RestoreDC, Take 7

RestoreDC

Tomorrow we kick off our 7th RestoreDC weekend as a church.  As of this morning, 93 people from Restoration City have signed up for 150 different shifts with our 9 partner organizations.  The work we will do over the next three days is a really big deal for our partners who are counting on us.  I also want to make sure they’re a big deal for us as a church.

They say familiarity breeds contempt.  I don’t think there’s much chance of that with RestoreDC but I am concerned that regularity might breed indifference.  Not even a lack of participation, just a lack of excitement for what God is doing.  Kind of a been there, done that, got the t-shirt (literally!) attitude.

That’s why I’m praying God will give us all fresh excitement for RestoreDC.  I’m praying we will serve with joy and a desire to bless our community.  This is one of the most tangible ways we live out our plumbline to be an undeniable positive as a church.  We want to live in such a way that our community is grateful for our presence even if they don’t embrace our theology.  We want DC to be better because Restoration City exists.

So, as we head into this weekend, I want to anchor all of us in some texts that fuel my passion for RestoreDC:

  • “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” – Jeremiah 29:7
  • “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
  • “And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.” – Isaiah 58:12
  • “They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” – Isaiah 61:4
  • “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

I honestly can’t wait for this weekend. Let’s pray today that God will exceed all of our expectations over the next three days!

Closed Doors & The Will Of God

doors

As we continue in our Boundless series on the Book of Acts, we’re going to be skipping over the five verses that would come next.  It’s not that they’re unimportant, it’s just that we’re trying to get to a certain place in the text by Christmas.  But I don’t want to skip over them entirely because they have tremendous value for us in navigating our occasional frustrations with the ways God reveals His will for our lives:

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Acts 16:6-10

We live a lot of life on the front side of a Macedonian call.  Yes, there are moments when it feels like God literally pulls back the curtain of heaven and tells us exactly what to do.  But, for most of our lives, it feels like we’re stumbling around, banging into closed doors and trying to figure out what Jesus is asking us to do.  Even as I write this, I can think of at least three ways Laura and I are trying to navigate that right now.  In the midst of that frustrating and painful lack of clarity, this text brings three helpful reminders:

Don’t Let What Seems Illogical Distract You From What Is Certain

Imagine how disorienting all of this must have been to the Apostle Paul.  He’s the great evangelist and church planter of the early church.  He’s completed one missionary journey and is on the first leg of his second journey.  His whole aim is to tell people about Jesus.  He’s not praying through whether or not he really needs the iPhone X.  He wants to pluck as many people as possible from the clutches of hell.  And his biggest obstacle seems to be the Holy Spirit.  What’s wrong with preaching the gospel in Asia?  Does God hate the Bithynians?  How can the God who has always said go now say no?

Closed doors are so frustrating because they often seem so illogical.  Why is God doing this?  Why won’t He open the womb, help us with the down payment, get me into grad school or accelerate our adoption process?

Paul doesn’t minimize the confusion but he also doesn’t get distracted from what he’s certain about – the mission God has given him.  He’s going to preach the gospel.  If not in Asia, Phrygia will be just fine.  If not Bithynia, Troas works.  He was so committed to that mission that when he finally has a revelation from God, his only conclusion is that God has called him to preach the gospel in Macedonia.  He isn’t thinking sea side sabbatical.  He’s thinking gospel mission.

You may not know what God is doing in your life right now.  But you do know your purpose in life – to glorify God by making disciples.  Everything else finds its place in relationship to that mission.  So, don’t give up on it when life doesn’t make sense.  Keep pressing forward.

Obedience, Patience and Inactivity Aren’t The Same Thing

Paul demonstrates a tremendous amount of obedience and patience in all of this.  He doesn’t try to kick down any closed doors (one of my favorite ways of running afoul of God’s will for my life). Imagine how easy it would have been for him to conclude he was mishearing the Spirit of Jesus.  That Spirit is always telling us to go.  Now He’s saying no? I probably would have stormed into Asia demanding God’s blessing on my well-intentioned disobedience.  But not Paul.  He obeyed and waited.

But he didn’t stagnate.  He kept moving.  His bias was towards unblocked action.  If God was saying no in certain ways, Paul was determined to keep moving forward in a way that God was allowing.  He didn’t grind everything to a halt and linger in neutral until God told him what to do.  He kept moving, trusting the Lord to make it all clear.

I know so many followers of Jesus who struggle with this.  They assume the default posture of the Christian soul is passivity interrupted by the occasional Macedonian call.  Not true!  We are a people with a bias for action.  This passage simply reminds us that action must walk down the paths of obedience and patience.

God Will Open The Right Door, The Right Way, At The Right Time

Don’t get discouraged!  God is more than able to break through the fog of closed doors whenever He needs to, in whatever way He needs to?  For Paul, all of the closed doors finally make sense with one vision.  God has been leading Paul and his team (which now includes Luke, the author of Acts) to Macedonia the whole time.  The gospel moves forward and we’re reminded that God has known what He’s doing all along.

Today, those moments are more likely to come through a study of God’s Word, wise counsel and circumstances than dreams and visions but dreams and visions are still on the table.  If that’s what it takes, that’s what God is going to do.

In the midst of the uncertainty of closed doors, we can cling to the hope that God will keep us on the path He has designed for us. All of our confusion isn’t going to thwart God’s plan for our lives.  Job 42:2 has been such a comfort to me over the years, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

When the time comes, God will get you right where He wants you.

There are few things in the Christian life as disorienting as illogically closed doors.  They can give rise to all kinds of fears – has God abandoned me, is He angry at me, am I being punished?  Don’t fall for that kind of thinking.  You might be facing many closed doors but the arms of your Savior are wide open.  He’s already made what He thinks of you abundantly clear on the cross.  He tasted death so you never have to.  He purchased you, declared you His own and adopted you into His family.  He didn’t do it to leave you helplessly floundering through life.  You can trust Him, cling to Him and pray for the day the fog lifts.  In the mean time, keep walking!

Launching Grace Hill

Grace Hill Logo

I’m so grateful for the messages Dan Iten and Allan McCullough preached the last two Sundays at Restoration City.  If you missed either of them, do yourself a favor and listen online or subscribe to our podcast.  Both of these guys are incredible pastors and great friends and it’s a huge joy in my life to be connected with both of them.

As you also know, Allan and an incredible team of people are planting Grace Hill Church in Herndon, VA and they will officially launch on Sunday, September 10th.  We’re privileged to be their sending church so we’re already committed to Grace Hill financially, spiritually and in sending members from our church to join their launch team.  But in these next few weeks, I want to add a new element to our commitment to Grace Hill – being a voice for them.

Being a voice for Grace Hill isn’t any where near as hard as you might think and would likely accomplish much more than you might think.  Here are two really simple things every one of us can do to help our brothers and sisters at Grace Hill reach their communities with the gospel:

  1.  Text friends who live in the Reston, Herndon, Sterling and surrounding communities and let them know Grace Hill is launching on September 10th.  Best thing to do?  Send them a link to Grace Hill’s website: http://gracehillchurch.com/.  In particular, be thinking about friends who don’t have a church home, are looking for increased opportunities to serve or don’t know Jesus.  One simple text might make a huge difference in people’s eternities.
  2. Post a link to Grace Hill’s website on your social media feeds letting friends know that Grace Hill is launching soon.  Same deal but with a bigger audience.

As a church, we want to launch Grace Hill well – and your voice will help us in that.  So, take a minute to do a little texting and posting for the advance of the gospel!

Gearing Up For The Fall

Turn Page On CalendarPhoto by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

You may not know it but these last few weeks of summer are a really significant time for us at Restoration City as we gear up for the fall.  The start of the school year creates one of the most significant opportunities for ministry we have all year at Gunston, on college campuses, and as people throughout our city get refocused after the summer.  Given what’s at stake, we don’t want to stumble into the fall; we want to be prepared for all God wants to do through us individually and corporately.  As part of that gearing up process, I want to focus all of us on two of the most foundational ways you can be involved in what God is doing through Restoration City: generosity and prayer.

At our recent congregational meeting, our members voted to approve an aggressive $730,000 budget for the fiscal year starting on September 1st.  To be clear, this is a tremendous leap of faith for us as a not yet three year old church plant.  In simplest terms, we’re trusting the Lord to provide an additional $130,000 beyond what He did last year.  While that’s a big jump, we believe God is more than able to do it and believe these resources are what we need to be faithful to all the Lord is calling us to do as a church.  In part, our confidence in this provision came from the Connected & Committed giving commitments many of us made this past May.  If you are one of the people who committed to either start giving or increase your giving in the coming year, please login to your CCB account to start or update your recurring donation.  I also want to encourage you to pray about making a one time year end gift to the church between now and the end of August as we close out this fiscal year.  We’ve had a couple of unbudgeted but important capital expenditures this past year (most significantly our box truck and some staff computers) and need your help for a strong finish to the year.

Even more importantly, I want to continue calling us to prayer as a church.  I genuinely believe what I said in my July 30th sermonwe won’t pack out our auditorium until we pack out our prayer room.  Our next steps as a church won’t be based on our strength but on our dependance.  If our hearts long for gospel restoration in our lives, families and city, then prayer must be our first, not our last, resort.  That’s why I want to invite you to join me this and every Sunday at 9.15 in the morning in the back of the Gunston Auditorium to pray for a powerful move of God’s Spirit in our church and city.  Finally, I want to encourage you to use these next three weeks to ask God how He wants to work through you personally in the year to come.  Don’t assume He’s got your life on cruise control and dreams of nothing bigger or different than what He did last year.  Carve out real time to pray, “Here I am, Lord.  Send me.” and see what He stirs in your heart.

I can’t wait for all that’s ahead of us as a church.  I genuinely believe year 3 is going to be our best yet and I’m thrilled to be on this journey with each of you.

See you on Sunday!

 

 

Q&A With Alex Dibble

Alex does an amazing job leading our RCC Kids ministry and you’ll love reading her answers to these questions:

You joined the RCC Launch Team right out of college. What made you want to be a part of RCC?

During my senior year of college, I wanted to be a part of the RCC Launch Team out of a desire to help plant a church and reach families in an urban city. Although I thought that it would look differently than is did when I planned to move to DC to help start RCC, I quickly saw that the Lord wanted to work in and through me in this city in ways that I could not have asked for or imagined.

What’s your favorite part of living in D.C.?

My favorite part of living in DC is continuing to see how the Lord has and is building a community of believers around me through his local church and allowing me to be apart of inviting others into it as he does so. When preparing for our launch, I may have said that passion was the central reason that I moved to DC, and while that is still a major factor in why I love being here the people are now what keeps me here and he his growing my love for this city alongside of this.

What do you think it the biggest misconception people have about serving in RCC Kids?

I think that the biggest misconception people have about serving in RCC Kids is that we are simply caring for the children during service; however, the children who are in RCC Kids are loved and served not only through the care given but through the truths about our God that are taught each Sunday.

How has leading RCC Kids strengthened your relationship with Jesus?

Leading RCC Kids has strengthened my relationship with Jesus by teaching me to come to him with a childlike faith, full of curiosity and openness to learn. In doing so, I have also learned to simplify the gospel and truly rest in its certainty in the midst of a world with so many unknowns.

If you could travel anywhere in the world for a month, where would you go?

I would go to Pittsburgh for a month to spend time with a friend before she begins school. It is sometimes a challenge to know and love someone from a far and I think the Lord would use that time to deepen our relationships with one another and him.

Who is the person who has had the greatest impact on your spiritually? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from them?

My best friend from college, Kelly, has had the greatest impact on me spiritually. Her friendship has taught me what it looks like for iron to sharpen iron. The biggest lesson I have learned from her is to trust fully in the work of the Lord not only in my life, but the lives of those I care deeply for.

In the last 12 months, what’s the book that’s had the biggest impact on your life?

None Like Him by Jen Welkin, has been the book that has had the biggest impact on my life in the last 12 months. It has helped me to see the Lord, myself and others rightly based own his character and how he made us. This has allowed me to receive and give grace and truth more freely as I seek to rest in and walk in his design.

Q&A With Marshall Griffin

MarshallAsk a college pastor for a selfie and this is what you get!  Love Marshall and how he answered these questions:

You’ve done college ministry in Raleigh-Durham and DC.  How are they similar?  Different?
I would say that one of the main differences is that this context lacks the “cultural Christianity” that is prominent on campuses in the Bible Belt. That’s not to say that ministry is “easier” or “harder” in either context. People who grow up in the South need the gospel too! I simply mean that our conversations about Jesus here have a different starting point because a lot of students are coming in with different assumptions about who he is and what it means to follow him.
One of the major similarities is the passion that college students bring to the table when they’re bought into a vision. In my experience, the majority of college students out there are looking for a place to belong and a purpose to live for. When they find those, they set the standard for all of us in energy, faithfulness, and zeal. And there’s nothing greater, more fulfilling, or more worthy of that devotion than Jesus and his church!
When it comes to this fall at GW, what are you most excited about?
Well, it’s hard to narrow it down to one specific thing that makes me most excited. But, if I had to choose, I would say I’m pumped about how many incoming students we’ve already had the opportunity to connect with. This is the first year we’ve gone into the school year having already met some first year students and filled them in on our vision for our community on campus. So I’m excited to welcome them and I’m praying that they’ll be excited about what we’re doing at GW!
You’re a pretty recent seminary grad.  What advice would you give to someone thinking of going to seminary?

Yes! The winding journey of seminary has come to a close for me. I have the sheet of paper to prove it.

Seminary was a key part of my growth over the past few years, both in theological understanding and practical ministry philosophy. My main piece of advice for someone going into or thinking about seminary would be to make participation in a local church a priority. Find a place to serve and a community to be actively involved in during your studies! Seminaries are incredibly valuable for teaching the foundational ideas underneath our ministries, but the local church is where we learn to put those ideas into action for the good of others and the glory of God. Simply put, your education is incomplete if you have the classroom without the local church.

What’s the most impactful mission trip you’ve ever been on and why?

I’m really thankful to have had the opportunity to go on several trips to see how God is building his kingdom in different parts of the world. If I had to pick one of the most impactful, I would pick the trip that I took with some college students to India during my first year of college ministry. We had an amazing time getting to know and serve the team and the local believers, as well as getting to see what life and ministry is like for followers of Jesus in their context.

For me, this was also the first trip where we took a more active role in ministry by getting out and having as many conversations with people about our faith as possible. I shared the gospel more times over those two weeks than I had during my entire life up to that point. That aspect of the trip impacted me in a way that went beyond merely a cultural experience or a glimpse into someone else’s ministry. It challenged and equipped me to bring that kind of intentionality in relationships back into my day-to-day life here in the United States.

What do you do for fun?
My main hobby of choice is basketball. On my ideal off day, you’ll find me playing pick-up at a park or gym nearby (Hit me up if you want to play sometime!). I love catching a good movie too, particularly one that makes me laugh, pulls me in with a compelling story, or gives me a mystery to wrap my mind around. I’m also a big fan of live music, whether that’s in an arena or a coffee shop. I try not to miss my favorite artists in concert when they come through the area.
What podcasts are you listening to these days?
Oh, this is tricky because I’ve been binging a couple different podcasts over the past few months. I’ll share two. First, each week I’ve been listening to the sermons from Renovation Church in Atlanta. Pastor Lèonce Crump and his team do great job preaching God’s Word in a captivating way that helps listeners grow in their understanding of the text and how it applies to our world and our lives here and now.
I’m also a fan of Malcolm Galdwell’s Revisionist History, in which he takes a look at something from the past – an event, a person, an idea – in order to see how it has been overlooked or misunderstood. Gladwell is known for exploring unnoticed or unconventional perspectives, so it’s interesting to hear his thoughts on such a wide range of topics – from how people reading the same intelligence briefings reach radically different conclusions to how the direction of educational philanthropy in America may be misguided to just what makes old school country music songs so sad. I’ve found each episode thought-provoking.
Give us three Scriptures we can be praying for you and your work with college students.

Here are three things I would love prayer for as we enter a new school year of ministry. I’ll also be putting together a 14 Days of Prayer guide as we approach the start of the semester, so feel free to shoot me an email if you would like to pray through that with us.
“And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’”Matthew 4:19
Pray that we would faithfully follow Jesus as he leads us to connect with, invest in, and care for students. Pray especially for our outreach to the campus during the first two weeks of the semester, which is a crucial time to connect with new students.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5
Pray that we would not seek to do anything by our own ability and wisdom, but fully rely on Jesus for our strength, rest, and hope as we strive to make him known.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”Matthew 13:44
Pray that students on campuses in DC and Northern Virginia would see Jesus as more valuable than anything else we could ever achieve, pursue, or devote ourselves to. Pray for a movement of students who live with him as their greatest treasure!

 

Q&A With Dan Iten

Dan

Why limit the fun to Jason?  We’re going to do a run through the whole staff team, starting with the original, Dan Iten!

You’re the Director of Operations at Restoration City. What does that mean? What would you say you do?

As the Director of Operations, I’ve got a really fun job that allows me to have my hands in pretty much every area of the church. Not only do I help make sure the church is running smoothly, but I also get to empower our leaders and volunteers. The best part about my job is the opportunity to live out Ephesians 4:12 – “the equip the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” I get to assist our volunteers and leaders in serving according to how God has gifted them and provide coaching and resources for them to continue to develop and grow.

What are you most excited about at Restoration City right now?
I feel like we’re about to enter a really exciting period in our young church’s history where I believe God is going to continue do some amazing things. For the past three years, it seems like we’ve worked really hard to get the church running and put all the necessary structures in place. Now I believe that we’re now entering a new season where we’re ready for the Holy Spirit to move mightily and bring many new people into the faith and into our church community.

What have you learned about yourself through planting RCC that you didn’t know before?
Planting Restoration City has been such a crazy adventure and something I never dreamed about doing earlier in life. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that God will give us the power and capability to do whatever He has called us to do. When you, John, approached me about joining you and Laura in planting this church, I wasn’t sure that I had the necessary skills to help start a church from scratch. I had previously worked at another church in an outreach role, but knew next to nothing on how to legally or financially start a church, yet I felt that God was clearly calling me to this role. He was faithful in helping me grow into this and provided a number of resources and people who helped, advised, and aid me in my calling.

What’s the best book you’ve read this past year?
That’s a really hard question! Instead of the best book, I’m going to say one of the more convicting books I’ve read this summer has been “The Art of Neighboring” by Jay Pathak, Dave Runyon, and Randy Frazee. It talks about the need for believers to be more active in their neighborhoods and build genuine relationships that open up opportunities to be able to share the gospel. This seems to be such a hard concept for us in DC, but its something that both Twila and I want to grow in and work on in our neighborhood this year.

You have unique dietary preferences. What’s the ideal meal in your world?

Twila loves to say that I have the palate of a 4 year old, but that’s probably not even accurate as I know Jack and Aidan eat more adventurous things than I do. However, I prefer to define my dietary preference as being simple. I don’t need a lot of extras, like condiments or sauces, to be happy with a meal. My most ideal meal would be a steak, potatoes, broccoli, and a dessert of any kind!

In a potentially related question, how has marriage changed you over the last 16 months?

Aside from Twila forcing me to eat more healthy meals that include vegetables, I think marriage changed me greatly. After being single for just shy of 34 years, marriage has shown me how good and healthy it is to be completely rely and trust in Twila and not fight to be so independent in life. It’s also shown me where my heart is inclined towards selfishness and control – working through that isn’t necessarily always fun, but it is sanctifying.

You’re preaching on Sunday. What’s your sermon about?
I’m preaching on Acts 12:20-25 which is subtitled “Herod’s Death”. It’s interesting that you’re headed out of town and leave for me this section of Scripture, John! Joking aside, I’m actually really looking forward to preaching this passage it raises an interesting question for us to consider: Are we living for God’s glory or ours? Come on Sunday to hear more!