Names On Empty Chairs

So we’ve gone to two gatherings and now there are a few more empty seats around us on Sundays.  That’s a good thing.  We knew that would happen and that’s why we multiplied to two gatherings.  We wanted to make room for more people to hear and respond to the gospel, to be in community, and to join us on mission to our city.  But it may take some time and it will definitely take our prayers and our willingness to love and engage people with the gospel.

Those empty chairs represent people.  They represent friends and co-workers and neighbors that we love and who need to meet Jesus.  Those chairs have names on them.  I don’t mean we’re going to sell them and let people put their names on them.  I mean that each empty chair represents a name that we are praying for as a body.  Each chair represents a person we are seeking to share Jesus with.  They represent our call to be a gospel-community on mission.

We are a missional church which means that it is our conviction that every Christian is a missionary.  In fact, it is my conviction that there is no such thing as a Christian who is not a missionary. And we believe that Jesus has brought us all to Bloomington for such a time as this.  I love this city!  I love the culture, the diversity, the beauty.  But I want to see my city redeemed.

In Jeremiah 29 God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah to his people in exile in Babylon, a big, bad, wicked city full of sin.  But God doesn’t tell his people to hide out or form some Christian sub-culture, but rather to move in to the city, sink in roots and seek the welfare of the city.  God desires for his people to seek the best for their city, to seek it’s renewal and redemption.

As Christians, we are God’s people living in exile in this world, but Jesus’ desire isn’t that we form our little Christian-subcultures hiding out from the big, bad, sinful city, but rather Jesus calls us to move in, sink our roots, and seek our city’s renewal and redemption through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This isn’t the work of pastors and church staffs.  It’s the work of every Christian, the work of the church as a community.  1 Peter 2:9-10 says: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

As the church, as a community, as God’s people, we have been called to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into marvelous light.  We’ve been shown mercy that we might bring His mercy to our city.  We’ve been made ambassadors, missionaries of Jesus Christ.  I pray that as we see those empty chairs on Sunday we would see names, we would see the faces of friends, neighbors, co-workers, the people that you meet everyday that need to encounter the saving grace of Jesus.

Let’s keep praying for our city, praying for renewal and redemption.  Jesus has brought you here for such a time as this.  You don’t work in that office, go to that class, live in that neighborhood/apartment/dorm for no reason at all.  You’ve been sent on mission with the gospel, not some time later down the road, but right now.  So what are you waiting for?  Who are you praying for?  Who are you seeking to love and serve and share the good news of the gospel with?  Let’s pray by God’s grace and for His glory that He would use us together to fill those empty chairs with new believers in Christ.

How I Want To Live (Guest Post by Krystal Jones)

This week my lovely bride Krystal is sharing some things she has been learning and wrestling with lately.  This is great stuff that I encourage you to read.  My wife is brilliant!  Yes, I’m biased but I think you’ll find it to be true as well.  Enjoy…

I read this yesterday and have to share it, along with a few things The Lord has been teaching me lately.  This comes from a new favorite read, “Glimpses of Grace” by Gloria Furman. “It is quite easy to allow the gospel to become overshadowed by our own efforts to grow spiritually. Spiritual disciplines serve as gateways to cherishing the gospel, not as substitutes for the gospel. D.A. Carson warns us against attempting to live Christianity but regulating the cross to mere insurance against the fires of hell: “First, if the gospel becomes that by which we slip into the kingdom, but all the business of transformation turns on postgospel disciplines and strategies, then we shall constantly be directing the attention of people away from the gospel, away from the cross and resurrection. Soon the gospel will be something that we quietly assume is necessary for salvation, but not what we are excited about, not what we are preaching, not the power of God.” Assuming the gospel but relying on what Carson call “postgospel disciplines” for life change is like giving the evil serpent back it’s teeth. If resisting sin and temptation is up to your own power and discipline, your potential to overcome sin is only as powerful as your own righteousness.

Wow.  That was hard for me to swallow.  It is so easy to get caught up in the postgospel disciplines. When I first met Jesus, I was such a mess.  I was very quick to own my sin and understand my need for a savior. When my heart softened to the gospel for the first time, I was completely aware of how messed up I was and that I could not save myself.  What a beautiful, glorious day!!

However, quickly I let myself become indoctrinated with this idea of postgospel disciplines. For years I sat underneath this type of teaching.  I would walk away from every sermon and book I read with several practical things that “I” needed to do to grow in my walk with The Lord. Even my language bred this. At Redeemer we talk so much about preaching the gospel to ourselves. We all preach something to ourselves.  For years, I preached to myself a lot of crap. I told myself that, “I needed to try harder, work harder, read more, love better, sin less, respect my husband more, get up earlier, stay up later, sell all my possessions, and maybe just that I am doing the best I can.”  In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” What was I preaching to myself?! Postgospel disciplines.  Rubbish! When I first met Jesus I knew that I could not save myself on my own, but I quickly changed my mind as a Christian.  I bought into preaching and teaching that led me to try to fix myself.  I can’t!! Only Christ can fix and redeem me.

As I grow in Christ I am finding that I want to live between two bookends. I want to live between the already and the what is to come. The already is that Christ came, lived a perfect life that I can not live, and died in my place.  He then rose again and credited me his righteousness.  So now, when the Father God looks at me, He sees me blameless and ready for my crown of glory.  Praise be to Jesus! The what is to come, well, that takes my breath away.  He is coming to make the sad things come untrue.  He is coming to make me new!!!!! I can not do it on my own. No matter how hard I try, which rules I follow, how much I read my bible…without the finished work of Christ on the cross and his triumphant return I do not stand a chance!!! The best I can is not enough… When I add myself to the equation, it negates the gospel.  Postgospel disciplines don’t work, only the blood of Christ is enough to cover me.

My hope in writing this is that you will be encouraged.  Instead of beating your head against a wall, like I did for so many years, that you will embrace that what Christ did on the cross is enough!!! Let that be how we live our lives.  There is no formula for living this way. As Tim Keller puts it, the gospel is the A-Z of our salvation. It starts with repenting and putting your faith in Christ and it continues with repenting and putting your faith in Christ!!! Yes, I did repeat myself. Believing the gospel is a daily thing. We are so prone to wander and forget the finished work of Christ. Then we begin to try to fix ourselves.  How silly and prideful are we. It is only through the gospel that transformation happens in our lives.  If I am closer to The Lord today, it is only because I have repented daily of trying to fix myself and fixed my gaze on the good news that Christ has done the work for me. The gospel is not how “we slip into the kingdom” but how we live our lives. We live in light of what Christ has already done! And let that be what leads people to the cross as they see that we don’t have it all together, but we rely on Christ who was, is, and is to come!!!

Redeeming Lent

This week marked the beginning of Lent.  Lent is the 40-day season leading up to Easter.  Lent counts back from Easter 40 days (excluding Sundays) which begins then on the Wednesday 7 weeks before Easter (Ash Wednesday).  Lent lasts for 40 days to symbolize the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting before Satan tempted him (Matt. 4:2).

Lent is something that I believe is often misunderstood.  Lent is often a time of fasting–going without chocolate, alcohol, social media, posting “selfies”, or whatever for the purpose of devoting that time to focus on the cross, pray, and seek to be a blessing to others.  But what happens for a lot of us is that it simply becomes “a time to go without the stuff I like.”  And we fail to really fill the void with a prolonged look at the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  We instead just go without stuff to go without stuff.  For others, and this is probably more true of those from an evangelical background, we just ignore Lent altogether and poke fun at “Catholic practices” and tell everyone we’re “giving up Lent for Lent.”  I know because I’ve been that guy.  But I think both sides are missing something here.

Lent kicked off this week with Ash Wednesday.  Ash Wednesday is a time to reflect on our mortality because of our sin.  We reflect on the words of Genesis 3:19- “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” symbolized by the ashes put on foreheads in the shape of the cross.  Ash Wednesday reminds us that death comes for all born under the curse of sin and it lays the foundation for the hope of Easter Sunday to resound all the more loudly and powerfully.

This is why I hope to next year begin celebrating Ash Wednesday together as a church.  In our culture that ignores death, we need to all the more let it stare us in the face that the power of Jesus’ cross and empty tomb might all the more transform us here and now.  Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent gives us the opportunity to reflect on the reality of our sin and death.  It enables us yet another opportunity to renew our commitment to daily repentance and faith.  And most importantly it gives us the opportunity to remember that Christ has conquered sin and death and that our only hope for life beyond the grave is in this victory He’s achieved for us.

So whatever your history, I encourage you to allow the gospel to shape this season of Lent.  As we move toward Easter Sunday, take some time to reflect on the truth that “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Reflect on your mortality and see that death is unnatural–this is not how things were meant to be.  Death comes as a result of sin.  See also that death is universal–that death comes for all born under the curse of sin.  But look ahead to Easter Sunday and see that death will be undone–Jesus Christ has died for sin and He is risen!  On the cross Jesus conquered Satan, sin and death and the curse was broken.

And so we now live in a tension.  Jesus has defeated Satan, sin and death and so they have no final authority over those who put their faith in Christ.  And yet we still live in the midst of sin and death.  We still sin and we still die.  But we long for and look forward to a day when Christ will return and bring a final end to their temporary reign.  The season of Lent reminds us of this tension and reminds us of the glorious hope.  That one day Jesus is coming again and sin and death will be no more and we will live in the reality of the words of 1 Corinthians 15:54-55:

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”


How will the gospel shape this season of Lent for you?

What might Jesus be calling you to do during this season to be reminded of your weakness and your dependance on Him?

Why is it important to think on death and the reality that “it was my sin that held him there” (it was my sin that held Christ on the cross)?

How can the cross and resurrection, the hope of life eternal, become all the more meaningful and transformational for you this year?

A Church For Those Who Aren’t Here Yet

Redeemer is a gospel-centered community on mission.  Another way of saying it is that we are a church that exists for those who aren’t here yet.  This church isn’t about us; it’s about Jesus and His mission.  It’s all about the people He has placed in our lives to share the good news with.  It’s all about the people He is going to rescue and renew in saving faith.

This is a very important distinction to understand.  So much of the church and Christianity in our Western, consumeristic culture has been turned inward to be all about “my wants” and “my needs”.  So we approach churches as “shoppers” looking for the church that best meets my desires and expectations, that feeds me, that has the best and biggest programs for me and my family. But as we look into God’s Word that isn’t the same image of the church we see.  As the church grows and expands throughout the book of Acts we see a church that exists for those who aren’t there yet.  And that church is marked by love, service and sacrifice.  It’s marked by a gospel-centered humility that truly puts others before self.  This led that church to sell their possessions to care for any that were in need.  And it led them to always be looking to those around them, praying for neighbors and co-workers, loving and serving them, and sharing the gospel (the Good News of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection!  They were a truly missional church.

That’s the kind of church we want to be.  We want to always exist for those who aren’t here yet.  We want to be a church that gathers on Sundays always ready to serve and welcome newcomers to worship with us.  We want to be a church that scatters throughout the week with intentionality to take the gospel to the city, to our neighborhoods, to our workplaces, to our apartments, dorms and classrooms.

This isn’t the work of just a few of us.  This isn’t work reserved for pastors or deacons.  This isn’t work reserved for community group leaders.  This is the work of the entire body, every believer in Christ!  We all have a part to play if we are to be a church that truly exists for those who aren’t here yet.

What’s your part?  What are your gifts and passions?  How can you serve others?  Who has Jesus put in your life to pray for?  Who do you need to share the gospel with?  How can you serve with your church?

Launch Day Approaching…How You Can Help

Redeemer is launching on September 9!!  We’ve been gathering since January building and preparing for this day and it’s almost here!  Here’s how you can help:

1. Help us get the word out- Follow @RedeemerBtown on twitter and tweet us up!  Like us on Facebook ( and talk us up there!  Invite your friends to come and worship with us.  Take some fliers and post them at your favorite coffee shop, around campus, downtown, etc.

2. Help us get ready- We’ve got some chairs that need to be worked on and painted.  We’ve got some gear to get together.  We’ll need some extra help likely setting up and tearing down on that day.  We need to get some signs made.  Contact us at if you have some time in the next week to help in any way.

3. Help us acquire what we need- We’ve been blessed with some very generous donations of funds and gear, but we still have a few needs: We need to get a wireless mic, a snake for our sound gear, and a bunch of cables and connectors, among other things.  Contact if you’d like to help us out.

4. Pray for God to move in and through our community- Pray that people would meet Jesus and come to saving faith in Him!  Pray that Jesus would be made famous in our church and in our city!

5. Join us on 9/9- Come and worship with us on our launch day and join our community on mission to Bloomington!

Church Planting in Bloomington

Since October, 2011 I have begun planting Redeemer Community Church, a new church in Bloomington, IN.  Over the last several months we have been gathering as a launch team, growing a community of people with a shared gospel DNA and passion for the city of Bloomington.  I have been so encouraged by the people Jesus has brought together as we begin this journey of church planting.

It has been so clear from the get-go that church planting is so beyond me and my abilities and this has led to an ever-growing trust in Jesus.  After all, He is the one who builds the church.  He is the one who rescues and redeems.  Only Jesus can transform hearts and lives and bring a diverse group of personalities and talents together and create a new family out of it.  I’m so thankful that church planting is something that I can’t just make happen on my own.  If I could, I would only screw it up.

This blog will follow us on our journey of planting Redeemer.  I’ll write about what God is doing and what He is teaching me in this journey.  I’ll talk about how much I love Bloomington and some of my favorite things about this city.  I pray that I’ll get to share many stories of rescue and redemption and that it will all be for God’s glory.