A vision for a new church is not an invention or primarily about human creativity. We are not free to create a church in any way we choose. Our task is much more glorious than that. Our church has been in the mind of the Lord since before we were born. Its purpose has been declared in his Word and we are called—exhilarated and sobered—to work under His direction and for His glory. So, what mission have we received from the Lord? What are His blueprints for our church?
The Mission of Redemption Hill Church
Under the Authority of God’s Word, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Redemption Hill Church will be a gospel-centered church that worships God, loves one another, and proclaims the gospel to the world.
Let’s consider that calling one phrase at a time.
1. Under the Authority of God’s Word
(Genesis 1:3-30, Exodus 20:1-17, Psalm 19, Psalm 119, John 1:1, John 6:68, 2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Pet. 1:21, Heb. 4:12)
We want to be a church that actively and intentionally emphasizes the life-giving authority of God’ Word. Our beliefs and practices will be grounded in Scripture and our heartbeat will be to read, hear, and proclaim Biblical truth. Practically, this means that our Sunday meetings, small group meetings, pastoral care, and private devotions should be grounded in the Bible. We will not avoid proclaiming the whole counsel of God, centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. The highlight of our Sunday meeting will be the preaching of God’s Word and our normal Sunday diet will be to preach straight through books of the Bible, taking one section of Scripture at a time and explaining and applying its meaning to our lives. Our small group discussions and interpersonal care and counseling will be about sharing the truths of Scripture with one another and allowing its life giving nourishment to refresh our souls and direct us toward righteousness. We want our church to be passionate about God’s Word!
2. By the Power of the Spirit
(Ex. 33:16, Psalm 51:11, Zech. 4:6, Mark 1:8, Acts 1:8, Rom. 8:15, 1 Cor. 2:12, 1 Cor. 12:1-11, Galatians 5:22-23, Eph. 5:18)
We want to be a church that is desperately and confidently dependant on the power of the Holy Spirit for all that we do. Christians, and churches, are not intended by the Lord to be self-sufficient. We will delight in his promises of Spiritual strength to carry us onward in the calling he has given us. Practically, this means that our Sunday gatherings will delight in and respond to the reality of God’s promised presence in our midst. We do not worship a distant God or merely recite truths to one another out of God’s earshot. We encounter a God who is living and active and among his people, enlivening their praises and empowering them to serve Him and one another. We believe in the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in spiritual gifts, to be used under the authority of God’s Word for the edification of his church. This conviction about God’s Spirit also means that we will be a church of prayer—dedicating ourselves in private and in public to ongoing prayer as a declaration of our need for God’s presence within us and among us.
3. A Gospel-Centered Church
(Gen 3:15, Isaiah 53, Psalm 110, Luke 24:27, John 1:14-18, Romans 1:18, Romans 3:21-26, 1 Corinthians 2:2, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Ephesians 1:3-14, Revelation 5)
If I could only pick one of these phrases to share with someone about the vision of our church, it would be this one. All of these other priorities are vitally important, but there is a reason that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the center of our mission. We believe that the good news of Jesus life, death, and resurrection is the center of the Bible’s message and should be the priority in our church’s identity. The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived a perfect life and died in our place to save us from God’s judgment and unite us to himself for eternity. To ‘center’ our church on the gospel means that all of our Sunday preaching will consistently highlight the centrality of Jesus’ person and work, that our teaching will celebrate the amazing grace of God in salvation through Christ, that our counseling will direct people to the promises we have in Christ Jesus for hope and for growth in godliness, that our outreach will prioritize telling our neighbors about the offer of salvation in Jesus, and that our community will find its model and strength through our union to our crucified and risen Savior. To center on the gospel means that we reject the popular cultural idea of universalism, in which all beliefs and ways of life are equally acceptable to God. The gospel requires that we proclaim the Biblical truth of the holiness of God and his just condemnation of sin, and present faith in Jesus as our only hope. To center on the gospel also means that we are not centered on other very worthwhile elements in our church life, such as outreach, or community, or study groups, or passionate worship, or social impact, or family discipleship. All of these aims are good and Biblical and should be a part of our mission, but none of them can displace the gospel in the center. The gospel must be the center that defines and fuels all the other aspects of our calling. Finding our center in Jesus Christ means, finally, that all of our lives have been purchased for his glory and that as blood-bought saints we will run our race and build his church for his glory, keeping Him as our cornerstone.
4. A Church that…Worships God
(Exodus 20:1-6, Psalm 1, Psalm 16, Psalm 63, Jeremiah 9:23-24, Matthew 22:37, Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Philippians 3:8, 1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 5)
I love how Augustine begins his famous Confessions. “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you.” To be grounded in God’s Word, empowered by God’s Spirit and centered on God’s gospel is to have this as our glorious goal—to live passionately for the glory of God, ever growing in our relationship with God and reflecting his righteousness in our lives. We want to be a church that does not assume this vertical dimension of our calling, this most important mission. As Jesus said, our calling is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37). Or as Paul said we “count all as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:8). Practically, this means that our Sunday gathering will always prioritize worshiping the Lord in songs that describe who God is and what He has done in salvation and that express a heart of awe, affection, and gratefulness toward Him. And since all of our lives are intended to be offered as worship to the Lord, our sermons will have an aim toward real growth in our knowledge of God and real transformation of our character into the image of our Savior. To be a church that worships God also means that each of us will seek to prioritize our relationship with God in private worship and that our small group meetings will seek to encourage us onward in our growth in godliness. We will seek to live up to our spiritual ancestors who said that the chief end of man is “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
5. A Church that…Loves One Another
(John 13:1-35, Acts 2:42-47, Romans 12:3-10, 1 Corinthians 12-13, Ephesians 4:1-16Colossians 3:5-17)
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) The church is not a building but a body of people, gathered together by Jesus to care for one another and to partner together in worshiping God and sharing the gospel with the world. Our community life is not an optional extra but a fundamental part of our mission together. We are called, first to God, and then, to one another. To be a member of our church is to commit to integrating one’s life with the other members, encouraging one another by the Word, serving one another practically, giving generously to one another, showing hospitality to one another, confessing our sin to one another, exhorting one another toward godliness, guarding the integrity of the church’s witness, and most importantly, celebrating the grace of God at work in our lives. A primary vehicle for this loving community involvement will be our small group structure, designed to focus our efforts of care and fellowship on a particular group of people in the church. These small groups will seek to create a vibrant, genuine, hospitable atmosphere of care and affection in which we have no anonymous members and every member feels the responsibility to care for and serve others. We also want to be a church that guards our speech in love for one another, that commits to reconciling and forgiving each other when we sin and fail one another, and that expresses patience and kindness in the face of our weakness. In short, we want to reflect the love that Jesus has shown us toward one another.
6. A Church that… Proclaims the Gospel to the World
(Matthew 28:16-20, Acts 1:8, Romans 1:8, Romans 10:14-15, 1 Timothy 2:4, John 3:16)
“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Our calling as individuals and as a church is to bear witness to the salvation of Jesus Christ and to the certainty of his return in judgment at the end of the age. We represent a kingdom that is not of this world, calling people to turn away from the idolatries of this age to the eternal life offered in Christ. We do not exist only to worship God in private or to love our fellow church members—we are called to the mission of sharing the gospel with our neighbors, our co-workers, our family, our friends, the city of Greater Austin, the region of Central Texas, and the ultimately to the nations. Practically, this means that we will pursue consistent relationships with unbelievers for the purpose of loving them and sharing the gospel with them. We will seek to encourage and equip one another through regular reminders and teaching about our evangelistic task. Our church meetings will regularly include invitations to unbelievers to repent and believe in the gospel of Christ. And because we want to invest ourselves in a mission that goes beyond our immediate locale, we will seek to partner with our sister churches in Texas and around the world, investing ourselves in new church plants and encouraging fellow believes and churches in our shared mission around the world. I pray that the history of our church will include countless conversions, numerous church plants, and regular highlights of sacrificial service to fellow churches as we fulfill our calling as witness of Jesus.
Our Vision, Our Expectations, and Our Hope
There are the blueprints that we believe faithfully represent God’s Word and the Biblical calling of our local church. But a vision is not a reality. We find ourselves back on the ground, away from our visions of a glorious future, and staring at an empty field again. Having a vision is not the same thing as having a reality. The church described above is what we are seeking to build, praying to build, but one that currently does not exist at all, and will never exist in perfection. All of these values, at one point or another, will be weak and unstable in our church, despite our best efforts. As individuals, and as a community, we will regularly fail to build these foundations into each moment and each ministry. A calling to a church plant is not a calling to experience all of these values in constructed perfection, but a calling to invest ourselves and to endure years of imperfections so that others may benefit from our labors. No church is ever perfect, but each church will see genuine growth as it progresses under the Sovereign, loving direction of the Lord. He is the master builder. He will preserve us in our weaknesses, direct us in our confusion, forgives us in our failures, and love us because of His grace each day of the journey. He will build his church and our hope rests, finally, gloriously, in Him.