One church in three congregations
What it means for us. What it means for the city.
We decided long ago that the best way for Redeemer to serve New York City was not to become a megachurch, but rather to become a network of collegiate congregations. We wanted Redeemer to spread out, send out and empower congregants to do the dynamic outreach and service to friends and neighbors that caused Redeemer to flourish from the beginning. Our challenge was how to best do that — how to serve within neighborhoods and spread out dynamically without losing our collective strengths. There are advantages to both a large, centralized church model and to a smaller, neighborhood-based, congregational model. By transitioning to our new collegiate model of three united congregations, we bring together the best of both worlds. These three “sister” congregations will remain united by our vision for the city, our preaching, a central ownership of property, and Tim Keller’s senior leadership. But each will have their own lead pastor and local base that will allow them to develop and respond uniquely within their neighborhood.
Having three congregations in different areas of the city will bring many opportunities. First, as each congregation develops its own contextual plan for serving, it will be more nimble, responsive and beneficial to its specific community. Second, this model will ease the preaching load on one single pastor and raise up a strong pastoral staff with three lead pastors — Leo Schuster for the East Side, David Bisgrove for the West Side, and John Lin for Downtown — to aid in the spiritual leadership of each congregation. Tim will be a “leader coach” for this group of lead pastors and their assistant pastors and pastoral interns. Third, there will be more personal interaction amongst congregants who identify with one congregation. Fourth, congregants will have more connection to and relationship with their own pastoral team. Lastly, these three distinct congregations will open new opportunities for lay leadership and unleash the leadership potential that has been bottled up in our large infrastructure.
A collegiate Redeemer is positioned to more intentionally move out into the city to serve it with love and grace.
Because these three congregations remain united, Redeemer will also retain distinct advantages of the larger, more centralized church body, allowing a deeper level of engagement with the culture of New York City in its various spheres. The collective resources and talents of Redeemer have pioneered a number of innovative, city-serving, theologically grounded ministries such as the Center for Faith & Work, Hope for New York and City to City. There will also be family ministries, youth ministries, counseling services, diaconal resourcing, and regular collaborative ministry events that bring all three congregations together as one. These Redeemer-wide ministries will continue to grow and contribute to our overall vision for serving the city.
In transitioning to a collegiate model, we hope that our congregants will feel more known and connected. But even more, we hope to draw in thousands more unchurched New Yorkers, including those opposed to Christianity, to share with them the transforming power of the gospel. As always, we want all that we do both to edify believers and to respect and engage those who don’t share our beliefs. A collegiate Redeemer is positioned to more intentionally move out into the city to serve it with love and grace.
As we continue this transition to three collegiate Redeemer congregations, we must remember our vision. Though there are both exciting and challenging changes ahead, our purpose is to serve the city with ministries of mercy, engage all aspects of its culture, and continue doing winsome and innovative outreach. We want our congregants to be so overflowing with the hope of the gospel that they enthusiastically invite their colleagues, friends and neighbors to experience community in their particular congregation. In the next eight to ten years, our hope is that each of the three congregations will be thriving, sustainable and city-serving to the point that they will be able to spin out one or two new locations of their own in the city. That’s the vision — to have organic, contagious, spirit-led growth that multiplies the gospel movement in New York City and beyond.