The truth is the same whether speaking about a church, a business or even a relationship: most things drift toward complexity rather than simplicity. Therefore, aiming for simplicity first requires knowing our story. We need to regularly remember to honor the past, pay close attention to the present, and prayerfully plan for the future. I want to invite our church to not only to refocus and realign ourselves with God and his word, but I also want to invite you to the table to do some things... dream with me, imagine with me, pray with me, catch a vision for what a church filled with the Holy Spirit, walking in the light of the truth, passionate about Jesus would look like as we embody our vision of faithful presence to God, self, and others. Jesus established his church to be led by humble servant leaders but that doesn’t mean that the leaders do all of the work alone! Far from it! Paul instructs the leaders to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” My prayer is that God would stir something within us, awaken us to where we need to grow, and call us even closer to himself.
As you know, Redemption Church is six years old and now is the perfect time to replant Redemption Church! However, before we do that, we should revisit the past. Knowing and honoring where we came from in the spirit of gratitude will help us reset us up for what’s next. Back on July 21st of 2013 I had my first meeting with Drew Hensley and Ryan Kearns about the possibility of planting Redemption Church one day. We sat at Chuck’s Hop Shop in Greenwood and more or less had a daydream kind of conversation. Questions of “What if?” and “What would it look like?” were on the rickety picnic table on the corner of 85th and 8th. The three of us were on staff at Mars Hill Church (I was transitioning out). Jana and I left Seattle and went to Reno to serve another church in the Mars Hill Network. We served there for two years but then found ourselves in the same kind of toxic church environment. We struggled immensely to say the least. Our faith and our marriage were completely exhausted. In April of 2015 Drew and Ryan reached out and encouraged us to move back to Seattle and join the earliest foundational work of assisting in planting Redemption. Jana and I prayed about it but we felt as though it was wise for us to completely step away from vocational ministry for over a year, submit to loads of counseling, heal, and then seek God’s will over what’s next. Drew and Ryan carried on in that first year of co-planting Redemption. It was in that time that Jana and I were healed and were reoriented toward each other, God, his word, and his calling on our lives.
In July of 2015, we moved back to Seattle to serve Redemption. Two months later, Ryan Kearns and his family relocated to Texas. Drew and I then embarked on a three year journey together co-leading Redemption. During my first six months serving as a deacon, we added Ben Lacey as our second elder in the church. Then, over the next two years, we brought on both Mike Behnke and Greg Bekken to serve as elders as well. Ben, Mike, and Greg have continued to pour countless hours into our church behind the scenes and if it weren’t for them, I’m not so sure that we’d actually be in the healthy place that we are today. I love you men. Thank you and your precious wives for all of your hard work, personal sacrifice, and faithful love for our members. Additionally we added two teams made up of members of Redemption – Personnel and Finance. These teams are comprised of men and women who weigh in at key moments throughout the year offering helpful insight into the infrastructure of Redemption.
Over those first 4 years there was an incredible amount of pastoral care for many of those who were so deeply wounded by what happened with the closing of Mars Hill Church. Amongst other things going on in the church, the primary emphasis was given to being a safe place where people can heal at a realistic pace. Having personally planted a gospel-centered church Georgia and working closely with church planters all over the world through Acts 29 for a decade, I knew that what I was getting into here was anything but conventional. Redemption was not a traditional church plant at all. There was a large core group, enough money to sustain two full-time pastors, and even a location to meet in from day one. Most church plants don’t have any of those things in place right out of the gate. Such was what we needed and God provided. At the same time, most church plants begin with a tremendous emphasis on mission and evangelism and reaching unbelievers in the community. In fact, church planting is the most effective form of evangelism here in the United States. From the outset, Redemption was a hospital for many wounded believers. The men and women who remained present to care for the sheep have played such an invaluable role. Yet, here at Redemption, we didn’t have much in the way of evangelism going on because so many were still scrambling with questions like “Am I even a Christian?” or feelings of deep suspicion over church leadership. The first six years Redemption has been a hospital of sorts for people to heal, recover, refocus, grieve, and process all that has come our way both through the closing of Mars Hill and the rise of popular deconstructionism. As time has gone on, we have witnessed God healing and restoring so many people’s faith in Jesus and his Church! In August on 2019, we were able to bring Daniel Folgado on the team to become our Director of Worship. He quickly fit right in, started developing musicians and adding loads of new music to our worship catalog. He was and is an invaluable part of our team!
This brings us to November 2019. It was then that Drew and Laura stepped down and moved back to South Carolina to be near family. I know what many are thinking at this point. “Wait. That’s a lot of staff turnover. Is that normal?” And the answer is YES. This happens in almost every church plant. Those that you think will be there for the long haul move on to other places and those that you never thought would stick around end up being those that stay their whole lives. I told our elders that I felt inclined not to rehire and backfill his position but to simply let the dust settle, go through the first quarter of 2020, assess our real needs, and then build out an entirely new position.
From November 5th through March 1st we saw an increase in attendance of nearly 40 adults plus children weekly. Suddenly, we were faced with looking to go to two services on Sunday mornings. Megan Folgado noticed how stretched I was becoming in all of my responsibilities and reached out, offering to join the team and help me stay focused on pastoring our church well but bringing a strong administrative skill set to the team. So, we hired her. Literally, the next day... COVID. We were amongst the very first churches in the nation to close our doors due to the pandemic. I spoke with one of our elders, Ben Lacey, about the rumors of COVID. He encouraged me to close weekend services. I thought it seemed wise and so we did. We tightened up spending and sought to save money not knowing exactly how 2020 would go. Everything went online and our team (Daniel and Megan Folgado, Natalie Bolen, and Kelly Bone) worked hard to find new and creative ways to bring the church into your homes week by week given all the new complications and restrictions. If it weren’t for the faithful volunteering of Cameron Morris, Brendan McDonnell, Brian Eichelberger, Michael Baxter, Matt Tolich, and Spencer Abbot, we wouldn’t have been able have our Digital Liturgies which includes everything that we would do on a typical Sunday morning in our building. Then more trauma...
Following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmad Aubruy, and Breonna Taylor, we took many people in our church through The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby. This coincided with our eight week sermon series through My Neighbor: Ethnicity, Justice, and the Image of God. The year was fraught with challenges to say the least. Yet, to put our heads in the sand and “just preach the gospel” simply wasn’t what God was calling us to. In order to “preach the gospel” it must come to bear on our own context; such is the work of contextualization and faithful missiology. As emotions were soaring, questions were being asked, some were protesting in the streets, some were rioting; our nation shook and God, in his mercy kept us grounded not in headlines but in his word. About seven months into the pandemic both Natalie (Director of Women’s Ministry and Care) and Kelly (Director of Redemption Kids Ministry) stepped down in order to relocate to be near family. Not only were we already at the drawing board drafting up the job description for right next pastoral hire, we also now needed these staff positions filled as well. By grace, we did not panic or act impulsively. We as elders and staff felt called to simply lean into our vision of being faithfully present to our own congregation, continue to move slowly and strategically, stewarding time, resources, and the well-being of our people. We talked and prayed and talked and prayed over the next three hires.
In preparing for the next hires, we knew that credentials are important but more than that is a person’s character. As we thought about strategic hires, we knew that we were going to need men and women to join our team in a complimentary fashion. Not only that, but our roles demand a high relational
capacity as well. In a church committed to faithful presence, leaders that lean into the vision are key. As we’ve prayed, God has graciously brought us the right people for team! First, we brought Buggy Castro on board to lead our Redemption Kids Ministry and she has done an absolutely marvelous job! After several interviews with people outside of our church, we were graced to make two more internal hires! We are so pleased to welcome Mark Dunford to serve as our Pastor of Spiritual Formation and Operations and Lisa Eichelberger to serve as our Director of Women’s Ministry and Care! Making these internal hires is also strategic. After being apart for so long due to the pandemic, we thought that it would be most loving and wise to place as many familiar faces in leadership as possible. Reorientation requires certain kind of vitamins – normalcy, familiarity, and stability. These men and women provide just that for our church body As we reopen, our desire is that you feel a sense of “home” and “belonging.” This brings us to where we are now. As we are in the very beginning stages of reopening and following the CDC guidelines, we need to be positioning ourselves well to hit the ground running. This means that there are some things that need to be cut away and other things that need to be introduced to the renewed rhythms in the life of Redemption.