Community Group Open Houses

cgs

The entire McGowan family loves Sunday nights!  And that has nothing to do with having made it through the busiest day of the week for us.  It’s all about how much we love our Community Group and how much we look forward to coming together on a weekly basis.  Those times are huge for our family – a chance to connect with friends, process what God is doing in our lives, pray together and encourage one another in our walks with Jesus.  Added bonus…the kids love it too…and the food is really good!

If you aren’t connected to one of our Community Groups, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to find one that works for you.  So, next week (Sunday – Thursday evenings), each of our Community Groups are hosting an Open House.  There’ll be plenty of food and a lot of space to get to know other people in the group.  Instead of doing a formal Bible study, we’re just going to take time to hang out and get to know one another.  So, it’s a really easy week for you to check out one of our groups.

Here’s the bottom line – Jesus restores us in community.  God will do some of His deepest work in you through other people.  If you read through the New Testament, you will see the phrase “one another” used at least 59 times.  In other words, so much of what Jesus calls us to can only be obeyed in the context of the community.  A life of isolation is not only unfulfilling but also disobedient to the pattern of New Testament Christianity.  

As a church, we invest a lot of time and effort in Community Groups.  It’s not that we think you need one more thing on your calendar.  In fact, we know you’re probably already over scheduled and will need to intentionally create space for a Community Group.  We do it because discipleship happens in the context of community.  We do it to create spaces for God to work through others in your life.

Don’t settle for attending Restoration City.  Please, get connected!  For a full list of Restoration City Community Groups, visit our website.  One of them would love to welcome you next week.

Restoration City’s Snow Plan

RCC Snow Plan

When I first saw the forecast for this past weekend, I prayed a simple prayer, “God give me wisdom and make it really clear whether or not we should meet on Sunday or cancel our weekly gathering.”  So, I had at least one really clear answer to prayer this week!  It honestly wouldn’t have been possible or safe for us to have meet in the Synetic yesterday.

Fortunately, we saw this coming and have a plan in place that I think is going to serve you well.  On Friday, we recorded a shorter version (20 min.) of the sermon that has already been sent to your Community Group leaders.  So, when you go to Community Group this week, it’ll look a little different – you’ll watch that video and then shift into discussion and prayer time.  So, get to Community Group this week, if you can.  Even if you aren’t in a Community Group, this is a phenomenal week to check one out.  They’re all listed on our website.  If you can’t make it to your Community Group (I understand that’s going to be particularly hard at the beginning of the week), we’ll post the video and study guide to this blog on Friday morning so you can catch up over the weekend.

When we gather next Sunday, we’ll be right back in Mark’s gospel without missing a beat, which is great because we’re on track to finish Mark on Easter morning with the resurrection.

Enjoy Community Group this week!

A Church That Makes Disciples

Which is more important to the success of a church: structure or relationships?

The answer is not as clear as you might think.  If you say relationships, you’ll end up with a church where everyone loves each other but nothing gets done.  It’ll feel a lot like five year olds playing soccer – a whole lot of fun and not a lot of progress.  But if you say structure, you’ll have great programs that produce little life change.  It’ll feel a lot like working at a company with a great business plan but surprisingly few customers.

I would respond to my own question by saying it’s a bad question.  Many times, the church sees structure and relationships as polar opposites.  They aren’t.  They work together.  A good church needs both.

The key is making sure you create structures that facilitate relationships.

Lives are transformed in the context of relationships.  Jesus invited 12 ordinary men to become His inner circle (Mark 3:13-19).  The early church was radically communal (Acts 2:42-47).  Paul poured his life into Timothy and Timothy poured his life into the Ephesian church. (1 Timothy 1:1-3).  Paul’s heart for discipleship is evident in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

Want to be more like Jesus?  Live life in a community of people who love Jesus, love the Bible, love each other and love you.  Dig into the Word together.  Pray together.  Care for one another.  Call each other out on sin.  Speak life into each other’s souls.  It’s all about relationships.

We need people way more than we need a program.

When structures facilitate those kinds of relationships, they’re invaluable.  When they take the place of relationships, they’re deadly.  At Restoration City, we create Community Groups and Life Groups to facilitate these relationships.  Community Groups are the entry point.  They’re co-ed, open to anyone and designed to get you in an environment where people share a meal, study God’s Word and pray together.  They’re a great way to start connecting with our church and continue growing in Christ.  But, ultimately, you’ll need something more.  That’s where Life Groups come in.  These are much smaller, single gender relationships that you form with 2-4 others for accountability, confession of sin and spiritual care.  It’s in these smaller, safer environments that God does His deepest work.

Good structures serve, not subvert, relationships.  But don’t ever forget that structures are a means to an end.  Don’t put your hope in a Community Group or Life Group.  Use those as a vehicle to cultivate the relationships you need to grow more like Christ.  Don’t just go to a Community Group, be fully engaged in the life of the group.  Don’t settle for shallow.  Push for deep.  Use everything as an opportunity to cultivate the relationships that will transform your soul.

Amazing Days For College Students

IMG_2661God is doing some amazing things among university students in DC this summer.  At the beginning of June, Restoration City started to offer a weekly Community Group designed specifically for summer interns and college students.  We had a leader, a lot of hope and absolutely nothing else.  Last Thursday night, 35 college students packed a community room on GW’s campus to study God’s Word.  Just in case you aren’t all that familiar with college in ministry in DC, I can tell you that’s crazy!  I spent seven years of my life serving university students in this city and this kind of thing doesn’t happen all that often.

As a church, we need to be celebrating, thanking God and praying.  The vision of being a church that welcomes college students seems to be coming to life.  Now the question is whether we’ll rise to the moment.

If you have interns in your office, know any college students in the area or are a college student, it’s not too late to get connected to the Community Group.  They will continue to meet every Thursday at 7.30PM in the Community Room of the Potomac House dorm on GW’s campus.  New people show up every week, so don’t hesitate to join in!

Let’s also be praying for three things:

1.  Salvation.  We’ve already seen one student come to faith in Jesus this summer!  But I don’t believe God is done yet.  Let’s keep praying He will draw more into the Kingdom.

2.  Joey Schwartz.  Joey’s doing a summer internship with us and he’s leading the charge with college students.  It’s crazy to see how God is using this guy.  Pray the Lord will continue to give Joey wisdom, joy and boldness as He leads.

3.  Year Round Students.  Many of the students we’re serving are in DC for the summer but will head somewhere else for school.  We’re totally cool with that and grateful for the chance to speak into their lives while they are here.  But we’re also praying God will raise up students from local campuses to carry the charge with us in the fall.  Please be asking God to draw these students to the Community Group.

DC is a college town and, increasingly, I feel like the Lord is leading Restoration City to be a leader in His work on DC college campuses.  I would love to have you praying with me to that end.

Live In Community

We planted Restoration City Church around three main ideas:

  • Live Through Jesus
  • Live In Community
  • Live For Restoration

Those three statements are going to anchor our journey for a really long time and I want to encourage you to lean into them as much as possible if you’re part of the Restoration City family.  In all fairness, they’re biblical values, so I think you should lean into them even if you aren’t a part of Restoration City!

One of the highlights of this past week for me was sitting on the floor in my living room on Tuesday evening for our Community Group’s weekly meeting.  By the way, I was on the floor because there weren’t any more seats available; the room was packed!  And I loved every minute of it.  There is literally no one, other than Laura, in our Community Group who I knew this time last year.  It’s amazing to me how God has taken a group of strangers and turned us into a family.  I love that the family keeps growing – we had two new people join us this week.  I love walking through life with these people, opening God’s Word together, praying together and encouraging one another.  I love that our interaction isn’t limited to Tuesday evenings – the encouraging emails during the week, random dinners, coffees, hangouts and concerts are some of the sweetest benefits of living in community.

This past week, 70 people attended one of our five Community Groups.  That’s pretty awesome!  But it also means we have room for another 20-25 people to join a Community Group.  It also means we need more leaders to step up and plant new Community Groups so we can keep inviting others to join us in community.  If you’re interested in either, visit our website at http://restorationcitydc.com/about/community-groups/

You were not made to live life alone.  Community might seem risky but it’s what you were made to enjoy.

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.

Kids and Community Groups

Community Groups are a really big deal at Restoration City.  They are the way we connect people to our church and start our discipleship process.  They aren’t a program we offer; they are an expression of who we are.

So, we want every single person who calls RCC home to be connected with one of our Community Groups.  That includes parents of small children.  In some ways, these young parents are the people in our church most in need of a night with other adults and conversation about what God is doing in their lives.  But many parents don’t see a Community Group as a viable option because of childcare expenses.  Finding a babysitter is hard enough.  Paying one is even harder.

As a church, we want to help parents attend a Community Group without paying for childcare.  In order to do that, we need a team of volunteers who would be willing to babysit as a way of serving young parents.  If we get enough volunteers, they idea is for you to serve every 2-3 weeks with the same CG or family.  As a parent of a young child, I can tell you that your willingness to serve in this capacity would be a huge gift to our RCC families!

You’ll have a chance to sign up for this opportunity on Sunday and I’m praying many of you will take it!

RCC Community Group DNA

The Community Group Laura and I are leading met last night for the first time.  We loved being able to open up our home, share a meal and take the first steps toward gospel-centered community with a new group of friends.

At Restoration City, we want our Community Groups to be characterized by four descriptors.

Welcoming.  Our Community Groups need to be open to anyone regardless of where they are on their spiritual journey.  Community Groups aren’t just for the spiritually elite.  They aren’t just for those who are new to the faith.  They aren’t even just for Christians.  We want our Community Groups to be welcoming for family, friends, neighbors and co-workers who haven’t yet placed their faith in Jesus or understand that faith differently than we do.  Jesus lived in such a way that “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to him.” (Lk. 15:1)  If we’re preaching His gospel and becoming more like Him, there should be non-Christians wanting to join our Community Groups.  It’s our job to welcome them.

Loving.  Throughout the Scripture, Jesus calls His followers to love one another. (John 13:34; Romans 12:10; 1 John 3:11)  Our love for one another is a testimony to the world, a tangible reminder of the gospel and a means of growing in grace.  But we can’t love well if we hardly know each other.  That’s why our Community Group meetings start with 30-45 minutes of time to hang out over a meal, dessert, coffee or whatever.  The point of that time isn’t feeding people – it’s giving us space to develop meaningful relationships.

Transforming.  God is working in our lives to make us more like Jesus. (1 Thess. 4:3)  The tool He uses more than any other for this project is His Word.  It’s His Word that renews our minds, rebukes us, reveals the idols of our hearts and prepares us for every good work. (Romans 12:2, 2 Tim. 3:16) So, we want to study the Bible.  Not books about the Bible but the Bible itself.  God’s Word will always be central to our gatherings because it’s the clearest way for us to hear God’s voice.

Multiplying.  Healthy groups will grow.  If our Community Groups are welcoming, loving, transforming places, more people are going to want to attend.  As more people come, your group is going to outgrow whatever living room it’s meeting in currently.  That’s a good thing – because it means we’re ready to plant a new group out of your current group.  Yes, it can be painful to see members of your group leave to go start a new one but it’s a beautiful reminder that our mission is more important than our comfort.  Besides, if we want to plant new churches, planting new Community Groups is a good first step!

Community isn’t optional in the Christian life.  As Tim Keller says, “In short, there is no more important means of discipleship – of the formation of Christian character – than deep involvement in the life of the church, the Christian community.” (Center Church, Pg. 313)  Don’t sit on the sidelines wondering why you aren’t growing – jump into community as see how much God uses it in your life!

Sunday Recap

Yesterday was an amazing day at Restoration City.  There were so many “firsts” to celebrate:  we were able to offer childcare for the first time in our weekly gatherings,  five community groups came to life and we started meeting in a larger room to accommodate the growing number of people interested in helping plant RCC.  In case you missed it, here are three updates you need to know:

  1. We are going to be hosting our first ever Monthly Worship Gathering on Sunday, July 27th at 10am in the Synetic Theater!!  This is a huge step forward for us in our journey to plant Restoration City.  Although the church doesn’t officially launch until this fall, we are going to start opening our doors to the city on a monthly basis starting on the 27th.  We are doing these gatherings for two reasons:
    • Think of them as dress rehearsals for all of our Sunday morning teams.  Our production, connect and kids ministries have been doing amazing work preparing for the fall but we need a few trial runs over the summer to work out all of the details and see how we can best serve the people who will start calling RCC home this fall.
    • We want to serve this city, point people to Jesus and welcome new people into our community this summer.  We need more people to serve with us and we want to open our doors to people who weren’t part of the initial launch team but are considering getting involved at RCC.
  2. Next Sunday’s weekly gathering will be in the Synetic Studio (this is different from the theater) at 10am.  Our time will be built around 1 Peter 2:4-12 and preparing for July 27th’s worship gathering.  We’ll be together as a community for half of the time and breaking up into various ministry teams for the other half.  So, it’s a really big Sunday for us as we get ready for the 27th.
  3. If you weren’t able to join a community group this past Sunday, that’s fine – the groups don’t actually start meeting until the week of July 20th.  So, you haven’t missed anything.    You can sign up this coming Sunday or email info@restorationcitydc.com if you’re ready to join a group now.  Here are the groups we’re launching this summer:
    1. Jess & Ben Mann’s Community Group.  Monday nights at 7 in the Pentagon City area (Metro Accessible).
    2. Laura & John McGowan’s Community Group.  Tuesday nights at 6.30 in the Potomac Yards/Del Ray area (not easily metro accessible).
    3. Dan Iten & Shea Casper’s Community Group.  Tuesday nights at 7.00 in the Ballston/Clarendon area (Metro Accessible).
    4. Jenn & Tim Elzea’s Community Group.  Wednesday nights at 7.00 in the Alexandria area.
    5. Kevin Shade & Mandi Hart’s Community Group.  Wednesday nights at 7.00 in The District (exact location TBD).

There’s so much good stuff ahead in July!  I can’t wait to experience it together and to see all that God has for us and for the amazing city we call home.