Annual Giving Commitments

In a recent letter to the Restoration City congregation, I asked everyone who calls this their church home to give a one time, year end donation before December 31st and to make an annual giving commitment for 2019.  In the letter, I explained that the year end donation is about our collective vision as a church while the annual giving commitment is about our individual discipleship to Jesus.  Understanding the role of generosity in both our collective vision and our individual discipleship is crucial for us as Christ followers.  So, I’m going to use this week and next week’s blog posts to dig deeper into each, starting with the idea of an annual giving commitment.

There’s a temptation to see something like an annual giving commitment as nothing more than a fundraising or budgeting tool that helps us operate as a church but that’s really not the case.  It’s a discipleship tool that helps each of us as Christ followers be intentional about the spiritual discipline of generosity.  In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul writes that each of us should, “give as he has decided in his heart.”  In other words, our giving is preceded by an internal, heart level decision.  An annual giving commitment gives us a specific opportunity to make that decision.  By making that decision now for the coming year, we become intentional stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us.

Jesus helps us see the significance of intentional stewardship in a short section in the middle of His Sermon on The Mount.  

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

Matthew 6:19-21

We need to pay really careful attention to what Jesus is saying in that last sentence: Your heart follows your dollars.  Where we invest our treasure today is where we will find our heart tomorrow.  Every dollar we spend points our hearts somewhere.  The question is whether we are intentional or accidental about that pointing.  If we want to be intentional, we need to ask ourselves three simple but crucial discipleship questions.

  1.  Do you know how your spending is shaping your heart? In my experience, the vast majority of us have only a vague sense of where our money goes every month.  We know what our rent is and our student loan payments but most everything else gets a little fuzzy, oftentimes deliberately so.  Let’s be clear, not knowing where your money is going isn’t just financial irresponsible.  It’s spiritually reckless.  If our hearts follow our dollars, we owe it to ourselves to know where our dollars are going.  So, start tracking your spending.
  2. Are you comfortable with how your spending is shaping your heart?  When I say comfortable, I mean spiritually comfortable, not financially comfortable.  Your budget is as much a spiritual document as it is a financial planning tool.  A good budget doesn’t just make sure you spend less than you make.  A good budget is an intentional plan to shape your soul.  Are you stewarding God’s resources in a way that’s enriching your soul?
  3. What changes is God leading you to make in the coming year?  Maybe it’s time to cut some things out.  Maybe it’s time to save more.  Maybe it’s time to give more.  Maybe it’s time to spend more in certain areas of life.  The key is actually having the conversation with God.  A lot of times, we want to keep God at arm’s length when making financial decisions and that should be a real warning sign to us that something is wrong.  If we’re willing to trust God with our salvation, we should be willing to trust Him with our finances.

That’s what our annual giving commitments are all about – taking control of how our spending is shaping our souls.  So, please, have a conversation with Jesus.  What is He asking you to do?  What changes do you need to make?  What is generosity going to look like for you next year?  Take some time to pray about it and when you’re done, send in your annual giving commitment, either online or with one of the cards we have available on Sunday mornings.  And when you do, know that you’ve taken an important step in your discipleship to Jesus.

A Thanksgiving That Will Really Make You Happy

Thanksgiving 2018

Happy Thanksgiving!

Usually that’s our way of saying we hope everything goes well as someone celebrates this holiday.  We hope our family and friends are able to navigate the holiday with minimal unpleasantness: no burnt turkeys, drunk uncles, fights over dinner, or traffic.  It’s our way of saying we hope you have fun, get to relax, and maybe even get a nap at some point over the weekend.  There’s nothing wrong with any of that but it misses the deeper reality of that greeting – being thankful actually makes us happy!

By the way, that’s not sentimentality.  It’s science.  Study after study has confirmed that being thankful makes us happier.  When we take time to reflect on the things that make us grateful and express that gratitude, it actually changes us on a neurobiological level.  Being thankful causes our brains to release both dopamine and serotonin.  Dopamine is the chemical that makes us happy, optimistic, sociable, and goal-oriented.  Serotonin is an anti-depressant that increases will power and motivation.   So, if we do this thanksgiving thing correctly, it should literally make us happier!

The Apostle Paul didn’t understand the neurobiology of gratitude but he knew the experiential reality of it.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9

That’s my prayer for you this Thanksgiving.  May the peace of God guard your heart as you allow gratitude to mingle with your need in a way that drives away anxiety.  May the joy of Christ be yours as you meditate on the goodness, mercy, and provision of God in your life.  May you be more focused on the blessings you celebrate than the details of your celebration.

So, Happy Thanksgiving.  Or maybe I should say, “Thanksgiving Will Make You Happy.”

Welcome To The Neighborhood, HQ2

Crystal City

I remember being horrified when some of the buildings in our neighborhood started getting covered with this weird, quasi-artistic fabric.  I assumed Crystal City was trying to turn eyesores into art but couldn’t figure out why they were broadcasting just how many buildings in our neighborhood were sitting empty!  And then I learned it was all connected to Amazon’s search for a second headquarters.  Crystal City was putting together what a lot of people saw as a long shot bid to bring HQ2 to our little part of the world.  Turns out it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all and Amazon’s moving into the neighborhood!

This is a really big deal for our city, our neighborhood, and for us at Restoration City Church.  Only time will tell exactly how this will impact our church but as one of a very small number of churches that gather in the Crystal City/Pentagon City area, it’s going to have a big impact on us.  No doubt we’ll face some challenges (I suspect our rent is going up!) but HQ2 also presents us with tremendous opportunities.

At the very least, Jeff Bezos picking Crystal City should impact how we think about our neighborhood and city.  It’s no secret that Crystal City has had a bit of a self esteem problem for a long time – it’s hard not to when your claim to fame is an underground shopping mall!  Not only have we not been the trendiest neighborhood in DC but DC in general doesn’t always have the best reputation as a place to live.  People come here for their careers but it often seems like they’re counting the days until they leave from the moment they arrive.  Sometimes that’s just a function of being stationed at the Pentagon, which always comes with an end date.  Cost of living is a big and understandable part of it.  Kids frequently take the blame for it, “Yeah, this place is great for now but when we have kids we’re out of here.”

In all honesty, it’s been a long time since this felt like a place where people are excited to live.  I know I’ve felt that as a church planter – people are happy to have found a good place to go to church while they’re in DC but, man, they can’t wait to go back home.  So, it’s a massive boost to our collective psyche to have Amazon pick this place!  Truth be told, DC really is a great place to call home and Crystal City is worth getting excited about – our church loves gathering here and  Laura and I love raising our family inside the beltway.  It just feels really good to see other people getting excited about a place I really love.

HQ2 also means there are going to be a tremendous number of people moving into the neighborhood.  We’ve always cared about serving our community and loving our neighbors – this just means there are going to be so many more to serve!  We’ll be talking more about this on Sunday but God has given us the privilege and the responsibility of being Christ’s ambassadors in this neighborhood.  He put us here in Crystal City just over 4 years ago at a time when no one really cared about Crystal City.  In fact, there were plenty of well intentioned people who told me we were making a mistake meeting here.  But God has always had a purpose for us in this neighborhood.  I sure didn’t know HQ2 was part of it, but He did.  There’s not a chance in the world we’re going to watch this pitch go by, Restoration City.  We need to recommit ourselves to loving our community, having an undeniably positive impact on our neighborhood and pointing people to Jesus.  God has us here for a reason!

This is a really big day for our city and it’s a really big day for our church.  Let’s be praying the Lord will give us the grace we need to navigate all of this well in the months and years to come.

Coming Soon: The Restoration City App

PushPay MigrationThis past Sunday, we announced a small but significant shift that will ultimately impact all of us at Restoration City.  Since before we were planted, we’ve used a third party vendor to facilitate all of our online giving.  They handle the back end things required to process your donations, keep your financial information safe, and maintain our giving records.  In exchange, we pay them a small percentage of each transaction, what they call a merchant fee.  Nothing all that exciting, I know.  But it’s really important.

What we announced this past Sunday is that we’re moving to a different vendor for three reasons:

(1)  Our current vendor was about to raise their merchant fees and the new vendor, PushPay, will match what we had previously been paying so we avoid a fee increase.  That’s significant because we want to direct as much of your giving as possible to actual ministry, not vendor fees!

(2)  The new system has more functionality and is easier to use.

(3)  The new system comes with the ability to support a Restoration City app, which we will be launching on Sunday, November 18th!

It’s important for us to be good stewards of the resources you entrust to us and we want people’s online experience to be as easy as possible.  But it’s the app that you’re really going to love.  It’s going to make a lot of things a lot easier for us as a church!

The only catch with all of this is that we need every single person who has set-up a recurring donation in the old system to move that to the new system!  We can’t do it for you but it will only take about 2 minutes of your time to respond to the email you got from PushPay on Sunday afternoon.  If you didn’t get that email, please let Dan Iten know.

As of right now, 42% of our recurring donors have already moved their donations over to the new system in the last 48 hours!  Thank you!!!  If you haven’t had the chance to do it yet, no worries, but we would love to have you do it before Sunday!  Let’s see if we can get that 42% up to 80% by Sunday.

I know online giving platforms aren’t the kind of thing any of us get all that excited about (with a few possible exceptions!).  But it’s doing little things like this well that set the stage for everything else we’re able to do as a church.