Community Group Open Houses


The entire McGowan family loves Sunday nights!  And that has nothing to do with having made it through the busiest day of the week for us.  It’s all about how much we love our Community Group and how much we look forward to coming together on a weekly basis.  Those times are huge for our family – a chance to connect with friends, process what God is doing in our lives, pray together and encourage one another in our walks with Jesus.  Added bonus…the kids love it too…and the food is really good!

If you aren’t connected to one of our Community Groups, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to find one that works for you.  So, next week (Sunday – Thursday evenings), each of our Community Groups are hosting an Open House.  There’ll be plenty of food and a lot of space to get to know other people in the group.  Instead of doing a formal Bible study, we’re just going to take time to hang out and get to know one another.  So, it’s a really easy week for you to check out one of our groups.

Here’s the bottom line – Jesus restores us in community.  God will do some of His deepest work in you through other people.  If you read through the New Testament, you will see the phrase “one another” used at least 59 times.  In other words, so much of what Jesus calls us to can only be obeyed in the context of the community.  A life of isolation is not only unfulfilling but also disobedient to the pattern of New Testament Christianity.  

As a church, we invest a lot of time and effort in Community Groups.  It’s not that we think you need one more thing on your calendar.  In fact, we know you’re probably already over scheduled and will need to intentionally create space for a Community Group.  We do it because discipleship happens in the context of community.  We do it to create spaces for God to work through others in your life.

Don’t settle for attending Restoration City.  Please, get connected!  For a full list of Restoration City Community Groups, visit our website.  One of them would love to welcome you next week.

Social Media Rules

Social Media.jpg

Last week a friend asked a really honest question in response to a blog post I had written.  She wanted to know whether I thought social media has had an overall positive or negative impact on Christians and the church.  Most days, it seems hard to tell.  There’s so much good, inspiring content and there’s so much bad theology and narcissism.  There are posts that make us want God’s best for our lives and then there are online catfights between celebrity pastors.  There are bloggers trying to inspire and there are blogs that exist to criticize, tear down and divide.  It all feels like a real mixed bag.

As much as I understand where the question is coming from, I think we need to shift it a bit.  Asking whether or not social media has been good for Christianity is a lot like asking whether the printing press has been good or bad.  After all, the printing press made both the Bible and Mein Kampf available to the masses.  There are great books and worthless books, great tweets and worthless tweets.  Neither Facebook or magazines are inherently good or bad.  The real point is that social media is here to stay.  Sure, there will be specific platforms that come and go (remember mySpace and that one day everyone cared about Google circles?).  But humanity has found a new way to communicate and I don’t think we’re going to put it back in the box.

The real question is how to use social media well.  It’s in that spirit that I want to share the four verses that have shaped how I think about social media in my life.  Three of them apply to how I consume social media and one applies to how I contribute to social media:


  • “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Phil. 4:8)  This one just about says it all – I don’t waste time on junk that doesn’t add value to my life.  Political rants, cat videos and photos of your family vacation (if I don’t know you) are all out.  So is anything that stimulates comparison in my heart, whether it shows up in the form of pride (oh look, I really am better than you) or envy (I would just be happy if I had that).
  • “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;” (Ps. 101:3)  Yes, this is the theme verse for anyone fighting pornography.  But it also eliminates a lot of the silly chatter on our NewsFeed…not inherently evil, just worthless.
  • “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16)  It’s possible to waste a lot of time online…guessing you already knew that.  I often set a timer to pull me out of Facebook land after 5 minutes.


  • “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11)  As a pastor and leader, I try to post with others in mind, not with a desire to show off, glorify myself or waste your time.  I don’t mind posting things that encourage us by shaking us out of our complacency but even that is done with the intent of building one another up.

I’m not perfect in following these rules (especially the one about not wasting time), so if you see me slip up, call me out!  But the more I try to follow these verses, the freer I feel.  I’m guessing they’d do the same thing for you.


The Positivity Gospel


It seems like more and more of the church is getting swept up in what I’m going to start calling the Positivity Gospel.  Think of it as the Prosperity Gospel’s emotional cousin.  It’s a stick your head in the sand spirituality where everything is AH-MAZING and everyone is beautiful.  Everything’s epic.  Everyone’s a legend.  And it’s killing our joy in Christ.

The Positivity Gospel spreads like wildfire on social media.  If I had to figure out what it meant to follow Jesus based on my Instagram feed, I’m pretty sure I would think Christianity is a recipe for handcrafted lattes, exotic travel, great parties and a lot of exposed light bulbs.

None of which does me any good in my real life.  I don’t have epic hangouts every day.  I eat dinner with my wife and two rambunctious toddlers.  It’s a win if we can keep everyone at the table for 10 minutes.  I don’t spend time with the Lord overlooking misty morning mountains.  I sit in a chair with a tear in the fabric on the arm well before the sun comes up praying that those two rambunctious toddlers stay asleep long enough for me to actually connect with God.  I ride in a carpool to the office.  I answer a lot of emails, work really hard on sermons and lead a lot of meetings.  All in all, the life of a pretty average pastor.

And I’m not angry about it.  I love it.

Don’t write me off as some bitter guy who’s just ticked at life.  I’m not.  I’m all for celebration, gratitude and giving God credit when He moves in undeniable ways.  I love a good day at the lake and I love it when God moves in undeniable power at our church.  Every once in a while, I post photos of our kids on Instagram because they’re just so stinking cute.  We don’t need to feel badly about enjoying God’s blessings.  I just have no interest in a trendy spirituality where we put more confidence in the power of positive thinking than in the power of the resurrection.  If your spirituality doesn’t help when life gets hard, it isn’t worth anything.

The Bible never glosses over the difficulty of life. If anything, the Bible is disturbingly real about what to expect in this world.  Consider just a few verses:

  • “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)
  • “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire?” (Ps. 89:46)
  • “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” (James 1:2)

The Bible is honest about the heartache of life.  It knows nothing of sticking your head in the spiritual sand.  If anything, it causes us to take a long hard look at the brokenness of our world and the sickness of our souls.

Yet it does speak of peace and hope.  Even a peace and hope that are found in the midst of trials.  “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  It does tell us that we are more than conquerers.(Romans 8:37)  And we are commanded to rejoice always.(Philippians 4:4)  The gospel is an announcement of unthinkable hope and immeasurable joy.  After all, ours is the story of eternal life with our resurrected King.

So, how do you know if you’re falling for the Positivity Gospel?  Here’s the real test: Does difficulty shatter or strengthen your relationship with Jesus?  The Positivity Gospel falls apart in the hospital waiting room.  The true gospel speaks hope into that moment.  The Positivity Gospel has nothing to say when you get laid off.  The true gospel does.

I’m not just playing semantic games or splitting theological hairs.  I can see ways that my soul is susceptible to the Positivity Gospel and I want to fight back.  I want to anchor myself in a true understanding of the world and the promises of God.  I want a foundation that will endure disappointment and heartache.

That’s my prayer for all of us, “Lord, pull our heads out of the sand and into the Scriptures.

Jesus In The Chaos




More and more, it feels like my greatest battle is against distraction.  The unexpected phone call.  The “quick question” that turns into a 45 minute conversation.  Social media.  Email.  Checking out houses on Redfin even though we aren’t in the market.  Gossip.  A few texts.  Breaking news.  Netflix.

It all adds up and there are days when I wonder if I’ve really accomplished anything.  Busy? Definitely.  Tired?  Absolutely!  Productive?  I’m not sure.  Connected to God?  I know He’s with me but I don’t seem all that aware of His presence.

I know Jesus isn’t intimidated by the chaos of my life.  I know He isn’t running scared.  I know He doesn’t stay home sipping coffee while I go to work.  I know He’s with me.  He promises that in His Word, “I am with you always.” (Mt. 18:20)  He’s not the problem.  I am.  I loose sight of Him and get focused on a thousand other things.

For me, the battle for focus starts long before the sun is up.  I’m learning the more I connect with God in the morning, the more He shapes the chaos of my days.  I know how simple that sounds.  But I also know there’s a huge difference between “doing my quiet time” and connecting with God.  I can have a really well structured quiet time and totally miss God.  It happens more often than I would like to admit.  I power through a devotional book, journal a few thoughts, read some Scripture and pray a few rote prayers.  Quiet time done.  God missed.  And then there are days when those same raw ingredients combine to create a beautiful encounter with God.  His voice is clear, His presence is real, His love is almost tangible.  Most of the times, the difference is found in my expectations – power through or slow down and meet with Jesus?

When I slow down and meet with Jesus in the morning, He’s so much easier to see throughout the day.  He’s there helping me say no, avoid distractions and do what He’s called me to do.  When the unavoidable interruptions of life come, He’s there reassuring me He’s still working even though we’re off my script.  He’s near and real and everything’s better.

Yes, there are ways to manage distractions.  But it’s not like they’re going away.  And it’s not like Jesus is going away.  I’m just much more focused on staying connected with Him during the day.  And I’m finding that my best shot at connection during the day is connection before the day gets started.

This Fall At Restoration City

Fall At Restoration City.jpg

These are really special days for us as a church.

It’s Wednesday morning and I’m still celebrating everything we saw God do this past weekend.  We planted Restoration City for days like last Sunday – days of salvation and days of celebration.  By God’s grace, the dream of a vibrant community that loves Jesus, one another and this city is becoming a reality.  And I believe God has so much more in store for all of us.

Over the last weeks, I’ve been praying the heart of 1 Thessalonians 1:5 over our church; that the gospel would come to us “not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”  Yes, it’s important that we sing the gospel and preach the gospel on Sundays.  Yes, the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rm.1:16).  Yes, our church is shaped by the gospel.  But if that ever becomes simply text on a website or doctrine in our heads, we’re in trouble.

I’m praying we will hunger and thirst for the power of God in our lives, in our church and in our city.  That’s what we need – the Holy Spirit of God to save sinners and send saints.  We need the rushing wind of God’s grace and love to blow through our Community Groups.  We need to be caught up in something so much bigger than ourselves. Something that can only be explained by the power of God.

I believe God wants to use 1 Thessalonians 1:5 to shape not just one weekend at Restoration City but this whole fall.  We’ve got an incredible few weeks ahead leading into ServeDC on October 27-30th.  I’m praying it’s a season of new life in Christ and new boldness in mission.  I’m praying we’ll be carried by the power of the Spirit like never before.

Will you join me in three simple commitments for this fall?

  1. Regularly praying 1 Thessalonians 1:5 over our church and your life.
  2. Boldly engaging with those around us who don’t know Jesus.  Invest in their lives.  Invite them to church.  Introduce them to Jesus.
  3. Welcoming those who are new to Jesus or church into our Sunday gatherings and Community Groups.

Nothing profound.  Just simple ways of participating in what God’s doing in our church and city.

I’ve never been more excited about what God is doing through our church than I am right now.  I pray we steward this season well.  I pray we’re able to hold out the grace and truth of Jesus in a way that’s worthy of the God we love so much.  I pray we see Him do what we can’t even imagine.  And I pray we never lose sight of the privilege it is to be a part of this together.

For The City: This Sunday & Every Sunday

Downtown DC

Almost two years later, the vision of Restoration City hasn’t changed at all – we exist to see spiritual, relational and cultural restoration in our nation’s capital.  If anything, we have more clarity about what that looks like.  It means a radical faith in the power of the gospel and a determination to be an undeniable positive in our community.  We want to point to Jesus and do it in a way that people in DC are glad we’re here.

That’s why this coming Sunday is such a big deal for us as a church.  Yes, we’re celebrating our new gathering location at Gunston Middle School.  Yes, I’m looking forward to having most of the church back together now that summer vacation season is coming to an end.  But we’re praying God will use this Sunday as a tremendous blessing to our community.  That’s why we’ll have two different food trucks at Gunston after our gathering along with face paints and balloon artists for the kids.  That’s why we’ve sent out mailers to those living closest to Gunston.  That’s why I’m starting a short series out of Luke 15.  That’s why our Connect Team is working overtime to do everything we can think of to great our first time guests well.

We want to welcome our community to our church.  And we want to see Jesus change lives like only He can.  That’s the real point – not food trucks or balloon animals.  We want to hold the door wide open for people to encounter the glory of Jesus in a totally life changing way.  

And you have a huge role to play in that.

Here’s my question – who are you inviting to come to church with you this Sunday?  I pray you have an answer and I pray you will be bold enough to extend an invitation whether that’s in person or with a text.  We’re not responsible for whether or not they decide to come – that’s up to them!  But we are the ones God has called to do the inviting!

Restoration City, this is why we exist.  This is why we planted this church.  It was never about us and it never will be.  It’ll always be about the glory of Christ and the good of this city.  I’m praying God will capture our hearts all over again with that vision and inspire us to live as ambassadors for Christ this week.

Be bold!

Grace Under Fire

planes crashing

I’m chronically disappointed by the hardships of life.  Which is a pretty brutal one-two punch.  Things already aren’t going well and then I get crushed by my own unfounded disappointment.  It just makes the spiral worse.  And I fall for it all the time.

A big part of the problem is my expectations.  There’s a part of my heart that wants and expects God to make everything in my life easy, comfortable and safe.  I want Him to go to work on noisy neighbors, long commutes and insurmountable to-do lists.  I want Him to make it all better.  I want Him to do it my way and on my time table.  And I get so bothered when He doesn’t.

To make it worse, I hold onto those expectations even when the Bible is clearly trying to adjust them.  Consider just one example, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)  In some ways, it’s comforting to know the early church had the same misaligned expectations I do.  On the other hand, I realize I would be better served by internalizing these words rather than feeling vindicated that others need them as much as I do.

The problem with my misaligned expectations is that when something goes wrong, I feel like God is letting me down.  When that happens, all hope of me responding in a Christ-like manner is out the window.  To be honest, it’s usually a struggle to respond to people in a Christlike manner even when everything is going really well.  When things are hard, forget about it.

Yet, we’re never more like Jesus than when we’re loving well even though everything is going wrong.  Again, 1 Peter helps us with this, “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.  For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 2:19-20)  The gospel lays out the pattern for suffering service.  Life is conspiring against me but I’m working for your good.  Things aren’t going my way but I want to bless you in the mess.  I’m under fire but you’re going to get grace from me.  If we actually lived this way, the world would see how beautifully jarring grace really is.

So, I don’t love the difficulties of life and I doubt I ever will.  But I’m trying to do a better job of expecting them.  And I’m praying for the grace to see them as opportunities.  It’s in those moments that I’m most able to display the character and love of Jesus.  It’s in those moments where my life has the greatest redemptive potential in the hands of God.