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.
The closer we get to August 29th, the more excited I am about the new season we are stepping into as a church. Last week, I wrote about what isn’t changing in the new season and why this such a pivotal time for us as a community. If you didn’t catch that post, please check it out so you will have some context for what I want to share today as I describe some of the other changes we envision for the new season.
Empower Lay Leadership
In order for the church to function the way God intended, we need to lean into two foundational texts from the New Testament. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are all created by God and that every Christ follower has been given specific work to do to contribute to the advance of the gospel. Moreover, 1 Corinthians 12:7 tells us that every Christ follower has been given a specific gift to be used for “the common good.” That means you are empowered by God to do something in this city and in this church that no one else can do as well as you. And we need you to step into whatever role God is asking you to play in this season.
I find that vision utterly thrilling and deeply challenging because it means the staff has to relinquish control. Nothing will kill God’s vision for His church quite like a staff team that needs to make every decision and micro-manage every detail. So many of you are wired to do so much more than run a play designed by someone else. You have vision, knowledge, ability and gifting. More than anything, I want to release you and empower you to run after the dream God has placed in your heart as we pursue our shared calling as a church.
Allow Pastors to Pastor
In order for this redistribution of leadership to go well, three things need to happen. The fist is very practical: the staff and elders need to ensure that everything we’re doing as a church is aligned with our calling, our strategic distinctives, and our culture. The church can’t become a big ball of tape rolling around and picking up every good idea it bumps into – that’s a recipe for chaos. So, our staff and elders need to reprioritize this aligning work. The next two come straight from the New Testament. So much of a pastor’s job description is contained in Ephesians 4:12 – “equip the saints for the work of ministry.” That means a renewed focus on leadership development, training, and coaching. In other words, pastors and elders are called to help you live out Ephesians 2:10. They are also called to “present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28) Spiritual formation is the foundation of leadership development and the primary calling of every pastor. In other words, would you allow us the privilege of caring for your soul as you pursue the life God has called you to?
Emphasize Formation & Mission
We did not plant Restoration City Church because we thought the Christians of DC needed another option on the Sunday morning worship buffet. We planted Restoration City because the non-Christians of DC need more Christ followers committed to living on mission. Jesus’ plan for the church is clear – make disciples of all nations. (Mt. 28:19) That’s why we exist; to see people cross from death to life.
At the same time, the gospel calls us to so much more than simply receiving forgiveness for our sins. 2 Corinthians 3:18 reminds us that we are being increasingly transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus. That’s the work of spiritual formation and it is essential to our lives as Christ followers.
Formation without mission turns the church into a support group. Mission without formation offers a hallow vision for life. But when mission and formation collide, we feel the full power of the gospel.
Make Space For Relationships
Church isn’t an event you attend, it’s a community you join. We say that all the time at Restoration City. Yet, the pandemic revealed how fragile some of our relationships really were. We were in the same places at the same times but we weren’t really in each other’s lives.
Spiritual formation happens in the context of relationships. That’s why small groups are so important to us. Not because you need something else on your calendar and not to check the “weekly Bible study” box but to create a space that allows for real, deep, authentic relationships. Yes, our groups engage with God’s Word and, yes, they pray. But they are also a place to be known, to be heard, to be loved, to grow with others, to share your story, and to be real.
I truly love where we’re going as a church in this next season and I really want you to be a part of it. I would also love to have you inviting others to be a part of this new season with us. Who could you invite to come with you to RCC this weekend? Who do you know who would love to be a part of a church that’s moving in this direction? Reach out to them, tell them you would like to take this journey with them and then dive in!
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Let’s start with the obvious. There was not a single church leader in America who thought, “Hey, I know how to make Easter especially awesome this year. Let’s just have everyone stay home and worship online!” Nor was there a single family that thought, “Hey, if we could just spend the majority of Lent stuck in the house together, that would make it super special when we spend Easter stuck in the house together.” It just didn’t happen.
Nonetheless, as we head into this weekend, I keep thinking about Paul’s words here in Colossians 4. Even when he’s in jail, Paul is praying for and dreaming about the advance of the gospel. In particular, I keep coming back to that little phrase, “making the best use of the time.” He’s urging the Colossians to take every advantage of every opportunity they have to declare the mystery of Christ.
And I believe we have a tremendous opportunity to do just that this weekend. We find ourselves celebrating Easter at a time when everyone is thinking about their mortality, about what’s really important in life, and about God in some way, shape, or form. We find ourselves walking into a weekend where people simultaneously need the hope of the resurrection more than ever and are more open to it than they’ve been in a really long time.
As a church, we’re doing everything we can to create an online experience that is going to serve you and your friends well. Chris Kim is going to be leading worship, I’m going to be sharing a message called “Alive” and Heather Ross is going to be hosting the entire gathering. But we need to be thinking about more than just how we are going to worship online as a church. We need to be thinking about how God might want to use every single one of us to reach someone this Easter.
Our goal this Easter is not to make the best of a bad situation. Our goal is to make the best of this opportunity. And it’s easier than you might think. I’m asking each of you to join me in a very simple outreach over the next few days: Pray, Text, Talk.
Pray. Ask God to bring specific people to your mind. Ask Him to show you where He’s already working, where He’s already been creating openness, and where He’s already been planting seeds. Please, don’t skip this step or assume you know the answer. Ask. You might be surprised by some of the names He brings to mind.
Text. Reach out to that person with a simple text. Maybe something like: “Hey, I would’ve loved to invite you to go to church with me this Easter but obviously that’s out. Would you be interested in watching my church’s online service? I would love to talk with you about it afterwards.” If you’re feeling really old school, you could call them. Or you could post something on social media. But the key here is to set the stage for the next step.
Talk. It’s one thing to share a link. But take it one step further with another text, “Hey, what did you think about church today? Love to talk more, if you’re interested.” This is where you really open up space for God to work and where you start to make yourself available for God to work through you in starting a great conversation with your family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers.
Restoration City, I’m praying for each of you as we head into this weekend. Let’s not waste this opportunity. Let’s be make the best of it: Pray. Text. Talk.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.”
Even though we can’t be together physically this morning, we can come together as a church around a common vision for these days. In this message, I lay out three anchors for us as a community of faith during these days.
Pray that God would give parents an incredible sense of patience as they balance work, homeschooling, closed daycares, and all of the other responsibilities of life. (Colossians 1:9-12)
Pray for the most vulnerable in our communities, the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Ask the Lord to protect them and empower them to make wise choices during this pandemic. (Psalm 91:1-6)
As Christians, we believe that Jesus has authority over the natural world. Luke 8:22-25 is only one example. Therefore, we should pray boldly, asking Him to slow the spread of this virus.
How have you seen God at work in your life over this past week?
What have you learned about the kind of rhythms you’re going need to stay healthy (physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually) during this time? What worked well for you last week? What didn’t
How worried are you about your job and financial well-being during this time?
Where do you see God opening doors for you to engage with others in sharing the gospel? What do you think your next steps could be?
I’ve been excited about Restoration City’s upcoming mission trip to Western Mexico for a long time but that excitement has hit a new level now that I get to co-lead the team and see first hand all that God is doing through our friends in Western Mexico. I can’t wait for those days in early October!
Every mission trip is significant for both the members of the team and the community that’s impacted through their efforts. But this trip is particularly special for me and my expectations are really high for a couple of reasons:
It’s Personal. We are going to serve alongside two members of our church who are serving in Mexico for two years to plant churches in remote and hard to reach areas of southern and western Mexico. We aren’t coming alongside like-minded strangers, we’re going to serve with our friends! Being able to send a short term trip to serve alongside missionaries who are members of our church is more than a dream come true…it’s an answer to prayer!
It’s Strategic. We’re going to be spending a week in and around a large migrant worker camp in western Mexico. Workers from much more remote areas of Mexico come to this camp to work the harvest and we’ll be heading to Mexico right at the start of their harvest season when this little temporary city will be coming to life and filled with people. Our hope is to love and serve these people and share Christ with them with the prayer that some will place their faith in Christ and carry the gospel back to their home village and community. It’s an incredible way to reach some un or under reached people groups in remote areas of Mexico.
It’s Filled With Potential. I’m thinking mainly of the members of our team when I write that. Literally every single person going on this trip could be leading the trip (that’s not an exaggeration!) and I’m so looking forward to getting time with each of them. I honestly believe so many of the leaders of future trips are going to come from this team.
I honestly believe the Lord is going to use all of this in some pretty incredible ways and I would love to have you be a part of it with us. I totally get that it’s unlikely you’re going to jump onto the team at this late date (but if you’re interested, let me know!!). But maybe you would consider being involved from home by praying or giving. I’ll be posting prayer requests over the next month and I would love to have you praying with us for all the Lord is going to do. And I would be so grateful if you would consider making a one-time donation to our Mexico 2018 fund. We’re trying to raise $13,000 to support this team and the work we’re doing in western Mexico. We would love to have your help in reaching that goal.
It’s amazing to know that we’re just one small part of the church that Jesus is building all over the world. In DC. In Mexico. And all over the globe.
While God is doing so many incredible things in so many different areas of Restoration City right now, that work is probably most evident in RCC Kids. Both our Parent’s Morning Out and Parent’s Night Out events are near capacity every time we offer them and our twice a month morning playgroup is thriving. On top of that, our Kids team continues to partner with Community Group Leaders in making childcare available for CG’s that need it. And then there’s Sunday morning! We now have 5 classrooms per week that serve a minimum of 30 kids per Sunday, with that number increasing rapidly. It’s honestly amazing to see what God has done through Alex Dibble and our children’s ministry team!
If you’re a member of that RCC Kids team, I want to publicly thank you for all you are doing to serve the parents and kids of our church. You’re making a huge impact on families and the lives of these young kids and you’re sacrificing a lot to do it. We all know you pour a lot of energy, love, and sweat into a Sunday morning! And we all know you’re giving up the chance to be in the main gathering to do it. Your willingness to serve says so much about your heart for Christ, His church, and the next generation. On behalf of every family at Restoration City, I want you to know how grateful we are. It’s no small thing to be raising our kids in a church where they’re excited to go to church and it’s your sacrifice that makes that possible. So, thank you! You’re incredible.
And we need more of you!
The only way to keep serving an increasing number of families and kids is by increasing the number of volunteers. We need 12-15 volunteers per Sunday, plus the volunteers at our additional events. We only ask RCC Kids volunteers to commit to 1-2 Sundays per month so you still are able to be in the main gathering 2-3 times per month. But that means we need a regular volunteer pool of 40-50 in RCC Kids. Right now, that number is closer to 30 regular volunteers. So, you can see the need for more help in response to how abundantly the Lord has and is growing this area of our church!
If you’re willing to commit to 1-2 Sundays per month, we want to get you trained and serving with us. Our need is especially great in the summer since so many of our regular volunteers are traveling. If you can help us love and serve these kids, please shoot Alex an email today. She would love to talk with you!!
Tomorrow we kick off our 7th RestoreDC weekend as a church. As of this morning, 93 people from Restoration City have signed up for 150 different shifts with our 9 partner organizations. The work we will do over the next three days is a really big deal for our partners who are counting on us. I also want to make sure they’re a big deal for us as a church.
They say familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t think there’s much chance of that with RestoreDC but I am concerned that regularity might breed indifference. Not even a lack of participation, just a lack of excitement for what God is doing. Kind of a been there, done that, got the t-shirt (literally!) attitude.
That’s why I’m praying God will give us all fresh excitement for RestoreDC. I’m praying we will serve with joy and a desire to bless our community. This is one of the most tangible ways we live out our plumbline to be an undeniable positive as a church. We want to live in such a way that our community is grateful for our presence even if they don’t embrace our theology. We want DC to be better because Restoration City exists.
So, as we head into this weekend, I want to anchor all of us in some texts that fuel my passion for RestoreDC:
“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” – Jeremiah 29:7
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
“And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.” – Isaiah 58:12
“They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” – Isaiah 61:4
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9
I honestly can’t wait for this weekend. Let’s pray today that God will exceed all of our expectations over the next three days!
Community is both one of the most powerful and painful forces in our lives. There are few things as exhilarating as being fully known and still fully loved. Yet there are few things more damaging than being rejected by people we thought we trusted.
The Scriptures are clear that we’re made in the image of a relational God and are designed for community. The local church is anchored in the belief that God uses others to make us more like Jesus. Experience tells us that we can’t be fully human apart from relationships.
At the same time, we also know the hurt, disappointment and disillusionment that often comes with community. Sin is the explanation for most of that. We’re all messy, broken people. Community simply multiplies the mess.
But sin alone doesn’t explain our struggle with community. Unmet expectations also play a big role. In his book Life Together, Bonhoeffer says, “Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial.” That’s a shocking truth – our zeal for community can turn us into unintentional destroyers of community. But that’s what happens every time we create a utopian picture of community that simply doesn’t exist this side of heaven and then blast every opportunity for community we have because it inevitably fails to meet those expectations.
The more I think about it, the more I realize a lot of our unmet expectations come from confusion regarding the relationship between the words friendship and community. We commonly use them as synonyms. But they aren’t. They mean very different things.
I recently listened to a sermon that Pastor Leonce Crump preached at Renovation Church in Atlanta, GA. He was preaching about our need for community but also our need to understand that community and friendship are two different things. His point was simple – both community and friendship are essential but they are also distinct.
The whole sermon is worth listening to but here’s his argument in a nutshell: you might become friends with some of the people you are in community with but friendship is not the ultimate expectation of community. Yes, the church is a family. But Crump points out that not all family members are friends and reminds everyone that’s okay. There are some cousins you like to hang out with and some you don’t. It doesn’t mean you aren’t family or that you’re doing something wrong. It just means you aren’t friends.
Here’s what all of that means – you aren’t going to be friends with everyone at church. And that’s okay. You also aren’t going to be friends with everyone in your Community Group. And that’s okay. Yes, we’re a family. Yes, we’re called to love one another as Christ has loved us. We are a community. But we’re not all going to be friends.
If friendship isn’t the ultimate expectation of community, what is? Pastor Crump defines the ultimate purpose of community as “fellowship, partnership and encouragement to walk faithfully with God.” I love that because that’s exactly what our Community Groups at Restoration City are designed to do! We gather together every week to spur one another on, to encourage one another not to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and to encourage one another to run our race well. Will friendships develop out of that? I hope so. But friendship isn’t the ultimate goal of our Community Groups – mission is!
Crump’s distinction is enormously important for us to process. If we think the ultimate goal of Community Groups is to help us make friends, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment. If we come knowing the goal is to make us more like Jesus, we’re setting ourselves up for growth.
Just to be clear, I’m not minimizing the importance of friendships. They’re vital. But no church or program can form friendships for us. Friendships are something we form individually, one person at a time.
I want to keep thinking more about this in my life and in our church. Would love any thoughts or feedback you have. Feel free to leave a comment below.
It seems like there’s an increasing trend in the church to place community and mission on opposite ends of a spectrum and then invite individual followers of Jesus and whole churches to decide where they fall on that spectrum. I know plenty of churches who say they’re all about community – Sunday morning is warm and welcoming, it’s easy to join a community group with plenty of friendly people, and there’s one epic hangout after another to make sure you’ve always got something to do. I also know plenty of churches who say they’re all about mission – Sunday morning is simple and no frills, it’s easy to start serving with a team of really committed people, and there’s an endless series of opportunities to serve, sacrifice and give. It’s so convenient – all you have to do is pick the church that’s the best fit for you and have a great time/make your life count.
It’s an attractive but deadly trap. Community church may be a blast but it never accomplishes anything and ultimately forgets why it exists. Mission church may do a lot of good but people don’t seem all that healthy and end up feeling like a cog in someone else’s wheel. At the end of the day, Jesus didn’t die to create a social club or an impersonal organization of exhausted people.
Jesus died to create a community on mission.
Maybe more accurately, Jesus died to pursue His mission through a new community we would call the church. Jesus didn’t create a mission to keep the church busy. He created a church to pursue His mission. Community and mission are so intertwined that any attempt to pursue one without the other leaves us missing both.
Here’s how all of this connects for us at Restoration City – many of our mission problems are really community problems and many of our community problems are really mission problems. Let me show you what I mean:
A lot of us who are struggling to find community aren’t serving. I’ll often hear people say they want to get the community box checked first and then they’ll start serving. Wrong! Start serving and you’ll likely find your community through that team. When people tell me they’re having trouble connecting at Restoration City, my first question isn’t which Community Group they’re in but where they’re serving. Want to deepen your community? Engage with God’s mission.
On the other hand, there are some of us with a deep passion for a ministry but we’re frustrated that no one else seems to be jumping in to help. It’s maddening – God’s broken your heart over something and no one else seems to care. I’ve come to learn that the answer to that is not an announcement in our gathering on a Sunday morning but to get more engaged with a Community Group. People want to get to know you before they’ll follow you. Want to engage others with God’s mission? Deepen your community.
When we stop seeing community and mission as two ends of a spectrum and start seeing them as two sides of the same coin, it unleashes something powerful in our lives and churches. Don’t pick between community and mission. Join a community that’s on mission together.
We’re only a few weeks into our series in the Book of Acts and God is already doing some incredible things. I know He’s been stirring a lot up in my heart and I trust He’s doing the same in yours.
This coming weekend, we’ll be celebrating the baptism of two incredible members of our community who are now walking with Jesus. We’ll also be celebrating the results of the Boundless cards so many of you filled out in the last two weeks. If you haven’t yet completed a Boundless card, you can still bring one back this weekend. But, here’s how you’ve responded so far:
84 people or couples have returned a card
68 cards indicated a commitment to stay in town for Easter
71 people committed to at least one RestoreDC shift
40 people indicated interest in one of our three international mission trips
Each of our local partners received a list of potential new volunteers ranging from 3-21 people
This is amazing, Restoration City! I’m so moved by your commitment to the mission of God and I pray for all He will do as we continue to seek Him as a community.