Mike Campbell and Redeemer Church—Gospel-Centered & Gospel-Driven

By on December 1, 2014
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By Nancy Flowers

Campbell family (minus oldest daughter Katie)

When Mike Campbell was a boy in Bluefield, Virginia, he never imagined the work God would equip him to do in Jackson, Mississippi. Mike is senior pastor at Redeemer Church, a multi-ethnic community of Christians affiliated with the theologically conservative Presbyterian Church in America. God has given him a fiery passion to share the gospel of Jesus Christ and a tender pastor’s heart to shepherd his diverse flock. Every opportunity since Bluefield has been divinely navigated to shape him and teach him, inching him toward where he is today. But he didn’t know all that back in Bluefield. He just wanted to know God.

He was sixteen years old, a boy who liked to party, when he attended a revival service at the Methodist church pastored by his grandfather. The guest preacher was an African missionary who was raising money for his mission work, and Mike ended up sitting on the front row.

“I was as lost as lost could be,” says Mike. “The preacher was a huge man, and he scared me! He started talking about youth and the sins of youth, and for the first time I realized that if I kept walking the path I was on, my life would turn out bad.”

After talking with his grandfather, Mike knew he was truly converted. He had a passion for the Lord and His Word, and began reading the Bible with a hunger to know God. He searched all over his small town for religious books and writings, but found very few reading resources to help him understand what had happened to him.

“I found some of those dispensational comic books that talked about the end of the world,” he laughs. “But I read them anyway and shared them with my friends.”

He became a youth leader, and soon people were talking about him going into ministry. “They thought anybody who loved Jesus like that should become a preacher,” Mike says. “I preached my first sermon only three months after I was saved.”

After high school, he knew he wanted to study the Word, so he enrolled at King College, a Presbyterian school in Bristol, Tennessee. Coming from an Arminian background, and not really knowing what that meant, he soon began to understand the differences between Arminianism, a theology based on man’s freedom to choose or refuse the salvation of God, and Calvinism, or Reformed faith, which is based on the doctrine of God’s sovereign election of His people.

“I’d never even met a Presbyterian before college!” Mike laughs. “But after two years of studying the Bible, I saw the doctrine of election and God’s sovereignty. I knew the Presbyterian Church was where I needed to be.”

While in college, Mike worked with Agape in Peace, a homeless ministry in Bristol. And he met his wife Keren, who is originally from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. They married in 1987. He went on to seminary at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston, and earned a Master of Divinity at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. “Not by chance,” God opened up a position for him as coordinator in a homeless ministry. But Mike still didn’t sense a call to become a pastor.

Mike and Keren moved to Miami, where he spent five years working with Ministries in Action leading mission teams to poor areas in the Caribbean and in Latin America. “It was where I got my heart for pastoring,” Mike says.

He became pastor of Pinelands Presbyterian Church in 1997, and for the next seven years worked to help revitalize the church, which had lost its sanctuary in Hurricane Andrew. God blessed the work, growing the congregation to 350 members. In the two-mile radius surrounding the church, Mike discovered that the ethnic makeup of the people was evenly divided among whites, Hispanics, and blacks, most of which were of Caribbean origin.

“Once I understood the gospel, I had a heart for seeing all kinds of people gather together to glorify God,” he says of his diverse congregation at Pinelands. “But I wanted to be in a setting to do cross-cultural ministry with more blacks.” So he began praying.

Mike gives glory to God for His providence in bringing together people with the right mix of gifts. “It’s all God,” he says. “He wanted it to happen. He has placed us as a bridge church and a conduit for reaching people with the gospel.” And today, after ten years of ministry, the Lord has grown Redeemer into a thriving fellowship of gifted and committed Christians.

In 2004, Trinity Presbyterian Church, which had outgrown its location after more than fifty years on Northside Drive in Jackson, decided to purchase the former location of Christ United Methodist Church on Old Canton Road. But a core group of the church wanted to stay in the Northside Drive location and continue the ministry in the transitioning neighborhoods around the church.

So while Mike was in Miami praying for an opportunity, the group in Jackson was praying for a pastor to lead them. They conducted a pastor search, and the Lord, always working in the lives of His people, led them to Mike. He interviewed for the position and was welcomed with unanimous approval.

In the organizing stages, Mike worked closely with Steve Lanier and Dina Plunket to put into motion the things the Lord had put on their hearts. Steve, who has served in Christian ministry since college, had been on staff with Trinity as director of outreach and missions. During the transition period, Steve worked in both churches until Redeemer was fully established. Dina, who had also been on staff at Trinity, is a skilled church administrator with a wealth of experience, having served in three sizable churches in the Jackson area. The three continue to serve the Lord faithfully and obediently at Redeemer.

Mike gives glory to God for His providence in bringing together people with the right mix of gifts. “It’s all God,” he says. “He wanted it to happen. He has placed us as a bridge church and a conduit for reaching people with the gospel.” And today, after ten years of ministry, the Lord has grown Redeemer into a thriving fellowship of gifted and committed Christians.

Mike and Keren have three children, and are grateful that all are believers in the Lord Jesus. Katherine, 19, is a junior at the University of Mississippi; Matthew, 17, is a senior at Jackson Academy; and Elisabeth, 12, is in the eighth grade at Christ Covenant School.

Diversity in the best—the very best—sense of the word. From the choir to the social outreach, you will find black and white, side by side, working and playing together. It works at Redeemer because of the common denominator that is Christ.

Redeemer has attracted a good number of African American members, and bringing together people from very different backgrounds has required careful shepherding.

“A lot of things have divided people in the south over the issue of race,” says Mike. “We have a history of oppression, a lot of cultural disconnect. Politically, people don’t think the same. Christians are influenced by the Word, of course, but everyone is shaped by a context.”

How can people from different contexts be brought together? Mike believes it begins with understanding the things that are essential for Christian faith. He has developed the ACE model to better explain. A is adiaphora, a Greek word meaning “indifferent things,” things outside the faith that are spiritually neutral. C is confession, the constitutional things from which the Christian is taught. E represents the essential things, the central component for one to be a Christian; that one knows Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Working from the inside out puts the indifferent things in their proper place—important but not essential for Christian faith.

“Partisan politics needs to get pushed aside,” Mike says. “The Apostle Paul, in writing to believers, takes things that would be dearly important and pushes those things to the adiaphora category. Believers can hold those things, but they do not need them.”

It is this type of thinking that has enabled Redeemer members with differing political and cultural contexts to engage in non-heated discussions that have led to gospel-centered Christian relationships.

“These conversations may not change opinions, but they bring people together,” says Mike. “We can’t just tell other people what we think about certain issues, we must love them as our Christian brothers and sisters. The Apostle Paul fought to keep Jews and Gentiles together for the gospel. That’s what has driven us.”

The love of God in the hearts of Christians fuels a desire to share the gospel with those in need, both spiritually and physically. Redeemer is in the early stages of planting a church in the Farish Street-Midtown area of Jackson. The desire is to reach out to people in need, and to be in an area close enough for Redeemer members to be engaged. Some of the members have been prayer walking through the downtown neighborhoods, meeting people and praying for them.

“What we are about is the gospel,” says Mike. “This is not a sociological experiment; this is an outworking of Christ’s atonement.This is really what the gospel does.”

“We want to know people,” says Mike, “and for them to know we love Jesus and love them.”

That love is the driving motivation behind The Redeemer’s School. Establishing an Urban Christian school was on Mike’s heart even before he came to Redeemer. The school is geared to children from lower socio-economic levels, offering them a Christian education with academic excellence. Though the school had been in the planning stages for a few years, a lack of funding seemed an insurmountable obstacle. But the Lord drew from His unseen treasuries, and provided a substantial gift from a California donor who had for many years given to overseas missions. With the gift, The Redeemer’s School was able to hire DeSean Dyson as its head of school, and the doors opened in August 2013 with K4, K5, and first grade. The school will add a grade each year and eventually serve children in grades K-8.

“It isn’t that I don’t want good public schools,” Mike says, “but I wanted families to have a Christian opportunity.”

Redeemer has remained faithful to the vision of being a diverse community of Christians reaching out to love others. They have partnered with the Better Jackson Foundation to establish a community garden in the Broadmoor neighborhood near the church. They support local, national, and world mission and ministry organizations. They are aggressive about ministering to young people. And they are driven to do it because their hearts have been transformed by the gospel of Christ.

“What we are about is the gospel,” says Mike. “This is not a sociological experiment; this is an outworking of Christ’s atonement. This is really what the gospel does.”

To learn more about Redeemer Church, visit www.redeemerjackson.com.

Baptism

Fall Festival

Fish Fry

Nancy Flowers writes, teaches the Bible, and sells real estate in the Jackson area. Contact her at nancyhflowers@gmail.com, or follow her on Twitter @NancyHFlowers.