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Summer Sports Camp Recap

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Well, we had yet another exciting Summer of Sports Camps! We had about 100 kids come and play basketball, football, baseball and soccer.

There were a few highlights from this summer I wanted to share with you. It was so beautiful to watch these coaches learn kids names, encouraged them no matter what level of competency, and more than anything, show them and tell them about Jesus. It’s really fun to see so many of the same kids return year and year.

There were small groups who prepared a meal together to bring to the kids, coaches and families. Many thanked us for the opportunity to serve as a group and we were blown away by the sacrifices these groups made for these families.

It was amazing to watch parents who attend Redeemer to involve their kids in these camps and then meet other parents whose kids attended the same school. Some even had the same kids in their classes. I loved the friendships that formed at camp.

Families told me stories of their kids counting down the days until camp and that it was the highlight of their summer. Other kids would shout, “I can’t wait until next year”. That is so encouraging for us to hear.

Thank you to all of our volunteers who donated their time this summer to invest in the lives of families all over our city.

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Practical Follow Up to Our Sex & Intimacy Series

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If you’ve been with us on Sundays the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about what God has to say about sex and intimacy. As we cap the series, I wanted to give you ten things to keep in mind as you think about how to foster intimacy in your relationships:

1. Think about intimacy holistically. The idea that intimacy is being known and accepted expresses itself in emotional, spiritual and physical ways. Growth in one of these three areas will naturally encourage growth in the other areas. And at the same time, challenges in one area will spill over into others.

2. Lean in and be honest about the places where intimacy is difficult. A profound relational reality to be aware of is that you are actually fostering intimacy when you talk about your struggle with intimacy. Those conversations, even if they’re messy, give space for you to be seen and accepted.

3. Repentance and forgiveness are the height of intimacy. In those moments, you are seen as you are and welcomed with love. Be willing to humbly confess weaknesses or wrongs and respond to weakness in others with forgiveness and grace. A relational climate of grace will allow intimacy to grow.

4. Move forward slowly when there are past wounds or distrust. Where you have been the offender, repent and recognize ways you have broken trust. Be careful not to minimize the pain of others, remembering that feeling safe is a primary component of intimacy. Pray for patience and compassion as you move toward someone who is hurting.

5. Intimacy is fostered when we move beyond simply sharing information and begin to explore the hearts of others. When someone is sharing a story with you, ask questions that allow you to know who they are, not just what happened. Follow the facts with questions like, “How did that make you feel?” or “What has it been like for you since that happened?” Make a habit of asking your spouse or friend what makes them feel loved or ask them for specific ways you can bless or care for them. Asking these kinds of questions on a regular basis (not just once) will help both of you begin to be more aware of each other.

6. Be sure expressing your desire for intimacy comes as an invitation and not an accusation. Shame and blame are the opposite of intimacy (remember the garden). Be mindful of adding to another’s sense of inadequacy. Let them know you want to be close to them, not that you are disappointed in them (think of the way Jesus responds to us). Model for others what you wish you were experiencing in the relationship. And when someone moves toward you, even if it’s clunky or they miss your expectations, take the time to acknowledge that you appreciate their effort and receive it as love toward you.

7. Humbly and lovingly speak up when you see things getting off track or if you experience barriers to intimacy (remember to have an inviting posture, not an accusing one).

8. Make a plan to foster intimacy. What grows naturally for us is often not helpful. You won’t accidentally become more self-aware or more present in your relationships. You won’t drift into intimacy with your spouse. You have to be intentional. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Block off focused time on your calendar to be with the significant people in your life (again, intimacy doesn’t happen accidentally).
  • Take advantage of mundane moments. Lean in at the dinner table on Tuesday or in the car on Saturday morning. Ask those follow up questions.
  • Husbands and wives, try praying together before going to sleep at night. This is one of the simplest and most meaningful ways to foster spiritual intimacy with each other as you together bring your hearts before God.
  • Take communion together.
  • Put your phone away! It sounds cliche, but begin to notice how often you are on your phone and not engaging the person in front of you. Schedule media free nights. Set ground rules for using phones while you are together.
  • Discuss the sermon together, going beyond opinions about the points or illustrations to how you are feeling or what God is calling you to do in response.
  • Get away together. Go camping with the guys or plan a girls weekend. If you have kids, plan a trip with just you and your spouse, even if it’s just one day.
  • Read passages of scripture out loud together and then talk about what jumps out to you. It’s ok if you need to read it more than once.
  • Read a book together, any kind of book, and talk about how each of you experience either the story (if fiction) or the challenge from the author (if non-fiction).
  • 9. If you know you are struggling, get help. It’s easy to give in to resentment or apathy and either close yourself off in relationships or just continue to limp along. Resist that temptation. Respond to what God is stirring in you. Allow yourself to be pruned and begin to grow again (John 15). Remember you are planting seeds all the time.

    10. Have hope! Remember intimacy is not an all or nothing kind of thing. Take the long view with the goal of gradually increasing your capacity to be intimate over time. Fostering intimacy in your relationships is not a six week project, but rather a lifetime of small steps in vulnerability and grace. Start by doing one thing today and set the trajectory for years to come.

    Finally, if you’re looking for further resources on the topic, we made this available at our Series Forum and want to share it here as well.

    Back to School Bash 2016

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    Fall is always a fun time of the year in our neighborhood, and we couldn’t help but get caught up in the buzz of our younger friends getting ready for a new year of school!

    On August 6, Redeemer Fellowship is hosting our first Back to School Bash. This is a new event designed to draw near to one of the biggest areas of need in our city: education.

    At Back to School Bash, families will get a head start on the school year by shopping for brand-new school supplies at a reduced cost in a store like atmosphere, much like Affordable Christmas.

    And the best part about it? The families that will come through our doors are the same friends what we’ve been fortunate enough to build relationships with through Affordable Christmas, Sports Camps, and our ongoing school partnerships!

    GET INVOLVED

    To participate you can help in a few ways:

  • Donate school supplies at any Redeemer service for the next two Sundays (7/24 & 7/31). Click here for an Amazon Wish List and here for a PDF of ideas.
  • Sign-up to serve. You can help families shop, help with activities for the kids (bounce house, cotton candy, popcorn, and games!), or help with setup and cleanup. You’re also more than welcome to bring your families up to the building to hang out and meet our community.
  • This event is open to our Redeemer families as well. If you would like to participate as a shopper, please shoot me an email and I will get you all the info you need.
  • We can’t wait to see you on August 6!

    A Call for Lament & the Promise of Hope

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    Yesterday’s services at Redeemer Fellowship looked a little different.

    Last week brought wave after wave of sadness and tragedy. In response to the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, our pastors gathered with some of our African American leaders on Thursday to write a Prayer of Lament and a Proclamation of Hope to help lead our church through a time of mourning during our Sunday services. And then that evening, like you, we watched in horror as Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Lorne Ahrens lost their lives in Dallas.

    As we dialogued as pastors and talked with many in our community, a common feeling emerged: so many of us feel helpless, powerless to bring about change, but discontent with the way things are.

    Yesterday, we addressed some of these feelings and talked about practical ways we can step toward these issues as a community. By way of follow up, we wanted to point you to a few of those resources and give you some additional thoughts to process.

    First, if you missed our services yesterday, here is a link to the Prayer of Lament and Proclamation of Hope.

    Second, at Redeemer Midtown Kris McGee spoke for 20 minutes about how we should reflect on last week’s events and what it may look like to walk forward as a community. If you missed it, please take some time to listen to the audio here.

    Finally, let me leave you with a few personal thoughts.

    Don’t Dismiss the Grief. Grief Leads to Empathy

    That grief and powerlessness some of us feel as we engage the issues of racial injustice can actually become a beautiful opportunity to draw near to African American brothers and sisters. Use that feeling and imagine how it must feel to, after all these years, see systemic racism continually rear its ugly, pernicious head. If we draw near to those feelings of grief and powerlessness, it will give us a greater understanding of how many African Americans might feel. My friend and fellow Redeemer pastor, Brian Key, wrote a helpful piece on this topic, which you can read here. “When you weep with someone, you identify with them in their pain. It is humanizing in the face of the dehumanizing pain of grief. It somehow makes the grief less lonely, though not less painful.”

    Be Angry

    Ephesians 4:26 tells us to “be angry and do not sin.” Author and counselor Chip Dodd says this: “Authentic anger is a caring feeling, telling us that something matters. Anger exposes what we value and expresses our willingness to do what is required to reach that value…. Jesus, who turned the tables over in the temple and drove out thieves from a sacred place, experienced true anger. He showed vulnerability full of passion and compassion, the desire to make what had become rotten pure again.” Many of us are comfortable looking away. We’re comfortable waiting until the next news cycle to bring us something else to react to. But let me exhort you to seek understanding, process, grieve, and respond with love, justice, and mercy. Repent of apathy. Pray for burdens and opportunities to walk out justice in our community.

    Stand Together, Black and White, and Call For Justice

    My African American friends have repeatedly told me that it means so much when someone stands with them in yearning for justice. In moments of astonishing courage and vulnerability, they say it’s overwhelming and isolating to carry the burden of grief and at the same time feel like they need to persuade others that their grief is legitimate. Could Redeemer be a place where some of the most unwavering yearnings for racial equality and justice come from our white brothers and sisters? What kind of picture would that paint of the body of Christ?

    Develop Relationships

    Many of us experience these shootings (and the ones that preceded them) through a screen’s mediation. There’s absolutely an appropriateness about this. But, it’s not enough. Do you have friends in the racial minorities of Kansas City? Have you had conversations with them about how these kind of events make them feel? Have you heard their stories? Have you heard their lament? If not, why not? Is there a fear or a comfortability undergirding that? Where does the gospel of Jesus free you to clumsily take steps forward? Transformation happens in the context of real relationships; when you’re sitting face to face with someone, something changes.

    Hope in Jesus

    Belief in the gospel and fighting for justice are not polar ends of a spectrum. Rightly understood, a heart transformed by the grace of Jesus shares his heart for justice (Matthew 5:6). It flows out. It is grieved by injustice, and pushes back darkness of all kinds. But, for Christians that comes only in the shadow the great reality that Jesus will come and vanquish all sin and death forever. Rather than baptize apathy, this truth empowers us for and compels to justice. So, as we pour out into Kansas City, let us be people who have callouses of justice on our hands and the sweet grace of Jesus on our lips, laboring with others against darkness and pointing them to the only one who can truly destroy it: Jesus.

    Happy Mother’s Day from Redeemer Fellowship

    Happy Mother’s Day!

    As a community, a day like today gives us a lot to celebrate! Mother’s Day is an appropriate moment to pause and consider that Christ—God in the flesh—chose to be born of a woman. Being made like his brothers in every respect, Christ identifies himself in his humanity with both man and woman, by being born of a woman.

    This highlights for us the intentionality of making himself humanly dependent on a young woman to carry the pregnancy to term, be nursed, changed, cuddled, taught how to speak and eat, and to be loved by her, which secured his survival. What a beautiful portrait of restoration of the beauty of womanhood—as intended from the beginning—to reflect the full image of God!

    In motherhood we see God’s life-giving, life-bearing, life-loving heart.

    In the joys of the uniqueness of a mother’s love, we see God’s incomparable enjoyment of his children. In the pains of childbirth we see his sacrificial love. In the endurance of lonely days and nights, we see his patient heart toward his people. Motherhood pictures the faithful, relentless, steadfast, deep love of God for his children.

    And even as we consider these realities and celebrate the mothers in our community, we cannot neglect the pain that is sometimes associated with motherhood by virtue of the brokenness of creation, which is “groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” for its full restoration (Romans 8:22).

    Together, we mourn…

  • The lonely tears of those whose bodies and souls are ready to embrace the gift of motherhood and yet in mysterious providence, they cannot.
  • The deep pain of those longing for marriage and companionship, yet have to mourn its absence.
  • The unparalleled pain of those who have lost children.
  • The perplexing grief of those who have endured abandonment and abuse by their mothers.
  • The sacrificial and intricate outpouring of those who endure the grueling process of fostering and adoption.
  • The complexities of blended families and step-parenting.
  • The deep sorrow of those who have lost their mothers.
  • The sorrowful exhaustion of caring for a sick child.
  • The anticipation of loss and grief caring for a sick mother.
  • We grieve these and the many unnamed losses and sorrows that are represented amongst our people.

    So, wherever you find yourself this Mother’s Day, join us in reflecting upon the love of God! Join us in celebrating a God who created women and mothers in his image in ways that are uniquely female. And, in places where a day like today causes pain, hold fast to what Christ has accomplished for us and the hope of restoration that he promises to bring.

    Men’s Leadership Lab

    MEN’S LEADERSHIP LAB BEGINS 4/27

    What does it look like to lead ourselves, our families, and our communities as men created in God’s image?

    Beginning in just a couple weeks, you are invited to join other men as we dive into J.I. Packer’s, Knowing God, and discussing what it means to pursue a healthy culture of manhood at our church.

    THREE LOCATIONS

    The lab will meet in three locations (Midtown, Johnson County, and the Northland) on Wednesday mornings from 6 – 7:30 am, from 4/27 – 5/25.

    SIGN UP & EXPECTATIONS

    Sign-up closed on Sunday, April 24.

    In addition, for this lab we are asking men to affirm that they are already exhibiting several important personal leadership qualities. If you’re not currently able to participate for these reasons, we want to invite you to grow over the coming months and step into our next Men’s Leadership Lab in the fall.

    We hope you will join us!

    Holy Week at Redeemer

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    EASTER 2016

    On March 27, our family will gather to celebrate the central reality of our faith: Jesus is alive! God raises the dead! He is Risen!

    Before we celebrate Resurrection Sunday, we join with the Church around the world in observing the days leading up to Easter morning. Here is a bit of what you can expect next week.

    PALM SUNDAY

    Sunday, 3/20 is Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday, we remember Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem (Mark 11). It is a day of irony, as see ourselves in the crowds that proclaim the kingship of Christ just days before they call for his crucifixion and death.

    Join us in Midtown at 9 am, 11 am, 5 pm, or 7 pm, and in Johnson County at 10 am.

    GOOD FRIDAY

    On Friday, 3/25, we will observe Good Friday with services at 5:30 and 7 pm at Redeemer Midtown. We will walk through the story of the betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, and burial of our Lord Jesus, with readings from Matthew’s gospel and with song.

    EASTER SUNDAY

    Join us as we celebrate Resurrection Sunday at Redeemer Midtown and Redeemer Johnson County.

    In Midtown, we will have services at 9 am, 11 am, 5 pm, and 7 pm, with an overflow room available during the 9 and 11 am services. Sign up to serve on Easter here.

    In Johnson County, we will have two services (instead of our usual single service) at 9 and 11 am. Sign up to serve on Easter here.

    We hope to see you next week! Take the opportunity to invite your friends and family, and we’ll see you on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.

    Meet the 2016 Class of Fellowship Associates Residents

    In his 2002 article, “Why Plant Churches?“, Tim Keller writes, “Virtually all the great evangelistic challenges of the New Testament are basically calls to plant churches.” Keller observes, “Nothing else–not crusades, outreach programs, para-church ministries, growing mega-churches, congregational consulting, nor church renewal processes–will have the consistent impact of dynamic, extensive church planting.

    It was this commitment to the mission of God that brought Kevin, Kris, and Wes to Kansas City to plant Redeemer in 2008. And in that effort, Redeemer had no stronger partner than an organization called Fellowship Associates.

    FELLOWSHIP ASSOCIATES

    The Fellowship Associates residency was born in 1999 in Little Rock, AR, out of a commitment to develop and release church planters all over the world. Since then, dozens of leaders and dozens of churches have been planted, and Redeemer Fellowship is one of them.

    In 2007, Kevin spent a year in Little Rock learning, visiting other churches, praying, and raising money. This time was instrumental in the planting of Redeemer, and since then, we’ve enjoyed a dynamic and growing partnership with this leadership initiative.

    MEET THE RESIDENTS

    This week, the 2016 class of residents spent three days in Kansas City to conclude their program for the year. And this Sunday, you will see profiles of this year’s class of residents at each congregation. Take a moment to get to know these guys, pray for them, and consider ways you can support them.

    Here are their names and where they are heading.

  • Curtis Allen – Washington, D.C.
  • Kason Branch – Fort Worth, TX
  • Kris Brossett – Los Angeles, CA
  • Mike Dsane – Torrence, CA
  • Rudy Garza – Denver, CO
  • Juan Maclean – Boston, MA
  • Samuel Orrico – Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico
  • Josh Tovey – Grand Rapids, MI
  • Introducing the Season of Lent

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    Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

    — A Lenten Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer

    Since ancient times the church has observed a season of fasting and intentional austerity, consisting of the forty days (plus Sundays) leading up to Easter. This season began as a forty-day period of preparation and instruction for baptismal candidates, but eventually came to be observed by baptized Christians as a way of preparing our hearts to celebrate the wonder of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

    To be a Christian necessarily involves a heart posture of contrition and repentance toward God. Though Christians are always called to this heart posture, the season of Lent provides us space to practice that repentance with our bodies as well. A sustained consideration of our creaturely mortality and our moral culpability leads us to repentance, to renewed discipline, and to worship of our crucified and risen Lord.

    As a church, we will corporately observe Lent together in various ways. We will begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday services on February 10th at 7am, 5:30pm and 7pm at 3921 Baltimore. This service will last under an hour, and we will engage in prayer and song together and receive the imposition of the ashes. Throughout the season of Lent we will focus on themes of humility, simplicity, sobriety, even sorrow—themes we tend to avoid the rest of the year. Finally, during Holy Week (the final week leading up to Easter), we will have a Good Friday service in which we will allow the scriptures take us to the scene of our Lord’s betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion and burial, setting us up for a deep celebration Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.

    As individuals and families, I would encourage you to put some thought into how you might practice the observance of Lent through fasting and discipline. The idea behind fasting is to identify something in your life that you tend to use to avoid feeling deeply or facing reality. This might be certain types of food, social media, alcohol, Netflix or anything to which you find yourself turning for distraction or self-medication. Since every Sunday is a resurrection feast for Christians, you might suspend your fast on Sundays. Or, if a 40-day fast is intimidating to you, you might choose only one day each week to abstain. The point is to cultivate a hunger for God by taking away something in our lives that’s not necessarily bad or sinful, but might be satisfying us in a superficial way where God wants to satisfy our souls deeply. For families, this can lead to great conversation as the season progresses about how we are each experiencing the fast and how God is speaking to each of us.

    You also might consider engaging in a particular discipline to cultivate affections for and obedience to God. Some decide to engage in some kind of service to others, while others read through all the Psalms, for example, or memorize one of Paul’s shorter epistles. Crossway Publishers has made a 40-day reading guide available on their website, with readings based on The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor.

    Whatever ways you choose to observe the season of Lent, let’s aim together to cultivate deeper affections for the triune God and to practice our faith in such a way that he gets great glory and our city becomes a better place.

    Introducing Advent 2015

    Ideas certainly have consequences when it comes to healing our interpretations. But what is needed at the core of our being in order… to shift from mistrust to trust, from reactivity to receptivity, is a great story heard repeatedly—a story of good overcoming evil, of God becoming man, of death and resurrection, of descending and ascending, of surrender and hope—a story personified since we are relational at our core.

    — from The Relational Soul by Richard Plass and James Cofield

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    For centuries Christians have marked time by observing a yearly cycle of celebrations and seasons based on the story of Jesus—his coming, his living, his dying, and his victory over death. We begin this cycle with Advent, which is a 4-week season of preparation leading up to the 12-day celebration of Jesus’ coming into our world that begins on Christmas Day. On January 6th we begin the season of Epiphany, which focuses on how Jesus reveals the glory of the Father through his life, miracles, and teachings. Then, beginning on Ash Wednesday, we observe the 40-day Lenten season focused on Jesus’ decisive move toward his death on the cross. Good Friday then gives way to Easter Sunday, which kicks off a 50-day celebration of Jesus’ victory over death when he rose from the grave. After those 50 days, we celebrate the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to pour out his Spirit on his disciples on Pentecost Sunday, which ends our observance of the Christian calendar and brings us into Ordinary Time (also known as the Season of Pentecost) until the next Advent begins.

    As we mentioned on Sunday, Advent is not just a way of extending our celebration of Christmas earlier. There will be a time to celebrate our Lord’s being made flesh and coming into our world, but this is a season to cultivate longing for our Lord to come, just as the people of God in the Old Testament longed for the coming of their Messiah. It is a season in which we allow ourselves to feel tensions we might normally feel inclined to ignore or gloss over. Things are not the way they are supposed to be, and only One can make all things right and all things new. He is coming again to do just that, and the scriptures call us to wait for and hasten that day.

    Fredric Sims composed a poem, entitled “Waiting,” to help us cultivate this longing, and he performed it in Midtown this past Sunday.

    You can listen to his poem here:

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    So…
    When is it going to happen?
    That’s my question every time uncertainty
    speaks too loudly in my normal.
    When mundane’s twang tastes too bitter on my tongue, I mean…
    Come on, I had expectations.
    Things should be settling in by now.
    I’ve mapped out my path of life using friends, family, and my precious assumptions so…
    It’s time,
    Isn’t it?
    Hasn’t my heart craved the next stage of life?
    Finally see desires fulfilled.
    I feel like a giant cup wanting to be
    filled to the point that
    I runneth over at last
    having the joy of…
    Someone holding my hand, a lover.
    Or what I hold in my hand, a child.
    Or a title, achievement.
    A dream job with a financial security blanket that I can curl myself in at night,
    Making my worries fly away like they never had a home in my soul.
    But all I have is…

    Soon.
    Not yet.
    Perhaps.
    Someday.

    Honestly…
    I’m afraid.
    The future feels like a scary movie
    I’ve taken the wrong turn onto the back road leading to a place where
    Fear will have its way with me,
    Making nightmares a reality
    And joy just a fairytale,
    Something read, but never real.
    It, living in my fantasies
    But dead, in reality.
    A suffocating sadness
    Leaving only one whisper.
    “This is forever, stagnant”.
    There are so many desires
    Planted in the field of my heart—
    I, standing still,
    Hoping to see them blossom in season.
    But I never seem to
    Leave the season of waiting.

    Waiting for these things to bring
    Completion.
    The coming of the final dawn, breathless.
    Beauty so amazing, speechless.
    Glory so expansive, greatness.
    Joy so consuming, endless.
    The ceasing of every pain
    The end of wanting
    The beginning of gain.

    So when is it going to happen?
    That’s my question.
    When is its arrival?
    It must be at the return of the Owner.
    The one who can make
    The tree limbs bend
    And the wind kiss its ruffled brow.
    Make mountains bow and
    Hurricanes tremble at his voice.
    What I’m waiting for…
    Is Jesus,
    The essence of eternal life,
    For he himself is the future.
    A future worth waiting for.
    Living for. Dying for.
    Something better.
    He is better.
    So let me rest and wait,
    For a greater treasure.