Vision On A Page

BudgetYesterday the members of Restoration City Church approved a new budget for the fiscal year starting in September of 2015.  I’m grateful for the way Dan Iten led us all through this process and incredibly grateful for a church that’s willing to believe God for big things.  Most of all, I’m grateful for what this budget represents – it’s not just numbers on a page, it’s vision on a page.  It’s a statement of who we want to be as a church.  Two things in particular stand out for me and both are percentages:

51% Of The Budget For Personnel

Even with creating room for a possible 3rd staff position starting in January of 2016, we’re able to keep our staff percentage at 51%.  Many studies suggest that for a church to be considered healthy, that number should be under 60%.  Anything around 50% is strong and anything under 50% is territory few churches ever see. So, to be at 50% as a small, less than one year old church plant is fantastic.

It’s an embodiment of the Ephesians 4 culture we want to create at Restoration City.  Ephesians 4:11-12 teach us, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” In other words, it’s the pastoral team’s job to equip the saints for the work of ministry and the job of the saints to do the ministry of the church.  When a church operates that way, God does incredible things.  So, if you’re serving at Restoration City, you need to know all the hours you invest in the church make a huge difference – in lives transformed and in dollars that don’t need to be spent on staffing.  God is using your sacrificial service to advance the gospel.

16% Of The Budget For Outreach/Mission

By keeping staff expenses low, we’re able to free up more money for mission.  This is the part of the budget that gets me the most fired up!  As a member of Restoration City, I love knowing that 16% of every dollar I give to the church goes to support external ministry partners doing incredible work whether that’s here in DC, in East Africa or church plants in Brooklyn.  That’s the kind of church I want to be a part of – one that is leveraging it’s resources for the good of our city, country and world.  If we make our budget next year, we will have the privilege of giving $78,000 to mission next year.  Nothing makes me happier!

In order to reach these goals, we need every person who calls Restoration City their church home to lean in with us.  If you’re not serving, join our connect team.  If you’ve been serving for a while, maybe God is stretching you into greater responsibility or leading you to serve outside of the church with one of our ministry partners.  If you’re not giving regularly to the church, go to our website and set up a recurring donation.  Or maybe God’s leading you to give more generously.  Whether it’s with your time, your resources or your prayers, we need you to lean in with us like never before.

I love being a part of a church that’s fighting for something – to see restoration come to Washington DC through the gospel of Christ.  I love where God is leading us and I’m so grateful we get to go there together.

I truly believe we are going to see God do some amazing things in this coming year.  We will see yet again that He really is the God “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” (Eph. 3:20)

Thank you, Jesus.  You died that we could live and have a role in what you’re doing in the world.  Help us walk worthy of the calling you’ve placed on our lives.

What?!? No Church Picnic?

DC 4thEvery year when we don’t schedule a church picnic over the 4th of July weekend, I’m reminded of how much I love Restoration City Church.  I know that sounds strange.  After all, if I really loved the church, I would want to spend the 4th together.  You know the drill – figure out who has the best “secret” fireworks watching spot in the city, have a cookout and have a great time together.  It honestly sounds like fun to me.

Maybe the only thing I would enjoy more is creating space for our church to live on mission this weekend. Go to your neighborhood block party, hang out at the apartment complex pool, invite some friends over to grill out, get a crew together and go to the Mall (not the shopping one, the national one!).  Do whatever you want to do.  Include others from the church.  But find a way to include others who don’t know the gospel.  It’s one the easiest ways we can start living on mission.

That’s why we don’t do a church picnic.  It’s not that we don’t like each other.  It’s that we have a mission that’s worthy of a little sacrifice.  The big question is whether you’ll use the space well.  You don’t have to scrap your plans at this point.  But maybe you should expand the invite list by a few names.

Happy 4th!

Fighting The Summer Slump

There are certain things that everyone in church world knows to be true.  Let me give you a few examples.  Nobody actually reads the bulletin but if you stop printing it, there will be a revolt.  Or, live testimonies before baptisms are awesome, except for when they’re a total train wreck.  Or, churches never grow in the summer.

I want to deal with that last one today.  When you find out our church doesn’t have bulletins and usually does live testimonies, it’ll come as no surprise to you that I’m not a fan of writing off the summer either.  I simply don’t believe the Spirit of God is constrained just because it’s warm outside.

Yes, I know it’s vacation season.  Yes, I know I pastor a church in a town that virtually shuts down in the month of August.  Yes, it’s also wedding season.  Yes, our congregation is young, mobile and has some pretty impressive frequent flyer accounts.  Yes, I know the statistics about summer church growth.  So, maybe you should write this whole post off as the adorable naivete of a first year pastor.

But if you’re part of Restoration City, I hope you’ll fight with me against the summer slump.  Here’s some of what we’re already doing as a church:

  • We’ve started sending direct mail pieces to all new residents in our community because we know there are a ton of people who move TO this city every summer.
  • Our first ever summer intern started this week with the specific mission of reaching out to college students and other summer interns.
  • We’re continuing to add new Community Groups, with the newest one starting in Alexandria in mid-June.
  • Our creative team is working hard to make each of our summer gatherings a powerful encounter with Jesus.
  • We’re moving RCC Kids to better serve families with children.

But our churches’ outreach strategy has always been built on us as individuals living as ambassadors of Christ. (2 Cor. 5:20)  God’s work of restoration flows primarily through us and secondarily through the programatic things we do as a church.  So, I want to encourage us to fight the summer slump personally.  Join me in:

  • Praying the Lord will make us effective in reaching the lost in our communities and open doors for us to develop relationships with people who don’t know Jesus.
  • Initiating spiritual conversations with those we meet (particularly people we’ve been building relationships with or those who are new to the area).
  • Inviting people you meet to join you at Restoration City.

I believe God has a lot He wants to accomplish through us this summer.  So, let’s lean in together and see how He wants to use this season for His glory and the good of our city.

Keep On Sowing

Earlier this week, I had a great conversation with a bus driver.  I was on the MetroWay bus from our house into Crystal City and struck up a conversation with the driver about the weather and how I almost froze at the bus stop.  Ultimately, he asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was the pastor of a church in Crystal City.  His reply?  “Are you the chapstick people?”  I almost fell out of my seat!!

Here’s the backstory.  The week before Restoration City launched in October, we spent one evening at the Crystal City and Pentagon City Metro stations handing out chapstick and invitations to come to our first gathering.  This guy got one, has been thinking about us ever since and is still thinking about his chapstick three months later!  By the way, I’m not sure if he’s going to come to Restoration City any time soon or not.  He didn’t seem to hate the idea but he also didn’t make any promises.  So, this is not leading to some great, “and we’re baptizing him on Sunday!!” moment.

Here’s where it is leading: we never know the way God is going to use the little seeds we plant.  In 1 Corinthians 3:16 Paul is writing about his ministry and the way he partnered with another Christian named Apollos when he writes this, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”  Don’t miss the big picture: God is the One who builds His church, calls people to faith and changes lives.  Sometimes he works through a number of different people along the way.  Sometimes He even gets the process started with some chapstick.  Growth belongs to God but you and I have a role to play in His work.  We’re the seed planters.  We’re the ones who are here to open our mouths and let people know there is a God who loves them, forgives them and calls them to a whole new life.

Simple question for the day: Where are you planting?  Are you scattering any seed for someone else to water?  What are you asking God to grow?  Our city is in tremendous need of hope and you and I have the answer!!  People need Jesus.  How could you leverage your life today to reach out to someone, have a conversation and see what God will do with it?  You never know what He will do with it.  Rise up, Chapstick People!

Build Partners, Not Ministries

This past Sunday, we wrapped up the sermon series “Our House” by looking at the third component of our mission statement, “Live For Restoration.”  I had been looking forward to this talk for a long time and love being part of a church that seeks the welfare of our city (Jeremiah 29:7).  At Restoration City, seeking the welfare of our city is something we do in partnership with other local organizations.  We’re not trying to build our own outreach ministries.  We’re trying to connect people from Restoration City with existing organizations.  Put simply: we build partners, not ministries.

That’s a pretty big paradigm shift for many who come to us from a churched background so I wanted to lay out the rationale for why we build partnerships instead of ministries.  The argument boils down to five essential benefits.

  1. Leverage The Expertise Of Our Partners.  The decision to partner is rooted in humbly admitting that we don’t always know what’s best and there are others who do.  I’m trained to preach, develop leaders and make disciples.  I don’t know the best practices for serving a teenage mom or immigrant family.  Partnership is about putting the needs of our community ahead of our need for control.
  2. Focus On Our Mission.  This is closely related to #1.  If we spent all of our time trying to replicate what others are already doing well, we wouldn’t have enough time to focus on the things God has called us to do.  Partnership is about creating margin for a healthy discipleship culture.
  3. Keep A Leaner Staff.  Churches can tie up a lot of money paying people to reinvent wheels.  I would rather free up resources to invest in our mission and in our partner organizations.  Partnership is about good stewardship.
  4. Stay Kingdom Focused.  Working with others is the most tangible way to remind ourselves that the Kingdom is more important than any one local church.  Restoration City isn’t the hope of Washington; Jesus is and He’s building His church in wonderfully diverse and interconnected ways.  Partnership is about leveraging our church for the benefit of the Church.
  5. Double The Impact.  By serving through partnerships, we’re able to minister to both the people served by a ministry and our co-laborers.  The relationships we build with co-laborers are as significant as the relationships we build in the communities we serve.  Partnership is about exponential impact.

Every church needs to follow the leading of God in how they love and serve their communities.  For us at Restoration City, that means a deep commitment to building partnerships instead of ministries.  You can learn more about our partner organizations on our website: http://restorationcitydc.com/dosomethingdc/.

Slacker Church

131015_marine_corps_marathon_ap_328After two incredible Sundays at Restoration City, we’re not meeting this week.  Seriously.  We aren’t having a corporate worship service this Sunday.

What in the world would compel us to abandon logic, common sense, church planting best practices and rational expectations?  Simple – the Marine Corps Marathon.  Thirty thousand people will be running the 39th Annual Marine Corps Marathon this Sunday.  And they’ll all be passing right through Crystal City.  Huge crowds will line the course.  And Crystal City is hosting a festival to coincide with the race.  So, you couldn’t get to our little theater if you tried.

When we figured all of this out a few months ago, we felt like we had three options:

1.  Hold a service no one could attend.  Bummer.

2.  Move our services to a different location for the week.  Possible.

3.  Not meet and go serve and engage our community.  Risky.

I honestly believe God has given us this weekend to clarify the kind of church we are becoming.  It just didn’t make sense to me to move our services because tens of thousands of people who don’t know the gospel are going to be in our backyard.  That’s craziness!  We want to be in Crystal City this Sunday to serve, to meet people and to participate in the life of the neighborhood God has called us to reach.

So, we’re not meeting on Sunday.  We’re serving instead.  This is the kind of church we want to be – engaged in our community and fighting for the good of our city.

This isn’t a Sunday off.  It’s a Sunday on mission.  We would love to have you join us!  For more information, visit Restoration City’s website: http://restorationcitydc.com/mcm/