Wow! What a great weekend! Redeemer Church had its official launch yesterday, and it was FANTASTIC! Seventeen months after our arrival in town, thirteen months after the start of core team development, nine months after our first Sunday gathering, and one week after the start of the new semester at the University of Illinois, Redeemer Church is off the ground! Chet, Ladan and I were some of the last people to walk in to find our seats, and as I looked around, I think I said out loud, "Oh, wow." It was humbling and exciting! Jim's welcome was enthusiastic, Chet's sermon was excellent (no bias involved... it really was great), and Caleb's very intentional design of the order of worship was super!
There was much activity leading up to yesterday's service, and so many things went on behind the scenes before and during the service that I can't possibly list them all. I'm guessing Chet probably has that list somewhere on his computer, but checklists aren't the point really. The point is that many people stepped out, took risks, were forced to trust the Lord to provide help when they didn't know what to do, and relied on the Holy Spirit to speak through them when they didn't know exactly what to say. As a result, I'm assuming that these people are the ones who noticed the most joy and satisfaction yesterday morning. Joy that is not based on their own efforts, but the shear joy that comes from participating in the LORD's work as He unfolds His plan. There's nothing like it!
We're not super-focused on numbers, so I don't think anyone took an official count. However, somewhere along the way, someone counted 81 present. Here's the great part about that. At the end of the service, Chet took a poll and asked people how many came because they received a door hanger at their home. Answer: ZERO. He then asked how many came because they saw the Facebook ad. Answer: TWO. He then asked how many came because they received a personal invitation from someone they knew. Answer: HALF THE ROOM.
The lesson is this.... Most of the time, people come to church or demonstrate interest in things of the Lord because a PERSON shows an interest in them and invites them. Let this be an encouragement to all of us to build relationships with others, share the Gospel, and INVITE them to join us in our pursuit of the Lord. Don't get hung up on whether or not they're rejecting or accepting you. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with God. They're rejecting or accepting Him. If they accept the invitation, praise God (not yourself). If they reject the invitation, pray for them, knowing that they are not ultimately rejecting you, but the Holy God who created them and who offers the only lasting joy and salvation they can find. And don't be afraid to invite them again just because they said no one time.
It will be exciting to see how God decides to use Redeemer over the course of the next weeks, months and years! To those of you who have participated in bringing this body of believers together (either from a short or long distance), THANK YOU!
Hopefully some photos will follow shortly.