Tracing A Common Thread
God’s story is a tapestry, woven together in ways that we can’t always see. Events, times, places, friendships gained and lost. It’s all a magnificent dance of color and texture. On occasion we may even gain the perspective to see how, through the interwoven threads, beauty and grace emerge with stunning clarity.
This week was that kind of week for me.
This last Sunday of January 2016, a new church launched public services in Mexico City. Doxa, Iglesia Christiana, is a new gospel outpost in one of the world’s largest cities – a beacon of light and hope and beauty in the darkness of their city. To understand Doxa’s story, you have to know Jesús “Chuy” Rodríguez. Chuy grew up in Mexico City and he loves his hometown. In August 2012, Chuy found himself living in College Park, MD, just outside of Washington, DC. He felt an unquenchable call from God to move back home to plant a church, but had no idea what to do about it. So, he reached out to a new church plant in DC. That church was Redemption Hill.
When Chuy showed up at Redemption Hill, he was anxious to move to Mexico City and planned to do so within a few months. After some conversation and consideration, he changed all of his plans to enter into a formal Church Planting Residency through Redemption Hill. After more than a year of involvement in the life of the church, as well as formal theological and missiological training, Chuy was officially commissioned as a pastor and church planter from Redemption Hill Church to Mexico City the last week of January 2014. Shortly thereafter, he and his family moved to begin the new adventure of church planting in the city they love so dearly.
Fresh out of seminary, our family moved from Chicago to Indianapolis to take up a calling to a church on the north side of the city. In January 2006 I got to attend a theology conference and met a pastor who I deeply respected. Bill Kynes was on a committee to revise the Statement of Faith for the EFCA. He is a brilliant man and a great pastor, the kind of man I wanted to be around and learn under.
After four years in Indianapolis, God stirred a restlessness in my heart. Restlessness can be dangerous and selfish, so my wife Alissa and I were skeptical of it at first. As time passed and events unfolded, it became clear our time in that church was drawing to a close. I had the privilege to preach my last Sunday at that church, at the end of January 2010. We headed into an ominous and exciting unknown as we moved back to Chicago. I felt an unquenchable call to a major urban center. We love the city, and it increasingly seemed that God was calling us to plant a new church.
Just few weeks later a simple phone call changed our lives forever. DC had quickly risen on our list of potential cities, so I called up a pastor for whom I had such respect. Unbeknownst to me, Bill Kynes’ church, Cornerstone, had begun praying four years earlier that God would send them a man to plant a new church in Washington, DC. Those prayer meetings started in January 2006, the same week that I met Bill for the first time. I was flown out the next week, with little more than a dream and a hastily developed prospectus in hand.
That summer we moved into DC to join the Cornerstone family. We were officially sent, supported, and connected to them. Just a year later, in 2011, Redemption Hill Church was officially established as a new gospel witness in the heart of Capitol Hill. The reach and influence of God’s work here has grown to reach across the city and the metro area in ways that show off the grace and goodness of Jesus in building His Church.
Lucas and Su Parks moved into Belfast with the dream to see the renewal of their city. Lucas was born in Northern Ireland, spent some time in the states, and had moved back to follow an unquenchable call. While working at other churches outside of Belfast, his heart broke for people in the city, particularly younger folks who desperately needed community and Jesus. We met the Parks at an Acts 29 retreat for pastors and wives in the summer of 2012 and we found a heartbeat that resonated with ours deeply. Redemption Hill is unapologetically focused on church planting in urban centers. That summer Redemption Hill was ready to support a church planter financially. More than that, though, we hoped for a partnership that would bring unity to our churches. We found that and more in Lucas.
The partnership and friendship with Lucas has been fueling for me and has been a blessing to both churches. Both of us have spent time in each other’s cities and shared each other’s pulpits. I had the privilege to help the church in Belfast with some structures, while we got help in visual identity for Redemption Hill. Alissa and I even got to be part of the installation of the first elders in Belfast. In January 2014 Lucas turned his attention to launching public worship services as a church and on February 2 of that year, Village Belfast went public. Now, just two years later, they are preparing to move into a building that was given to them on the east side of Belfast.
All of these threads – Cornerstone and Bill Kynes, Redemption Hill and my story, Village Belfast and Lucas Parks, and now Doxa and Chuy Rodríguez – have been woven together. There is a Master at work in it all. The same God we read about throughout the Bible – the same Jesus who bought our redemption through His life, death and resurrection; the same Spirit who moved so powerfully to spread the Word of God throughout the book of Acts – is still moving actively even today. His gospel continues to advance throughout the world. We may never get to see the place the thread of our lives has in the bigger picture of the tapestry, but even still we can have confidence that, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” – Eph. 4:4-6.
This past Sunday, as I shared in communion with Doxa, the new church made up of our brothers and sisters in Mexico City, I couldn’t help but think of our sister churches. The last week of January has been a mark of new beginnings for us all, with a repeated pattern over the past six years. As I worshiped in Mexico City en Español, I had a stunning and beautiful moment of clarity. The Lord’s Supper is a great reminder of our communion with Christ, and also with His Body, the Church. By God’s grace, the same day that Doxa gathered in Mexico City, Cornerstone gathered to worship in Virginia, Village gathered in Belfast, and Redemption Hill gathered in DC. All of us as one body through one Spirit. All of us with one hope in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All of us turning to one God and Father who is over, through, and in us all.
And so the story continues…
Written by Bill Riedel, the Lead Pastor of Redemption Hill Church.