I can’t wait for this Sunday at Restoration City. We’re going to do something really simple and really meaningful. After our weekly gathering is over, as many of us as possible are going to stick around to serve Gunston, the middle school we meet in every Sunday. They need some help getting the front entrance ready to welcome students for a new year and we’re going to do what we can – pull weeds, trim shrubs, etc… We’ll order lunch, have fun, and make a difference in the lives of the students who will show up next week. And, we’re going to be done by 1pm. It’s like a quick serving blitz.
Not only is this the kind of thing we should be doing as the church but it also helps illustrate a deeper point – community accelerates mission. Here’s what I mean: I think we’re all going to be shocked by just how much we can get done in 90 minutes! Because we’re all going to lean into this opportunity, we’re going to make a significant impact in a relatively short period of time. I pray we don’t miss the significance of that insight. Community accelerates mission.
Maybe even more accurately – mission requires community. When you read the pages of the New Testament, particularly the Book of Acts, you realize just how much the early church saw community as essential to God’s mission. Some people funded things, some preached, some waited tables, some cared for the sick, but everyone was involved. Nobody was foolish enough (or arrogant enough) to think they could make a major dent in the lostness and brokenness of the world by themselves. They knew that God’s mission required all of God’s people working together with the enabling power of God’s Spirit.
So, to be as specific and practical as possible, if you aren’t engaged in biblical community you aren’t as engaged in God’s mission as you could be. You’re missing out, the church is missing out, and the world is missing out.
Note: This is the first installment of what I hope will become a weekly feature on this blog – a quick, think 500 words or less, recap of this past Sunday’s sermon at RCC. The goal is to help catch you up if you weren’t able to join us, reinforce key points if you were able to join us, add additional content, and create a resource you can share with friends or refer back to in your own walk with God. I’ll give you a one sentence summary of the talk, the key passage, and whatever else seems helpful. Hope it’s helpful!!
Sermon in a Sentence: Understanding why the Kingdom of Heaven causes so much controversy helps us endure conflict and opposition.
“You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Matthew 5:11-12 (CSB)
We’re gearing up for a collection of messages that will walk us through the Sermon on the Mount by taking two weeks to explore the idea of the Kingdom of Heaven as we find it in the first 4 chapters of Matthew’s gospel. When the Scripture says “kingdom of heaven”, we should think “rule and reign of God” or “community, culture, and creation operating under the rule and reign of God.” God’s Kingdom is about an authority, not about a territory. This notion of a Kingdom provides us with an incredibly compelling vision for our lives as followers of Jesus – a community of love, mercy, justice, and concern for the good of the world. Yet, this captivating vision has always created deep controversy. Why?
In this talk, we look at the three primary sources of opposition to the Kingdom of Heaven in the early chapters of Matthew’s gospel.
Think Herod for this one. Sure, no one loves a political rival but this isn’t a legislator concerned about a strong challenge in their next primary. This is someone willing to murder every male child two and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding region. That’s next level.
And, no, this does not mean that if you work on the Hill, you’re a bad Christian and living in rebellion against the rule and reign of God in your life. The real question for each of us, regardless of profession, is how we use whatever power we have. If you use your power for the good of others, you’re in line with the vision of the Kingdom. But if you insist on using power for your own selfish gain, you’re pushing back against Heaven itself. This one is about power, not position.
John the Baptist really goes after the Pharisees and Sadducees when they come to check out his revival meetings, “you brood of vipers!” Not exactly the way to curry favor with the religious elites. But John is worried about religious complacency (you think you’re good with God because of the family you were born into) and religious condemnation (those who use the ethical teachings of the New Testament simply to judge, condemn, criticize, and look down on others). Hypocrisy, empty religion, earning favor with God, and condemning others have no place in the Kingdom of Heaven. Remember, Jesus comes not to condemn the world but to save the world (John 3:17). The gospel offers both salvation and transformation by a grace that transforms our hearts and then our lives.
In short, it never ends well for religious hypocrites.
Jesus and Satan go toe to toe in Matthew 4. Satan offers Jesus the kingdoms of the world in exchange for His worship but Jesus will have none of it. Jesus and evil and categorically opposed to each other – they’re never going to get along, which is why so many of us are trapped in futility. We’re trying to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus but keep a little foothold in evil. We want Jesus and greed to coexist in our hearts or Jesus and any other form of self-centeredness. There’s got to be a way to honor Jesus and sleep with the person I’m dating, right? Wrong! Don’t waste time trying to get Jesus and evil to be friends. It’s never going to work.
Bottom line: Getting serious about your relationship with God always creates some controversy as the light of the gospel collides with the darkness of evil, empty religion, and the abuse of power. Hopefully, if we understand how the Kingdom of Heaven challenges the values of the Kingdoms of this world, we can find a little more strength to endure the challenges of our lives.
If you’re interested in more, you can watch the full message here or listen to it on our podcast.
I remember being horrified when some of the buildings in our neighborhood started getting covered with this weird, quasi-artistic fabric. I assumed Crystal City was trying to turn eyesores into art but couldn’t figure out why they were broadcasting just how many buildings in our neighborhood were sitting empty! And then I learned it was all connected to Amazon’s search for a second headquarters. Crystal City was putting together what a lot of people saw as a long shot bid to bring HQ2 to our little part of the world. Turns out it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all and Amazon’s moving into the neighborhood!
This is a really big deal for our city, our neighborhood, and for us at Restoration City Church. Only time will tell exactly how this will impact our church but as one of a very small number of churches that gather in the Crystal City/Pentagon City area, it’s going to have a big impact on us. No doubt we’ll face some challenges (I suspect our rent is going up!) but HQ2 also presents us with tremendous opportunities.
At the very least, Jeff Bezos picking Crystal City should impact how we think about our neighborhood and city. It’s no secret that Crystal City has had a bit of a self esteem problem for a long time – it’s hard not to when your claim to fame is an underground shopping mall! Not only have we not been the trendiest neighborhood in DC but DC in general doesn’t always have the best reputation as a place to live. People come here for their careers but it often seems like they’re counting the days until they leave from the moment they arrive. Sometimes that’s just a function of being stationed at the Pentagon, which always comes with an end date. Cost of living is a big and understandable part of it. Kids frequently take the blame for it, “Yeah, this place is great for now but when we have kids we’re out of here.”
In all honesty, it’s been a long time since this felt like a place where people are excited to live. I know I’ve felt that as a church planter – people are happy to have found a good place to go to church while they’re in DC but, man, they can’t wait to go back home. So, it’s a massive boost to our collective psyche to have Amazon pick this place! Truth be told, DC really is a great place to call home and Crystal City is worth getting excited about – our church loves gathering here and Laura and I love raising our family inside the beltway. It just feels really good to see other people getting excited about a place I really love.
HQ2 also means there are going to be a tremendous number of people moving into the neighborhood. We’ve always cared about serving our community and loving our neighbors – this just means there are going to be so many more to serve! We’ll be talking more about this on Sunday but God has given us the privilege and the responsibility of being Christ’s ambassadors in this neighborhood. He put us here in Crystal City just over 4 years ago at a time when no one really cared about Crystal City. In fact, there were plenty of well intentioned people who told me we were making a mistake meeting here. But God has always had a purpose for us in this neighborhood. I sure didn’t know HQ2 was part of it, but He did. There’s not a chance in the world we’re going to watch this pitch go by, Restoration City. We need to recommit ourselves to loving our community, having an undeniably positive impact on our neighborhood and pointing people to Jesus. God has us here for a reason!
This is a really big day for our city and it’s a really big day for our church. Let’s be praying the Lord will give us the grace we need to navigate all of this well in the months and years to come.
Alignment. It’s a big word in my world. Whether we’re talking about my life, family or the church, I love it when everything is moving in the same direction around the same purpose. It just feels good when everything makes sense and fits well together.
That’s why I’m such a huge fan of the Restoration City staff working out of WeWork’s coworking space in Crystal City. Yes, the cold brew coffee and cool vibe are an added plus. And, yes, it’s the most economical way for us to create office space for a small staff.
But it also says a lot about us as a church.
Our work space is aligned with our vision. We want to be a church that is involved in the life of our city, that is fighting for the good of our city, and that loves our city. So, it makes sense that we work in the midst of the city, not sequestered away from the city. Maybe there will come a day when we need our own office space. But for right now, I love working around a whole bunch of people who don’t know Jesus and a few who do.
I honestly think a co-working space helps me be a better pastor and keeps me in touch daily with what life outside the church looks like. I also love the chance to interact with co-workers. A few have even started attending the church and that’s just awesome! It’s so cool to be able to step outside my office and interact with RCC people right here in the office!
People are always surprised when they find out Dan, Marshall and I work for a church. I don’t think they expect to find a church in a space like this. But, if you ask me, this is exactly where the church should be – in the center of the marketplace, participating in the life of our city.
So, Restoration City, thanks for the generosity that makes this possible. Thanks for enabling us to be a little gospel outpost in a world of tech start-ups and consultants. It’s what all of us should be about wherever we work.