We Love WeWork!

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Alignment.  It’s a big word in my world.  Whether we’re talking about my life, family or the church, I love it when everything is moving in the same direction around the same purpose.  It just feels good when everything makes sense and fits well together.

That’s why I’m such a huge fan of the Restoration City staff working out of WeWork’s coworking space in Crystal City.  Yes, the cold brew coffee and cool vibe are an added plus.  And, yes, it’s the most economical way for us to create office space for a small staff.

But it also says a lot about us as a church.

Our work space is aligned with our vision.  We want to be a church that is involved in the life of our city, that is fighting for the good of our city, and that loves our city.  So, it makes sense that we work in the midst of the city, not sequestered away from the city.  Maybe there will come a day when we need our own office space.  But for right now, I love working around a whole bunch of people who don’t know Jesus and a few who do.

I honestly think a co-working space helps me be a better pastor and keeps me in touch daily with what life outside the church looks like.  I also love the chance to interact with co-workers.  A few have even started attending the church and that’s just awesome!  It’s so cool to be able to step outside my office and interact with RCC people right here in the office!

People are always surprised when they find out Dan, Marshall and I work for a church.  I don’t think they expect to find a church in a space like this.  But, if you ask me, this is exactly where the church should be – in the center of the marketplace, participating in the life of our city.

So, Restoration City, thanks for the generosity that makes this possible.  Thanks for enabling us to be a little gospel outpost in a world of tech start-ups and consultants.  It’s what all of us should be about wherever we work.

Family Meeting

Family Meeting

Every once in a while, Laura and I stumble into something that ends up being a tremendous blessing to our marriage.  As boring as it sounds, a weekly “family meeting” is one of those things.  For the record, the boys don’t participate!  But we both do and we’ve come to see it as a hugely valuable part of our week.

To be honest, we see the value so clearly because of the years of marriage we had without this kind of regular touch point.  We were chronically over scheduled, setting up conflicting meetings or not having enough time for ourselves.  There were times when Laura felt like she really didn’t know where we were financially because I do the majority of that work around the house.  It never felt like we had space to discuss major decisions – and, no, trying to work everything out in a series of texts throughout the day doesn’t count as “discussing.”  It was a recipe for frustration.  Even worse, those conversations would often spill into “date night.”  So, what should have been a fun, romantic chance to connect turned into a planning meeting!  Not cool.

In an attempt to regain control of our lives, work more as a team and help each other make better decisions, we started setting aside one hour a week to sit down in the evening after the boys are asleep (well, at least in bed!) and plan out our lives.  We pray together and then we hit on three major points:

  • Our finances.  This is usually just a quick update.  But it’s also a place to discuss unexpected expenses, larger purchases or adjusting our budget.
  • Our schedules.  This is the main event.  We’re constantly working to protect white space, to ask ourselves if we’re living out our priorities and setting realistic expectations for our week.  We both have a tendency to bite off more than we can chew – this is a little forced accountability.
  • Other decisions.  This could be anything from finding a pre-school for Jack, to thinking about a vacation, to checking in on how the other is doing spiritually.

I know many of us have an instinctively negative reaction to meetings.  You do your best to avoid them at work and now I’m trying to get you to add one into your home!  I get it.  That’s how I felt for a really long time.  But, the cost of not having this kind of regular check-in is so high in terms of wasted time, energy and emotion.  If nothing else, try this for a month and see how it goes.  My guess is it’ll become a regular part of your week and marriage.

Kids, Kids & More Kids

Kids Bible

When we first planted Restoration City, kids ministry was otherwise known as, “who’s going to watch Jack this week?”  Since then, a lot has changed.  Alex Dibble and her team have done an amazing job of building an environment that is safe, loving and focused on Jesus.  Our goal at RCC Kids is so much more than providing babysitting during the worship gathering.  It’s about pointing future generations to the life and hope found in Jesus.

If you haven’t noticed, there’s a whole lot more kids running around the church these days than just Jack.  It’s been amazing to see the number of families with young children who have started connecting with the church in the last few weeks.  As a church, we want to do a great job of serving these kids and their families.  We want our kids to grow up loving church and believing that following Jesus is the greatest adventure in life.

In order to do that, we need your help.  There are two main ways you can start serving with our incredible RCCKids team:

  1.  Serve on a Sunday morning.  This is what most of us think about when we think about Kids Ministry.  It’s incredibly powerful and we want to create the best experience possible for our kids.
  2. Help with childcare during Community Groups.  This is a little different from RCCKids in that it is a little more like babysitting.  But we want parents of young kids to be able to participate in a Community Group without having to pay for a babysitter every week (that’s a big strain on a family’s budget).  So, we offer childcare options for parents who want to connect with a Community Group (either at the group or at the family’s home, depending on the circumstances).   It’s one of the best things we can do to bless young families and strengthen marriages as a church.

We really need help in both areas.  If you’re willing to give us a hand and help shape future generations for gospel effectiveness, please let our kids team know.  You can just shoot them an email at RCCKids@restorationcitydc.com.  They would love to hear from you!

What A Weekend!!

ServeDC Spring 2016

What an amazing weekend we all just got to experience together!

Over the course of three days, 121 individuals worked a total of 198 three hour shifts with one of our seven partners.  I’m so grateful for every single person who participated in this incredible weekend, particularly for those of you who worked 2 or shifts!  And we should all be incredibly grateful to Caitlin Kammerman, Kaitlyn Rounds and their team for leading us so well this weekend.  The next time you see them, please let them know how grateful you are for their leadership!

One of the things we’ve said from the beginning is that we want Restoration City to have an undeniably positive impact on our city.  Even if people don’t agree with our theology, we want them to be grateful our church exists.  Sometimes that feels like a tall order in DC but this weekend is evidence that it’s possible and God is answering that prayer.

But our desire to serve the community isn’t rooted in a desire to establish a good name for ourselves.  It’s a reflection of the gospel – Jesus served and sacrificed for us so that we could live.  If that’s how He’s treated us, we need to extend the same grace to our neighbors and co-workers.  When we understand that, we realize we don’t need an event to give us permission to serve, we can walk into any and every situation in life ready to serve.

That’s the real legacy of ServeDC.  We don’t just want a weekend of service.  We’re praying for a lifestyle of service.

Discipleship Defined

Discipleship Defined

Anytime we put how in front of what, we end up in trouble.
For example, imagine teaching someone how to bake a cake before they even understand what a cake is.  They might be able to memorize a series of steps – add eggs, milk, flour, etc…  But without a clear picture of what they’re trying to create, they’ll have no desire to make it.  Even if they do start baking, they’ll be slavishly devoted to the one recipe you’ve given them.  They’ll never be able to adapt to create a different kind of cake.  Or worse, they’ll try to adapt in a way they think will improve the outcome (ditch the flour, double the sugar) but ends up ruining the whole thing.
Many of us approach discipleship the same way.  We spend a tremendous amount of time debating the “how” without ever being clear on the “what.”  We’re all trying to follow a recipe we inherited or downloaded from a blog but we’re not entirely sure what we’re trying to bake.  Nothing life changing is going to emerge from that confusion.
At Restoration City, we’re walking through 2 Timothy this spring and allowing that letter to shape our understanding of discipleship.  As we move forward, I want to offer a simple definition to keep us anchored on the “what” of discipleship:
Discipleship is the process of heart change that leads to life change.
 
The more you read about discipleship, the more you realize there is no single widely shared definition among authors, pastors and theologians.  We all recognize that the mission of the church is making disciples (Mt. 28:18-20).  There’s even widespread understanding of the word disciple in the original context.  The word meant “learner.”  But when we move to questions of what a disciple is today and what discipleship is, things get a little murkier.  My goal with this definition is to give us common language as a church and some clarity on the “what” of discipleship.
In reflecting on John 8:31 and what a disciple is today, John Piper offers the following:
For Jesus “true disciple” is the same as “true Christian” or “true believer.” Jesus is not saying that “true disciple” is a second stage in the Christian life. First believer, and then later you attain the level of disciple.
– John Piper
 
Simply put, a disciple is a Christ follower who is actively learning to follow Jesus.
 
If that’s the case, we need a correspondingly broad understanding of discipleship.  That’s why I think the definition I offered above, the process of heart change that leads to life change, is so helpful.  It encompasses the entire process of us becoming more like Jesus (that’s the life change).  But it also clarifies that life change always comes about through heart change.  Therefore, anything that catalyzes gospel shaped heart change is a form of discipleship – whether it’s a mission trip, a close friendship, a Community Group or mentoring an at risk child.
Understanding discipleship this way breathes a tremendous amount of freedom into the conversation.  It makes us open to a wide range of “hows” and frees us from the need to settle on any one “how” as the right way to disciple someone.  The reality is there are many ways to disciple someone or to be discipled.
On the other hand, it also helps us see that getting together for coffee once a week with someone can’t really be considered discipleship if there’s no heart change that’s leading to life change.   We’ll talk a lot more about how the gospel leads to heart change and what that life change looks like.  But, for today, I just want to get us all thinking about the same definition:
Discipleship: Heart Change => Life Change

19 Year Old John

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I’ve been thinking a lot about college students this week.  It’s probably because I get to lead the College Community Group tomorrow night at GW.
But it’s also because Laura and I took the boys to Georgetown last week on our family rest day.  We ran around campus, ate lunch and tried to explain that Mommy and Daddy both went to school here – I don’t think they were buying it!  To be honest, it was kind of surreal.  I kept picturing 19 year old John running around those same spaces and marveling at how much my life had changed.  When I was in college, I wasn’t sure I would get married and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t ever have kids.  And now here I was with three beautiful examples of God’s grace in my life.
But what 19 year old John would NEVER have seen is that 38 year old John would be the Pastor of Restoration City Church.  I would have laughed, wondered what tragedy prevented me from getting a real job and then laughed some more.  But Jesus has a funny way of leading us to places we never thought we would go.  When I finally understood the gospel in the second semester of my junior year, everything started changing.  My friends.  My interests.  My view of the world.  How I liked to spend my time.  Everything.
That’s why college students are such a big deal for us at Restoration City.  I know first hand the power of God grabbing hold of someone’s life during that university moment.  It can change everything.  That’s why the 3rd member of our staff team is a college pastor.  That’s why we devote resources every week to the college community group (they’re a well fed bunch!).  And that’s why we do our DistrictLife summer internships – because we want to be a church that invests in the collegiate generation.
College students, we love you and we’re for you!  We believe God has great things in store for your lives and we want to walk alongside you into everything He has for you.  More importantly, we want to inspire and equip you to shine the light of Jesus on your campus.  That’s what your Community Group is all about and that’s what our summer internships are all about.
If you’re thinking about doing a summer internship with Restoration City, this is a great time to talk with Marshall.  We’re firming up our plans for the summer and want to help you do the same.  Here’s how my friend Joey Schwartz describes last year’s experience with Restoration City:
“God used my internship at Restoration City Church to deepen my roots in the gospel and stretch my faith as I saw Him work powerfully. Under the leadership of the RCC pastors, I learned how to lead people more effectively with passion, grace, and truth. But the main reason I would encourage everyone to intern at RCC is the opportunity. Every summer, thousands of college students from across the country swarm to the nation’s capital for summer internships. These students are eager to make a difference in the world, and they long for a greater purpose. As an intern at RCC, you have the opportunity to share the gospel with these students. You have the opportunity to tell them that their greater purpose is found beyond this world, in the love and hope of Jesus Christ.”
You can apply for our summer internship here.  Just remember – the point isn’t to get you to do an internship, it’s to get you to burn brightly for Jesus in every sphere of life!

Encouragement From Beth Ridgill

If you’ve been around Restoration City for any length of time, you’ve been impacted by Beth Ridgill, her love for Jesus and her love for making disciples.  After a year here in DC, she’s returned to her home in North Carolina.  Before she left, she wrote this letter to our church.  I hope you’ll be as encouraged by it as I was:

Beth Letter