Making The Best of Easter

Let’s make the best of the opportunity we have to reach people this Easter!

“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.

Colossians 4:2-6

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.

Photo by Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash

All Together: RCC's Vision For Navigating Coronavirus

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.”

Acts 2:1

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.

Prayer Prompts

  • 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.

Discussion Questions

  • 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?
  • How can I pray for you this week?

Other Important Resources

Vamos a Mexico

Mexican Flag

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.

We Need Your Help!!

kids

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!!

RestoreDC, Take 7

RestoreDC

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 & Friendship

friends

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.

Church: A Community On Mission

Community And Mission

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.

 

 

Boundless Committments

boundless-mountains

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.

See you on Sunday!

Church: A Community On Mission

I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around everything God did this weekend. That’s probably because He did so much – our first ever leadership retreat, saying goodbye to Blake as a worship leader at Restoration City, and a Sunday morning gathering focused on the refugee crisis unfolding in the Middle East.  So many different emotions in such a short period of time!  But all of it was a reminder to me that the church is meant to be a community on mission.  When we get that right, everything else seems to fall into place.

I love our leadership team at Restoration City!  They’re an incredible group of leaders, Jesus followers and friends.  I’ve loved watching God build this team over the last two years – we’ve grown in number, in maturity and in respect for one another.  All of that was so evident as we carved out a few hours on Saturday morning to process where we’re headed as a church for the rest of 2016 and into 2017.  I loved listening to our team debate, challenge one another, affirm one another and get to a better place than we ever could without broad input.  I’m grateful for a culture where we see leadership as a team sport.

Saying goodbye to Blake was a bittersweet reminder of what a joy it is to lead and serve in community.  In case you weren’t able to join us on Sunday, we honored Blake as he and Tally get ready to move to Chapel Hill so he can pursue his MBA at UNC.  As excited as we are for them, I’m sure going to miss him!  It was a great reminder coming out of the leadership retreat not to take any of this for granted.  We all need to lean in and enjoy the time the Lord gives us to serve together.

Community is a really big deal for us at Restoration City.  But we’re asking God to create a distinct kind of community – one on mission.  That’s why I loved having Maggie Konstanski from World Relief with us yesterday.  She did such an amazing job of helping us understand the current refugee crisis and think biblically about it.  I loved the reminder that our community doesn’t exist to serve ourselves.  We exist for the good of our city and our world.  We exist to serve and lift others to a new and eternal life in Jesus.

At the end of it all, my heart is full.  I love our church.  I love the community God is building.  And I love the mission He’s given us.  So, let’s keep pressing forward!

Best Sunday Yet!

Apartment Life

It’s hard to compare but I think yesterday was probably my favorite Sunday so far at Restoration City.  If you had been with me when I talked to our guest from Apartment Life, I think you would agree with me.  He was ecstatic at the end of the day!

He was totally blown away by the number of you that came up to talk with him at the end of the gathering.  He met a guy who works in the apartment industry and collected well over a dozen names of people interested in Apartment Life.  I really wasn’t fishing for a compliment when I asked, “oh, is that good?”.  He told me he considers it a win if he gets one or two names.  So, he was one happy apartment dweller on his way home!

Guys, that’s what we’re about.  We want to be a church willing to leverage all of our lives for the mission of God.  Nothing makes me happier than thinking of our community learning how to intentionally live on mission in whatever community we live in.  This is the work of restoration – moving into whatever sphere of influence God gives us and shining the light of Jesus.  If we’re known for anything in this city, this needs to be it – we will sacrifice, pray, move and pour ourselves out for the sake of the lost and the glory of Jesus.  Let that be the word on the street about us!

I love that all of this coincided with a Sunday when we’re talking about generosity.  I was filled with so much hope that we really are becoming a generous church – not just with our money but with our whole lives!  Praise God!

By the way, if you still want to learn more about Apartment Life, check out their website.  But for today, I just wanted you to know I’ve never been more excited about where God is leading us as a church or more honored to be your pastor.  I love you guys and I love where God is leading us!!