Getting The Most Out Of This Sunday

maximizing rest

Hopefully, you’ve heard by now that Restoration City is NOT gathering this Sunday, August 16th.  We’re taking an intentional day of rest at the start of an intentional week of rest. I’m convinced it’s going to be a great day for all of us – if we use it well.  That’s where this post comes in – I want to offer you some really practical thoughts on how you can get the most out of this Sunday.

What NOT To Do

Resist the temptation to use this Sunday for any of the following:

  • Getting caught up on work (whether that’s your job, running errands, doing laundry or paying bills).  Don’t even think about being productive!
  • Visiting another church.  I mean that in the least territorial, defensive way possible!  But if the goal of Sunday was to participate in corporate worship, we would just meet ourselves.
  • Scheduling anything you don’t want to do.

What To Expect

  • Earlier this month, I recorded a 10 minute video based on Mark 6:30-44.  We’ll post that to this blog early on Sunday morning as a resource to guide your morning.  Check it out – it’ll give you a Biblical framework for the day.
  • We’ll also post some reflection questions on Sunday morning.  They’ll be the kind of questions that lead to some good reflection and journaling.

What To Do

  • Block out 9am – 1pm on your calendar this Sunday, roughly the hours you devote to our weekly gathering.  Don’t schedule anything.
  • Develop a plan.  Where do you want to go and what do you want to do during that time?  Hike into the woods with your Bible?  Lay out by the pool?  Read and journal in a coffeeshop?  Have brunch with your spouse?
  • Here are the questions that should guide your planning:
    • Where do you connect most with God?
    • How do you ensure you get some time in the Word and prayer?
    • Are you more in need of time by yourself or with a good friend?
    • What is the one thing you could do this Sunday that would give life to your soul?  Remember, this is all about getting time with Jesus.
  • If you have kids, figure out how you want to handle them.  Maybe get a babysitter?  Divide 9-1 into two shifts and each of you get 2 hours to be by yourself and 2 with the kids?

Using Sunday well is going to take a little planning.  Remember the goal – to get time with Jesus in a way that pours life into your soul.  Don’t waste this gift by sleeping in, doing laundry and answering email.  Do the things that give life to your soul!

Why Restoration City Is NOT Gathering This Sunday

why rest

Can you believe it?  Restoration City Church is NOT gathering this Sunday.  What kind of a slacker church shuts down for a week?  Just to add to the insanity, none of our Community Groups will meet next week either.  We’re shutting the whole thing down for seven straight days.

It’s not that we couldn’t find a band.  I’m not burning out.  We’re not in crisis.  In fact, everything’s going just fine.  So, what’s this all about?

Simple answer: REST.  

The benefits of resting as a church are huge:

  • We’re reminded that church is a community you join, not an event you attend.  It’s so easy to think about church as a Sunday morning event and a mid-week Community Group.  But it’s so much more than that – it’s a family that loves, encourages and cares for one another.  We’re still the church, even when we don’t gather.
  • Our volunteer teams get a Sunday to recharge.  Sunday morning would literally not happen without an incredible team of volunteers who do everything from lead worship, to production, to RCCKids, to connect, to our prayer team.  I love the thought of that team having one Sunday this summer when they don’t need to pour out and can create space for God to pour in to them.  This is a massive thank you to those who serve all of us week in and week out.
  • We’re reminded what a joy it is to be together on a Sunday morning.  They say, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and in some ways I think that’s true.  I love the fact that I will genuinely miss each one of you on Sunday morning.  There’s something good about missing one another – it’ll make the reunion on the 23rd that much sweeter.
  • This allows us to champion rest in a city that’s terrible at it.  Our culture may pay lip service to the idea of taking care of yourself but most of DC is horrible at resting.  If you don’t believe me, send a work email at 9PM tonight and see how long it takes to get a reply!  Maybe it’ll help to think of it this way – we’re creating space for us to practice resting.

This past year has been incredible in the life of Restoration City and I honestly believe we’re going to see God do some amazing things in this city over the fall.  Let’s take a week to look back at all He’s done and prepare ourselves for all He’s going to do.

Tomorrow, I’ll post some very specific things you can do to get the most out of this coming Sunday morning.

Rest Requires Preparation

There has probably never been a group of people more uncomfortable with the idea of rest than the Israelites during their time in the desert. After fleeing Egypt, Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. As you might imagine, food and water were a pretty big deal for them during that time.

Just to make things more interesting, God Himself was providing for Israel on a daily basis. Here’s how God explained the arrangement to Moses, “ Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.”(Ex.16:4) The idea was simple – go collect what you need for the day but nothing more. The test for Israel was whether they would trust God for fresh provision the next day or try to store up extra from today in case God didn’t come through tomorrow. In case you’re wondering, Israel failed that test pretty badly and quickly discovered that the bread, called manna, went bad at the end of the day on which God had provided it so hoarding really wasn’t an option. (Ex. 16:20)

Here’s where it gets interesting. While all of this was going on, God commanded Israel to observe a weekly Sabbath. He wanted them to take one day per week and devote it to Him – to rest and to worship. (Ex. 20:8-10) That’s perfectly lovely but how were they supposed to eat on the Sabbath? The bread from the day before would go bad but they were not allowed to go collect more on the Sabbath and there was no other food source available.

Fortunately for them, God had already thought that one through. “On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.” (Ex. 16:5) If Israel prepared properly, they would have plenty of bread to eat and a day off!

Even today, rest still requires preparation. Our issue isn’t collecting additional food. Our issue is planning to carve out space. Today’s preparation paves the way for tomorrow’s rest.

As a church, we’re not gathering tomorrow so we can rest. But that rest isn’t going to happen without a little preparation today. So, take some time now to plan what rest is going to look like for you tomorrow. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Decide now what chunk of time you want to devote to resting and to being with Jesus. Maybe you’ll block out an hour or a morning or the whole day. The length doesn’t matter – what matters is designating that time now and protecting it.
  • Where can you go to be alone and connect with Jesus? Maybe it’s a park, a lake, your back yard, your room or a coffee shop. It doesn’t matter where – just make sure it’s a place you love and a place where you won’t be disturbed.
  • This is the one that might induce a panic attack – you need to shut your cell phone off (also, your Blackberry, your computer, your iPad or whatever else keeps you connected). Leave it in the car, put it on airplane mode, power it down, do whatever it takes to disconnect for your designated rest time. Trust me, both you and the world will be just fine.
  • Approach rest with the expectation that you’re going to meet with God. Bring your Bible, a pen and a notebook. Print out the devotional guide I’m posting tomorrow morning. But approach all of this with excitement – you get to be alone with God!

The reward for our preparation is undisturbed time with Jesus.   Israel knew the joy of receiving bread from heaven. We know the joy of communing with the One who is the bread of life.(Jn. 6:35) Manna satisfied hunger. Jesus satisfies souls. If Israel cherished God’s provision, how much more should we cherish Jesus knowing that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Deut.8:3)

Tomorrow we rest. Today we prepare.

Why RCC Isn’t Meeting This Sunday

What kind of slacker church plant takes a week off from meeting?!?

That’s a decent question for us to consider since that’s exactly what RCC is doing this Sunday. We aren’t meeting – no service, no leadership meeting, no project to love our city, no prayer gathering…absolutely nothing.

It’s not because I’m on the verge of burnout. It’s not because we figured out we get along better as a church when we’re not together. Nor is it a chance to visit other churches!

It’s about Sabbath rest. It’s about intentionally creating space in our lives to breathe. It’s about reminding ourselves that we are not the ones building this church; Jesus is building His church.

When need to make a big deal of rest because our whole culture is pretty bad at it. Life in DC is fast-paced, intense and driven. I think it’s safe to say the same thing about our church – we push hard and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But all of that can suffocate our souls if we’re not careful. I talk with people who have gotten to the point where they’re uncomfortable with rest; they feel guilty for slowing down. If we’re honest, some of us may have even forgotten how to rest.

We need to reclaim the value of rest. It honors God. It reminds us of our limits. It keeps us happier, healthier and more productive. Most importantly, it nourishes our souls in deep and important ways. As author and pastor John Ortberg writes, “the soul craves rest. The soul knows only borrowed strength. The soul was made to rest in God the way a tree rests in soil.”

Sunday is a chance for us to borrow more strength from God. It’s a chance to push our roots deeper into the soil of grace. It’s a chance to worship.

To help guide your time of rest, I’ll be posting a devotional guide to this blog and our email list on both Saturday and Sunday. My prayer is that the weekend will lead your soul to rest and receive much from Jesus.

Leading Without Resting Is Like Swimming Without Breathing

I’ve spent more hours in a pool than you might believe.  I started swimming year round in eight grade and kept at it all through high school and briefly into college.  As a teenager, I was constantly in the pool and like any competitive guy was constantly looking for ways to go faster.

One of the ways to swim faster is to limit the number of breaths you take.  Every time you turn your head to breathe, you are using energy and breaking a little bit of momentum.  So, breathing every two strokes is a really bad idea.  It’ll slow you way down and everyone will blow right past you.  On the other hand, if you don’t breathe enough you run out of the air you need to swim.  Sure, I could bury my head and not breath for 8-16 strokes when I really needed to and, yes, it really did shave off some time.  But it’s not sustainable.  It’s the kind of thing you do right at the end of a race.  It’s not the normal pattern.  For me, I needed to breath every 4-6 strokes.

Many of us lead like the exhausted swimmer who doesn’t take enough breaths.  We don’t allow ourselves to rest frequently enough to sustain our pace for the long haul.  Yes, I have met some leaders who breathe way too often but they are rarer, at least among the people around me.    I’m mainly in touch with leaders who try to see how little rest they can allow themselves.

You can get away with that for short seasons.  But leading isn’t a short term game.  It’s a long term commitment and to sustain that commitment, you need time to breathe.  Rest isn’t a sign that you are a wimp.  It’s a sign that you are smart, know your limits and trust God to work through you as you follow Him.

I want to lead a team that swims longer and faster than any other.  And for that reason, I want to lead a team that breathes well and enjoys the rhythms of rest.