This is redemption: Jesus frees slaves
. By his death and resurrection, he frees those who put their trust in him from their slavery to sin and suffering. Why then is it that so many Christians are enslaved to habitual sins or mastered by the devastating effects of others’ sins? And if they were to experience true freedom, what would that look like? Improved behavior? Pain relief? Or is there something more?
"These groups don’t offer techniques for coping with life, nor advice for how to make bad behavior slightly better."
At Mars Hill, we work through these things in Redemption Groups
. A Redemption Group is an intense small group that digs deep into these difficult and seldom-discussed areas of life, such as abuse, addiction, and assorted trouble of all kinds. These groups don’t offer techniques for coping with life, nor advice for how to make bad behavior slightly better. Rather, group leaders and participants dig deeply into one another’s lives, bringing both compassion and confrontation, depending on the Holy Spirit to work the miracle of applying Christ’s redemption to each wound and to each sin, resulting in healing and freedom. Freedom goes far beyond changed behavior or circumstances; it is a change of heart that leads to rest in God.
The Redemption Group curriculum follows the story of Exodus
—the Bible’s back-story for redemption in Christ—with the Israelites journeying
through the wilderness from slavery to freedom. Along the way, the story helps us to make sense of our own lives within God’s story, and points us to Jesus. The curriculum is homegrown by Mars Hill elders, designed to complement Mars Hill’s preaching ministry—what you hear preached on Sunday is what you live out in Redemption Groups—and draws from the stories of many who now help lead the ministry.
"Our sins and sufferings are inextricably interwoven, and Jesus redeems it all."
Far beyond Bible study, these groups are about life study—your life connecting with Jesus’ life. Participants challenge one another, and the Word reveals hearts. Many initially join a Redemption Group to address a behavior ("I thought I was here to learn how to stop looking at porn") or to support a spouse, but oftentimes God accomplishes something much deeper. It’s not uncommon to hear: "I thought I would take that secret to my grave." Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Redemption groups are "mixed-issue," which means we don’t have separate groups for those in porn
addiction and those who have been abused
or are depressed
. We often find that many of our experiences overlap, proving that we are all suffering sinners in need of God’s grace and mercy. So someone entangled in a habitual sin (addiction) not only needs delivery from sin, but also to come face to face with a Redeemer who delivers from suffering, pain, and misery. Someone limping from the wounds of abuse is not only desperate to know the compassionate presence of Jesus, but is also in great need of the Word, which discerns the sinful intentions that turn a wounded heart into a wounding heart. Our sins and sufferings are inextricably interwoven, and Jesus redeems it all.
No one is "fixed" by the end of a Redemption Group, which is but one part of the bigger picture of the redemptive community at Mars Hill Church. The Redemption Group process is only the beginning—or a way station—in a lifelong journey. Groups are brief and get right to work, meeting only about ten weeks. Participants leave groups equipped with new ways of seeing God and themselves, and tools for working it out over time in community
, which is where the long-term change happens and long-term relationships grow as we live gospel-saturated lives together.
Mike Wilkerson leads the Redemption Group ministry for Mars Hill and is a pastor at the Ballard campus. He recently wrote the book,
Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry, which you can pre-order here.
For more on where to find care at the church, go here.