It’s easy to get caught up with what is right in front of you. Leading a church is no exception. The list of to-dos is endless. A sermon needs to be prepared and preached. There is always another meeting. All of this is good, and it’s a part of a call to ministry. I love it. But far too often, a focus on the here and now is at the expense of a greater mission taking place. God is at work in other churches as well. God, the Holy Spirit, is meeting the needs of a church down the street and across town. And it takes looking up and past the present circumstances to see the greater gospel mission.
One Message with One Mission
Of course, there is a litany of churches in America, and some of them need to be closed down. There are churches where the gospel message is not being preached, and the Bible is collecting dust. I am referring to the churches that have made a bee-line to liberation theology or theological liberalism. Those churches are writing their own story, and the story includes a slow death. And the data backs it up. I’ll grant that church attendance is down across the board in America, but mainline (liberal) protestant churches are leading the way.
When I think about the advancement of the gospel, I have in mind churches where the pastor preaches from the Bible. The good news of Jesus Christ is evident in word and deed. I am talking about churches consumed with being transformed into the image of Christ instead of being transformed into the image of culture. It’s with these churches where I want to lock arms with one message on one mission. I want to look past the tree to see the forest. While these churches might be few in number, it’s these churches where I am willing to find ways to partner. It’s these churches that must band together for the advancement of the gospel.
I was reminded of the value of gospel partnership during 2020 and into 2021. The church where I am a pastor, Redemption Hill Church, had to navigate remaining united and meet every Sunday, without a church building. The plans we made before the pandemic were squashed, and suddenly we needed to figure out where to gather for worship. So during 2020 and into 2021, we gathered at ten different locations. From parks to drive-in church on my front lawn, the church flexed and gathered.
Now, I have to admit it was challenging to pivot week in and week out. Nonetheless, by the grace of God and the support from the saints of Redemption Hill, we still exist for the glory of God. However, we were not alone. Other churches in the area saw our unique situation and moved to help us. I want to tell you about three churches that understand the importance of the gospel and the local church.
“A Little Help From My Friends”
Before COVID and before the Powers family relocated to the Des Moines metro, several families from the Twin Cities arrived. They were a people without a church home. Even after the Powers set down roots in Des Moines, it would be several months before our official first church service. So I decided to connect with the lead pastor Cole Deike. I wanted him to know that there would be a small influx of visitors for a season. He received our team with joy. Frontier faithfully preaches from God’s Word, and they are on a mission to love the Des Moines metro. Our time at Frontier was not long, but it was meaningful.
Here is more information about Frontier Church.
During the summer and fall of 2020, Redemption Hill met at Centennial Park in Waukee, Iowa. For over four months the park became home. But if you know anything about the weather in Iowa, it’s that after fall is winter. And the temperature can change quickly when the month of October rolls around. So knowing that winter was coming and we did not have a place to gather, I began to pray. I called the church to pray. And God answered our prayer.
On one Friday morning in the fall of 2020, Pastor Michael Mudluff of Westkirk Presbyterian approached me about the possibility of using their building until we could find a permanent location. It was an answer to prayer. With the full approval of their elders, Redemption Hill was able to gather on Sunday afternoons. The generosity of Westkirk is an example of a gospel partnership. While Westkirk and Redemption Hill do not have a formal affiliation, we preach and believe in the same message. We are on the same gospel mission. I commend Westkirk to anyone. Westkirk is willing to look beyond the local church and see that God is working in other churches. Redemption Hill was not planted out of Westkirk, but Westkirk is a part of Redemption Hill’s story of God building and growing his church. Pastor Michael faithfully preaches God’s Word, and I count it a privilege to call him my friend.
Check out Westkirk’s website for more information.
Harvest Bible Chapel
When you meet in 11 different locations in less than three years, it’s challenging to pull off a lot of programming, especially with limited resources. So it was fantastic to see how Harvest Bible Chapel allowed the kids of Redemption Hill Church to participate in their summer kids camp, called High-5. I volunteered and had a blast, and the kids had even more fun. But the most significant part of the 5-day evening camp is that the kids repeatedly heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know Nick Lees, the lead pastor at Harvest Bible Chaple. He is a faithful brother in Christ and a humble pastor. He preaches from God’s Word, and he also knows what it means to be on God’s mission by seeing other gospel-centered churches thrive.
Learn more about Harvest and the gospel work they are doing.
The Big Picture
The journey of Redemption Hill is a reminder of the importance of gospel partnership. Yes, a partnership can come through a denomination. Redemption Hill is a part of a small denomination called Trinity Fellowship Churches. But Redemption Hill is the only TFC church in the Des Moines metro. Even if that was not the case, there is a bigger picture going on. We are often playing checkers when God is playing chess. God is building his local churches. God is fusing like-minded churches that are bent on seeking his glory for the good of the church and the community. Perhaps it’s time to stop playing checkers and play a game of chess.
Shawn Powers is the lead pastor of Redemption Hill Church. You can follow him on Twitter at shawn_DSM.