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!

Joining A Church Plant Launch Team

church-planting

This weekend, we’re taking an exciting step in the growth as our church – I’m going to try to get a bunch of you to leave!  Don’t worry, I’m not going to do it with bad jokes or offensive comments in the sermon (at least, that’s not the plan).  Instead, I’m going to ask some of  you to buy into the vision of helping plant a new Christ centered church in Herndon, VA.  You’ll have an opportunity to take a concrete step towards that by attending Allan McCullough’s interest meeting for Grace Hill Church right after our gathering this Sunday.

It’s a really big deal for us as a church to be a part of gospel multiplication here in the DC area – that’s why we plant churches.  And it’s a massive deal for you to take the step of joining a church plant launch team.  After all, I’m asking you to leave a church you like (right?) to step into something that is less familiar and riskier.  Grace Hill will share a lot of DNA with Restoration City but it will also be different, it’ll be a new community, and a new expression of the church.

So, how do you know if God is calling you to be a part of planting Grace Hill?

  1.  It will make you more effective in reaching people for Jesus.  In some ways, this is the only answer to the question.  We don’t plant churches to give Christians new Sunday morning options.  We plant churches to reach people who don’t follow Jesus.  That means deciding to join a church plant team really isn’t about you.  It’s about the people in your life who don’t know Jesus.  It’s about making it easier to invite them to church or a community group.  Yes, that often means geography.  But not simply from a “it’s a shorter drive for me” perspective.  It’s from a “my family and friends would be better served by this” perspective.
  2. Willingness to sacrifice for gospel multiplication.  This is a logical extension of the first point – joining a church plant team isn’t about you!  It’s not about your comfort, your convenience or your consumption.  Don’t join a launch team to be served, join one to serve!  The first days of any church are a struggle.  There’s never enough resources, never enough volunteers and so much to do.  If you aren’t willing to offer your hands, your heart and your resources to the plant, don’t go.  But if you’re willing to lean in, put on a serving towel, give generously and champion the gospel, you’ll do just fine!
  3. Commitment to Grace Hill’s leadership, vision, mission and culture.  Church planting isn’t about you.  On the other hand, it is about creating a community that you’ll likely be a part of for a long time.  So, you need to buy into the leadership, vision, mission, and culture of the new plant.  Don’t go to be the dissenter who’s constantly trying to force change.  If you can’t enthusiastically embrace the leadership, vision, mission and culture of the plant, it’s going to be a bad experience for you and the rest of the team.
  4. Confirmation from Community Group Leaders or pastors.  Don’t make this decision on your own.  Talk to your Community Group Leaders, your close friends or one of our pastors.  We would be honored to pray with you, to process with you and speak into the decision any way we can.  Please, don’t walk this road alone. Lean into the blessing of community at Restoration City even as you’re praying about being sent to form a new community of faith.

Planting a church isn’t about your convenience.  It’s about God’s mission.  It’s one of the most thrilling things you’ll ever be a part of in this life.  I’m praying God will fill you with the courage to join in planting Grace Hill if that’s where He’s leading.  But I want you to go for the right reasons, with the right expectations.

To learn more about Grace Hill, click here.

Welcoming The McCullough’s

View More: http://josephpphotography.pass.us/gracehill

It was so great to officially welcome Allan & Kim McCullough to Restoration City this past Sunday as Allan starts a church planting residency with us and The Summit Network.  Laura and I love this family and couldn’t be more excited for everything God is going to do through them in the coming years.  By His grace, there’s going to be a beautiful new expression of the church planted in Herndon, VA in 2017.  But between now and then, Allan, Kim, Leeland and Christy will be a part of our community at Restoration City.

Here are four quick thoughts on how we can serve the McCullough’s well in this season:

  1. Get to know them.  I know that’s an obvious place to start but it’s something we often overlook.  Say hi on a Sunday morning, get to know their story, take them out to lunch, ask them about their vision for Grace Hill, hear the story of how God called them to plant a church.  Press beyond the surface and learn about their world.
  2. Pray for them.  The more you get to know them, the easier this will be.  But we all can and should be doing this on a regular basis.  Take it from a guy who has done this before – planting a church is hard, scary and at times lonely.  It’s a faith stretching and building journey unlike any other.  Believe me, they would love your prayers!
  3. Connect them.  Yes, some of us will leave Restoration City to go be a part of planting Grace Hill.  But most of us won’t.  Either way, we can all contribute to the launch team by connecting family or friends in the Herndon/Reston area with Allan and the team he is building.  If you know people in that area who are looking for a church or feel called to church planting, take the initiative to connect them with Allan.
  4. Babysit for them.  One of the best things we can do for Allan and Kim is pour into their marriage in this season.  A lot of that is just creating space for them to be together and process all God is doing in this lives.  That’s hard with two kids who are 2 and under.  (C’mon, everything is hard with 2 kids who are 2 and under!)  Taking care of the kids so they can have a date night isn’t just a great gift, it’s a strategic investment in the advance of the gospel.

Let’s work together to make this the best year of Allan and Kim’s ministry – yet!  I pray we find creative ways to pour into this couple and send them out with an amazing foundation to plant and lead a powerful work of God in the suburbs of DC.

Big News: New Location & A Church Planting Residency

News

Everything about yesterday left me overwhelmed by God’s goodness and His faithfulness to us as a church.  If you weren’t with us yesterday morning, here are the two big headlines you missed:

  • Starting on Sunday, July 10th, Restoration City will be gathering at Gunston Middle School in South Arlington.
  • We’re establishing a church planting residency this summer to support Allan McCullough as he plants Grace Hill Church in Herndon, VA in 2017.

In the days to come, I’ll be writing much more about both.  But for now, l want to make sure we’re all caught up and on the same page.  So, here’s a little more info:

The Move To Gunston

Gunston Middle School is located at 2700 S Lang Street, a whopping seven minutes up the road from our current location.  If you’re coming out of the District, it’ll take even less than 7 extra minutes to get there – so, it’s not like we’re moving to the other side of the city or anything.

The bottom line is we need to make this move.  Our RCCKids ministry has grown significantly over the last six months and there’s just no way to serve the growing number of kids in the current space. We looked at every option and realized moving was really our only choice.

Our biggest concern in making this move is the lack of public transportation to Gunston, particularly for college students coming from the District.  So, we’re creating a partnership with Lyft to shuttle students from campus to Gunston.  Bottom line, if you want to be at Restoration City, we’re going to get you there!

Church Planting Residency

One of the crazy dreams we had in planting Restoration City was to be part of planting another church here in the DC area before our 3rd birthday.  By God’s grace, that vision is becoming a reality through Allan and his team.

Our residency is based out of Restoration City but offered in conjunction with The Summit Network.  That means Allan and his family will be part of our community for 10 months (July 1 – April 30) while receiving all the benefits of training with the other Summit Network residents.

When Allan’s residency is over, he and his team will be planting Grace Hill Church in Herndon, VA.  Personally, I can’t wait to have another Summit Network church here in the DC area.

I also can’t wait to see how God is going to move in building the launch team for Grace Hill.  It’s crazy to think that some of us are going to go be a part of what God is doing through this new church.  That’s really hard to think about but it’s also a really beautiful thing and exactly what God calls us to do to advance the gospel.  But we’ve got plenty of time to think through all of that!

For now, I hope you’ll join me in thanking God for His grace to us as a church.  I love where He’s leading us and I love being on this journey with all of you.  The best is yet to come!

DNA Forms Early

IMG_1706I loved having this year’s class of Summit Network Church Planting Residents in town over the weekend.  These amazing guys are going to be planting gospel centered churches in Charlotte, NC; Asheville, NC; and Denver, CO in 2015.  Getting to spend a weekend with these men was awesome – they’re great guys and the faith God has given them to plant the churches they will lead is inspiring.

For me, it’s a really big deal to be able to do a weekend like this when our church is so young.  I believe God is calling us to weave church planting into the DNA of Restoration City from our earliest days.  From what I’ve seen, many church plants wait too long before they get meaningfully involved in planting another church.  I’m praying God will protect us from that at Restoration City.

Even though we’re incredibly young as a church, we’ve made the decision to give 8% of our internal giving to the planting of other churches.  In our short life, your generosity has allowed us to invest just over $4,500 in new church plants!  Having church planting residents in town for a weekend is an extension of that spirit in the same way as our time praying for these guys in yesterday’s gathering.  Part of the vision for Restoration City has always been loving, supporting and encouraging other church plants and we want to be in on that from the beginning of our journey.

We aren’t involved in church planting because it’s trendy.  We’re involved because it’s biblical.  I pray God will open the doors for us to be even more active in the months and years to come.

Church Planting: Trendy or Essential?

We’ve come a long way in the last thirty years when it comes to church planting.  When Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and Tim Keller were planting the churches they now lead, they were daring pioneers.  Today church planting is almost trendy in some circles.  But there is still much to be done in raising awareness for the need to plant new churches in our country.  Many still see church plants as a subculture within the church as opposed to an essential activity for all churches.

Here’s what most Christians fail to understand: our country’s population is increasing and the number of churches in decreasing.  The most compelling stat I’ve heard in making this point comes from the North American Mission Board.  In World War I, there was one church for roughly every 430 people in the country.  Now that ratio has changed to one church for roughly every 6,200 people in the country.  That’s a staggering decline!

People ask me all the time why we’re planting Restoration City.  The answer is simple – we need more churches and God called me to lead one.  We need to keep that need front and center in our conversations about church planting.  Yes, God’s calling on a planter’s life matters.  Yes, we have a unique vision for our city.  Yes, there isn’t a church exactly like Restoration City in DC.  Yes, God has been preparing me for this for a while.  But at the end of the day, this is about reaching a city.

If church planting is a just a fad, we’re in a lot of trouble.  It’s an essential evangelistic strategy we all need to embrace.

Water skiing & Church Planting

As we get ready to launch Restoration City this Sunday, I keep thinking back to a conversation I had with a friend.  We were having lunch one day and he was telling me about the ministry he was helping lead.  As we were talking, he asked me if I had ever seen the chewing gum commercial with a guy barefoot water skiing behind a boat.

I vaguely remembered it but he had to fill me in on the details.  Basically, the commercial starts with a guy (by the way, it might have been twins…we never could agree on that!) standing on a dock in water skis.  The idea was the boat would gently pull him into the water for a quiet ride around the lake.  Instead, the captain hit the throttle a little hard, ripped the guy out of his skis and took him on a wild, barefoot ride around the lake.

That’s how my friend described his ministry – a wild, barefoot ride powered by the Holy Spirit.

He felt like God was dragging them on an amazing adventure, they could barely hold on but they were in love with all He was doing.  I wanted that so badly in my life.  I was tired of feeling like I was trying to water ski behind a rowboat that I was also responsible for rowing.  I knew my friend was on to something and I wanted the same in my life.

That was one of many conversations God used to encourage me down the road of church planting.  Years later, we’re standing on the dock ready to see where God is going to take us.

I don’t know what our ride will look like.  But I do know our hope in planting this church isn’t in our logo, our strategy, our team, our resources, our website, our location, our merit, our talent or anything else.  Our hope is in the power of God, the promises of God and the faithfulness of God.

If He doesn’t do the work, we’re in trouble.  We can’t power the boat.  We don’t even know which direction to steer it half the time.  But we can hold on, trust Him and go where He tells us to go and do it in the power He provides.

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”(Ps. 127:1)  

Father, build your house.  Advance the gospel.  Bear fruit.  Transform lives.  Use us for the glory of Christ and the good of our city.

Fear, Faith & Church Planting

If you want a crash course in how messed up your heart is, plant a church.

It’s a sure fire way to surface all kinds of fear, anger and despair you had yet to uncover. When I look back on my last six months as a church planting resident with The Summit Network, I realize just how much I’ve had to confront in my own heart. I wish I could tell you those confrontations with self were always easy, quick and painless but that’s just not the way it works for me. I can be a frustratingly slow learner. But Jesus has been faithful and I wouldn’t trade what I’ve learned for anything.

Like most church planters, I’m an optimistic visionary at heart. I love big dreams, inspiring visions and thoughts of what the future can and should look like. I live in the world of what’s possible and I love to paint that picture for people. And I really love it when other people buy into the vision.

But when they don’t, all kinds of chaos threatens to break out in my heart. Whether it’s someone not joining our launch team or someone not contributing financially or someone just seeming a little bored as I’m laying out my dream, I don’t always handle the rejection well. Fear, anger and despair are right there to plant their little questions. Maybe my vision stinks? Maybe we’ll go broke and my son will starve? Maybe the reason this person isn’t more excited is because they’re a totally selfish jerk who doesn’t love Jesus? Maybe I’m not a good leader? Maybe Summit needs to fix their assessment process and weed out guys like me? And on and on and on…

All of that junk comes from a lack of belief in the promises of Jesus to us through the gospel. He really did promise to build His church. (Mt. 16:18) The Father really is glorified when we bear fruit. (Jn. 15:8) He knows every one of our weaknesses and promises sufficient grace. (2 Cor. 12:9) No plan of His can be thwarted. (Job 42:2) And on and on and on…

I get worked up when I think this whole thing rests on my shoulders. I’m tempted to shrink my vision, lower my dreams and downsize my hopes. I’m tempted to cave to the fear, anger and despair that constantly lurks. But when I remember Jesus, I’m okay with the uncertainty and the setbacks. When I remember Him, I’m filled with hope for what God is going to do.

Planting Restoration City has forced me to learn how to fight fear with faith. Maybe God will use a church plant to do the same in your life or maybe He’ll use something else. Either way, I’m convinced it’s a lesson he wants all of us to learn.

Our Church Has A City & A Name

God has called Laura and I to lead a team in planting Restoration City Church in Washington, DC.  And, yes, it’s a pretty amazing feeling to actually write those words!

When we started moving down this road in August, we knew the story of what God was doing in our lives would be told in two parts.

The first was clear at the time.  We came to Durham, NC for a 9 month church planting residency with The Summit Church.  We knew God had called us to plant a church, we knew we needed a season of preparation and we knew Summit was the right place for us.  So, we moved our family to Durham.  But we came knowing our time here was limited and preparation for the second part of this journey – actually planting a church.

Laura and I have been praying about planting a church for the last four years.  We’ve spent hours talking about what the church would look like and what kind of culture we wanted to create.  We’ve dreamed about who we would want to plant with and where we could have the greatest impact.  We’ve doodled church names.  We’ve been inspired by friends.  We’ve wrested with fear and doubt.  And through it all, our sense of calling to this work has only increased.

And now it’s time to talk about the church God is calling us to plant.  In May, we will be returning to Washington, DC to plant Restoration City Church in one of the greatest and most strategic cities in the world.  In the weeks and months ahead, I’ll be writing more about what the church will look like, our timetable, why DC, what God is doing in all of this and what I’m learning on this journey.

But for today, I just want to ask for your prayers.  Pray God would be pleased with the church we plant and use us greatly for His glory in our nation’s capital.  That’s our desire.  That’s what we’ve invested our lives in and that’s what we’re believing God for in this new season.

Having a name and a city is an important step in this journey but we know there are so many more in our future.  Our hope for these first steps and all the ones to come is the same – the faithfulness of Jesus to build His church and the power of the Gospel to change everything.  That’ what we’re standing on in these days and that gives us all the assurance we need for the journey.

For Christ’s Fame in DC,

John

Pastor|Restoration City Church