Our Vision & History

What does "following Jesus" mean?

What does "discipleship" mean?

What does discipleship look like?

Our Vision

Our vision is what we dare to imagine our future could be like if we passionately and seriously pursue our mission of following Jesus together as his disciples. The words here are meant to paint a picture of what we imagine this to look like, and we invite you to join us as we live out our vision in everyday life:

Imagine a community that dares to dream of heaven on earth; a community where everyone is accepted and respected and their journey cherished, regardless of their background, beliefs or place in society; where everyone looks out for the concerns of others and no one is alone. Imagine a community of peace and safety where it’s possible to shelter from the frenzied pace of life, in order to slow down and explore the mystery and meaning of our existence; where we can take time to address the roots of our anxieties and pain; a place of hope where we can find help and healing and the power to change, no matter how desperate our situation. Imagine a community of people devoted to following Jesus together, learning to live like him and helping one another grow in their relationship with God; where we are gradually transformed to become better people: better friends, better family members, better workers, better neighbors; becoming people who enjoy life to the full and who can also deal with adversity well, learning to grow through failure and suffering. Imagine that community scattered throughout the region around Washington, Baltimore and beyond working as agents of love, peace and hope wherever they are; serving our neighbors, caring for the poor, helping the oppressed. Imagine a community of people who live simply and ethically, who share their land and resources with their neighbors; a community that treasures the Earth and reaches out beyond global, cultural and political barriers to offer friendship and practical support.

Imagine a community of people who make the world a better place.

There are three core ways in which we do this (Growth, Community and Servanthood) each at our own pace, each in our own unique way.

What does "following Jesus" mean?

At Cedar Ridge we are followers of Jesus. This means that at a very practical level we follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and seek to model our lives after him. We spend a lot of time studying what he did and said (what we call “the way of Jesus”) and apply it to our own lives. This is very challenging because Jesus taught and lived many difficult things like loving our enemies, forgiving those who have hurt us, not judging others, being honest, and sharing what we have. This inevitably challenges us to change—and change is hard—so we put a lot of effort into this personal transformational process and support one another along the way.

But there is another deeper and perhaps more mysterious way in which we follow Jesus. We don’t just follow Jesus as a historical figure; we actually believe Jesus is present to us here and now. We believe Jesus was the embodiment of the Divine, Jesus was full of God’s spirit and that Spirit is available to us now. So we make a conscious effort to make room for God’s Spirit in our lives and look to this source as the power to change. Because of this we have great hope. We believe real change is possible no matter how dark or despairing the situation. That is true for our own lives (in all our personal struggles and difficulties) and for the world as a whole where life can sometimes seem impossibly dark. We feel called to bring God’s love and light into this darkness wherever we find it. That’s why we call ourselves a community of hope and transformation. Our vision is an expression of what that hope can look like.

What does "discipleship" mean?

Another word for following Jesus is “discipleship.” A disciple is one who learns from someone else by staying close to them, listening to their teaching and modeling their life on them. It’s like being an apprentice. We use the term “discipleship” to describe everything we do to follow Jesus in that way, so it pretty much means everything we do as a church community. It’s what we are all aiming at with our lives, expressed in different ways for all of us.

In fact discipleship (following Jesus) is our whole purpose as a church community. Everything we do is to that end; from things like participating in challenging spiritual discussion groups to sharing life with one another—enjoying a good meal and supporting one another through the good and bad times. This is because we believe that God wants us to experience beautiful, fulfilling lives and wants that for everyone. Following Jesus (discipleship) is our way into that life as we are transformed from the inside out and share that life with others. It’s a lifetime journey of change not an instant experience, and our goal is to help and support one another on that journey.

So our purpose as a church community (our “mission” as an organization) is to follow Jesus and be his disciples. We express it this way: To be and make disciples in authentic community for the good of the world.

What does discipleship look like?

This journey of transformation does not happen by accident, so we go about it intentionally by focusing on three main things:

  1. Personal Transformation: This happens both by working on it together and privately on our own. We call this “Growth."
  2. Forming Supportive Relationships: We intentionally build friendships with each other, offering support through difficult times and enjoying life together. We don’t want anyone to feel alone on this journey because we all need acceptance, care and help along the way. We call this  “Community."
  3. We put a lot of effort into serving the world around us in simple and practical ways. We do this whenever and wherever we can, sometimes working together and sometimes on our own. We call this “Servanthood."

Pretty much everything we do as a church community falls into one of these three categories.

Our History

One Sunday morning in April, 1982, Brian McLaren, along with 10 friends, mostly in their twenties, gathered in a living room in a little house not far from the University of Maryland. The group consisted of men and women from nearly eleven Christian backgrounds—Catholic, Protestant, non-charismatic, charismatic, denominational, nondenominational. They shared a common desire—to become an exciting, effective church that would welcome and embrace spiritual seekers of all kinds—Christians from many traditions and also those who had no-prior experience or knowledge of Christianity.

Several weeks earlier, McLaren, a college English instructor, had called an old friend, Bill Duncan, to see if Bill had an interest in helping launch this new venture, and they, along with their spouses, Grace and Shobha, decided to call the new church "Community Church." Soon there were twenty people, then thirty. Some families from those early days are still actively involved in the church today. Eventually Brian was asked to lead the church as its full-time pastor.

The church grew over the next 15 years, moving from place to place to accommodate its increasing size, until in 1996, after an outpouring of sacrificial giving, Cedar Ridge became owners of a beautiful 63-acre historic property in Burtonsville, Maryland.

At about the same time, Brian McLaren began writing books, and soon became an increasingly significant participant in networks of emerging leaders and churches around the world. Seeking to utilize his unique gifts as an influential thinker, writer and speaker, McLaren left pastoral ministry to respond to his call to the public arena full-time. After a prayerful and extensive search for a new Senior Pastor, the Cedar Ridge community appointed Matthew Dyer as Senior Pastor, to whom McLaren passed the baton of leadership in January 2006. Matthew had been a pastor in the Vineyard denomination of churches since 1995 in both the US and UK (his native country).

At the time of this transition of pastoral leadership, Cedar Ridge had grown to include several hundred people and was supporting many activities, ministries and programs that were difficult to sustain in terms of resources and staff, and there was an increasing recognition that a central, unifying focus was needed. Seeking greater clarity and purpose for the future, yet desiring at the same time to maintain its underlying values and beliefs, the people of Cedar Ridge engaged together in an intense year of "re-envisioning the church." This time was both difficult and rewarding. It meant profound change as old systems and programs were released to make way for something new, and also provided opportunity for personal transformation as participants engaged in discernment, fasting, sacrifice and prayer.

Through this extensive process that included church-wide discussion and collaboration, a clear, comprehensive vision was formed and in September 2007 our church community embarked on its quest to serve God, one another and the world in a unique and focused way. Interestingly the vision process led us back to our roots and the earliest dreams for our community: to become a people simply devoted to following Jesus and loving people in his name.