Rather than derision serving as its foundation, Oxford’s new Redeemer Church is the result of a partnership between Anniston Bible Church and Grace Fellowship Church, whose pastors — Bob St. John and Carlton Weathers — began discussing and praying over the possibility of a church plant more than a year ago.
Redeemer Church will have its launch service at 6 p.m. Sunday in the former Rookies sports bar building, across the street Mellow Mushroom in Oxford.
The mission of this new church, much like the congregations that support it, is to be “focused on the glory of God, serious about doctrine, Christ-centered, practicing love for one another and driven by the gospel,” says St. John.
Ryan Limbaugh, who served as associate pastor for Anniston Bible Church, was chosen to lead Redeemer Church, which initially consisted of 11 families selected from both Grace Fellowship and Anniston Bible Church.
“It’s proof of the power of the Gospels,” Limbaugh says. “When the message of Jesus Christ penetrates an entire community, lives and souls change. That’s what our vision is all about.”
That message, as well as Limbaugh’s enthusiasm, is contagious. The pastor, whom Weathers described repeatedly as “dynamic,” has had little trouble drawing families to his upstart church.
Robert Joplin and his family had been members of Grace Fellowship since 2008. It was around January of last year when Limbaugh came and spoke to the congregation about his desire to have church plant in Oxford. After hearing Limbaugh preach, Joplin was already looking for the sign-up sheet.
“I got into the van with my family and turned to my wife and said I think we should do this,” Joplin remembers. “She felt the same way. A few weeks later Carlton came to me after a service and said that we had been chosen as one of the families to go and be a part of the plant.
“I wanted to hug his neck, but I played it cool and told him, ‘Yeah, I’ll pray about it.’”
Joplin and his family so believed in Limbaugh’s vision that they are set to close on a new home in Oxford, where they are moving to be closer to the church and community its congregation hopes to reach.
“For me,” Joplin says, “the most exciting thing about being on the ground floor is being able to watch our members pour into other people’s lives and minster and love on them in a real way.”
Redeemer is going to be a community church; a place where those who have strayed or never felt accepted can find a home. It’s not about luring members away from other churches, Joplin says.
“We are not in competition with other churches,” he says. “We are not against them. We are against Satan. The other churches in Oxford and Redeemer are on the same team — Team Jesus, and He wins in the end.”
Redeemer Church, which is nondenominational, is not going to be anything complex or extravagant, Limbaugh explains. The only slightly unorthodox thing Redeemer Church will do is host its mid-week service on Thursday rather than Wednesday evening.
“We don’t want to build a new kingdom in Oxford,” he says. “We want only to be faithful Gospel proclaimers by pouring Gospel love out into the community.”
With a handful of families traveling around, knocking on doors, the main way Limbaugh plans on spreading the message of his new church is both the old-fashioned way — word of mouth —and more modern avenues, including Facebook, a Redeemer Web site and even Twitter.
“Beyond that, it’s life to life, neighbor to neighbor,” Limbaugh says. “What we want to do is love one another by reaching out with open arms and open hearts. The rest will take care of itself.”
After five years serving as associate pastor at Anniston Bible Church, where he admittedly had a more administrative role while pastor St. John led the regular worship services, Limbaugh is a little uncomfortable being the face of a new church.
“I’d always heard over the years from pastors who talked about living with that constant ringing in the ears … ‘Sunday’s coming. Sunday’s coming,’” he says, laughing. “Now, I’m experiencing that ringing. But I’m so excited about having the chance to teach people about God and about themselves that I welcome that ringing.”
Launch service, 6 p.m. Sunday
365 Davis Loop, Oxford (old Rookies building near Mellow Mushroom)