Last Sunday was the first Sunday this year when I was in town and had no responsibilities at Gateway, so I took the opportunity to explore some of our other congregations. I went to Gilbert at 8:00am, West Mesa at 10:30am, and then Gateway at 5:00pm.
I loved all three services. Here’s a brief description of each one and then some reflections from the day.
Sixteen summers ago I drove across the country with my new wife to get involved at East Valley Bible Church, which is now Redemption Gilbert. We grew and developed so much there that it always feels like a kind of homecoming when I go (here’s my post from their 25th anniversary). At the same time, they’ve reached a lot of new people and do things differently than when I left staff there ten years ago.
I loved the simplicity of the service. Though the sound, musicianship, and production quality are off-the-charts good, the service was simple, accessible, and genuine. Most of the songs were new to me, but so well done and easy to pick up on. Communion was heartfelt and sweet. And I loved getting to hear Tim Maughan preach. He’s been such a dear friend and mentor to me and while he describes himself as “an acquired taste,” I have acquired the taste and I deeply appreciate him.
Oh, and the new prayer room at Gilbert is spectacular. They recently converted their bookstore into this prayer room with the help of Jack Debartolo, the same architect who designed Gateway’s new campus.
Yesterday I heard the story of why they decided to use only one kind of wood–simple two-by-fours–in this new space: It’s a room of prayer to God, and there’s only one way to God — through Jesus. Beautiful.
This was my first time to West Mesa on a Sunday (though it’s in it’s seventh year). It’s one of the most unique Redemption congregations, in that everything is bilingual (English and Spanish).
This bilingual dynamic was most interesting for me in the music, where the band would alternate between English and Spanish in the verses and choruses (with translation of the other at the bottom of the screen). It was fun to sing praise to God in another language, and I know just enough Spanish that it was fun to see the translations.
Chris Amaro’s sermon was also translated from English to Spanish. It was a more challenging experience because following along is a little tougher with all the breaks in the action. Our whole family attended this service and found it to be incredibly warm, welcoming and beautiful.
The bilingual dynamic highlights one of the challenges of doing a truly multi-cultural church, which is that everyone has to sacrifice something. Nobody really gets exactly what they want. That’s probably a good thing we can all learn from.
In the evening, it was back to Gateway where I sat with my daughter and a friend and enjoyed the service. I’m biased, but it was my favorite of the day. I thought Seth preached an incredibly insightful, convicting, and hopeful message. It was also fun to see Chandler lead worship for the first time on a Sunday (also his 18th birthday).
The service had a great flow and it was fun to see and visit with some people after a few weeks away on vacation.
1. It’s incredible to be part of a diverse, beautiful church. No two congregations in Redemption feel exactly alike, which is part of what’s so fun about it. And it would be harder to find two congregations more different in style, size, or makeup than Gilbert and West Mesa. That’s wonderful and it makes both congregations better.
2. Every congregation bears the “family resemblance.” We talk often as leaders in Redemption about how we’re not as concerned with the brand name of Redemption, but we care a lot about the family name. My wife is the oldest of five kids in her family. Each of them now have their own families and each family does things in different ways. But when we’re all together, you can see the family resemblance. In Redemption, it’s not a stylistic or demographic resemblance, but the sense that we’re held together by common convictions and priorities.
3. There is solid preaching across the board at Redemption. I heard three solid sermons from three solid men. Each one handled the text with care and precision, prepared thoughtful and contextual illustrations, and preached with conviction and urgency. The sermons were as different as the men are, but each one effectively fed the flock with God’s word. It’s easy to take this for granted, and we shouldn’t.
4. Volunteers make Redemption go. All three congregations were swarming with volunteers to help me find my way, check in kids, or get what I needed. While it’s easy to give attention to the preacher or musicians, the heroes of Redemption each and every week are the volunteers who serve so faithfully.
5. We’re better together. Back in 2011, Redemption was formed by multiple churches deciding they’d be better together than apart. That’s still true seven years later. My heart is more deeply knit to these volunteers, leaders, and congregations because we’re together. And each congregation is better because we learn from each other and sharpen each other. Thank you, Jesus.