Imbi and I are in New York on business. We did get into town early enough yesterday to make it to Redeemer Pres’ 7:15 service at First Baptist on the Upper West Side. It was more than worth the 10 minute cab ride.
One of the larger churches in New York City with an average Sunday attendance of around 5,000, Redeemer does not own its own worship space. They hold five services in four different locations in the city.*
Tim Keller spoke on Job last night – part of a continuing series. Both Imbi and I were impacted by the sermon and will purchase the series from the Redeemer webstore. Tim was warm, engaging, hype-free – a preacher who brought the scriptures alive for the packed church. (I would guess that the average age of the crowd was 30 or less with a wonderful representation of the racial diversity of New York.)
I’ve linked to Keller numerous times on this blog, but this was the first time we’d heard him preach in person. I’m glad we went. (And as much as I sound like a consumer Christian when I say this, we also thoroughly enjoyed the jazz team – who led the congregation in lustily sung praise.)
I may struggle with this model of church – but let me positively acknowledge that Redeemer exists for the city of New York – with their focus on preaching a holistic gospel that can transform the city. Some of that “preaching” takes place on Sundays. Much of happens in the warp and woof of peoples lives lived out in the city. (I’m reminded of Francis of Assisi’s words, “preach the gospel always, if necessary, use words.”)
Exiting the church into pouring rain, we hailed a cab that dropped us at the Europa Café location across from Carnegie Hall – where we unpacked our day before heading back to the nearby hotel. Imbi and I agreed that as tired as we were, it had been significant for us to be at Redeemer Sunday evening. And we will make a point of going back when we are next in New York.
*Redeemer is in the process of purchasing a parking garage on the Upper West Side that will be converted into a 900 seat auditorium, offices and community space. They eventually hope to have three church facilities in Manhattan. You can view a video of Tim Keller talking about their vision for buildings here.