Well, That Wasn’t Cool

I knew March was pretty crazy for our family but I didn’t realize how crazy until I realized my last post was on March 2nd!!  I knew it had been a while but didn’t realize it was that bad!!  Not cool.

I wish I could tell you I took the time to write a book, solve world hunger or go on vacation.  Not so much.  It’s much more a story of a newborn with acid reflux, a two year old with excessive energy and a church that I love very much.  I’ve been spending more time working on leadership development at Restoration City, loving my family and preaching something that honors Christ every week.

All of that has me thinking about the role this blog plays in my ministry.  I’ve got some exciting things to share with you after Easter (new focus and content that better integrates this blog with the rest of my ministry).  But for this week, I’m staying focused on Easter at Restoration City.

Speaking of Easter, if you would like to follow along with our Holy Week Prayer Guide, you can download a copy here.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with you next week.  In the mean time, have a great Easter!

A Day In The Life of Restoration City

IMG_2071Hey, Restoration City!

I don’t know how you felt as yesterday came to an end but I can tell you I went to sleep last night incredibly grateful for everything God did in our church throughout the day.  Odds are good you don’t even know half of what He did, so let me fill you in on a couple of things:

1.  We had a full band lead us in worship for the first time as a church.  Blake, Tim, Ben, Jon and Jeremiah killed it and I loved having them lead us.  That crew will be back together on Easter Sunday and I already can’t wait.  By the way, the Production Team did a ton of work to make a full band experience possible.  We need to be so grateful to the people who show up every week at 7.45 to serve all of us.

2.  We had our first ever child dedications yesterday.  It was a huge moment for our church as we celebrated that fact that we aren’t just a church of single, young professionals.  We want to be a church where families raise their kids to love Jesus and I feel like we took one more step towards that yesterday.

3.  Speaking of kids, we had 10 in RCC Kids yesterday, which is a new high for us!  That 10 doesn’t count a handful of infants who will hit RCCKids in the next few weeks.  I’m so grateful for what God is doing through Alex Dibble and her team – 10 kids is huge for us!

As if that’s not enough, let me share two more stories with you.

The first one you already experienced if you were with us at yesterday’s gathering.  There was a gentleman who joined us who ultimately became disruptive and needed to be escorted to the lobby.  I know it might have made you a little uncomfortable but I want you to know that was a good moment for us as a church.  Here’s why: we exist for the broken in this city and we want the lost, the hurting and desperate in our gathering every week.  We aren’t an escape from the world, we’re trying to carry hope to the world.  I love that he was with us and I love that the gentleman who escorted him to the lobby stayed with him throughout the entire sermon.  A young lady from the church came out to join them and three members of our church loved that guy, prayed with him and told him that Jesus is for him.  And, if you noticed, he came back in for the last song and knelt in the front of the theater.  Come on!  You want to know what we’re about as a church?  That’s it – we’ll welcome the broken, the hurting and those desperate for hope and we’ll pray that they come to kneel at the foot of the cross with us.

So, I was already pretty fired up when I went to spend the afternoon with Dan and 8 people who are now trained as Community Group leaders.  For the record, there were 6 men and 2 women at that meeting – a huge answer to prayer!!  But during our training meeting, something amazing happened.  I got a call from one of our current Community Group Leaders letting me know that one of the people in his Community Group was stranded about 100 miles outside of DC after her car broke down.  So, I laid that situation in front of the people being trained to lead a Community Group and asked them what they would do.  I want you to know that every single one of them said we need to figure out a way to go get her.  By the way, don’t forget how bad the weather was yesterday!  I hope you know what a blessing it is to have people like that shepherding our Community Groups.  For the record, someone did go get her.  Less than five minutes after hearing about the need, two of the people at the training had gotten up from the table and headed out to get her (yes, it’s possible they were just really bored with the meeting!).  Pretty awesome.  Here’s where it gets even better: they came back 10 minutes later because someone else from their Community Group had already gone to pick her up!!  I preached on a culture of service two weeks ago and I just sat there smiling while people were competing to figure out who could drive 100 miles to pick up this young lady faster.

Restoration City, don’t take any of that for granted.  God is doing something in our hearts – He’s calling us to serve, to love, to sacrifice and to bless this city.  I’m so grateful to be a part of it.  Let’s keep reaching for everything He’s calling us to do and be.  These really are incredible days for us.

Much love,

John

One Of Our Best Sundays Yet

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Yesterday I learned there is a unique joy in seeing the church I pastor thrive when I’m not able to be with them on a Sunday.  I honestly believe yesterday was one of our best Sundays yet at Restoration City and it was made all the sweeter by the fact that I wasn’t there.

It had always been the plan for Dan to preach this weekend.  But I woke up on Saturday morning with every expectation that I was going to be at our weekly gathering the next day.  Unfortunately, Jack got the flu.  While the flu is never fun, it takes on a new level of complication when the patient is 2 years old and he has a 2 week old brother at home.  So, Team McGowan went into full quarantine and triage mode over the weekend.  While Laura and I were stocking up on hand sanitizer and trying to coax Jack into staying hydrated, it became clear I wasn’t going to be going anywhere on Sunday morning.

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Love how God speaks through Dan Iten!

Our team literally didn’t miss a beat.  Tim Elzea stepped up in a huge way to provide leadership and direction for our Sunday morning teams.  Tyler and Steph did an amazing job with production on a Sunday when we weren’t even in our normal venue!!  The band, RCC Kids, Connect and Prayer were all amazing.  And my friend Dan Iten killed it with his sermon.

I loved getting texts and pictures all morning about how well things were going…and, no, they weren’t just from Dan!  People kept telling me how good the room felt, how much energy people had, how well things were going and how well Dan was doing.

I hated not being there and I loved not being there all at the same time.  We aren’t trying to build an event.  We aren’t trying to build a cult of personality.  We’re asking the Spirit of God to breathe life into a church.  Yesterday was a beautiful reminder that God is answering that prayer.

Restoration City, I love you!  I’m so honored to be your pastor, to serve with an amazing team and to live life with you.

For the record, don’t think I’m getting too attached to not being with you on a Sunday…I can’t wait to see you this week!

Restoration City Church Sermon Podcast Is LIVE

We’ve officially launched the Restoration City Podcast!  You can search for it in iTunes or just follow this link.  I’m so grateful to the team of people that has worked to make this happen – Ben, Tyler and Dan, you guys are the best!  This is a huge win for us as a church for two reasons:

1.  When people are looking for a church, they want to know what’s being preached.  A sermon gives people a really clear sense of our doctrine and our culture as a church.  So, use this as a tool to tell friends about Restoration City Church.

2.  It enables you to catch up when you miss a Sunday.  That’s a really big deal in general but specifically for our amazing RCCKids volunteers.  We have a group of people who give up being in our gathering on a Sunday morning to serve our kids and this podcast means they can still track along with the sermon.

Right now, we have two old messages posted.  The message from last Sunday will be up over the weekend and then we’ll get in the habit of posting weekly.

Praying this resource serves our church and city well.

DoSomethingDC’s Christmas Plans

At the center of the Christmas story is an infant King who was born to ransom His people from their sin.  The King of all glory came to live a life of humble service, outrageous sacrifice and selfless love.  The One who created the universe left the throne of heaven for the throng of humanity.

We’ll never fully experience the joy of Christmas if we don’t find ways to free our hearts from the greed, stress and self-indulgence that can so easily sneak into our hearts this time of year.  Finding a way to serve this Christmas is really about finding a way to maximize our joy this season.

That’s why I’m so excited for the work our DoSomethingDC team has done in creating two different ways for us to serve our city through our ministry partners.

Our friends at the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center have a huge need for diapers for families who can’t afford them.  They’ve told us the one thing we could do that would have the largest impact this Christmas is help replenish their supply of diapers.  So, we’re collecting diapers at our worship gatherings on Sunday, December 14th and 21st.  All you need to do is go buy a pack of diapers (any size) and bring them with you to Restoration City.

Our friends at Casa Chirilagua are hosting a Christmas party for the community they serve on Saturday, December 20th from 7-9 pm.  They are looking for a number of volunteers to serve with them in very specific capacities.  I’m so grateful that God opened up a door for us as a church to help defray some of the cost of this party.  But I would love to see a number of you join Laura and I in serving the Casa Chirilagua community the evening of the 20th.  You can get more info and sign up here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0e4eafa92ca64-20142

I don’t ever want us to lose sight of the fact that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).  Following Jesus means adopting that same mindset and translating that mindset into action and generosity.  I hope you don’t miss the chance to be a part of DoSomethingDC this Christmas season.

Passion2015

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Earlier this week, I had the privilege of spending two days in Atlanta with the Passion team as they are preparing to host Passion2015.  They are such an incredibly welcoming, generous and encouraging group of people that it really is hard to put into words what a joy it is to spend time with them.  But even more importantly to me, they are a group of people who love Jesus, champion the glory of God and want to see awakening in the collegiate generation.

When an organization gets as large as Passion, the cynic in all of us wonders what really drives them – is it crowds, record sales and fame or is it Jesus?  For what it’s worth, I can tell you that I know the answer for Passion.  It is without a doubt Jesus – His fame, His glory and His renown.  The reason I love Passion so much is because they love Jesus so beautifully.

If you’re in the collegiate generation (18-25 years old), you really need to get to Passion2015.  The first gathering in Atlanta is sold out but there’s still space at the second Atlanta gathering and the Houston gathering.  I honestly believe these will be life altering days if you’re able to join us for Passion2015.  You can learn more and register at: http://268generation.com/passion2015/.

Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on these days!

Measuring Success

Pastors and churches have a strange relationship with numbers.  By that, I don’t mean math in general (although I would personally plead guilty to that!) but the idea of measuring things in the church.  What business people call metrics, pastors call numbers.  And we have no idea how to feel about them.  Sometimes it’s just downright painful to listen to pastors work their way through a tortured and insincere rendition of the old “obviously, numbers aren’t everything” cliche.  We all know that if the same pastor heard the offering just doubled, he would get a little more comfortable with numbers!  It’s a strange tension – living and dying by Sunday’s attendance is a crushing form of idolatry but totally ignoring numbers is irresponsible leadership.

In planting Restoration City, we decided to navigate the tension by making an unapologetically big deal of numbers.  We measure things.  For example, I know how many people have been to each service, what our offering is, how many kids go to RCCKids, how many people serve those kids and a bunch of other things.  Without good information, we can’t make good decisions.

But here’s the key for us at Restoration City when it comes to numbers: What we celebrate matters more than what we measure.  So much of the awkwardness around the numbers conversation doesn’t come from the fact that we measure things, it comes from the fact that we celebrate the wrong things.  If all a church ever celebrates is it’s attendance and offering, the congregation will get the message – what the leadership really cares about is butts in seats and dollars in offering plates.  Celebration is a powerful communicator of culture and values.

For us at Restoration City, there are three numbers we celebrate: baptisms, community group participation and membership.  We measure a lot of things but celebrate those because we think they are the three most important indicators of our success as a church.  In other words, if those numbers are healthy and moving in the right direction, everything else should fall in place.

Here’s why we picked those three numbers:

  • Baptism is the best way for us to measure life change through salvation and the beginning of a discipleship process.  Counting decisions for Christ is inexact and often inflated.  Baptism is a far more reliable and helpful number for us.
  • Community Group attendance is the best way for us to measure a person’s commitment to Restoration City.  When someone takes the step of joining a Community Group, they are more or less committed to us as a church.  They’re moving through our discipleship process and developing the relationships that will make RCC a spiritual home.
  • Membership is the best way for us to measure that a person is fully participating in the life of the church.  All of our members agree to a fairly specific membership covenant.  When someone is willing to make all of those commitments, we know they are fully engaged in the mission and culture of Restoration City.

When we look at our first weeks as a church, we realize just how much we have to celebrate.

  • We have baptized 9 people since this summer.
  • We currently have 80 people in Community Groups.
  • We have 41 active members.

When we remember those numbers come from God’s grace, not our merit, our celebration turns into worship, praise and gratitude.  As we enter into a week of thanksgiving, I hope you will join me in thanking God for all He has done through Restoration City.