Session One – John Lin

Material in this presentation contains material used with permission and adapted from Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

Session 1

Our vision. To be a church that ignites a gospel movement that serves, renews and changes New York City spiritually, socially, culturally, and through New York, the world.

Our vision for New York. Vision is not just for our church, but for the entire city. Early on we spent time thinking about what the city would become because of our presence and influence in it. We didn’t just imagine the kind of church we should be, but what New York could be and how Redeemer can help it to get there. This is a broader vision than just our own church, but for our outward face towards the entire city. We wanted a city that was:
• More family friendly city, where families live long-term and raise their children. New York is expensive, has poor education and people don’t really want to “invest” in the city.
• Fewer poor neighborhoods because wealth would be redistributed through giving and community development. Very severe wealth gap.
• Would have a public culture where talking about faith is allowable and encouraged. We wanted civility to extend to all – not just to Christians, but towards people who might not even believe what we believe. We wanted there to be a forum for people to speak safely about what they believe in.
• Would see decrease in crime. We wanted people to care about the city more.
• Would see better relationships between racial and cultural groups in the city

What it would take.
A significant Christian community in New York. Very small Christian population in New York (less than 1%). If percentage could rise to 10%, would begin to change New York. We want this to happen through evangelism and Christian people willing to come to the city.
Movement of gospel-centered, city-positive, missional churches – large network of churches that would want to work together for the benefit of the city. Not just more Christians, but more churches.

• Centrality of the Gospel – God’s grace. Traditional religion says that if I obey and do good works, I’ll be saved and blessed. It motivates primarily by fear and pride – in other words, obey otherwise God will punish you (fear) or obey, because you don’t want to be like a non-Christian or a pagan (pride). Traditional religion means there will always be exclusion – we can’t be with pagans, because they will hurt us or are not holy or will lead us to compromise. Gospel motivates through thankfulness and gratefulness – “I am saved and received by God and therefore I’ll live rightly.” Example of an encore – after the performance and you receive the applause, you sing because it is a joy, not because you’re going to be evaluated on it – it’s still the same singing, but the fear is gone. Gospel creates humility and confidence at the same time – on the one hand, you are a sinner (causes humility) but on the other hand, you are saved because of Jesus Christ (causes confidence). This is key to individual transformation and social flourishing. Another example: like dating and marriage – before marriage, I took my wife out for dinner. Now after marriage, I still take her out for dinner, but not so that I’ll be accepted, but because I’m already accepted. Another example: mercy – care for the poor – we think its because people are irresponsible, when there may be many reasons – plus, to suggest that they are inferior or irresponsible means we don’t understand that we are too! Otherwise, it is a works-based religion. Matthew 24 – goats and sheep based on concept of mercy. It is a test to see if we see ourselves as deserving of mercy. Another example: Lack of confidence when looking at people “superior” to us and too much confidence when looking at someone “inferior” to me. Sense of inferiority or superiority means we have pride in something other than our salvation.
• Positive view of the City. In America, many churches believe that to be faithful, you can’t engage the city or be a part of it. Best way to serve neighbors and influence culture is to minister and live in cities – Jeremiah 29:1-7 (seeking the peace and prosperity of the city) and Paul’s urban mission in Acts. Centering on grace keeps us from despising the city – also keeps us from uncritically accepting it – we can love and embrace it. This is partly a theological issue – when don’t understand the gospel, there is tendency to think that the city is evil and the church is not – in reality, if understand that we are more sinful than we think, that there may be things to learn and be hopeful about in the city and there may be things that we don’t understand. Also, there is the strategic value – mass urbanization going on in the world, increasingly so – i.e. China. Cultural influence and change all happens in cities – Hollywood, finance, fashion, MTV, etc. Globalization making cities even more powerful – cities are seats of economic activity, social and technology networks, etc. particularly because international relations no longer political. Governments no longer control what people learn, read, etc. – more influential than nation-states. Huge growth of cities in China, Third World, etc. – think about Tokyo as center of Japan in terms of influence, etc. City also has more “marginal” progressive and innovative people, not just traditional people. See more areas of service, like poverty, racism, etc. Cities are becoming more connected – global cities more like each other than smaller cities in their own countries – i.e. NYC more like Tokyo than NYC like a smaller city in America. Same with London, Hong Kong, Moscow, Paris, etc.

Five Ministry Emphases. Need all five to change the city.
• Outward facing. Churches need to be very sensitive in evangelism to those who are skeptical and secular – in fact, in many ways, Japan may be similar – deep sense that the world is great the way that it is – that we may not need more than what we have, therefore do not need to believe in God. Churches can’t just reach conservative/traditional “church-type” people. Gospel grace allows us not to disdain those who disagree – or be contemptuous or to discredit them – we should say that there is much to learn from non-believers and be open to them. Allows us to be sympathetic and effective in finding ways to address baseline cultural hopes with Christ – must be able to articulate gospel in secular cities. Note importance of understanding baseline cultural narratives and hopes – i.e. sex, money, power – need for affirmation, community, power, sense of importance, etc.
• Community. Gospel creates new community – sign and foretaste of God’s future new humanity, the city of God. Key to both a) personal change and b) city change. Individual shaped not through classes or experience, but by community – we develop values through community, not intellectual principles. Churches must provide counter cultural community – not just support for Christians, but models alternate human society that gospel creates – how to live through sex, money, power, etc. in ways that are not destructive.
• Holistic ministry. Ministry of word and deed – see this in Jesus – he taught and healed, he preached and cared for the poor – it meant that there was some legitimacy to his ministry – not just talking about change, but bringing about change himself. Bible’s basic plotline is that of the return of the kingdom – that there will be restoration of the entire world, both material and spiritual – i.e. Revelation 21, the city of God comes down. Jesus does healing miracles to show the world what it was supposed to be. Not just way to evangelism, but it is an act of mercy that restores the world itself. In other words, there were many that Jesus healed where we don’t know if they eventually came to faith or not. Christians work towards healing, justice, peace through service as part of calling people to conversion. Must work for common good – show neighbors that we love them whether they believe or not. In some respects, mercy and care for the poor is truest measure of whether someone has grasped true grace or not.
• Cultural engagement. Integrate faith and work. Most churches disconnect faith from work. Many churches see the gospel as a way of finding individual peace or as something for yourself only, but has nothing to do with your entire worldview – the way that you see the world. Or, people see the workplace only as a place for evangelism or that what matters it hat you enter into ministry, but fail to acknowledge that our work life is a mission in and of itself (like Adam who was a gardener and not a preacher). Churches must help people to work for excellence and distinctiveness and accountability in “secular work” – in other words, can’t say that what matters is spiritual life and not work life – work life matters because God called Adam and Eve to work life. It’s the way God restores and mends the world.
• Church planting. Can only permanently influence city through multiplying churches with same commitments. Churches that penetrate every neighborhood and people group. Continuing multiplication. Growing and multiplying fellowship groups are like church plants!