Our House

We’re starting a three week series this Sunday at Restoration City Church called, “Our House.”  I’m praying God will use these messages to unite all of us around who we are as a church, what we’re trying to build and the mission we’re pursuing.

From the beginning, I’ve felt like the mission of our church could best be condensed into three statements:

  • Live Through Jesus
  • Live In Community
  • Live For Restoration

Over the next three weeks, we’re going to take those statements one at a time, put a biblical foundation under each one and talk about how it shapes who we are becoming as a church.  If you call Restoration City home, you need to hear these messages.  If you’re considering getting involved with us, these next three weeks will give you a really good picture of what we’re about as a community.  Either way, you need to make a point of joining us for the next three weeks!

Joy Opens Doors

I got this text from someone at Restoration City the other day:

“I may or may not have loved our uber driver so much he heard us talk about church and asked where we went. I keep a stack of RCC cards in my wallet and gave him one and hopefully he will come. Clearly I have your excitement bug!”

That story is as awesome as it is simple.  On one hand, it’s really not that big a deal – two people in a car talking about church, answering a question and giving out a card.  For the record, I have no idea if the driver has come to church or not.  I have no idea if he’s a Christian or not.  This isn’t building up to some amazing “and we’re baptizing him this Sunday” moment.  It’s really just a story of handing out a card.

On the other hand, it’s a great reminder of how faithful God is to open doors when we live with joy and are not ashamed of the gospel (Rm.1:16).  Stressed out, aloof people who are way too busy to even talk to their driver don’t share the gospel all that often.  Neither do people who aren’t filled with excitement for their Savior and their church.  But doors seem to open in the presence of joy and love for Jesus.

My point today is not to guilt all of us into giving away inviter cards.  But I’m wondering if our conversations and life prompt people to ask us questions.  Remember 1 Peter 3:15, “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”  When Christ is foremost in our hearts, we’ll live with hope and people will ask questions.  It really is that simple.

Motive Matters

It’s not hard to tell the difference between people who genuinely like you and those who are nice to you because they want something from you.  I remember the girl in college who was super nice to me…because she wanted to date my roommate.  I’m tempted to be really nice to people considering joining our church because we really need more leaders.  When I compare those interactions to the joyful shout I get from Jack when I come home, the difference is striking.  He’s not after anything.  He’s just glad Dad is home.

Which is a better description of your relationship with God?

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus says this, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.“(Mt.6:33)  It’s a wonderfully comforting verse at the end of a passage where Jesus takes dead aim at worry and anxiety in our lives.  He’s arguing that our Father in heaven knows what we need and will care for us.  We don’t need to eagerly seek after the things of the world.  We need to eagerly seek after God.

But how much of our God-seeking is really stuff-seeking?  Are we pursuing God because we love Him or because He’s a better means to the same old ends?  I’ll confess that I frequently descend into caring more about “all these things” than I do “His kingdom and His righteousness.”  What about you?

By the way, if we can tell when people are using us to get something, I think it’s safe to assume we aren’t fooling God.  If you’ve been trying to use God and fool Him, it’s time to repent.  Attempting to use God is the height of arrogance and pride.  It’s time to confess your attempted manipulation to God and ask Him for a heart that loves with pure motives.  Ask Him to have mercy on you and lead your soul to a place where it pursues Him because of who He is not because of what He can do for us.

When we understand that God is more valuable than all of His gifts, worship explodes in our hearts and Christianity finally starts to make sense.

The Not Ready To Lead Club

Most Christians wait way too long before stepping up to lead in the church.  There are all kinds of reasons for this: over committed schedules, church cultures that stifle lay leadership and lack of opportunity are all too common.  But one I hear pretty regularly is, “I’m just not ready.”

To which I say, “Join the club!”

No, I don’t always feel ready to lead a church.  But I’m not even close to being the founding member of the not ready to lead club.  We have a long and distinguished history.  Consider a few of our better known members:

King Saul: “Then he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the Matrite family was taken. And Saul the son of Kish was taken; but when they looked for him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired further of the Lord, ‘Has the man come here yet?’ So the Lord said, ‘Behold, he is hiding himself by the baggage.’”(1 Samuel 10:21-22)  Samuel was ready to anoint Saul King and Saul is hiding in the baggage cart.

Moses: “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?'”(Exodus 3:11)  God calls Moses to free Israel from slavery and Moses spends two chapters trying to talk God out of it(Exodus 3&4).

Gideon:  “He said to Him, ‘O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.’” (Judges 6:15).  Gideon is busy explaining his lack of qualification to the angel of the Lord.

If you want to go New Testament on this one, just pick a disciple.  That whole crew was pretty inept!

Where are you offering God excuses when He’s asking for obedience?

My point isn’t that training, preparation and equipping don’t matter.  They do.  But if you’re waiting to lead until you feel ready, you’ll never get in the game.  God isn’t looking for people who are sure of their ability.  He’s looking for people who are utterly convinced of His.

If God is calling you to lead, trust He knows what He’s doing.

I’m praying for a wave of new Community Group Leaders at Restoration City Church.  We’ll train you and we’ll provide weekly Community Group discussion guides.  We’re not going to toss you into the deep end to drown.  But we need you to jump into the pool with us!

It’s time for some of us to get out from behind the baggage and get into the game.

Slacker Church

131015_marine_corps_marathon_ap_328After two incredible Sundays at Restoration City, we’re not meeting this week.  Seriously.  We aren’t having a corporate worship service this Sunday.

What in the world would compel us to abandon logic, common sense, church planting best practices and rational expectations?  Simple – the Marine Corps Marathon.  Thirty thousand people will be running the 39th Annual Marine Corps Marathon this Sunday.  And they’ll all be passing right through Crystal City.  Huge crowds will line the course.  And Crystal City is hosting a festival to coincide with the race.  So, you couldn’t get to our little theater if you tried.

When we figured all of this out a few months ago, we felt like we had three options:

1.  Hold a service no one could attend.  Bummer.

2.  Move our services to a different location for the week.  Possible.

3.  Not meet and go serve and engage our community.  Risky.

I honestly believe God has given us this weekend to clarify the kind of church we are becoming.  It just didn’t make sense to me to move our services because tens of thousands of people who don’t know the gospel are going to be in our backyard.  That’s craziness!  We want to be in Crystal City this Sunday to serve, to meet people and to participate in the life of the neighborhood God has called us to reach.

So, we’re not meeting on Sunday.  We’re serving instead.  This is the kind of church we want to be – engaged in our community and fighting for the good of our city.

This isn’t a Sunday off.  It’s a Sunday on mission.  We would love to have you join us!  For more information, visit Restoration City’s website: http://restorationcitydc.com/mcm/

When A Good Party Goes Bad

This is a week of celebration for Restoration City Church.  Last Sunday’s launch service is still so fresh in my heart and we should all be in awe of what God is doing through our church right now.  He’s allowing us to experience something unique and we should celebrate!

But this is also a spiritually dangerous time.

My concern comes from the dramatic shift we see in three short verses out of 2 Samuel 6.  King David and 30,000 men had just taken the ark of God from Abinadab’s house and were on their way back to Jerusalem when Scripture records this:

“And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.” – 2 Samuel 6:5-7

They were partying it up in verse 5 and why wouldn’t they?  God had shown them great favor and was blessing their efforts.  They had the ark, they were headed home and everything was right with the world.  But the favor that should have deepened reverence got twisted into pride.  Uzzah got sloppy and he paid for it with his life.

The real issue is that they never should have been carrying the ark on a cart in the first place.  God had made it very clear that the ark was to be carried with poles so no man even came near it.  Exodus 25:13-15 couldn’t be clearer, “You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it.

David and his men assumed God’s blessing gave them license to get sloppy, to cut corners, to slack off just a bit.  And the results were disastrous.

God is working through Restoration City.  We have much to celebrate before the Lord.  But don’t let last Sunday’s victory become an excuse for sloppiness in your life.  Don’t start indulging temptation, don’t neglect your Bible, don’t let your prayer life falter, don’t run from community.  Stay sharp!

Our work as a church is just starting.  Stay focused on Jesus, anchored in the gospel and in awe of God.  There’s so much ahead of us.  Now isn’t the time to get complacent!

RCC’s Doors Are Open

RCC Launch Stage Shot

It’s been a full 48 hours since our public launch service and I’m still trying to get my mind and heart around everything God did on Sunday morning.

The Scriptures tell us God is able to do, “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.“(Eph. 3:20)  We love to quote that verse but sometimes we forget there’s no period at the end of verse 20.  We’ve got to include verse 21 to get the full thought, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.“(Eph. 3:21)  The abundantly more of God is always orchestrated to display the glory of God.  When God moves powerfully, it’s always to display His glory and draw worship from His people.

From the beginning, I have prayed that God would do something through this church that cannot be explained any other way than the sovereign power of Christ.  I don’t want people to be able to point to a preacher, a band, a venue, the church we were planted out of or any other factor and explain what God is doing through RCC.  I want people to look at everything our team brings to the table and realize there must be something more at work than our effort in this church.  When the sum of what happens through Restoration City exceeds our capacity, there’s no other explanation than the power of God.

You can’t explain this past Sunday any other way than the power of God.  Every single one of our teams did an amazing job – Production, Connect and RCCKids all had incredible mornings.  I kept hearing from people how welcome they felt, how comfortable they felt with RCCKids and how the service impacted them.  Our prayer and outreach teams had already laid such a solid foundation for us.  Worship was powerful and the gospel was presented clearly.  I loved seeing local restaurants packed with people after the service.  It was an amazing morning!

On Sunday, God reminded all of us that He’s faithful to His promises.  That isn’t ever going to change.  So, we can walk with confidence as a church into the future – the same God who stunned us this past Sunday is with us today, tomorrow, this Sunday and as long as RCC exists!

Thank you, Jesus!!!

Water skiing & Church Planting

As we get ready to launch Restoration City this Sunday, I keep thinking back to a conversation I had with a friend.  We were having lunch one day and he was telling me about the ministry he was helping lead.  As we were talking, he asked me if I had ever seen the chewing gum commercial with a guy barefoot water skiing behind a boat.

I vaguely remembered it but he had to fill me in on the details.  Basically, the commercial starts with a guy (by the way, it might have been twins…we never could agree on that!) standing on a dock in water skis.  The idea was the boat would gently pull him into the water for a quiet ride around the lake.  Instead, the captain hit the throttle a little hard, ripped the guy out of his skis and took him on a wild, barefoot ride around the lake.

That’s how my friend described his ministry – a wild, barefoot ride powered by the Holy Spirit.

He felt like God was dragging them on an amazing adventure, they could barely hold on but they were in love with all He was doing.  I wanted that so badly in my life.  I was tired of feeling like I was trying to water ski behind a rowboat that I was also responsible for rowing.  I knew my friend was on to something and I wanted the same in my life.

That was one of many conversations God used to encourage me down the road of church planting.  Years later, we’re standing on the dock ready to see where God is going to take us.

I don’t know what our ride will look like.  But I do know our hope in planting this church isn’t in our logo, our strategy, our team, our resources, our website, our location, our merit, our talent or anything else.  Our hope is in the power of God, the promises of God and the faithfulness of God.

If He doesn’t do the work, we’re in trouble.  We can’t power the boat.  We don’t even know which direction to steer it half the time.  But we can hold on, trust Him and go where He tells us to go and do it in the power He provides.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”(Ps. 127:1)  

Father, build your house.  Advance the gospel.  Bear fruit.  Transform lives.  Use us for the glory of Christ and the good of our city.

Washington Prayer Gathering

One of the unexpected blessings of planting a church in DC has been the incredible support Restoration City has received from other local pastors.  I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to meet other brothers in Christ for lunch, for coffee and for prayer.  I love interacting with leaders who understand other local churches aren’t competition but collaborators.

God is doing something really unique in our city this month and I’m excited that Restoration City Church will be participating in the Washington Prayer Gathering on Monday, October 13th.  The vision for this event is simple – inviting the Christians of DC to gather at the Lincoln Memorial for a time of prayer on behalf of our city.  We aren’t coming together to lift up the name of a church, a leader or a ministry.  We’re simply coming together across denominational, racial and geographic lines to pray for our city.

I’m going to be there on the 13th and would love to see you as well.  For more information, check out the Washington Prayer Gathering Facebook page.