The Redwood Manifesto - The City Grove Church

The Redwood Manifesto
A mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field.
Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows,
It is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree,
So that the birds come and perch in its branches.
Matthew 13:31-32
Redwood trees are the largest trees in the world. They grow up to 350 feet tall and reach
diameters of 24 feet. Strangely, redwood roots grow only 5 to 15 feet deep. In spite of this great
imbalance, redwood trees are able to stand because the redwood’s root system extends horizontally
up to 200 feet. The roots fuse with the roots of nearby redwoods. This webbed connection among
multiple redwoods creates a biological network called, ‘redwood groves.’ A grove consists of many
redwoods and is considered the single largest living organism on earth.
The redwood root connection is unique and beneficial to the tree in many ways. Redwoods
have lifespans of 1,000 to 4,000 years as a result of their strong root networks. Storms, winds,
earthquakes, or hurricanes are unable to topple the gigantic organism of a grove because each tree is
heavily fortified by connection with the other trees. As a result of the long lifespan, redwoods grow
tall, wide, strong, and develop extra thick bark. The bark is what protects the tree from wildfires,
harmful insects, and animals. Wildfires can deal heavy damage to or even wipe out forests.
Redwoods, however, absorb minimal damage during fires because of their extra thick bark (2 feet
thick). Redwoods are strong because they are connected beneath the surface.
In the New Testament, the Spirit-filled Church of Jesus Christ was a dynamic and living
organism. Like the redwood grove it was connected, healthy, strong, and growing bigger than any
movement in world history. With the Church’s miraculous growth, nations entered Christ’s
community to perch in its branches and find a healing home. The Jerusalem Church supported the
spiritually starving Greco-Roman world with apostolic leadership (Acts 1:8) and the Greco-Roman
Church sent money to the struggling Jerusalem Church (2 Cor. 8). When there was plague, the “little
Christs” (Christians) opened their homes as hospices. When there was racism, sexism, and classism
the Christians modeled authentic reconciliation. When newborn infants were thrown onto fields to
die of exposure, the Christians rescued and raised them to follow Jesus. When disaster struck, the
Christians stayed to serve. When very few were literate, the Christians built schools so that all could
read the gospel. When evil kings blamed the Christians for society’s ills, the Christians were
murdered. While the Christians were fed to lions, burned, crucified, killed by gladiators, dragged by
chariots through city streets, and tortured for their faith they forgave just as Christ forgave. These
were able to endure the fires of persecution and the winds of social shift because of the amazing
saving grace of God in Christ. The Spirit-filled Body of Christ became the single greatest authentic
community of God’s love on earth, and it still is.
The City Groves -- Redwood Churches -- are to be assemblies for the sinner, the poor in
spirit, the outcast, the misfit, the lonely, the hurting, the formerly unbelieving, and the weak.
Connected together, we can be and do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We are to be a
community of real, loyal friendship. The Church was never about God’s favor on one social profile;
it was about all -- poor, middle class, wealthy, Jew, Gentile, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Middle
Eastern, religious, and irreligious -- meeting in Jesus, God’s eternal gift to the world.
Our assemblies will span the city and be rooted together like the redwood grove. Each
church will be culturally fitted to its region but share all things in common with the other redwood
churches. We will be attentive to each church’s personal growth and expansion in mission so that
God would rule and set free the hearts of the unreached.
The City Groves servant leadership philosophy will be a departure from the norm. No
longer will church leaders practice nepotism. Our churches will not neglect their local communities
in the name of foreign missions but will be faithful to both. Titles will not be for sale. Crucial
decisions will be guided by the Bible, Spirit, and common sense; and not by the desire to solidify
legacy. We will not love buildings more than human souls. We will not preach, teach, or practice
legalism to gain salvation. At the same time, we will not loosen even the least of Christ’s
commandments. The Church should never prioritize cultural background over identity in Jesus
because no culture can save how God saves, for only Jesus is Lord. Leaders will lead from the front
and below instead of from the rear and above. Our servant leaders will work to establish a culture of
transparency and grace instead of secrets and condemnation; connection and intimacy instead of
self-protection and distance.
We don’t want to be entrenched in our structure, turning to old ways of doing things for the
sake of comfort or familiarity. This community will be imbued with a culture of adaptability. We
will consider the community of disciples, the surrounding culture, and the principles God has
entrusted to us whenever we make critical decisions.
Freshly called, discipled servant leaders will be equipped and supported in their
vocations to reach every corner of earth, internet, and outer-space for the expansion of the gospel
of grace. We do not exist to merely expand church institutions but build God’s kingdom and work
for the common good. They will be lights in the worlds of media, government, sports, TV, movies,
sports, medicine, healthcare, technology, big and small businesses, art, refugees, atheists, scientists,
human services, music, space exploration, non-profits, food services, culinary arts, transportation,
environmentalists, military, law-enforcement, prisons, religions, pop culture, and literature. Spirit-led
people will use their unique callings to bring worship to the Father in new places.
We will be a movement of the gospel that begins from within the heart. Our culture
dislikes the idea of inner change because it can be painful to see who we really are. Most of us would
prefer a step-by-step method to increase pleasure and decrease pain. While strategies and techniques
are helpful, the Bible teaches that real and lasting change cannot occur by merely modifying external
behavior. Real and lasting change happens when the Holy Spirit uses the gospel of grace to work on
our hearts and minds from the inside out. The Holy Spirit inside does the work when we trust in
Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and not our money, status, or work. Change happens when we can
finally trust the church to be the place and time where the Spirit sanctifies hearts through
community, praise, and the Word of God. Personal, social, and global change occurs when heart
conditions change from hard, shallow, and thorny to soft, deep, and clear.
As the redwood grove is home to wildlife, the City Groves will work to be a place of rest
and healing for weary souls. It will be a temple for intimacy with God in prayer and with each
other in sharing all things in common. The culture of this community will be described as holistically
healthy - emotional, psychological, physical, and relational. We will be attentive to living a life of
repentance and trust so that we may experience the depth and riches of God’s love in Christ Jesus.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
Because the LORD has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD
And the day of vengeance of our God.
Isaiah 61:1-2
Starting new groves in new places is a crucial strategy in evangelizing the world. It will
always be in our DNA to plant churches of Jesus Christ that share the ministry principles, vision,
and mission of all City Groves. We will plant churches that plant churches. Through the local
church, we will work toward mercy, social justice, worship, and evangelism.
Principles of the City Grove Church
1. Gospel -- we will preach, teach, live, and think in light of the gospel of grace.
2. Spirit -- we will develop and utilize spiritual gifts for the kingdom as we grow in spiritual
3. People -- we will uphold the Great Commission (to make disciples of all nations) and the
Greatest Commandments (to love God above all and to love people as ourselves).
We live in dark times. Worldview and culture is morphing at an exponentially increasing rate
due to the accessibility of information and advancing technology. Party groups are more polarized
than ever due to political structures. Resources are zapped. Our natural environment is growing
sicker by the second. Strategies for dealing with human desire have led to pollution (physical and
spiritual). Our strategy for dealing with pollution has led to increased development of technology,
but not increased character development. When more attention is given to technical strategy and less
is given to growing character, things fall apart.
We also live in wonderful times. The Church is awaking to its true role in the world: light
and salt as the body of Christ. More than ever, Christians are learning to love people and the cities
they inhabit. Many churches today are more willing to bring God’s shalom to their neighborhoods
because of this growing awareness that God deeply loves the world. He does not desire that any
perish. The Church is implementing creative ways to be simultaneously evangelistic, merciful, and
just. The gospel of grace is touching more hearts than ever before. There is also more collaboration
among churches today. More spiritual leaders desire to plant new churches because planting new
churches means renewed effectiveness in reaching new people groups, new generations, and new
In this last hour, my hope is to lay it all down with those who join us for the sake of the
Kingdom of God. If that means we become missionaries to reach the unreached and love the
unloved, then we must repeat the Apostle Paul’s words: “I have become all things to all people, so
that I may be all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). Also, “I aspired to preach the gospel, not where
Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another person’s foundation” (Rom. 15:20).
As ambassadors of Christ, we will drill deep tunnels into the cultures around us and drop the gospel
of grace inside of them so that when it is time, explosions of grace may change creation at its core
and reveal God’s almighty love for all.
In Christ alone,
Jimmy Kim