9 October, 2014 Will Dobbie
A year ago, my family and I moved into Croydon to plant what is now ‘Redeemer, Croydon’. The last 12 months have been the steepest learning curve I’ve ever experienced. They’ve been thrilling, exhausting, joyful, draining, and ultimately, under God, fruitful: since September 2013, the Lord has assembled a committed Launch Team of 50 adults (exactly the number I’d been praying for, for well over a year – wish I’d been praying for more now!). He also provided a great venue and everything else needed for us to launch with good momentum. The finances are tight, but I guess that’s one area in which we’re staying prayerfully dependent. The year’s been characterized by major amounts of prayer, and no small degree of desperation at times. It’s also been a year of what has felt like relentless and back-breakingly hard work, affecting me physically.
Two Sundays ago we held our ‘soft launch’ (dress rehearsal), and last Sunday was our public launch. Both Sunday meetings were thrilling, and at times, moving. The public launch saw 75 adults and 10 children turn up. One person requested to become a Christian after the meeting. Another requested more information about Christianity. This was especially encouraging, given that out of Croydon’s hundreds of thousands of people, the person happened to live seven doors down from us on the same street!
It’s very early days. The Lord has given us this momentum, and of course He could take it away instantly. Another reason not to get carried away is that initial numbers were artificially high because of Christian friends and well-wishers who came to ‘see us off’.
Nevertheless, a good number of locals and not-yet-Christians were also present. And I’ve been trying to work out what we might have done right, by God’s grace. (It’s not hard for me to see plenty of things I’ve done wrong!)
One thing might have been full engagement with the media: I’m doing 30 minutes on Croydon Radio next week; a local newspaper article brought three generations of a local family to our public launch; and extensive social media engagement has been fruitful as well. Our Welcome Video, which we threw some money at, has helped in all of this.
Other things that have arguably gone right might also include trying to use technology well (for example filming the messages, and having questions texted in for the post-message Q&A). Or opting consciously for the ‘growth’ rather than ‘control’ paradigm in my organizational set-up, wherever that doesn’t directly impinge on Redeemer’s theology and ministry philosophy. Or trying to have as much fun as possible along the way (see the blooper reel/behind the scenes version of the Welcome Film).
And call this hubristic and premature, but I can sense we might already be experiencing a little ‘Breaking Nets’ syndrome. Our rotas and the manning of our various ministry teams are starting to creak already. And it looks like we’ll need more staff, more space, more infrastructure, and the money for all of that, sooner than I had anticipated. (If you can help at all, while not diminishing your giving to your local church, please get in touch!)
But of course ultimately – and I need to keep reminding myself of this – the power for anything to happen lies with the Lord: “…apart from me you can do nothing” John 15:5). And it lies in the Gospel: “…the Gospel…is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16).
We’re fools to neglect ‘common grace’ wisdom regarding the way God has wired our world. So I think it’s right that we’ve tried to take seriously things like refreshments, media, technology and so on. But we’re bigger fools to forget the omnipotent God behind all of that.
Please pray that we don’t.