A Church Not for Ourselves

When Redeemer was started in 1989, the most common refrain was, “We don’t want to have a church for ourselves, but for people who don’t like church.” More than 20 years later, that is still the motivation behind everything we do. Although we worship using the resources of orthodox, Presbyterian tradition (rather than choosing the music or worship style that suits the leadership or the majority), we always try to keep our eyes on what would most help include the skeptical New Yorker who is trying out church for the first time.

Take a moment to watch this video that shares a bit how those in our congregation are processing this value and learning how to be for another.

Not for Ourselves

We always try to keep our eyes on what would most help include the skeptical New Yorker who is trying out church for the first time.

“Not for Ourselves” Means at Least 4 Things

  1. We design our programs, our communications and our priorities around the needs of our New York friends who need to hear the gospel, not around ourselves and what would make us happy or comfortable.
  2. We give time and money in service to our neighbors and our city, helping those in need before and instead of serving ourselves.
  3. Within the community, we put the needs of others before our own, considering the health of the Body as a whole rather than just our own tribe (of parents or singles or young or old or white or Asian or anything).
  4. We come to church not as consumers, but in order to be equipped through worship and training to serve others.

Over the years of Redeemer these priorities have not changed, and those who are committed to Redeemer continue to make the many sacrifices this principal leads us to. Reminding ourselves over and over of what it means to be a church for outsiders is hard work. It involves avoiding easy solutions and comfortable choices. Sometimes it means sacrificing dearly held preferences. And it always means seeing and hearing through the eyes and ears of New Yorkers who don't identify as Christian, rather than simply following one’s inclinations.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a big enough idea to try to get your mind around; we don’t want to add the additional burden of insider language, tasteless music or impenetrable rituals. We try to explain what we’re about to do throughout the service and to always bring what we say and do back to Jesus. After all, unless you have come to accept that Jesus is who he says he is — God himself come to restore and reclaim his broken people — then why should you care about Christian opinions about this or that secondary issue?

To bring the gospel to more of the city, we have been rolling out an audacious plan to get smaller. Redeemer has never sought to be a megachurch, based wholly on the preaching and teaching of one pastor. Instead we want to grow into a whole movement of neighborhood based churches and ministries who love and serve the whole city. In May of 2017, our one large church officially became three smaller, neighborhood-based churches on the East Side, the West Side and Downtown. Each of these churches has its own senior pastor, officers and leaders. As venues and leaders become available, we are adding even more local worship sites, and on Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017, the West Side launched a new worship site — Redeemer Lincoln Square. In 2018 Redeemer East Side and Redeemer Downtown plan to launch new worship sites as well.

We have been rolling out an audacious plan to get smaller.

The founder of Redeemer, Tim Keller, while no longer our Senior Pastor, continues to work in partnership with the Redeemer family of churches and ministries as a trainer of pastors and leaders at Redeemer City to City. As we work together to fulfill our vision to renew New York City, our philosophy of ministry places the emphasis on the unique good news of the gospel, rather than on raising the profile of individual ministers or trendy programs.

Our Diaconate serves the congregation by taking a case-by-case approach to the practical needs of those who attend. Hope for New York, Redeemer’s mercy and justice arm, funnels congregational volunteers and financial aid to 50 New York charitable organizations. The Center for Faith & Work has developed vocation-based groups for artists, educators, financial service professionals, medical personnel and many others.

All of this can be seen as the visible outworking of a commitment to the gospel.

If you would like to learn more about Redeemer's history, click here.