Ed Stetzer

2Cor 5:16-21

2Cor. 5.16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


1.    A Kingdom View (16-17)

a.    See www.LifewaResearch.com for this study (it’s free): What do un-churched think of the church. 72% agreed that the church is full of hypocrites. We could spiritualize this and say, “Well, we’re all hypocrites.” But we must confess that there is something wrong with how we are viewed in the world. 44% confessed that Christians get on my nerves. (Wow, only 44%!). Would 44% say that other religious affiliations get on their nerves. Probably not. The reason is due to our rally cries, we have made many other things our hills rather than Calvary.

b.    We do not know anyone in a purely human way. We must see people with a different lens. How do we get there? If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. We are in Christ and are able to see people in a fresh way. In the HCSB the verse reads: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation.” There is a new person and a new community because of the reconciliation Jesus brings. The kingdom expression is not merely the kingdom of God within me, but there is a new order that has been instituted by the re-birth of individuals. The old nature and the old order has been swept aside by the New Creation and New Order (1Cor 7:31).

c.     We can justify our sin with our “defense mechanisms.” We have realize that the Kingdom of God does not show up when your church plant shows up. It already showed up when Christ came. A church planter can be prone to this given the initiation.

d.    How?

                      i.     We need to co-operate as much as we can on a local level. We don’t need to diminish our differences, but affirm

                     ii.     We need to be careful not denigrate other churches as we talk about the

1.  Biblically faithful

2.  Culturally relevant

3.  Counter-cultural communities



2.    A Mission of Reconciliation (18-19)

a.    Jesus’ mission is our mission

                      i.     To serve: Luke 4:18-19

                     ii.     To save: Luke 19:10

b.    The Kingdom of Christ (Russell Moore) – book recommendation, which places emphasis on the already-not-yet tension we live in reaching our

c.     Mark 12:29-34

d.    The Kingdom of God and missio Dei theology were the theologies that weakened the main-line churches mission and evangelism. But they were poorly defined. The Kingdom cannot be separated from the Gospel. Three words: (1) Be; (2) Do; and (3) Tell the Gospel. “You cannot dwell if you will not tell.” Luke 24:46-49; Col. 1:20.

e.    Bring Jesus and bring justice. Please don’t think you have brought justice and believe [that by so doing] you have brought Jesus. The would will praise you when you bring justice, but they will condemn you when you bring Jesus.


3.    A Kingdom Mission (20)

a.  Matt. 10:7-10 – our vision for our ministires must be to minister the

b.  Matt. 6:33

c.  Urban church planting is harder than church planting in general

                  i.     You will have to multiply before you think you are ready.

                ii.     Your agenda must be submitted to the Kingdom


4.    A Cross-Centered Mission for the Kingdom (21)

a.    2 Cor 5:21

b.    Mark 1:14-15 – the method by which the Kingdom of God was spread

c.     Acts 8:12 – the reaction of the people to the proclamation. People believed the message and their lives were changed.

d.    The world doesn’t “good people standing around good people telling them how to be good people” (Mark Twain). We plant churches because Jesus became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. He wasn’t just acquainted with sin, he became sin.


Table Talk

We are instructed to come to a consensus for one question we would like to ask Ed. (1) Regarding 2Cor 5, doesn’t contextualization require that we recognize people in a human way. That is, we are ministering to people who are white, black, poor, rich, etc. There is no way to not contextualize the Gospel. (2) How do we utilize the resources around us when the reason for our having planted a church is due to our seeing a void in churches and people reaching the community? Additionally, How do you not come across as a threat to other churches in the area? My table decides to ask question #1.


  1. How does a Kingdom focus practically work itself out in our church planting? In other words, “How should we plant if the church is the sign and instrument of the Kingdom of God?

We should work hard at developing good community. We don’t want to bring in a completely different culture. We want to contribute to the community that is already there. Citing Jer. 29 we want to unpack our bags, live among the people, build houses, and take wives so that the culture is sanctified. We want to have the perspective that we are here to serve the city, not merely to take from the city.


Q & A

1. How do you choose with whom you will cooperate?

            We live in a landscape of great compromise. When you begin to plant churches in a city, there will be people/churches that will attach to you who are fuzzy in their theology. We need to have a robust statement of faith and doctrine at the outset.

Level 1: Christ crucified and essentials of the Gospel

Level 2: Convictional issues (paedo or credo-baptism)

Level 3: Preferential issues. The problem with fundamentalism is that every preference is an essential (music, dress, entertainment, etc).


We can work with people as long as they hold on to the essentials. If they www.peoplegroups.info (resource for finding others who are engaged with different


Schaeffer spoke of co-belligerence with those we disagree with on the essentials (i.e. human trafficking, poverty, etc).


2. Multiply before you’re ready? How and what criteria?

            You will never think that you arte ready – similar to how we cannot wait until you are ready to have another child. What you celebrate you become. Thus, if you celebrate multi0plication, it will be part of your DNA.


3. What are the most common mistakes among urban church planters

Naivete: Part of the problem is that you go to a conference and you hear from the speakers. It is an unrealistic picture of what you will never experience. Most of those who will plant churches will have a long, arduous road. [Aside: Stetzer provocatively asks why so many church plants are planted in fast-growing, affluent areas.] We need to be careful not to think that

Superman syndrome: There are people who are broken. There is a reality that we are going into church-planting with baggage.

One-size fits all. Much of our method will be dictated by time, place, and person. There are no magic models. You ought not plant a Redeemer somewhere other than Manhattan. We ought not plant a Mars Hill somewhere other than Seattle.


4. How do you know where God is working?

Eph 3:10 helps us to think through this. We should go to the church and see what the church is doing. In other words, we need to take the time to talk to churches in the area and find out what God has been doing in their community, Humility should replace pride in thinking you are here to save the day.

Are there other places to look outside the church?

Yes, but not savingly. He is working in areas of justice. We need to be careful not to say that the church is so ugly and broken that he is not working through her (the issue that came to the fore during the mainline change in theology. They realized the missio Dei was larger than the mission of the church).


4. How would you counsel someone who does not have affirmation by his denomination?

            If your denomination turns you down, you should ask “Why?” Don’t go plant a church because the church won’t let you plant a church. If you are allergic to structures, then you need to ask why you do not want to be contained by a structure. It may be a sin issue.

            Too many church planters want money without strings attached. A denomination will have strings attached (theologically especially). If you are only going to plant a church if the resources are there, then you have built upon the wrong foundation.


5. How do you balance Spirit-led and demographically-led?

            You go with Spirit-led. But you also need to be informed by the demographics. If you are planting because of a report, then you have built poorly. You need to plant in light of demographics and desire, but not because of it. Church plants fail because planters quit. You will quit when it gets difficult. First, you need to ask where the name of Christ has not been named and go. If you are adamant against going to a certain place, you need to place yourself under the lordship of Christ.

            You need to remember that you don’t leave something, you go to something. You need to do the hard work of balancing in faithfulness and fruitfulness. You need an exit strategy for those who decide to leave the church plant that will not be embarrassing. We need to affirm the dynamic nature of God’s working throughout the world.


6. What’s the best piece of advice you received as a church planter?

            “One day you’re going to leave this church and there is one group of people that will go with you – your wife and your family.” 

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What Is Sunday Worship?

I’m gonna keep this simple, but hopefully not simplistic. As you consider your corporate gathering of believers (typically on the first day of the week), there are three ways to think about it. You can think of it as an event, a participation, or a transformation.

The Event Model can take on two modes: emotionally-driven or cognitively-driven. The emotionally-driven mindset, of course, could baldly mean that you show up to hear some great music and hear a message. You go to watch and experience something. The cognitively-driven mindset could mean that you highlight the sermon so much that it becomes the point of your showing up. You hear this a lot in evangelical churches that the sermon is the most important aspect of the worship experience. The problem with such thinking, though, betrays an onlooker mentality. That is, I go to church to observe and consider and think and have my thinking changed.

In this model, there is an I-Thou expectation of the worship service. I go to that. I consider that. I am separate from and participate in that. In other words, this kind of approach to the corporate gathering is apart from who I am. I go to there. I leave from there. Sure, we talk about taking the message home with us…but come on! You and I both know we forget what was said within 10 minutes of leaving the building. When we are confronted with traffic on the way to the buffet. And then, we get bored. Bored with our lives. Bored with our faith. We find greater joy in our team winning the game than in our eternal salvation won at the cost of the Son of God.

The Participation Model is a little bit better than the event model. This puts the onus on the believer to come to the service seeking to be engaged in other people at church. For all the talk about this being a need in churches, and people nodding their heads in agreement…this does not happen in reality. People cognitively ascend to this truth, but they don’t fully grasp this truth.

If they do grasp a hold of this participation model, it often devolves into judgmentalism (others aren’t as serious about their faith as you are) or complacency (I asked someone how their walk with God is going and they gave me the cold shoulder). So what’s the problem with this model? Write simply it remains in the realm of I-Thou. That is, I bring something to you. I come to serve you. I am apart from and wholly different from you. At its root, it is simply another (albeit more spiritual rendition) of the event model. 

The third, and I believe more biblical model (of course!), is the Tranformational Model. This way of approaching the Sunday morning gathering sheds itself of the event. It doesn’t come in judgment of the service–I didn’t like that song. I liked the sermon. I really engaged with God this morning. Wow, what a wonderful time. Instead, it views Sunday morning as another step in my being conformed into the image of Jesus. It does see it as an event you come to. It is something we participate in. But preeminently it embraces the fact that over time we are being changed by the service itself. 

What does this look like? Well, it understands that every time we attend an event or participate in a service, we are slowly changing. You are much more different from the fifth football game you attended, than the first. You understand the language, the traditions, the cheers. 

So it is with a church service…and this is where it gets a bit thorny. With the typical evangelical liturgy (and it is a liturgy) of two fast songs, two slow songs, a sermon, and dismissal, we are slowly becoming consumers. Or better put, our already-ingrained consumer mentality is reinforced as we observe (and maybe participate). We watch the stage. We critique the songs–or what the song leader was wearing. We sit down and hear someone wax eloquently–or not. 

I fear that much of the problems we see in modern evangelicalism stem from us offering goods and services to people and not inviting them into be transformed. This fact is betrayed in much of the assumptions underlying decisions made on how the liturgy ought to roll. For example, since we need to be engaging and winsome in our communication of the Gospel, we need to play this popular radio song and do a Jesus juke to talk about how real love is only found in Jesus. Of course I’m not saying messages and songs ought to be fuddy-duddy and boring! Stop putting baby in the corner. 

What I am saying is that churches ought to be very clear in what they are shaping their people into becoming. We ought to understand that we are in the business of transformation–from one degree of glory to another. Not filling seats. Not being entertaining and relevant at the cost of depth. 

This is why at Christ the Redeemer, we have been intentional in our liturgy. We believe that the primary purpose of the Sunday morning gathering is the transformation of people. We have an explicit order to our service that follows the biblical storyline of Creation>Fall>Redemption>Consummation. Over time, people’s being is changed. It unwittingly becomes easier to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me” because you are trained to confess your sin every week. You more readily accept forgiveness because you are trained to hear God’s Word of Forgiveness to you after confessing. You more readily come to fellowship with God in spite of and because of your sin because you are trained that at the Lord’s Table you find satisfaction and rest for your souls.

Yes, Sunday morning is an event. But not merely so. It is something we participate in. But not merely so. It is preeminently another step in our being transformed into the likeness of Jesus. The primary goal of Sunday morning is our transformation through intentional liturgies.

Brief Thoughts on Church Membership (altogether incomplete)

I have been reflecting on the subject of church membership for the last few weeks. This stems from planting a church and having folks join who are members of existing churches. This also stems from folks who joined our church plant and have moved their membership–both issues had to do with distance to our new location and a desire to be involved in a more specific way to those who attend another church for purposes of ministry (both great reasons!).

My thoughts haven’t just been a result of circumstances. Rather, they come from a desire to think theologically about this issue.

First, I want to make clear that membership in a local church is the primary means of discipleship in the Christian journey. We make commitments to others to love and serve and be loved and be served by others. It is a beautiful and necessary commitment that we take way too lightly.

BUT too often pastors and church leaders speak about church membership in very unhelpful terms. We speak about it being like a marriage. It most certainly is not. It is not a covenant either. Scripture speaks about our membership in the Body of Christ. The local congregation is a physical manifestation of that reality. Everything we do is in the context of local–geographically and temporally. My fear is that church bodies can begin to assume that members of a local congregation cannot leave. Much like the Hotel California, people are often guilted in staying. People are made to think they are being less committed to the mission of the Church (yes, that’s a large C, signifying the Church Universal).

We have a membership class coming up for Redeemer in a few weeks. I take great pains to help people see that our congregation is one among many faithful churches in time and space. We do not have a corner on the market of faithfulness. We are one very small player on the great stage of history. The more we recite this truth, the more humble and grateful we will become. Every time we say this, we are reminded that God’s purposes are much larger than us. We are reminded that we have certain proclivities and characteristics that may set us apart by way of trends and passions. We are reminded that there are many other brothers and sisters seeking to do the same thing as us–take up our crosses daily and follow Jesus (individually and corporately).

One of the things I make sure to tell people is that if they want to make a commitment to be a member of Redeemer, it ought to be based on it mission and vision. We try to keep it very simple, as you’ll see from our website. How we go about accomplishing these things are called our Core Values. That’s how we seek to accomplish the vision right now in 2018.

But the Church is an organization, but it is also a living organism. As with all organisms, change is inevitable. Indeed, it is desired. As human beings we necessarily grow and change if we are alive. It is inherent to the very definition of life. Change is beautiful. Inevitably, our church will grow as people are added to our congregation. This is beautiful because it enables and empowers people to contribute their gifts and passions to the whole, and for the whole to shape the particular person.

Over time, there may be people who have changes of convictions for how “to do” church. That is, they may disagree with our emphasis on church planting, mission, and mercy. They may disagree with our commitment to simplicity. At the end of the day, as a pastor I want people to be freed to serve and be served by others. If they are staying at Redeemer just because they made a commitment in 2018, that is not healthy. Rather, my desire is that they be involved. Intimately involved in the growth and development of our church. If they cannot do so, it is healthier that they find a congregation where they can faithfully live out their convictions.

This doesn’t have to be an ugly thing. Rather, it can be a very beautiful thing where we are again reminded and remind each other that we do no have a corner on the market of biblical fidelity. Jesus promised to build his Church. I get to be a small observer in that construction project–stone upon stone.

We want people to be a part of Redeemer who believe in the vision and mission and who want to play an integral part in seeing that vision become a reality in our small corner of the universe. So when folks leave, we don’t need to guilt them. Sure, we will miss folks as they leave, but may we depart to meet again.

Less Hype. More Humility.

Please. Embedded in our consumeristic culture, there is the assumption that newer is better than older–though I prefer aged beef and cheddar to new. There is the assumption that grand and renovated and powerful is preferable to meek and lowly and weak.

The church often adopts this form of communicating in an effort to gather people into its doors. “God is doing awesome things here at Church _______.” The fact is that God is doing awesome things everyday and everywhere. He’s sustained your life. He’s given you sight and hearing and legs. And if you have none or only one of these, he’s still given you life and a mind to engage the world around you. Truly miraculous. What is more, is God not also doing something in the old, decrepit church that meets faithfully every Sunday? Is God not at work in the mundane? Is the changing of laundry and washing of dishes and working through an argument devoid of God’s presence?

I see so many churches trying to drum up excitement about the latest outreach or project, when what our culture needs is the staying power and sobriety of faithfulness in the ho-hum drudgery of going to a job you hate or a marriage that is contentious. What we need is not more hype, but more humility. More service and less heavy-handedness. We need more gentleness and less power grabs.

If we don’t, what then becomes of the senior citizen who is tired? What becomes of the baby who is sleeping? What becomes of the unemployed and outcast and burdened? They are forgotten. They are seen as less valuable because they aren’t producing the kind of energy requisite for assumed faithfulness to the disciples’ call.

In reality, we need less loud voices and red faces and sweaty brows and more silence and calmness and a deep well of contentment.