by Pastor Ryan
When people ask me to explain Redemption Groups I usually refer to the basic definition from Mike Wilkerson: “A Redemption Group is an intense small group that digs deep into difficult and seldom-discussed areas of life, such as abuse, addiction, and trials of all sorts…Far beyond Bible study, Redemption Groups are about life study—your life connecting with Jesus’ life. Participants challenge one another, and the Word reveals hearts.”
The next question is “What does that look like?” I want to answer that question here by sharing the story of what Kaylan and I experienced in Redemption Groups (RGs). After being on staff at two churches in Texas I quit and we moved to Albuquerque in 2009 to be a part of Mars Hill ABQ because we believed Jesus was going to transform us. We got plugged into Redemption Groups soon after we had moved there. Mars Hill ABQ was about to launch the groups and Kaylan and I were asked to be apprentices. We had no clue what we were getting into, but we submitted to RGs and were instantly amazed at the power of the gospel. During the first leader’s meeting a man confessed a deep, dark sin, and I remember Kaylan’s eyes got really big. We knew that this wasn’t a joke, and there was no turning back. In response, we freely confessed our real struggles and sin to these new friends even though it was a foreign action for us. We drove away that night knowing this was going to be awesome and crazy.
For the first few meetings, as apprentices, we silently sat in awe of the stories shared and the sin that was crushing our participants. As the leaders dug in to the participants they moved past the behavior and got to the idols. It was painful for me to experience because the weight of sin was heavy and dark, but it pointed to how gracious God is by sending his Son to the cross. What Jesus absorbed and accomplished is sweet when our rebellion is seen as it really is. In the moment though, some participants were not seeing the big picture. Their pride was being confronted by Jesus, and one participant in particular wanted to fight a leader. I didn’t respond well either when the group’s eyes were on me. They were asking about how I had been leading Kaylan, which at the time was very poor. I didn’t have a visceral reaction, but I was burning hot inside. “Who do these guys think they are?,” I said to myself over and over. It was hard to deal with the fact that I am not god and that I had been stealing glory from Jesus for years. I was debunked as the hero and realized I had put on a good front for a long time. After I cooled down, I received the truth, confessed my sin, and turned from myself as an awful god. As my worship moved from myself to Jesus I was overwhelmed by the freedom and life breaking in. I was no longer scared of confessing because it was a grace that killed the lie of my self-sufficiency. My self-righteousness was rebellion. I had seen the glory of God and turned my back on it, refusing to depend on the Father. In confession I saw my need and in repentance I could truly worship our glorious King. Out of my identity as his son and the love he has shown me, I could lovingly pursue and lead my wife.
Redemption Groups are not a savior but they can be a means of God’s grace to those who are blind to their sin or in a rut. Prayerfully consider if you should apply to our next cycle of RGs at Grace Church. You can find more info here.