The Heart of Redeemer – Part Two

In 1985, while I was in the ninth grade, the nation was in a buzz about the newest Michael J. Fox movie, Back to the Future. I never paid much attention to the movie, as the only part of it that every really interested me was the amazingly beautiful Lea Thompson. What can I say? I was in the ninth grade. It was fairly dumb movie, in my opinion….the whole helping-your-mom-to-love-your-dad-instead-of-loving-you thing just seemed a tad creepy to me. I wasn’t interested in it, except for the amazingly beautiful Lea Thompson. Oh, I already mentioned that. Moving on.

While it is impossible to go back to the future, maybe it is possible to reach the future by going back to the past. That sentiment is the heartbeat of Redeemer Church. We want to reach the future by looking to the past. Two thousand years into the past, to be precise. We want to return to the mindset of the church as it existed on day one. Our model is found in Acts 2:40-47, where the church is formed at the conclusion of the first apostolic sermon.

In seminary, I was always bothered by the “evolution” of the New Testament Church of our day back into an Old Testament temple model that often looks nothing like the church of Acts 2. I was even more bothered by why no one could (or would even try to) explain to me what I perceived to be such a denigration. I realize that man is incurably religious, and I attribute that to the reality that human beings have been created imago Dei. The image of God in us, though defiled, makes us empty without Him. We need to worship. So, we build a temple. People come to the temple, pay homage, and then go right on with their lives. That’s what they did in the Old Testament. That’s largely what’s done today.

That isn’t the church God built in Acts 2. Rather, He built a people, and indwelled them with power, glory, and beauty. It was much more a community than a cathedral! The first church wasn’t a place to go – it was something to be. It changed the world two thousand years ago. And I believe it can still change the world today!

The Acts 2 model had three characteristics that we will diligently pursue at Redeemer. Those three characteristics can be further divided into ten marks:

 1. It was DRIVEN by the power of God’s Word (v40-42)

There was inspiration (40), Confrontation (40), and Invitation (41)

 2. It was DOMINATED by the presence of God’s Spirit (43-45)

There was fear (43), friendliness (44), and family (45)

 3. It was DISTINGUISHED by the participation of God’s People (v46-47)

There was intimacy (46), intensity (46), influence (47), and increase (47)

At Redeemer, we will seek to emulate these three characteristics and evaluate our ministry by these ten marks. As a dear pastor friend of mine says, “We want to be a first century church in a twenty-first century world!”

Almost three weeks to the day before he was assassinated, President John F. Kennedy made this statement: “Most presidents leave office feeling their work is unfinished. I’ve got a lot to do and little time remaining.” At the time, no one in the world understood how prophetic his statement really was. He didn’t have much time left. At age 43, I am beginning to understand his sentiment. We don’t have forever. We only have today. That’s why it is so very important that we give our lives wholly to that which we love. For me, I love the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Though it is not always easy, though the world may persecute, slander and malign, though it may cost me everything, I choose to give what time I have left in this world to serve Christ and prepare His Bride, the Church, for His coming.

 

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The Heart of Redeemer, Part One

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Back in March of this year, the Lord began to lay on my heart what I would soon understand to be His calling to plant a new church. I never would have imagined such an assignment and up to this very moment still feel quite inadequate and unprepared to attempt such a task. Still, I have an unshakeable peace that Jesus has sent me to Morgan County and that my work here has just begun. Arriving at that assurance has been both the most difficult journey and greatest blessing of my ministry. There were no expectations, conversations, or manipulations. There were no contacts. No committees. No connections. I stand on the certainty that God alone has personally arranged this next phase of my ministry. That certainty is perhaps the most rewarding spiritual discovery of my life.

One by one, my friends, heroes, and mentors have prayed with me and affirmed this calling, offering support and suggestions that have blessed me immeasurably. However, one statement has been made to me with shocking regularity by friends in ministry. I have heard this phrase, in different forms, often: “I envy you.”

Wow. That’s what I think every time I hear that statement. Wow. How could that be? How could so many pastors and ministers today feel that way about the church?

I believe the answer to that question is the basis of the calling God has given me to Redeemer Church. For the past three months, I have had opportunity to visit many churches in Georgia, whether preaching or just worshipping. Some of those churches have been fantastic and life changing. Others have…..not. It has been an informative study for me to be able to attend other churches and just watch. What I have discovered when combined with my own recent experiences has changed the way I think about church.

A simple truth has emerged in my quest: eventually, churches tend to become organizations. You can sense it when you walk through the door! God’s plan for the church is that it is an organism. Alive. Engaging. Dynamic. But it seems that many, if not most, churches today are static; more interested in systems than sanctification. More concerned with the regulars than with redemption. More self-aggrandizing than sacrificially selfless. More geared to making the powers-that-be happy than the down-and-outs holy. The world has noticed – and is increasingly shunning the church. My heart aches for those who are being lost in this generation.

How does that happen? How does a church founded with the highest of spiritual intentions end up becoming so man-centered, system-driven, politically governed, and inward focused? The more difficult question follows: How can it ever be changed once it has assumed that model?

I’ve learned that my pastor buddies have been implying that it is difficult, if not nearly impossible to really effect change in an established church today. I acknowledge this to be a generalized, non-absolute statement. But consider this: The average tenure of a pastor in America today is three years. Youth pastors generally last eighteen months. While conveniently dressed in many different explanations or accusations, those brief tenures can quite often be explained by an incompatibility between the minister and the church “powers” in the area of change. We all want to change until it is we who have to change!

God willing, I want to lead Redeemer to be different. How? By keeping it simple. How simple? Three words: love, lift, and lead. We will seek to Love the Lord, Lift the Fallen, and Lead the Saints. Our vision is to be disciples and make disciples. We will seek to embrace prophetic ministry while battling political machinations. We will seek to elevate redeeming above ruling. We will seek to be guided by Spirit and governed by the congregation. We will try to honor the spiritual needs of the many over the stolid desires of the few. We will work daily to keep it simple!

Coming up….. Part Two….. “Back to the Future”

 

My New Job…

The interminable transition/reformation/vacation has finally come to an end. Praise the Lord! Now, it’s back to reality. Kind of.

On Wednesday, May 8, I accepted the call to be the Pastor of a church that didn’t yet exist, meeting at a place not yet secured, with a membership not yet determined, drawing a salary not yet acquired, beginning on a date not yet established. No building, no budget, no staff, no pulpit, no copy machine, no office, no microphone……no clue! How’s that for reality?

Truth is, I’m more excited than I’ve ever been! Living for four months out of the pastorate was one of the most difficult – even if rewarding – periods of my life. I have come to the point where I can honestly thank God for all the things I’ve experienced during this time. My perspective on life, family, and ministry has been changed forever. These months have been a true sabbatical for me. I’ve never received more love, support, and encouragement than I have while in the valley. Yet all of that pales in comparison to the transforming presence of God, who has spoken to my heart and revealed Himself to me in ways I could never have previously imagined.

But now it’s time to get back to work. I have a fire in my soul to get back in the pulpit – if I can find one, that is.

The Lord has led my family, some friends, and me to begin a new church plant in Madison, Georgia. There are already many wonderful churches in this county, but we are convinced that Jesus has a specific call on our lives for this opportunity. God has performed some true miracles to bring this to pass. We did not seek it. We do not yet understand it. But we cannot deny it! I’ve never been more dependent upon the Lord, nor more confident in His calling. I have found the simple joy that Jesus promised – and it is awesome beyond description!

We have been led to call the church, “Redeemer.” I love that name for God – used 162 times in the Bible to describe God as the One who transforms brokenness, disaster, and heartache into peace, joy, and hope. My life’s desire is to experience and proclaim that redemption. It’s time to preach! Trust me – both barrels are loaded. I can’t wait!

These are exciting days for the Darsey family. We’ve never been more unsettled. At the same time, we’ve never felt more secure. Pray for us, praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!

 

 

 

A New Hope

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The first Star Wars movie hit theaters when I was 7 years old. Like almost every young boy on earth, I quickly longed to be Luke Skywalker, who was cinematically introduced as the only hope for the redemption of the universe. As the trilogy unwound, Luke matured into a legendary Jedi Knight who did ultimately become the hero of the galaxy. Through his triumphs and his failures, Luke ultimately discovered that the true hope of the galaxy was not him, but rather the force which indwelled him. His path to becoming a Jedi Knight was a spiritual journey in which venerable Master Yoda continually reminded him of the need to empty himself spiritually and unlearn what he thought he knew. In the end, the lesson is learned and Luke succeeds through surrender. Not by surrendering to his enemies, but by surrendering to the indwelling power of the force, which guided him to peace, serenity, and victory.

For 3 decades, Star Wars has inspired people who instinctively feel trapped in a world seemingly under the control of a dark power but who also instinctively know that there must be a force which can eventually lead to redemption.

Before you read on, stop at the door and check your self-righteous desire to rebuke me for being a pastor who draws or deals theological implications from Star Wars. I like theology and I like Star Wars and I probably like you. Star Wars is not the destination, but the vehicle for my pontification today. These are not the droids you are looking for. Move along.

I have recently become Luke Skywalker. I have begun a quest that has taught me to appreciate the power of hope and the prospect of redemption. As it was for Luke, this was for me an unwanted journey. I sure wasn’t seeking it. I felt betrayed by those who promised to love me, kicked off of the spaceship and left to die on a cold, wintry, dark planet of which I had no knowledge or experience. Some friends were lost. True friends were revealed. But in the end, most folks in the universe went on as though they didn’t even notice what happened to me. I was more shocked by the latter group than the former two.

For months I staggered, wondering as I was wandering. Never have I felt such hurt, betrayal, loss, and emptiness. But God never left me. As I have learned to sit in silence and listen to the lessons of the Master, He has comforted me, challenged me, and changed me. My valley has been filled with unspeakable peace – and with a new hope – hope that God desires to do more through me in my future than He has in my past. That hope has led me to the greatest truth I’ve ever discovered. Would you like to hear it? It’s very simple – you probably won’t even be impressed. Here it is: I – am – not – the – hope – of – this – universe. I not only don’t have all the answers, I don’t even know all the questions! You may have already suspected that I wasn’t very important. I wish you would have shared that with me sooner. For years, my own pride has kept me bound to the lie that I’m somehow the hero of the story. Boy, was I wrong!

I’ve learned that the man of God has no value, importance, or ability apart from the force that guides his life. Jesus Christ holds the beginning and the end and He controls this universe. He is the force that guides all things and binds them together. On my unexpected journey I have personally come to trust the Holy Spirit enough to surrender to His will for my life. You may think you have. Truth is, you will never truly know until who you are and what you do has been stripped from you and it’s just the Lord and you. In that moment, you will discover who you really are. In that moment, God can forge you into a warrior who is so filled with the power of the Holy Spirit that you will be willing to win by surrendering yourself.

The climactic moment of the Star Wars trilogy takes place in the final battle when Luke Skywalker finally understands that he can only win through surrender. Luke is confronted with a new realization that will change him and make him a vessel for the full power of the force. He learned that the most powerful enemy we face is the pride of our own hearts. I have learned the same lesson. I now want to empty myself of myself daily and live in the power that only God can provide. I want to see what the full force of God can do in and through my life. Does that make me a Jedi Knight?

Well, Here We Go…

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I am now officially a blogger! It is hard to believe that the world has existed for this long without my opinion, but it’s time to make that right. So, here I am.

If you are seeking rantings, ravings, ramblings, and revelations from a Reverend, then you’ve come to the right place.  Follow along as I investigate, castigate, remonstrate, commiserate, pontificate, and aliterate.

I will use this place to share about my story, ministry, family, and general views on life. I’m the Pastor of the newly-formed Redeemer Church of Madison, Georgia. For 21 years I have been married to my beloved Jodi Elliott Darsey and we have two children: Christian (19), and Kaylee (15). We also have a dog, Belle, who insisted upon being mentioned here. God has been so good to me and it is exciting to have the great privilege of sharing my life with all of you!