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Apr 2009

Thank You Redemption Hill

Epaphras.

That name has come to mean a lot to me as we have journeyed together through the book of Colossians. Epaphras was my counterpart at the church in Colossae and his story was this: he spent time in Ephesus hearing the Gospel preached by the Apostle Paul. Then he went to Colossae (probably his hometown), preached about Jesus and His Gospel, and watched as a beautiful church grew up around Him.

What has captured my imagination about Epaphras’ life was not only the great faith he must have had to lead the planting of a church in a religiously plural city like Colossae, but the way that Paul describes his approach to ministry.

Check out the two things that Paul writes about Epahpras in his letter to the Colossians:

“(Epahpras) is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” and “I vouch for him that (Epaphras) is working hard for you.” (4:12-13)

I love that.

Paul is able to write to the folks at Colossae and tell them that their ‘church planter’, the one teaching them the Gospel, struggles for them faithfully in prayer and is working as hard as he can with all of the energy that God has graciously given (1:29).

Nothing is mentioned about his gifting, his church planting strategy, or his various network affiliations. Just this: he preached hard, he prayed hard, and he worked hard. And the result was the birth of a great church that made its way into the Bible.

I thank God daily for his incomprehensible grace that would not only save my sin-wrecked soul, but then gift me with the call of serving as pastor at Redemption Hill. It is my desire to be a church planter like Epaphras… a guy who preaches ‘God’s grace in all its truth’ (1:6), who wrestles in prayer for his church and his people… and does it all as hard as he can…in total dependence upon God’s grace (1:29).

As you keep reading, my hope is that you get a feel for the grace that God has shown us at Redemption Hill this past year. A Sovereign God has determined to send us on His mission to this great city…and we love it. What others have seen as not worth the effort (church planting in metro RVA) we see as a blinding white harvest that just needs some laborers to dig in and work toward cultivating the soul of the city. May we pursue that call with all the energy, prayerfulness, and diligence of Epaphras.

It was just 1 year ago that some of us gathered together to dream about what has now become a reality. In such a short amount of time, God has blessed us with a beautiful diversity of people to join this mission. Our growth this year has not been “Bible Belt-like” growth where you hang a banner and 400 people show up; it has been deep, legitimate, inch-by-inch, healthy, Richmond church planting growth.

This is a good trend, and it makes Epaphras’ example of priorities even more crucial.

More people, more money, more leaders, more phone calls, more joys, more failures, more misunderstandings…more of everything can exhaust the spiritual leaders of the church. That’s why I am so excited that God has blessed us with Raymond and Chris to come by my side as elders and bear the burdens and share the joys of leading God’s people.

Just A Few (of the many) Things I’m Thankful For:

  • · Having another year to be in awe at the bride that God has given me. The ways that Erin has loved me, been patient with me, worked with me and made me smile are uncountable. Second to Jesus, she is my greatest treasure.
  • · Telling stories, having races, climbing mountains, answering questions (again, again, and again), eating French toast, breaking bones, loving, laughing, wrestling, and playing with Jude. I’m anxious to see him grow in God’s grace and learn to treasure Jesus.
  • · Getting permission to worship Jesus at Holton Elementary when we had been told this wouldn’t be possible.
  • · Not getting kicked out of Holton Elementary after a few screw ups.
  • · Watching the Gospel change people’s lives…religion is being replaced for Jesus.
  • · The community groups that have begun to gather. People at Redemption Hill are learning that one of God’s greatest tools in transformation are each other.
  • · The selflessness of our people who set up every week, love and lead our children every Sunday, and the musicians who sacrifice their time to lead us into worship.
  • · Seeing God answer prayers as well as disciple sinners like me for His glory and our joy.
  • · The 13, (yes that’s correct) babies that will be born before next fall. (one of which is mine!)
  • · The joy of giving that has been evident in many folks at Redemption Hill. We are able to end 2008 in a financially sound place. This is due, in large part, to your generosity.
  • · Being able to see this generosity overflow into blessing local non-profits and newly developing church plants in the region.

A Few Things (of many) That I’m Looking Forward To:

  • · Not getting kicked out of Holton Elementary.
  • · A New website and online community development…(which you’re looking at!)
  • · Podcasts…(which you can download from this site)
  • · Developing a Deacon team to care for the needs of our church community and the city.
  • · Preaching the Gospel and maturing in our ability to connect it to our lives.
  • · The unknown ways that God will use people from Redemption Hill to display His glory.
  • · Continuing to love and lead the church as I’m loved and lead by Jesus.

So, thank you for the opportunity to be your pastor and to pursue the joy that is to be found in Jesus with you.

There is much work to be done…glorious, Gospel centered work. The great news is that like Paul and Epaphrus, we do it “with all of His energy that He powerfully works within us (me)”. (Colossians 1:29)

imagrs

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