MADISON — Jeff Young, chairman of deacons at Redeemer Church in Madison, said last Sunday was “off the hook.” The idiom “off the hook” has several meanings, but I think Jeff’s expression was his way of saying, “Things at Redeemer were out of control, incredibly crazy, amazingly wonderful.”
Sunday, February 5th, was Redeemer Church’s first Sunday in their new facility at 1890 Bethany Road in Madison. Although the church started less than four years ago with nine people meeting in the driveway of John and Jodie Darsey, they had 564 people present last Sunday even though the dedication service will not be until March 5.
Darsey, the pastor of Redeemer Church, recalled, “Our first meeting was with a few friends in my driveway on April 10, 2013 to pray about the idea of starting a church. We decided to have a fish fry at Hard Labor Creek State Park on May 5th and invite more friends to share the vision and make our final decision.”
Two days later Darsey agreed to plant a new church. The first services were held in Morgan County Primary School on July 7, 2013.
When the church outgrew the primary school, the leadership moved the church to the Morgan County High School cafeteria. By February 2015 it was necessary to move the congregation to the school’s auditorium in order to provide adequate space. The church continued to meet there until last Sunday when they moved to their new location.
Their own identity
Darsey explained, “It did not take long for us to realize we needed our own identity and our own place for worship and discipleship. When we started looking for land, there were three specific locations in Morgan County attractive to us. However, the first two did not meet zoning requirements.
“Through a realtor friend we met a gentleman who had an ideally-located 100-acre farm and was willing to consider selling it. He agreed to sell us seven acres at $25,000 per acre. We had been saving for some land and our savings coupled with two anonymous donations allowed us to pay cash for the land.
“We signed the agreement, closed the deal, and began pushing down the trees and clearing the land on May 5, 2016. We are one-half mile from downtown Madison and right off the 441 bypass.”
When Darsey was asked to cite the principles that had led the church to grow so effectively, he mentioned three things. “We purposely created experience for people that featured a contemporary worship service and music combined with a casual atmosphere.
“That was found nowhere else in the county, to my knowledge. We have focused on reaching children, youth, and young families. I intend to spend the rest of my life creating a church that will focus on youth in order to leave a church for the next generation.
“Secondly,” Darsey added, “We emphasize expository Bible preaching and strong emphasis on weekly small group Bible-study groups. We are contemporary, but with a no-apology-old-fashioned- Gospel-preaching foundation.
“Finally, we focus on strong evangelistic growth. We have seen over 250 people baptized in Lake Oconee. The life-change, which has occurred in the lives of so many people, has drawn a crowd. Acts 2:42-47 is our church’s theme passage and we seek to replicate that environment in every way possible.
Create an environment
“Seriously,” Darsey stated, “that is all we are trying to do – create an environment in which the Holy Spirit is pleased to dwell and move.”
The new 12,000-square-foot building includes a 450-seat worship center along with moderate space for children and youth ministries. The facility also includes adult Sunday School classes and offices.
Darsey reported, “The building and land costs approximately $1.4 million. We borrowed $580,000 from the Baptist Church Loan Corporation (formerly of NAMB). The rest we have paid in cash through the offerings of our people and $200,000 in donations of people outside the church.
“We have already done the grading for phase two, which will be 17,000 square feet. We hope to start that building in two years. We were already at capacity on opening day and plan to go to two services in March.”
Several people from Redeemer shared their testimonies about the first service in the new building. Jeff Young remarked, “The music was incredible. The preaching was wonderful. The spirit was strong; and people were saved.”
Keith Fowler, who along with his wife, Wanda, were the first ones to approach Darsey about starting the church, exclaimed, “What an exciting day – I wept for joy over what God did on Sunday. God has provided everything we needed and He has brought people from all over the area. We have experienced one miracle after another.
“John Darsey has been a good and faithful pastor. I believe he is a man of integrity and throughout this whole process he has followed God’s leading to the utmost.”
When Darsey walked up on the platform to give the welcome and saw the overflow crowd, he was overwhelmed, especially when the people began to applaud him for his leadership. He was left speechless for moments. He said, “It was a moment I will never forget. People can view the service on the website. We have live streaming that we archive Sunday after Sunday. Best of all, we have 16 additions with two of those people making professions of faith in Christ.”
Darsey concluded, “I want to continue to create momentum as we seek to integrate the church and its spirit into people’s lives. We have grown so quickly that our people are not tied together yet, in a spiritual sense. I want to continue to let the Acts 2 model develop the mindset and change the worldview of our people.
“My greatest goal at this point is to take the ‘crowd’ we have now and turn it into a family. That will require intensive small group studies and fellowship. I also want to develop ministry-specific programs, like substance abuse recovery, single parent support, and local mission work to help the people in Morgan County with a real hands-on approach. I want to personally teach my people to love and learn the Bible through expository preaching and teaching.”
Raise a generation
“I’m thrilled that we have our own place to study and worship together,” Darsey said. “I’ve not had an office since 2013 and I’m excited to get back into my own study! I want to teach our people the Bible is paramount to our lives and culture and raise up a generation of young people who will be passionate about Scripture and evangelizing our community.”
John Darsey and Redeemer Church have not sought financial assistance from the Georgia Baptist Mission Board or the North American Mission Board. Darsey said, “Dr. White (executive Ddirector of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board) asked me early on if I needed anything and I mentioned we needed some chairs. He and the Mission Board provided $1,500 for us to purchase some chairs. NAMB has sent me several gifts like cups, books, and vests, but our people have been faithful to give and serve so other church starts may receive needed funds.”
While many church starts need financial assistance, successful church planting is typically more dependent on leadership than money.