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Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. King by Responding to His Exhortation

Today is a national celebration of the life, work, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For many people, today is just another day off, but let me encourage you to engage today prayerfully reflecting on the life of a man whose prophetic voice and presence still echo almost 50 years after his assassination.

LETTER FROM A BIRMINGHAM JAIL

Each year as I commemorate this holiday, I go back to reread Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” I will do so later today and I invite you to do the same.

King’s letter, written in April 1963, is a response to a letter from white clergymen in Birmingham urging him to slow down, calling the civil rights demonstrations there “unwise and untimely.”

In King’s letter, he expresses that he longed to see white Christians calling for justice as loudly as people of color (many of whom were brothers and sisters in Christ, and all of whom are created in the image of God, with inherent dignity and worth, and therefore, deserving of righteousness and justice in their relationships with their fellow man).

King says (in part):

“In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevances and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of the mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, “Those are social issues with which the gospel has no concern.”


“The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanctions of things as they are.”

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE FOR US TO RESPOND?

Sadly, the critique within this letter has a haunting timelessness and timeliness for the church in a world that still wonders what the church has to say to issues of racial injustice, and the fruits of racial injustice that have had broad sweeping effects.

As a predominantly white church in the middle of a city that has a history of racial injustice, with whole sections of our city still reeling from the effects of the racialization in our city, we cannot be silent. We cannot stand on the sideline. We cannot be content with pious irrelevancies. As a church committed to seeing the gospel of the kingdom advance, we have to live in light of Jesus’ proclamation of his own mission and align ourselves accordingly:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

For us to flesh out our mission “to cultivate communities of transformed disciples who live for the glory of God and the good of the city” we have to be a people who are prompted by the word of God to live as agents of reconciliation and renewal, bearing fruit of the kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim and inaugurate.

Let me encourage you to read Dr. King’s letter today. Pray with me that God gives us eyes to see where and how he is inviting you individually, and our church family corporately to step toward the healing of racial injustice, as well as the long-standing effects of racial injustice in our city. Let’s commit together not just to let these thoughts affect our thinking today, but shape how we live out the mission that God has called us to for decades to come.

I love all of you and am honored to serve with you as we seek to advance the gospel of the kingdom together in our city.

All Morning Services Cancelled

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UPDATE: All Redeemer Midtown evening services are still on! If you can make it safely, we would love to worship Jesus with you!

Redeemer Family—

Due to inclement weather headed into our area overnight, all Redeemer morning services are cancelled for Sunday, January 15, 2017. This includes both Redeemer Midtown and Redeemer Johnson County.

While it’s uncertain how significantly the ice storm will affect the Kansas City area, we do know that every week, hundreds of volunteers travel from across the metro to help host our services, and we hope that canceling our morning services will allow everyone, attenders and volunteers alike, to enjoy a safe morning at home with their friends and families!

As of now, Redeemer Midtown’s 5 & 7 pm services are scheduled to continue. We will evaluate the situation and communicate any evening cancellations by mid-day tomorrow!

Best,

Andy Bean
Director of Operations & Communication

Introducing Advent 2016

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There is a common image in the Downing home when we are having someone over for dinner. The image itself is predicated by the act of preparation—getting the house ready, cooking a meal, and setting the table. But after the preparations are done, there is only one thing left to do.

We wait.

For the three Downing children, this waiting often becomes three faces pressed against the glass of our large front window that looks out on the road. This is the image that comes to my mind when I think of expectation—of the necessary preparations and the anticipation of waiting.

I can’t help but think of Advent in such a way. The word Advent itself comes from the Latin word meaning “arrival”. Throughout most of church history, the season of Advent marks the beginning of the church’s calendar. It is a season when we look at the “arrival” of the Word made flesh, as he came to us cloaked in humility and lowliness—born of a virgin in obscurity, in a stable in Bethlehem. It is also a season when we remember that this lowly child was God’s Messiah—the one through whom he would fulfill his purpose of salvation and restoration in all the world.

Yet, we also remember in this season that our world has not yet experienced the fullness of his saving grace. We see the brokenness and hurt of our world, the injustice and darkness that continue to prevail—and we look toward the day when he will again “arrive” to our world. Not as a lowly child, born in obscurity, but as the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords who will once and for all eradicate darkness from this world. This is what we train our hearts to expect at Advent.

But expectation is not passive.

Expectation demands preparation, and it also produces waiting. Like my sons, with faces pressed against the glass, we show that true waiting is not passive boredom, but rather an active anticipation. We await the arrival of our Lord leaned forward, preparing, and full of excited longing.

This Advent season we will intentionally train our hearts to look for and love the day of Christ’s coming in our services. We will do this by looking back to how God promised to send a Savior to bring restoration to the world, and by looking forward to the coming day when he will restore all things.

Whatever you choose to do this season, take the time to intentionally prepare and wait. Celebrate that God has fulfilled his promises in Christ Jesus, lament the darkness we still experience in this world, and take heart in the promise of Christ’s second arrival that is our blessed hope. Ask God to fill your heart with rapt expectation and longing—that we might look for and live in light of his coming.

Until he comes,

Ron

Church Planting Sunday 2016

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Since day one of Redeemer Fellowship we have shared a commitment to Church Planting. As a church plant ourselves, we’re committed to seeing communities of believers raised up all over the globe who work to see God glorified and their cities become better places to be.

There are several expressions of this commitment we want to highlight today.

First, 10% of our annual budget is allocated for church planting and kingdom partnerships. This year, that’s $350,000!

Fellowship Associates

One primary partnership is with 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.

Each year, we give money to Fellowship Associates, as well as host their group of residents three times in Kansas City for training and development.

In addition, we have growing networks of church planters from around the country that we are partnering with. This Sunday, our church will have the opportunity to hear from three of them. At both Redeemer JOCO and Redeemer Midtown, we will welcome church planters who will preach across all our services.

2016 PARTNERSHIPS

Here is a list of church planters and churches we are partnering with this year. Take a moment to get to know these guys, pray for them, and consider ways you can support them. Maybe you know someone in their city, or maybe God is calling you to pack bags and move to help support one of these churches!

  • Thomas Anderson | DC Metro Area | Email Thomas
  • Drew Cline | Little Rock, AR | Email Drew
  • Brad Edwards | The Table Church | Boulder, CO | Email Brad
  • Rechab Gray | Epiphany Fellowship | Philadelphia, PA | Email Rechab
  • Daniel Hood | Hill City Church | Springfield, MO | Email Daniel
  • Watson Jones | Restoration Church | Philadelphia, PA | Email Watson
  • Rob Maine | Renaissance Church | Pittsburgh, PA | Email Rob
  • Joe Marino | The Well | Hastings, NE | Email Joe
  • Samuel Oricco | Xalapa, Mexico | Email Samuel
  • Bryan Padgett | Redeemer Church | Stillwater, OK | Email Bryan
  • Clint Patronella | Seven Mile Road Church | Boston, MA | Email Clint
  • Chris Poblete | Los Angeles, CA | Email Chris
  • Derrick Puckett | Renewal Church of Chicago | Chicago, IL | Email Derrick
  • Trent Senske | Minneapolis, MN | Email Trent
  • Charles Shannon | Norfolk, VA | Email Charles
  • Introducing Our New Gallery Show

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    As we step into our series in the book of Psalms on Feelings, I wanted to make you aware of a supplementary way our church will be engaging these eight Psalms and the emotions in them. Starting this Sunday with HURT, Redeemer Midtown will be displaying paintings by local artist Kelly Kruse in the Gallery.

    Each week there will be a set of two paintings on display that seek to grapple with the Psalm itself and the nature of the emotion we are looking at that week. Our hope is to display all sixteen of the paintings together for several months after the end of the Feelings series throughout our gallery spaces at Redeemer.

    Each set of paintings has a “dark” and a “light” image—and is an attempt to grapple with the idea of how we respond to our emotions either in sin or as invitations to experience the redemptive power of Jesus. It is my hope that these paintings will provide another way for us to engage in this series, and that these representations would actually bring us into deeper places of grappling with our emotions in the midst of our fallen world, groaning in hope as we await the full redemption of all things in Christ Jesus.

    More than just making you aware of the pieces, and what is going on the next eight weeks, I wanted to offer a few suggestions of how to engage this material.

  • Take some time to take them in. Sometimes it is easy to pass by the pieces in our gallery, but I would invite you to take some time to intentionally stop and look at these pieces. There is an intentional corollary between the paintings and the Psalms/feelings we will be looking at in our service, so it may even prepare and engage your mind and heart as you enter worship on Sunday.
  • Don’t necessarily try to “figure them out”. Kelly paints in an abstract manner intentionally in a way that works well with a series on feelings. Her presupposition is that some things cannot be communicated only on concrete levels, and therefore must be communicated in abstract (or visceral) means. Spend some time thinking not “what do these mean”, but “how am I experiencing these”.
  • Return to the paintings after the service. It may be a profound practice to go and look at the paintings again once you have sat through our worship gathering—after you have sung, prayed, and heard from God’s word—to re-engage these paintings. You may be surprised at how you engage them differently.
  • I am praying that God would use these eight weeks to profoundly impact our lives, and that using different mediums in our Sunday gatherings would facilitate spaces for us to experience God’s truth, and become more fully alive before him.

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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.