Not about a bigger barn

And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” (Luke 12:19 ESV)

It’s an exciting time for us at Redeemer Church! God has been gracious to us in so many different ways: every week we’re meeting new people, new leaders and ministry directors are stepping up to serve in our church; our first membership cohort is nearly finished; we celebrated baptism in our church; I’ve recently moved to 3 days dedicated work for our church; and we are working on a new building.

Investing our time, talent and treasure into creating a new space is a big deal for our church. It’s a huge task and takes a lot of time to plan, build and meet the compliance requirements for a church in the CBD. Our people chip in with their building, design, cleaning, sweeping, baking, demolition skills to help make it all happen. This is also by far the biggest investment of finances we have ever done as a church. A question that has popped up along the way has been, “is it worth investing in a building like this?”, so I wanted to post about what this means for us and what we feel the Spirit is leading us in.

  1. It’s not about building a bigger barn. As Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem along the way he performs miracles, teaches his disciples and preaches to crowds of people. At one point a huge crowd is gathered and Jesus teaches about not to waste your life and forfeit your soul on gaining comfort in this life. Jesus uses the image of having a bigger barn to put more comforts in only for it to mean nothing. Our new building isn’t about making more comforts. If you know a little bit about Redeemer, things are pretty rugged with us, we’ve had patchy carpets, antique heating, funky green paint, and sore seats. You’d also know we have run out of room so what we are doing is making room: making room for more people to worship Jesus; making room for more people to hear God’s life giving Word; making room for more kids to grow in their faith; making room for people to encourage, equip and edify one another.
  2. It’s about being rich towards God. We want to invest in things that serve to advance the kingdom of God in the city of Tauranga and throughout the Bay of Plenty region. We don’t see Second Ave being a passive ‘barn’ but an active hub where we gather regularly for worship; run training events and conferences; spaces in which we can host creatives and the arts; a place to support those in need in our city centre.
  3. It’s not about short term needs. We most certainly have a space issue at Redeemer and we were due to find a new space this year as our lease ran out. But Second Ave wasn’t random decision but a measured response to what we believe the Spirit is doing in us. We are committed to being a church in the city, we know if you are a church in the burbs, you look like that suburb. We have had the stubborn commitment to the CBD since day one of Redeemer Church.
  4. It’s about being in it for the long haul. We have secured a great venue on Second Avenue for the next 10 years. Having a dedicated space is a declaration to Tauranga and the CBD that we are committed to faithful gospel ministry in the city centre. As the new University campus opens, new businesses are established, new urban housing and community and cultural centres are built we want to say “we are here to seek the welfare of the city (Jeremiah 29:7)”. The space will be classified as a place of “community assembly” and we to use our building Monday – Sunday as a space to engage and be creative.
  5. It’s not about the church being a building. Any discussion about church facilities isn’t complete without someone saying “the church is not a building.” It’s absolutely true that Christ’s church is a called out people, a household of “living stones” being built into a “spiritual house” (1 Pet. 2:5) rather than just four walls, some seats and a whole bunch of pallet timber. Putting money into structures and comforts, lights and technology to create spiritual environments is overly pragmatic at best and deceptive at worst.
  6. It’s about being present. What ends up happening with the previous point is that it can limit churches from engaging any physical space when what we see throughout the New Testament and church history are Christians claiming a number of different spaces and places to advance the kingdom: public streets, Solomon’s Portico, city council halls, synagogues, homes, riversides, market places, theatres, tertiary education halls, caverns, cathedrals, community halls and old automotive parts stores. We want to be a people who are present, physically and practically.

There’s still a lot to do in making the space habitable. We would appreciate your prayer, help getting things done and financial support to get things ready. It really is an investment into the kingdom.

Building are tools that churches use to advance the mission we believe God has called them to. I don’t think Second Ave is going to unlock revival in our city, to be honest I don’t think we’ll ever outgrow it but I do believe that the Spirit will use this space for the good of our city, the edification of the saints at Redeemer and the glory of God.

Why did you plant?

Here it is, our first ever blog post on our new website! We planted Redeemer back in April 2014. With a handful of people, we met to pray and talk about a church plant in the city of Tauranga. Since the beginning we have always been asked, “why plant another church?”, and we still get asked that same question today. So I thought I’d let you in on the answer I usually give. This isn’t the exhaustive list of why we should plant churches (there’s a stack of stuff out there on it) and this post isn’t an in depth needs analysis of why we did what we did…

1) The statistics: Tauranga is one of the fastest growing cities in Aotearoa. More people, more jobs, more innovation, more study options; things are getting pretty busy in our city. What is noticeable is with the population increase there are also fewer and fewer people identifying as Christian and participating in a local church. It is clear that existing churches need to engage our city with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but additionally there is a need for new churches to be planted throughout the city to reach the city. Both international research and experience show that having more churches in a community increase the number of people who participate in a Christian community and identify as Christian.

2) Our theology: Redeemer Church has a number of core theological convictions that we believe are part of a healthy gospel centred church. We hold to the Protestant Reformation teaching that God’s rescue comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in the Person and work of Christ alone as revealed in the Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. This is not to say that other churches don’t believe this but we felt convinced that there needed to be a church with these convictions in Tauranga.

3) Our philosophy: Similar to our theology, we have some strong convictions around how our church would “be” a church. We considered what our philosophy of ministry would look like in our corporate gatherings, reaching our city and making disciples. Again, it’s not to say that other churches in the city aren’t convinced of the things we are, but we believe that the Lord is leading us to be a particular kind of church a certain way.

4) Growing disciples: Church planting provides an amazing context for the development of disciples. In the initial stages of a church plant everyone is involved as there are no real established programmes or rhythms. If a need is identified, it is up to someone to address it, not the staff, not the aunty who always takes care of the meal roster… it’s you. People need to get equipped, serve, give and love because it needs to get done.

5) We felt called. Ellen and I had been talking about church planting for years. We prayed, spent time in the Word, read books, gone to conferences, got assessed for church planting, talked with friends and family. We never had a ‘burning bush’ experience to tell us to plant Redeemer but we had a solid conviction and deep love for the city of Tauranga it seemed right to us and what the Lord was leading us in.

We are 3 years into this journey and Jesus has been true to his Word that he would build his church. We have seen it, lived it, loved it and have been so unbelievably thankful to be part of such a great church. I am excited for what’s ahead of us; more things to learn, more opportunities to love people, and more of Jesus and his gospel to know and make known here in Tauranga. We started Redeemer preaching through Philippians and chapter 3:10-11 has been our desire since day one; that (we) may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”