Stephen Redden is one of the founding pastors of NDC and oversees our church multiplication efforts. He is also the director of The Church Cooperative of Denver, the local church network NDC helped launch in 2017. He is a graduate of Mississippi State University (B.S. Computer Engineering, M.B.A.) and Dallas Theological Seminary (M.A. Biblical Studies). Stephen also does a variety of projects outside of NDC. He is the founder of Third Circle, a consultative coaching practice, where he works with individuals and organizations to maximize their effectiveness. Between 1996 and 2000 Stephen worked as an information technology specialist at IBM Global Services before leaving to work on a project with Mission Aviation Fellowship in Kazakhstan and Russia in 2000-2001. After returning to the US in 2001, Stephen joined the staff at North Point Community Church to help lead the Community Groups ministry. Stephen married Kate in 2002, and they welcomed their first son, Ethan, in 2004 and were blessed again in 2007 with the arrival of their second son, Andrew. Stephen loves football (Go Broncos and Hail State!) and futbol (Go Rapids and Gunners!), snowboarding, and considers himself a closet redneck and a geek at heart.
How would you describe the area your church is in?
How would you describe the journey of pastoring New Denver? What have been some of the milestones/different seasons?
We started the church 10 years ago, and I was one of the founding pastors. In that time there have been a number of seasons and milestones along the way. The early years were marked by a lot of work to slowly build relationships and patiently serve our fledgling community as it grew slowly. In time, somewhere around year four, we hit a point where momentum began to build and we began to feel more stable. We had a steady self-sustaining community and focused on the tasks of growing our roots deeper. In some ways that season continues today in our main location, but four years ago we committed to making significant investments in multiplying our influence. We built on the momentum of our existing ministry residency and started a church planting residency as well. Two years ago we helped our first church planting resident launch a new church – Westside Church Internacional – a bi-lingual, multicultural church in west Denver. Today we continue to look for opportunities to grow and expand our influence at New Denver, but we are also exploring opportunities to bring on another church planting resident or work with an existing church to replant or revitalize a community.
Looking back, what do you know now you wish you had known when you first started New Denver?
Perseverance is the key to longevity in ministry. Everyone faces challenges and adversity, and things rarely go the way that you expect. If you can hold your expectations open-handed before God and believe that he is always at work in ways that you cannot fathom or understand, it allows you to persevere through the inevitable highs and lows of pastoral ministry.
As you think about what you’ve been able to do so far in ministry there what are some things you have done/tried that have worked well?
From the beginning, we sought to be a values-driven church. Our values have changed over time, but our commitment to discerning the few things we want to focus on as a community has remained consistent. This clarity of values helps us to know who we are and how we focus our limited energy and resources. In pursuit of living out those values, we never get too attached to programs or methodologies. One of our values is community, and to date, we’ve tried a variety of different approaches to living that out. The goal remains the same, but we hold loosely to our strategies. Lastly, I think one thing we’ve done well is to try and steward the people who come through our community well. Our city is very transient, and it has been easy at times to get cynical about how many people come and go. But the more we remain open-handed – celebrating people when they come and when they go and making the most to guide them and develop them while we’re here, we seem to see God bless and multiply our efforts.
What hasn’t worked so well? What have you had to rethink/reimagine/rework?
We’ve had to re-think evangelism over and over. In the early days, we were so desperate to “get the word out” and make new connections that it was difficult to be patient to see and appreciate the slow work of God. We were always pushing people to invest in others and to invite them to church. As we have been able to grow slowly, it has allowed us to be patient and see that in very post-Christian contexts like Denver, it may be years to see people open to engaging somehow in the life of the church.
What is one failure you experienced and what did you learn from it?
In the early days, we were trying to create gatherings to build relationships and get some momentum going. I remember we did an event at someone’s house, bought a bunch of food, and invited 20-25 people. Three people showed up. It was so disappointing, but I tried to value and appreciate those three people well. It prepared me for the coming years when there would be low-attendance Sundays or seasons when attendance and participation would mysteriously drop. We developed a mantra – “Love the church you have, not the church you want to have.”
What is something you’ve been hearing from or learning from God in this last season of leading?
I turn 49 this year, and over the last few years, God has been impressing on me that innovation and leadership to engage coming generations doesn’t come from 50 and 60-year-olds. It’s time for me to start getting serious about moving from the “front” to the “back” – to get behind younger leaders and use everything I have to push them forward. This is not something that I’ve seen done particularly well by the church leaders in the generations ahead of me, but it’s something I’m convinced we need to do better.
What do you dream/hope/pray New Denver looks like in five years?
In five years I’d love to see us continuing to grow and engage people at our current location. We currently share space with the aging and dwindling congregation that owns the building where we meet. It’s been a great relationship, but over the last few years, we’ve felt constrained by their refusal to make space for us to grow by adding additional Sunday services. It would be great to get that resolved. But I’d also like us to continue to engage with reaching people through church planting and looking for ways to invest outside our current community.