When Christ Redeemer Church began in the Fall of 2000, Pastor Don Willeman wrote a vision statement to describe what he and the leaders hoped the church would look like in ten years. This document, Vision 2010, described how the different ministries of the church body might appear. Ten years later, many of those descriptions match the realities of CRC. In the Summer of 2010, the leaders of the church worked together to revise and update the vision for the growth of the church. Below you’ll find Vision 2020.
What Might the Christ Redeemer Church Look Like In 2020?
The year is 2020. The place is the Upper Connecticut River Valley. CRC has now been in existence for about twenty years and is continuing to grow and extend the reach of Christ’s Kingdom.
The average weekly attendance is now over 400, and the official church membership is at 150. Twenty small groups are presently meeting to provide for the pastoral care needs of the congregation and outreach to the Upper Valley community.
Our worship is marked by the presence of God as He meets with His people. Each week the church anxiously anticipates this time of fellowship and worship, knowing that it is a foretaste of our ultimate fellowship and worship in heaven.
God is praised through a joyous blend of doctrinally-solid, traditional and contemporary music, times of congregational sharing and prayer, the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ and our gathering around the Lord’s Table.
Since small group ministry is such a vital part of our life as a body, virtually everyone in the church is involved in one of our Community Groups. These small groups meet weekly, providing an intimate atmosphere of mutual encouragement and accountability. Since each group is led by one of the leaders of the church, they also provide a tangible means for the care of God’s people. Likewise, much of our hands-on leadership training is accomplished through these groups. Moreover, these small groups have become one of the chief means of gospel outreach to our friends and neighbors. The care for one another modeled in these groups have attracted the interest of many and the atmosphere in the groups, though very rich for nourishing the spiritual needs of believers, is also a safe and welcoming place for those just investigating the gospel.
In addition to coordinating with other women’s ministries in the Upper Valley, CRC hosts a weekly discussion group, quarterly outreach events, and periodic “ladies’ night out”. Because of the outreach orientation of these events and the warm atmosphere fostered by our gospel-focus, we have many individuals and families coming into the church through our women’s ministry. In addition, it is one of our best vehicles for training women in the faith. Many of the leaders in our women’s ministry have received hands-on leadership training through these various programs. Moreover, the women who have been impacted by CRC are known for their confidence, contentment and strength of character.
Our men’s ministry has regular outreach-oriented events that are geared toward believers bringing their non-believing friends. We have found much success through these events. Some of the men presently in leadership have become followers of Christ through these events. In addition, men regularly meet together in small groups at their homes and workplaces for encouragement, learning and accountability—all with a vision for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Moreover, we host regular men’s retreats and seminars, as well as an annual men’s conference every January with hundreds of men in attendance. Men who have been significantly influenced by CRC are marked by solid, gentle, servant-hearted leadership in their homes, communities and workplaces.
Because of the diverse and welcoming atmosphere at CRC, there are a sizeable number of singles involved in the church. In addition to participation in the main aspects of our congregational life (weekly worship, small groups, Sunday School, etc.), the singles of CRC have initiated outreach ministries to their fellow singles outside the church. Through periodic events they gather with friends for the purpose of seeing the gospel spread among this growing segment of the Upper Valley. Moreover, we periodically host conferences to serve the needs of singles and encourage them towards a kingdom-centered focus to their lives.
Our children’s programs are distinctively gospel-centered. The Sunday School classes, children’s church, youth group and outreach programs are not merely concerned with producing “good kids” but rather spiritually-alive kids—kids that passionately love Christ. Furthermore, our youth are known throughout the Upper Valley for their commitment to Christ and serving their community.
Likewise, our Junior High and High School Youth Ministries are some of the most substantive in the area. We are serious about reaching non-Christian youth and training young believers in the faith. We host an annual conference that draws high school and college students from all over the states of Vermont and New Hampshire. The purpose of this event is to help our young people develop a gospel-centered worldview while at the same time exposing the deficiencies of rival perspectives.
Moreover, CRC is committed to training parents to shepherd their children in a gospel-oriented manner. Therefore, there are regular training events and classes to help accomplish this goal. This has helped to promote a mentoring culture, in which older parents coach younger parents through the challenges of rearing children.
The Christian ministries at Dartmouth are solid, strong and growing. Christ Redeemer Church plays a vital role in this by providing a local church environment where students, faculty, and campus ministry staff become grounded in the richness of the gospel in the context of a local church.
Moreover, CRC has developed a very unique partnership program with some of the campus staff. This program creates a partnership of mutual support and accountability, so that CRC has the benefit of campus ministers committed to the local church and campus ministers have the benefit of local accountability and support. It has worked so well that other churches and campus ministers are seeking to implement similar programs in their particular context.
Our philosophy of involvement on the campus is one of participation and affirmation. We believe the gospel informs, enlivens and redeems every area of study. Therefore, we respect the accomplishments and unique role of academia while at the same time not flinching at allowing the gospel to be an offense to human intellectual pride (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). Therefore, we seek to make a positive contribution to the intellectual community by challenging the basic assumptions of human autonomy, arrogance and relativism, while at the same time showing how the gospel worldview renews all fields of human knowledge. This then opens the door for us to positively proclaim the person and work of Christ as the solution to mankind’s alienation and guilt. With excellence of scholarship, integrity of life and genuineness of heart, we seek to present the Gospel as the truth, and ourselves as servants of our unbelieving neighbors.
We use primarily three platforms to do this. The first is a fellowship of faculty that meets on a regular basis. The second is helping to sponsor periodic conferences that bring the sharpest gospel-minded thinkers to the campus to challenge assumptions and call to faith in Christ. Third, we seek to minister to the students by supporting the existing Christian ministries.
In conjunction with each of these “platforms”, CRC has initiated a Christian study center at Dartmouth. The study center, which maintains a close relationship with CRC, is a chief means by which folk from CRC and other churches and ministries mentor and train students in a “Gospel-Driven Vision for all of Life”, while providing opportunities for collegial gospel-oriented interactions with believing and non-believing staff and faculty.
Considering the influence of this world-renowned institution, CRC has been quite intentional about the gospel becoming a powerful influence there. God has been faithful to allow CRC to develop significant connections to the people who work there. We have regular culturally-sensitive outreach events that are held on and off-site. Likewise, we help support a fellowship of Christian medical professionals who have a vision for seeing DHMC saturated with the gospel. In coordination with this fellowship, CRC sponsors regular missions trips that involve fostering church planting, community development, and medical care. Moreover, the medical professionals at CRC play a key role in providing healthcare for the needy of the Upper Valley.
Through the gospel-vision cast by the ministry of CRC, the folk of CRC are making their own positive contribution to “transforming medicine”. Since the gospel provides a solid philosophical framework for caring for the body as well as the soul, the people of CRC have earned a reputation of excellence not only in their care of patients, but also in their big-picture contribution to the institution of DHMC.
CRC has a reputation of promoting solid ministry-minded families. Those families that have been significantly influenced by CRC are marked by solid, gentle, servant-hearted leadership. Likewise, parents are skillful and committed to ministering the gospel to their children by their life, as well as, a regular time of family Bible teaching. In addition, our families are marked by a simple lifestyle, where caring for and relating to people is more important than caring for things. Over the years we have had a number of conferences and seminars on marriage, parenting and family life that have contributed to the congregation’s development in these areas.
At present we have a senior pastor and an assistant pastor, both of which are voting members of the elder board, the governing board of the church. In the elder board there is a remarkable unity, which can only be attributed to the whole-hearted commitment by all its members to keep Christ the central issue. In addition, these elders play a very vital role in the pastoral care of the congregation, primarily accomplished through our Community Groups. The dozens of deacons care for the more practical concerns of operating a church organization. There are regular leadership/vision and training meetings for the elders, deacons, and other ministry leaders. The key quality prized in the selection of leaders is humility and servant-heartedness.
CRC is setting the pace in New England for re-establishing the primacy of an apprenticeship period in training ministers of the gospel. We are presently working with three interns and have already seen ten others come and go.
The church has assisted in the start of four churches—one being started by former CRC interns—and is beginning to work on the next. All of these churches are marked by their gospel-driveness, as well as people-oriented approach to ministry. In general the new churches target college towns. In planting these churches we have actively sought the support of outside individuals and foundations that wish to contribute to the advancement of gospel-centered church planting.
Moreover, because of the success and insight that CRC has gained from doing ministry in a college-town, it has been able to host a number of symposiums on “Doing Church in a College Town”. These have been very helpful not only for the other churches that attend, but also for the deeper partnerships and insights that CRC has gained.
The Lord has blessed us with an adequate facility that we have been faithful to maintain and expand to fit our growing needs. This facility also houses a study center, that is used to train not only CRC folk but also Dartmouth students and faculty. Likewise, the church owns a parsonage that is used for the pastoral apprentices and their families.
Since the beginning CRC has had a strong heart for missions. We began by committing 10% of our operating budget to missions, and have now worked our way up to nearly 25%—and we continue to aim higher! Through our missions and local benevolence giving,CRChas now given away over a million dollars in its relatively short 20 year history.
Moreover, we take regular regional and overseas missions trips, which we coordinate with the various ministries within CRC (youth, medical groups, men’s ministry, etc.) as well as those outside CRC (other churches, campus ministries, etc.). In addition, mission’s activities are regularly visible in our worship gatherings, through visiting mission’s speakers and personal testimonies. All this has exposed many in the Upper Valley to the needs around the world. As a result, CRC has been able to send out a number of its own missionaries, spreading the fame of Christ for the joy of all people. Furthermore, CRC has developed training programs to prepare folk, particularly Dartmouth students involved with the study center, for the mission field. In tandem with this, CRC has developed strategic partnerships in various parts of the world, in order to maximize the effectiveness of the missionaries being sent.
In addition, the church has well-developed ministries to meet the material, social and spiritual needs of those within the church as well as those outside of it. There are now teams of deacons trained to address these needs in a compassionate, gospel-driven manner, and these teams regularly coordinate with other charitable organizations and government agencies, in order to provide the most effective assistance possible. Many have been helped and had their lives turned around by the gospel through the caring hands of folk from CRC. The Upper Valley community knows that if there is a need, the people of CRC are ready, willing and able to help.
CRC has made a significant contribution to the recovery of a gospel-oriented view of music and the arts. Some time ago, Christians within the church recovered a vision for how the gospel is the only solid explanation for human creativity and the human sense of beauty. Thus, having gained a vision for the “aesthetic sense of the gospel”, they began to seek out ways to share this similar insight with their fellow musicians and artists. As a result there are numerous gospel-entranced musicians and artists actively contributing to the promotion of the arts and music in the Upper Valley.
CRC is a church that not only “believes” in the power of prayer but also lives it. This fact has not come easily but is something that has required patient, persistent nurturing and sacrificial modeling by the church leaders. For years CRC had been doing a monthly day of fasting and prayer. This has now expanded to an Upper Valley-wide event, with other churches and ministries either participating in it or running parallel events. Moreover, CRC has hosted a number of “prayer summits” that have resulted in increased prayer throughout the Upper Valley. In particular there are now numerous “pockets of prayer” meeting regularly in work places, schools, residence halls, neighborhoods, etc—all praying for the advance of the kingdom of God in their respective spheres, and seeing solid evidences of the fruitfulness of their prayers.
Although there may be some who misunderstand or even oppose us, most in the community are thankful for our presence. We have gained a reputation for being serious about the Bible, serious about the “mind”, committed to caring for one another, serving the community, and adamant about the gospel. Religious folk who are not serious about Christ and His church tend to avoid us. Non-believers who are asking genuine questions tend to be attracted to us precisely because we are genuine—down-to-earth and serious-minded—while at the same time avoiding the snare of petty issues.
Our general posture toward the culture is one of infiltration as opposed to isolation. As individual members of CRC, we seek to be servants to our neighbors by contributing to the common good of the community. Our folk are known for the way they serve their friends, neighbors and the needy of the Upper Valley. Likewise, CRCers are strongly encouraged to develop a gospel-vision for their professions and work, each one seeing their respective vocations as a calling from God. Therefore, our men and women are marked by their diligence, integrity, and excellence in the marketplace. This provides many opportunities for us to give “a reason for the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15).
Likewise, the specific testimony of our love for one another has won more than one convert. Any “outsider” who has come close enough cannot help but say, “My, how they love one another!”