By Anna Dreher
“Redeemer exists to celebrate and declare the gospel of God as we grow in knowing and following Jesus Christ.” This mission statement for Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama, rings true in each aspect of the church. From weekly home groups and accountability groups to children’s ministry and college ministry, and to four Sunday worship services, Redeemer is committed to seeking and savoring the word of God as a church family.
Redeemer Community Church is a non-denominational church located in Birmingham’s Avondale neighborhood. The church was planted by lead pastor Joel Brooks in 2008. From the beginning when Sunday services were in Brooks’s home to the present where the congregation has their own church building with four services all of which are bursting at the seams with attendance, this church has experienced a great deal of growth. Redeemer reaches primarily young adults and college-age people. Although I have attended several of their Sunday worship services, the particular one I will focus on here is their Easter Sunday service on April 4, 2021. This service took place outside on a parking garage deck at the former Trinity Montclair Hospital due to Covid-19 precautions and was also live-streamed on Youtube.
Telos of Worship at Redeemer
The telos of a typical service at Redeemer is conversion and in this it conforms to the “revival” character type defined by Edward Phillips (2020). I have classified Redeemer in this way due to the way it orders its services and the elements the service includes. Defining characteristics of conversion/revival meetings are having a time of testimony being shared, the singing of hymns, calling the sermon the “message”, and the goal of bringing people into a “saving relationship with God.” Redeemer exemplifies all of these elements. For example, in the Easter service after the beginning set of music and before the message, the pastor announced that a member of the congregation was going to share his testimony. This is a neat way of allowing space to share about what the Lord was doing in the lives of people in the church while also enabling the church congregation to grow together as a church family. In the Easter service as well as in most Redeemer Sunday services there is often an invitation for worshipers to welcome Jesus Christ into their hearts as their Lord and Savior. This is a beautiful opportunity for people to either begin a relationship with the Lord for the first time or for people who are already walking with the Lord to be encouraged and spurred on to continue in their relationship with the Lord.
The Ethos of Worship at Redeemer
The ethos of Redeemer’s Easter Service would be described as emotionally effective and personally intimate. Due to the structure of the service as well as the space provided for people to have moments of reflection and prayer, the service stirs up emotions and is intimate. Worship services are not supposed to intentionally evoke certain emotions from congregation members or cause the congregation to feel as if they need to feel a particular way as a whole. However, having an emotionally effective worship service means that the worship leaders have helped cultivate a time and space where people feel that they can give their lives to Jesus. If the atmosphere of a service feels stiff or unwelcoming then revival church traditions believe it is less likely that someone will want to enter into a relationship with Jesus. The personally intimate relationship aspect of Redeemer’s service is shown when the invitation to accept Christ into your heart is given through an altar call. This is a personal and life-changing choice that a person can only make for themselves. Choosing to lead your life for Christ and pray to accept him into your heart is a personal and intimate prayer to pray, and Redeemer allows the space for that in their Easter service as well as other Sunday services.
The Easter Sunday service at Redeemer did an excellent job of accomplishing the church’s goal. Their structure of the service and language that was used throughout the service emphasized the idea that our primary goal as Christians is to share the hope of the gospel and encourage others to live their life for Christ. Including a time for testimony was a beautiful and natural way of helping a non-believer hear firsthand how the Lord has redeemed someone’s life and saved them from their sin. Hearing these testimonies is a wonderful way to bring to life the love of the gospel by seeing it depicted in someone’s everyday life. Although I think they did a great job of designing this service as a revival/conversion style, I think that time in individual prayer and reflection could have been beneficial. Although corporate prayer is important I think that allowing space for people to sit in the Lord’s presence and reflect on what was just revealed to them about His character and goodness is valuable.
The Heart of Worship at Redeemer
I am impressed by the thoughtfulness and celebratory nature of Redeemer’s worship services. Each detail of the service is carefully considered. Matching the song selections with the message, connecting the message with what is going on in the world around us, and allowing testimonies to be shared now and then are very specific and valuable ways to create a worship service with a great deal of care and prayer. The word choices that the lead pastor and the worship team members use to talk about the Lord and all that he is doing in the lives of church members and the community, is encouraging. It is important to celebrate the lessons God is teaching us and having us wrestle with. It is important to celebrate the victories and joys of day-to-day life that God blesses us with. Redeemer does a nice job of celebrating humbly and making sure to give all glory to God.
Redeemer Community Church
Locations: 4022 4th Ave South Birmingham, AL 35222 with outdoor services temporarily at 880 Montclair Road, Birmingham AL 35213
Services Observed: Easter Sunday Worship Service on April 4, 2021
Video Archives: Redeemer Community Church Youtube: https://youtu.be/fvyqk1kDQS0
Hamilton, John. 2019. “Redeemer Community Church: Redeemer’s Unchanging Changes” Magic City Religion November 12, 2019. https://magiccityreligion.org/2019/11/12/redeemer-community-church/
Ruth, Lester. “A Rose by Any Other Name: Attempts at Classifying North American Protestant Worship.” In The Conviction of Things Not Seen, edited by Todd E. Johnson. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2002.
Phillips, L. Edward. The Purpose, Pattern, and Character of Worship. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2020.
Redeemer Community Church website: https://www.rccbirmingham.org/
Anna Dreher ‘22 was a student in Christian Worship: History & Theology in Samford University’s Department of Biblical and Religious Studies in spring 2021.
Published May, 19, 2021.