Christ the Redeemer
An Interview with The Rev. Todd Weedman from Christ the Redeemer, St. Louis, Missouri
1. How did the vision for CtR develop?
Having been deeply influenced by the ministry of Francis Schaeffer, I am a firm believer in the importance of hospitality. When I moved to St. Louis in June of 2015, I started reconnecting with friends and opening my home for meals and building intentional community. (I had lived here for almost 4 years—between 2007 and 2011—while earning my MDiv at Covenant Theological Seminary). This eventually developed to include sharing together in Evening Prayer from the BCP. When it became clear to me that my time in St. Louis would be more long-term (and when I concluded that God was indeed calling me to take orders), we started to have more intentional conversations as a gathering of friends about the possibility that God might use us to plant a church in the city.
As I began to consider how to go about planting an Anglican Church in St. Louis, I took advantage of Dr. Tim Keller's church planting manual as a resource to develop a more concrete vision. For anyone unfamiliar, this is the guide that Dr. Keller assembled (originally) to assist the ministers brought in by Redeemer Presbyterian Church to plant in the various communities around metro New York. It was tremendously helpful to me, as it provided a step-by step process for studying your community (quantitative and qualitative research), understanding the needs, and developing a custom, coherent philosophy of ministry and plan for church planting. The result of that work has been very helpful to me in my effort to lead my core group and to concisely and eloquently communicate to outsiders (and potential new members) what God is calling equipping CtR to do in St. Louis.
2. What are some of the challenges in planting a new congregation?
We face many of the same challenges as an established congregation. People are busy and resources (time and money) are limited. We struggle to find the right balance between building up our core and reaching out to our community. We live in the same consumer-minded culture, where people come to a church looking for what they can get rather than what they can give. We also struggle to find the right balance between graciously meeting people where they are, while extending the call to grow and change.
We also face challenges unique to being a parachute church plant. We don't have a building that people can drive by, and (at this point) we don't have a weekly Sunday morning gathering, so we have a little extra work in making sure our neighbors are aware that we exist. I frequently meet people who (seeing my collar) express, "Where's your church? I'd like to check it out." In the rare case where the idea of church planting is not foreign to such people, the way we are planting is. (In St. Louis, we have a few mega churches that occasionally copy and paste into a new neighborhood, our work is obviously quite different). It's a real challenge to get people to suspend their paradigms for something so different, and to stay.
We regularly find visitors coming and initially expressing delight at the hospitality and welcome they receive, and the genuine and intimate community they experience. They find our people-oriented (rather than program-oriented) approach refreshing. For a season, any way. This has become our greatest challenge. Once the novelty of church as "a community to which I belong" rather than "event which I attend," many people begin to realize the impossibility of anonymity and the challenges of life in community. The revolving door phenomenon is much more noticeable and much more costly for us than for our more established sister churches.
3. How will you reach out to the community with the gospel?
For us, this begins with prayer. We pray, every time that we gather, for the Holy Spirit to lead us to people, to fill us with both the compassion and boldness to witness to the Gospel (in word and deed both), and to open their ears and hearts to receive it. Along with weekly times of prayer together, we also have started going on prayer walks around our neighborhoods.
I find in this community that people are extremely sensitive to gimmicks. We want to be very intentional to communicate that our goal is not to sell anything (we're not even trying to sell the Gospel; after all, it's free), but to grow in our knowledge and care of the people who Christ calls our neighbor. As Christians, we will naturally preach the Gospel in what we say and what we do, and we trust that the Holy Spirit will bring efficacy to what we do. I have been very intentional about casting this vision for our core group: that evangelism is not a program, but rather a lifestyle grounded in our Christian identity. As such, I believe that friendship and hospitality are two of the most accessible and significant tools available to us Christians as we live out the gospel in community. In my own practice of hospitality (inviting people into my home regularly for meals, conversations, film viewings, etc...), I am being intentional to model evangelism for my core group and encouraging them to do the same (which they all do with some regularity).
4. Why plant an Anglican Church when there are many other good churches in the region?
There are, in fact, a number of faithful, Gospel-preaching churches in this city (though, none of them are Anglican). There are also a multitude of yet unreached people in this city. We are not planting to compete with our sister churches; we are planting to join them in the harvest.
5. You also serve as a hospital chaplain, tell us abut this ministry.
I am in my second year of residency as a chaplain at St. Luke's Hospital. It is a privilege to come alongside the sick, the dying, and the grieving to share the love of Christ and offer spiritual care and direction during their seasons of crisis, doubt, and fear. I am also thankful to God for a second vocation, which provides sufficient income to support my work as a church planter and utilizes my education and gifts as a pastor. I am currently in dialogue now with my supervisors about signing on for another 2-3 years of residency as a supervisory candidate through the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education, which would open doors for me to eventually be certified to train future chaplains.
6. How best can we pray for CtR?
Pray for wisdom, discernment, and good helpers as we are in the midst of establishing by-laws and a budget and preparing to apply for legal recognition as a formal church in the State of Missouri.
Pray that we would grow daily in our dependence upon the Holy Spirit to reach the lost and grow Christ's church (both growing as disciples, and growing numerically).
Pray that God would increasingly provide the resources that we need to effectively accomplish our mission in St. Louis.
Pray that we would continue to grow in our love for God's Word.