and energy, does Redeemer have a good reason to exist? Does God have a mission for this congregation? After all, there are plenty of other churches around for people to go to.
The answer that evening wasn’t yes and it wasn’t no. It was: Let’s find out. Let’s open our ears and our hearts to God. Let’s use our resources (even if we use them up) and give everything we’ve got to being God’s people and reaching out to bring people to Christ. We’ll do that for three years, and then see what God has shown us.
When these leaders brought that proposal to the congregation, the whole congregation said: Yes, we’ll do that!
So, in the year 2000, Redeemer became a different kind of church. We adopted as our mission statement two words: Changing Lives.
We know how God has changed our own lives. We asked God to use us to change more and more people’s lives – from loneliness to connectedness, from drifting to purposeful, from quiet despair to exuberant life.
To fuel this work we tapped into the value of the real estate the church sits on. We took a risk and opened a line of credit to help to pay for two full-time pastors, for website development, outreach materials, sound and audio-visual equipment for a new worship service, and whatever resources we’d need to be an energetic, outward-focused, future-oriented community of God’s people. We reorganized our congregation to free people up to do ministry rather than sit in meetings. We became a permission-giving church that supports new ministries and encourages everyone to listen to God’s voice and follow where he calls.
A lot has happened since then! When three years were up, the question answered itself. Does God have a mission for this congregation? Yes! And we’re right in the middle of it! Here are some of the exciting things that have happened at Redeemer, things we never saw coming back in 2000:
- We added a second worship service with new music and multimedia.
- We remodeled and redecorated the back of our worship space to make a relaxing place for coffee and conversation after worship and for meetings, etc., during the week.
- We`ve developed relationships with lots of people – including some excellent musicians – from other churches.
- Our congregation has more than tripled in size, and we’ve seen a big increase in people learning and sharing together in small groups and Sunday morning classes.
- We’ve built up our service muscles, preparing and serving monthly meals to guests of a homeless shelter for women in the city. And we’ve fanned out to multiple ministries on our annual Faith in Action weekends.
- Our young adults have played, learned, eaten, and danced together – and formed strong friendships.
- Groups are going regularly to Stateville Prison to distribute Spiritual Survival Guides to new inmates and pray with them.
- More and more interesting people with interesting gifts keep coming to Redeemer and bringing new eyes, new ideas, and new energy.
- We’re expanded to a second campus on North Ave. in Chicago.
- As Redeemer Chicago grew, we added a second worship service, allowing us the opportunity to welcome more people and for more people to use their gifts well.
When we adopted our Strategy Statement for 2010-2015 in May 2010, we set ourselves the goal of doubling in size and doubling our reach. We believed we were being called to engage in ongoing evangelism, expand our current service ministries, and deepen our relationships and our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. Our primary motivation wasn’t about numbers but about reaching disconnected, unchurched, and dechurched people – with a special focus on young adults – and supporting them as they form into a new and vibrant community.
What we didn’t anticipate in 2010 was the opportunity and the sense of being called to grow by adding a second site. When the opportunity presented itself in 2011 to take over use of an existing church building on busy North Avenue in Chicago, we started a long, careful discernment process that’s led us to where we are right now: with a larger staff and a refurbished church building, building new relationships and inviting people in the area around the new site to be part of something new, and growing a new community that gathers at this new campus. We are one church in two locations.
But, for all the changes behind us and ahead of us, it’s still about changing lives. And so, the story continues…