Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

“Immersion Was Different”

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Here is another testimonial from a Redemption Group Leader in a local church after a team from her church participated in a Redemption Group Immersion.

I am so grateful that our church had the opportunity to go through the Redemption Immersion. Putting feet to the words we read in Mike’s book was extremely helpful. When we did our soft launch earlier this year, I don’t think I fully grasped the magnitude of what Redemption was intended to be and/or could be. This is not to say our first run through the Redemption series on our own lacked intensity; but the Immersion was different. It was weightier.

I think it was crucial for me to participate as it peeled back layers of sin in my life that I didn’t know were there. It also broke me of pride that I had thinking I was even a little bit capable of leading a group on my own. The immersion further proved that every bit of the group dynamic is the Holy Spirit’s domain.

As a potential leader, the immersion filled in the blanks for me. I was in a group with experienced leaders who provided examples of what it looks like to facilitate a profitable group experience while relying completely and whole heartedly on the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

I think it is so important to have future leaders of Redemption Groups participate in at least one of these weekends. If for nothing else, than to ensure that Jesus is given more glory.

This church was part of our initial beta program when some churches attempted to launch groups with an Immersion and some without. Based on the results of those trials, Immersion is now a requirement for any newcomer to the Redemption Group Network. To find out what else is involved in launching Redemption Groups in your church or ministry, read here. To read another before-and-after story like this one, click here.

Anna’s Redemption Group Immersion Experience

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Anna, a teenager from Idaho, has posted her reflections from her recent experience at the January 2011 Redemption Group Immersion in Seattle which she attended with her father, her best friend, Mr. B. and Mr. H from her hometown. Here are a few excerpts:

Redemption Groups are the Mars Hill system for leading people to redemption from their sin and suffering, kind of like AA for every problem, except it works! The way that they accomplish this training is to put you in a high speed, high intensity, actual Redemption Group, you literally get thrown in the deep end!

This process biblically leads people to see their sin, to mourn over it, to confess it, to give it to God, to ask for forgiveness, to be forgiven. And finally to be redeemed!!!

After the general sessions of teaching and training we would split into our Redemption Groups. The first several groups we each shared our stories, our hurts, our sufferings, our sins.

One by one we were each prodded, probed and questioned about our stories, about our lives. We were led to see our sin; we were each led to a point where we couldn’t deny our filthy wretchedness. There was no comforting, no Kleenex passing, or defending one another.

One of the big things I learned is that I cannot just throw truth at someone, because they won’t listen, I can’t tell them what their conclusions need to be, but I can learn to ask questions in such a way to lead them to come to their own honest conclusions. Our leaders were wonderful at asking questions that drew people out, they didn’t just tell people where their sin was, like I tried to do; they asked questions that brought you to a place where you had to either flat out lie, or fully confess and see the deep, deep root of your sin.

I cried a lot, which is weird, because I never cry

I told about how much God has blessed me in my life already. How I’ve never had any deep wounds or scars, how I’ve never had any great suffering. How no one has ever committed any great sins against me. How as a Pastor’s Kid I had heard people say that PK’s are either rotten devils or perfect angels, I had grabbed that idea and taken it deeply to heart; how I try SO hard to be perfect. Living in such a way that nobody ever saw me sin, never saw me slip up; never saw me doing anything unpleasant.

The next day it was time for me to go through what Mr. B. began referring to as “The Wringer” which means that it was time for my group to LOVE me by completely stripping me of any remnant of pride and exposing me to the blatant ugliness of my sin. Let me just say, it doesn’t feel very loving until you are through, and you see exactly what they did.

As they asked probing questions to which I had to admit truthful answers or else lie, I felt as if they were stripping me naked, like an onion, layer by layer. Although I already knew of my sin, I’m not sure I really comprehended the lengths and depths to which it went. I did not like confessing it to other sinful struggling people who I didn’t know, and who didn’t know me. I hated it. I tearfully confessed that I had a deep, deep idol… myself. I confessed that I paid homage to my idol by trying to rescue other people so that I could look like a good person, creating a perfect image of myself for other people, by trying hard to earn the praise and affirmation of anyone who would give it to me, by judging other people to make myself feel better, and by believing the lie that I couldn’t really go before God and let Him love me until I had myself together, all packaged up and tied up with a pretty bow.

I didn’t strive to resist sin because I loved God, but because sin made me look bad. I didn’t serve people to serve God, but to make myself look good. My life centered on looking good to family, friends, church, strangers, and even God.

I had taken Christ off of the throne of my life, and had seated myself there instead. Although my behavior was commendable, my heart motives were sinful.

[After the group session] I couldn’t hold back the tears of frustration as I walked down the hall and towards the stairs; my best friend ran up behind me and gasped when she saw my face. “Anna!” she said “I have never seen you cry before, WHAT did they do to you?!!!” I told her about being emotionally stripped naked, feeling completely exposed, and my frustration. The full reality of what she had said to me didn’t resonate until the following day.

On the following morning in group session, they finished picking me apart. (At least that’s what it feels like.) I realized at that point, the lengths that I had gone to in order to promote the best image possible; my best friend of four years had never seen me cry, I mean come on, I’m a teenage girl? That has got to be a feat of epic proportions! And just a few weeks prior I had removed nearly 100 pictures from my Facebook because I thought that these photos were unflattering, so I removed the tags. The depth of my vanity hit me like a 2×4!

Since the day that I invited Jesus into my life, I have known for a fact that I am saved and redeemed, but it was brought to my attention that I had somehow been deceived into believing that I needed to work my way through my sin to get to God. I had forgotten reality… I don’t have to do anything to earn His love. That, however, is not an excuse I can use to sin. In fact, my love for Him helps prevent me from choosing sin. Of course I know I will still sin, but when I do His grace abounds, and by His grace He works in me, chipping away at my imperfections until the day I die. That is how redemption works. The truth I need to cling to is that I don’t need to go and get all pretty before I can crawl into His arms. He died FOR my sin, He KNOWS my sin, but when He looks at me He sees His daughter, covered in His shed blood. He has forgiven me, He has redeemed me. Hallelujah, WHAT A SAVIOR!

I can’t wait to see what God will continue to do in my heart, as I work my way through all that He is bringing to light in my life.

I would do the RGI again in a heartbeat, lugubrious as it was!

“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” – A.W. Tozer

Pastor Testimonial: Post-Immersion, Groups are Much Better

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Mike Keogh, a pastor at South Hills Evangelical Church in Missoula, Montana brought a team of his Redemption Group leaders to the recent Redemption Group Immersion in Seattle. The impact on their ministry effectiveness was huge. Here’s how Mike put it:

We had already gone through a dry run of Redemption Groups before our leaders attended the Seattle Redemption Group Immersion in January 2011. Soon after returning from the Immersion, we launched our next round of Redemption Groups. After our first night, we debriefed as leaders and the word that best described how we felt was “giddy”. Never in all our eight weeks going through the dry run had our groups experienced as much closeness as they did on this one night.

To add a bit more back story, prior to Mike’s dry run of Redemption Groups (pre-Immersion), he had already taken his leadership team through quite a bit of training and preparation, including our recommended Redemption Group Leader Syllabus, and they had already seen some fruitfulness in their ministry. What the Immersion gave his leadership team was a better experiential “feel” for what a group could be like.

This is why it’s called an Immersion. It’s more than a leader training; it’s training by experience. It’s something you can’t just read about or download. You have to be there. And look what a difference that’s made for Mike and his ministry team. Praise God for bearing even more fruit in their Redemption Groups ministry.

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Experiencing My Risen Redeemer

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Laura’s reflections from the March 2010 Redemption Group Immersion…

I have sought redemption before…only to be disappointed. I wanted redemption my way. Although I never wanted any part of my healing to be without Christ, I was leaving the Cross behind. I was asking God to fit into my equation for redemption.

After going through the rich material in Redemption Group, I was humbled first and foremost by the immense love of my Savior. He gently exposed my equations for redemption. He then softened my heart to the shame I have been trapped in since a woman within my church molested me as a teenager.

The only way I can describe my life of shame is that I was frozen inside of an ice cube. As days passed, the ice cube grew larger, safely guarding me from those around me and from my Savior. People could still see me and I could still relate to people. I became adept at allowing people to think they knew me while staying safely distanced. This ice cube left my soul weary, my heart embittered and every part of me disillusioned.

From the inside looking out, this ice cube gave me a very distorted lens through which I viewed everything. I hated myself for the sin someone committed against me. I saw God’s Word as a source of bondage—for she used Scripture to justify the wrong she committed against me. This shame that enslaved me manifested itself as feelings of depression, despair and hopelessness. I had forgiven my perpetrator; I had invested much energy and many tears in the healing process. However, I believed that I was as whole as I would probably ever be.

Then my Savior stepped in and melted the layers of shame, despair and deception. With his brilliant light and radiant love, he melted all of the ice that surrounded me. He gave me the courage to be in His presence, naked and unashamed. Jesus took my shame upon Him in His death. In allowing Him to take my shame, I can put my hope fully in my God. It was not the experience of Redemption Groups that brought redemption, but experiencing my risen Redeemer.

Below is the psalm Laura wrote during the Redemption Group Immersion.

I have spent the first 25 years of my life telling you—my creator–how you created me wrongly and what simple changes you could make or simply help me to make to bring redemption. I even bartered with you, promising you your share of Glory.

But you, Oh God are not simply the God of my youth who offers empty hope and abuse. You are the God of me today—offering true hope, lasting change and real peace.

See my definitions of purity, beauty, wholeness and peace miss you and circumvent the cross. My disillusionment is because of my definitions—not your character.

My created world of walls and expectations that only kept me from you were my attempt to string together fig leaves to hide my shameful body. I take off these leaves and stand before you, my God—naked and unashamed and ask for Your garment of righteousness.

Experiencing God’s Lavish Grace in Christ

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Joel explains how God showed up at the March 2010 Redemption Group Immersion

I went into this past week’s Redemption Group Immersion with a strong, ugly sense of older brother pride. I stocked up my work bag with brochures and business cards, bringing five years of professional counseling experience and success, viewing my presence as a “gift” to the participants in the training. What a shock to realize that God had different plans for me; his desire was to wreck me, to change my mind and my heart, to heal me, and to restore me to full confidence in his record and not in my own. I’ve narrowed down some specific places in my life that God worked this week to restore me back in line with the truth of the Gospel:

  1. My battle with shame, covering myself with good works and my “nice guy” identity
  2. My automatic “judgment” of younger brothers and jealousy of their stories of redemption
  3. My small box that I “allow” God to work within, living as a “functional deist”
  4. My story in the context of God’s redemptive story: Is the climax of my life the cross/resurrection or my self-actualization? Am I a glory-thief?
  5. The Holy Spirit’s conviction and pointing to truth instead of lies
  6. The community of faith – fellow partakers of God’s grace in the moment
  7. My emotions are a tool that God can work with, not a hindrance. The glory of God can come through my emotional engagement with people.
  8. The outworking my deeper sense of God’s love and forgiveness–my marriage, my parenting, my job, etc. etc. etc.

Last week, God’s grace enabled me to insert real-time forgiveness right in the moment of condemnation. In the midst of my realization of sin (older-brother pride), I experienced God’s lavish grace in Christ–a foolish, undeserved grace that he showers on me. And he covered my sin, not haunting me with a sense of not repenting deeply enough, or that I had to do something to pay him back. Lord have mercy on me, the sinner.