Back to School…for me.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that my posts to this blog have been a bit, shall we say, “infrequent” as of late? Sporadic or virtually non-existent would also be fair descriptions. It’s not that I don’t enjoy writing. It’s actually one of my favorite ways to clarify my own thoughts and serve others interested in faith and life. I’ve just been a little busy with another side hustle – finally finishing my m.Div.

I have a long and painful history with seminary. I first started taking classes in 2003 at Capital Bible Seminary where I finished something like 36 credits before dropping out because I was “too busy.” As a married, 43 year old father of three, I would do anything to go back and slap some sense into my single 27 year old self! But I was convinced that God was doing so much through me that I just couldn’t make space for grad school. I got back on the horse in 2011 because I felt really ashamed and inadequate as a seminary drop out. This time I went to Dallas Theological Seminary and accumulated about 20 credits before once again “taking a break” to move to Raleigh-Durham, do a residency with The Summit Church, and plant Restoration City. So, I was roughly half-way to a Masters in Divinity when I achieved the rare distinction of being a 2 time seminary drop out! All of this would be comical if it wasn’t so sad.

In 2019, I started to feel an increased leading from the Lord to finish my degree. So, I enrolled at Fuller Theological Seminary and started chipping away at my remaining requirements. I’m so grateful to our elders at Restoration City for their support and to Laura for all of the sacrifices she has made to help me find time for grad school in the midst of everything else we have going on in life. On a sad note (and, please, someone learn from my mistakes!), I found out that none of my credits from Capital would count towards this degree because the “time limit” had expired. So, it was an even longer road than I initially expected. But, by the grace of God, I will finally be done in December. Hang in there, RCC, I’m almost at the point where I’m actually qualified to be your pastor!!

My purpose in sharing this now is not only to explain infrequent blog posts but to offer two thoughts that might be helpful for all of us.

Challenge Yourself

I literally can’t believe I dropped out of school in my late 20’s because I was too busy. Trust me, my life now is a lot fuller than it was 15 years ago. But there has been something good about forcing myself to do something that has been incredibly challenging. It’s also been really good to have my thinking challenged. That’s why I went to Fuller – it’s a truly interdenominational seminary. It’s made of Calvinists and Arminians, Baptists and Pentecostals, Complementarians and Egalitarians, and so many other groups that rarely talk, yet alone learn together. It’s also a school that does a lot of work at the intersection of theology and psychology (a passion of mine). Finally, it brings together students from so many different racial, ethnic, and national backgrounds. That has been invaluable to me over the last year and a half as our country and church have navigated questions of race, racism, and justice.

It’s good to push yourself and it’s good to allow your thinking to be challenged. It will make you a stronger and better leader.

Vulnerability Is Always Risky

I remember the first time I told RCC that I was a seminary drop out in a sermon. I was terrified that people would leave and I hated confessing what felt like an area of deep inadequacy, failure, and shame. But I got through it and the church was so gracious to me. Yet, I’ve been a little apprehensive about this post and have kept this 3rd round of grad school quiet. Maybe I was afraid I would drop out again. But I also hated the thought of calling attention to my failings one more time.

Here’s the point: vulnerability is not a one time, check the box and move on kind of thing. It’s a daily choice to tell our story honestly and courageously with those around us. It’s a choice I want to continue making.

I’m hoping to post more regularly over the next six months (twice a month is the goal) and then consider something even more regular as we head into 2022. By then, I will finally have that elusive degree.

Thanks for your grace and patience with me!

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

A Call To Prayer

“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”

John Piper

If God is doing 10,000 things in our lives, imagine what He’s doing around the world. Even in these days of Coronavirus; especially in these days of Coronavirus. Clearly, we won’t know the full extent of what He’s doing until eternity. But one thing seems clear. He is stirring His people to pray.

As I have thought and prayed through where God is leading us as a church during these days, I have felt a clear leading to call us to consistent, specific, and corporate prayer. We need regular touch points with each other and we need regular rhythms of spending time with Jesus. As the people of God, we have a responsibility to be seeking Him on behalf of our city, our country, and our world. As Christ’s ambassadors in this world, we have an obligation to be opening our doors to our community, even when we can’t do so in person.

So, last night a group of us got together to pray online. A few of our leaders led the call but we were all able to participate or just sit back and be reminded that God is still in control. It ended up being a really powerful time. So, we’re going to do it again tonight at 8pm. Not only would I love to have you join us but I would also encourage you to invite others, whether they go to church or not and whether they believe in Jesus or not. We may not be able to gather physically but we can still come together spiritually.

You will find everything you need to join us at

See you tonight!

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,


One Of Our Best Sundays Yet


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.


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:

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.



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:

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.

Slacker Church

131015_marine_corps_marathon_ap_328After two incredible Sundays at Restoration City, we’re not meeting this week.  Seriously.  We aren’t having a corporate worship service this Sunday.

What in the world would compel us to abandon logic, common sense, church planting best practices and rational expectations?  Simple – the Marine Corps Marathon.  Thirty thousand people will be running the 39th Annual Marine Corps Marathon this Sunday.  And they’ll all be passing right through Crystal City.  Huge crowds will line the course.  And Crystal City is hosting a festival to coincide with the race.  So, you couldn’t get to our little theater if you tried.

When we figured all of this out a few months ago, we felt like we had three options:

1.  Hold a service no one could attend.  Bummer.

2.  Move our services to a different location for the week.  Possible.

3.  Not meet and go serve and engage our community.  Risky.

I honestly believe God has given us this weekend to clarify the kind of church we are becoming.  It just didn’t make sense to me to move our services because tens of thousands of people who don’t know the gospel are going to be in our backyard.  That’s craziness!  We want to be in Crystal City this Sunday to serve, to meet people and to participate in the life of the neighborhood God has called us to reach.

So, we’re not meeting on Sunday.  We’re serving instead.  This is the kind of church we want to be – engaged in our community and fighting for the good of our city.

This isn’t a Sunday off.  It’s a Sunday on mission.  We would love to have you join us!  For more information, visit Restoration City’s website: