A Response to Acts 29 Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross on When Church Planting Harms a City

A post at The Gospel Coalition by Acts 29 Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross brings about this article. The pastors from Redemption Hill D.C. and Union Church explore gentrification but then ignore the fact that Redeemer Arlington has done that very thing. Its spiritually gentrified not just Arlington but the greater Washington, D.C. area. This blog is proof of that as it was started out of an incident of spiritual abuse that came from a person in leadership in Redeemer Arlington 

“Hi, Redeemer! I wanted to thank you again for your prayers and support in planting Union Church. We are currently gathering around 20 folks in our house for worship, prayer, and Bible study! It’s incredible to watch the Lord move and to hope together for the gospel to transform our city.

“Please be praying for us. We are coming to a point where, if the Lord adds to our number, we’ll have to consider another place to gather. Pray that we would find an affordable place to meet, and that we would begin to see people who are far from Jesus coming to know and enjoy Him. Our prayer is to walk slowly and to grow through disciple-making. Pray that the Lord would bring revival to D.C.!

Shaun Cross to Redeemer, From the Redeemer Arlington blog in June of 2015. 

“When we act as though we are finally bringing the gospel to our cities, we often dishonor the work God has been doing through existing churches, and we belittle Christians who have been laboring in them. In short, we compound the problem.”

Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross in their article at The Gospel Coalition 

12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:12 NLT 

The San Francisco Bay Bridge at night. 

There was an article at The Gospel Coalition that deserved to face some scrutiny and analysis. I have written a number of articles about Bill Riedel and Redemption Hill . One that you can read is, “Acts 29 Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill in Washington, D.C.; How Healthy is It?” Plus recently I looked at another article Bill Riedel wrote at The Gospel Coalition in, “Redemption Hill’s Bill Riedel from Acts 29 on What He Learned About Politics in Planting a Church in Washington, D.C.


Shaun Cross at Redemption Hill. 

A Brief Overview of Shaun Cross’s Union Church 

Shaun Cross is the senior pastor of Acts 29 Union Church in Northeast, Washington, D.C. According to my research it appears as if he spent some time in his youth in northern Virginia.  Shaun went to Campbell University in North Carolina and Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He married his wife in 2004 and before planting a church in Washington, D.C. he was affiliated with Grace Community Church in Angier, North Carolina. Angier is in the Raleigh-Durham area. 

Union Church started out as a prayer group in March 8, 2015 in Shaun Cross’ living room. Bill Riedel who leads Redemption Hill also in Washington, D.C. was one of the supporters of the church plant. Redeemer Arlington also helped plant Union Church. This blog was born out of an act of spiritual abuse from Redeemer Arlington in 2013. Union is a fairly small church from my research. It was also supported by the Send DC of the Southern Baptist Convention which you can read about in send-636It has received some press from the Daily Beast which you can read here. Shaun has a close relationship with Eric Simmons and Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington having preached there at least 14 times. Shaun has published three articles with The Gospel Coalition which you can read here, here, and here. Recently Shaun Cross and Bill Riedel wrote another article about when church planting harms the city. That post was recently pushed at the Redeemer Arlington blog. The name of the article is called, “When Church Planting Harms the City.


Changing Cities and Gentrification 

The culture and demographics of the United States and indeed the world are changing. In the United States some states are experiencing a decline in population while others are taking in a large population. For example California is projected to have a population of 50 million people by 2050. Los Angeles county has a population of 10 million people and was projected to reach 12 million by 2030 but now its believed that will happen in 2060. As urban areas grow by 2030 the top three cities in the United States with the highest population are expected to be New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Here in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area there is a population of over 6 million and that number eclipsed the Philadelphia area. 

Gentrification is when people move into a neighborhood and change the urban area. Young people flush with cash can move into a lower class industrial neighborhood, and buy the land up. It can be transformed and the rents and cost of living can soar and people can be forced out as it becomes too costly to live in that neighborhood. If you want to read more about the controversial issue you can read more in the following articles by Forbes, Atlantic, and fears of the topic in Chicago and Philadelphia


Summary of What Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross Said at The Gospel Coalition 

The article that Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross wrote looked at the issue of church planting in the context of gentrification. The article speaks about the importance of place and the loss of a place. When urbanization and gentrification contribute to social injustice. The question to be asked according to both Acts 29 pastors is can church planting contribute to injustice? These are the five points that they make in their article. 

  1. Test your conviction means to see if you are really meant to plant a church in an urban area. Perhaps its more important to plant in a rural or suburban area where one grew up. 
  2. Learn and embrace the history of your city. Even in the midst of transient populations there are some long term rooted residents. 
  3. Celebrate historic churches are also stressed. Bill Riedel makes mention of the 1883 African-American church that Redemption Hill meets in. 
  4. Churches that invest in ministries that already exist. When you partner with a ministry that already exists God has been honored. 
  5. The last point is to be patient. Encouraging the community and not bringing about more disruption shows patience. Dedicating yourself to the history and culture of the city you live in. 


The Issue of Redeemer Arlington and Toxic Church Planting That Already Exists 

I have lived in the Washington, D.C. area since 2005. Before I lived in the area I also got a taste of urban living when attending graduate school at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Before I start to analyze the problems of this article in the context of the history and behavior of Acts 29 churches in the Washington, D.C. area let me say the following. In grad school one of the most popular topics was urban history. The study of sports, economic, industrialization, cultural, ethnic, transportation, politics, labor and more in an urban area. From my perspective many evangelicals are horrific about history. I actually have taken walking tours on Capitol Hill to learn more about the history. So to see Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross talk about appreciating local history is important and that is good to see.  

Now the issue with this article is that in the context of the Acts 29 movement. Much of what Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross have written they have been guilty of. The Acts 29 movement is known for spiritually gentrifying the Christian community and tearing apart churches and forcing people out. They get their members from cannibalizing individuals from other churches. They are causing profound harm to the community and they are foolish if they think they are getting converts as they are not. Church planting means stealing members from an established location. Then when problems or issues develop they go silent, ignore them and act like nothing has happened. How many readers this have had the following experience? You may have gone into a place of work  or an apartment late at night and turn on the light in a room and what do you see? A roach or two scrambling to hide under the refrigerator or other piece of furniture. Acts 29 operates in that fashion. Despite all the talk of man hood and having a penis driven theology system because John Piper proclaims it they scatter when stuff happens. They can’t clean up their messes and cause incredible pain in the process. A pastor will leave a church under a cloud and pop up at another Acts 29 location or Sojourn Church even. What is an evangelical Christian? A person too proud to admit error and own their mistakes which sums up the Acts 29 movement. 

Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross are supporting a church that has gentrified the Washington, D.C. community. That church is Eric Simmons Redeemer Arlington. Redeemer Arlington hasn’t been a blessing to the community but instead a cancer. Sovereign Grace Ministries planted churches based on the location to preppie coffee shops and more to attract people into their cult operating system. Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross should spend some time at the blog SGM Survivors and read about this topic of SGM church planting. What would have happened if Redeemer Arlington did not exist? Would I have learned why rape and sexual assault are a problem in the military? Would I have gone through a false accusation that was psychologically terrifying? And would the abuse that resulted have affected my Mother before her death? I want to lay this out for Shaun Cross, Bill Riedel, Joey Kotarek, Eric Simmons, or Jordan Kauflin. Have you ever buried one of your parents yet? Do you think its appropriate to have spiritual abuse and conflict interfere in the terminal illness before death? Years from now I want you to remember this question when you are bedside a loved one dealing with a terminal illness then maybe you will finally see the plague that is Redeemer Arlington.  That is why this article is awful. Bill Riedel confirmed and showed that he is willing to work with a church plant that comes from an un-ethical and questionable entity. If Redeemer Arlington was ever found to have covered up child sex abuse or more (NOTE I am not saying that has happened.) chances are Bill Riedel would work with them anyhow. Let’s remember Sovereign Grace Ministries was so casual with allegedly covering up child sex abuse that it was akin to a teenager in McDonald flipping a burger. Great faith system that Jordan Kauflin and Eric Simmons came from. Jordan’s father Bob Kauflin is the main defender and enabler of C.J. Mahaney. But for people like Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross it is defend the brand at all costs, damn the Lord and plant away. If Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross were sincere about their article about gentrification they would suspend support for Redeemer Arlington and make sure it enters into the dust bin of history. 


4 thoughts on “A Response to Acts 29 Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross on When Church Planting Harms a City

  1. This whole push for “church planting” has always bothered me. The only place where it would actually make sense to plant churches is in new communities, where there are people moving in who might be looking for a church. Otherwise, I can only think of three groups that a church plant might be going after:

    Non-christians, including ex-christians. Being part of this group myself, I can tell you that this is not likely to be a source of members for a neo-calvinist church.

    Casual christians, the ones who might say they’re “christian” and maybe show up to church on Christmas or Easter. Regular church-going clearly isn’t filling a need in their lives. The only way I could see a church plant pulling from this group is if they found a way to contact a bunch of these people, really talked with and listened to them to find out what kind of a church would attract them back into church-going, and then created that kind of church specifically tailored to what those people would want. But since these church-planters already think they have the perfect formula for what a church should be, I don’t see this ever happening.

    Existing members of other churches. As a practical reality, this is where the members of a “church plant” are going to come from. And many of those churches are already having severe membership problems, and a lot of them are having to close. If churches are part of the stability of a neighborhood, new plants in the area are going to weaken existing churches further, without providing any stable replacement, since so many church plants fail.

    It seems to me that the aggressive “church planters” haven’t really thought this through. It’s nice to see an article from a couple of pastors that actually recognizes some of the problems, but I wonder if the pastors who are so gung-ho to plant churches will listen to them. I would expect not.


  2. If Bill Riedel and Shaun Cross were sincere about their article about gentrification they would suspend support for Redeemer Arlington and make sure it enters into the dust bin of history.

    And lose all those TIthe$?

    “The Money was too good! I got Stupid!”
    — Jayne Cobb, when Captain Mal was ready to blow him out Serenity‘s airlock


  3. Pingback: As a Member of Acts 29 and the EFCA, is Bill Riedels’ Redemption Hill in Washington, D.C. Prepared for the Issue of Sexual Abuse? This Blog Would Say No | Wondering Eagle

  4. Pingback: Looking at the Relationship Between Bill Riedel’s Redemption Hill and Jordan Kauflin’s Redeemer Arlington | Wondering Eagle

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