We Need Your Help!!

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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 Recap

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Our family had the best time this past Saturday as we joined with this incredible group of people to work a yard sale at Community Lodgings, one of nine RestoreDC partners throughout the city.  We were able to raise some money for the great work Community Lodgings does in transitioning families from homelessness to self-sufficiency and we were able help resident in the Chirilagua neighborhood get some much needed household items at great prices.  I loved knowing similar things were happening at 8 other partners around the city.  All together over a hundred people from Restoration City covered over 165 shifts from Thursday evening – Sunday afternoon.

Whenever we go into one of our RestoreDC weekends, I’m reminded of two passages in Isaiah that capture so much of what we’re asking God to do.  Isaiah 58:12 says, “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.”  And Isaiah 61:4 goes on to say, “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.”  Oh, how I long for us to be the restorers of this city.  How I long for us to shine the light of Jesus into the darkness of poverty, homelessness, and hopelessness.  How I long for our church to have an undeniably positive impact on the community around us….to be a beacon of hope and an unpost of freedom for those who need it.   And I pray we do it all in a way that glorifies God, not ourselves.  Matthew 5:16 makes it really clear that we should serve in such a way that God gets all the credit, “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.”

When our hearts beat for the restoration of this city and for the glory of God, we won’t be content with just doing RestoreDC two weekends a year.  That’s our deepest desire for RestoreDC – that it will be a catalyst to ongoing service throughout the year.  So, if you’re wondering what to do now that RestoreDC is over, the answer is simple.  Go to our website and get information about our external partners, see what their needs are and get involved!

I love the desire for restoration that underlies everything we do at Restoration City.  I’m praying we will all embody this more and more by the grace of God.

This Christmas: I Could…But Instead

christmas-generosity

One of the phrases that’s come to describe the culture of generosity the Lord is creating at Restoration City is, “I Could…But Instead.”  It’s a simple reminder that generosity is about forgoing one thing in favor of another.  It’s a simple refrain with enormous power to shape how we spend our time and money.

If you carry the thought one step deeper, it’s a embodiment of what generosity is:

Sacrificing

All too often we practice an “I Can…While Still” form of generosity where we figure out how much is left over after we’ve taken care of everything we want or need for ourselves.  That’s not generosity, it’s selfishness in disguise where the primary goal is maintaining our lifestyle, not the good of others or the glory of Christ.  Real generosity requires sacrifice.  It involves us consciously deciding not to do or buy things for ourselves so that we have space to do or buy for others.  The depth of our generosity isn’t measured by how much we give but rather how much we give up.  

Trading Off & Up

A lot of us get in trouble by forgetting that generosity is a zero sum game.  We become convinced that we can have and do it all, especially this time of year.  Christmas becomes the most stressful time of the year – perfect parties, gifts, cookies, family dinners, trees, cards and travel.  And then the church jumps into the mix to ask for your time and money.  And we say sure, flinging those commitments onto an already overtaxed calendar and stretched checkbook.  One of the hidden benefits of generosity is that it gives you motivation to say no to a lot of things.  When it comes to generosity, think trade off not adding more.

And think trade up.  Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”  

Generosity is a letting go of things that won’t matter a month from now in favor of things that will last for all eternity.

Reflecting The Gospel

2 Corinthians 8:3-5 is a stunning depiction of generosity from a 1st century church, “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.”  Paul didn’t browbeat this church into generosity or even tug on their heart strings with a tear jerking video.  No guilt.  No “if you really love Jesus, you’ll do this.”  Just a congregation begging earnestly for opportunities to give more.  How does that happen?

2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”  When our hearts are captured by how much Jesus gave up for us, it becomes a joy to sacrifice for others.  The gospel ensures that the tradeoffs of generosity really feel like a trading up.  

That’s what an “I Could…But Instead” culture looks like.  It’s what I’m committed to personally and what I’m asking God to deepen at Restoration City.  If you’re looking for ways to serve or give this Christmas season, check out a full list of opportunities to trade up at restorationcity.church/christmas.

ServeDC: Hope Is Real

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I hear a lot of people talking about the scarcity of hope in our world today.  I get it.  We’re all watching the upcoming election with a sense of horrified fatalism.  We’re all worried about our schools and communities.  We’re all wondering if we’re leaving our kids a better country than our parents left us.  There are days when our hopelessness seems well founded.

But I’m not worried about hope.  I know it’s real and I know where the find it – in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We carry a message that is the rawest announcement of hope the world has ever known.  And that gospel shapes our lives so that we live as beacons of hope.  There should be no more hopeful place on earth than the local church.

And this past weekend, I was reminded that the hope we celebrate in the church lifts the communities around the church.  If you’re wondering where hope comes from in this world, consider the following stats about this past weekend’s ServeDC experience:

  • 120 people participated.
  • Those 120 people did over a combined 684 hours of work in our community.
  • We worked with 10 different partners.
  • Trunk or Treat provided a safe Trick or Treating option for over 150 kids.
  • Our work at Gunston improved the school for 839 students & 120 staff members.
  • CASA Family Dinner Night team served families dinner & had fellowship alongside 100 CASA family members.
  • At CHPC Parenting Class Dinner we served dinner & spent time with 40 family members.

I don’t worry about hope. I know where to find it.

My prayer is that God would deepen our passion to love and serve our city.  I pray we will continue to be a beacon of hope as we live out Matthew 5:16, “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.

Loving Gunston = Serving Gunston

School SuppliesThese next two weekends are absolutely massive for us as a church.  Ever since it became clear that the Lord was leading us to gather weekly at Gunston Middle School, we’ve talked about what a strategic opportunity this is for us as a church to love and serve our community.  We’ve dreamed about having an undeniably positive impact on the school. We’re cast the vision of being the group the school calls when they have a need.

And now we get to make good on all of that.  Gunston has approached us with two very specific requests:

  1.  An urgent need to get some painting done before the start of the school year.  If you’re free between 9.30 – 11.30 tomorrow morning (Saturday, August 20th), please come to Gunston to help us paint.  You can sign up at rcc.church/gunston.
  2. A large need for back to school backpacks and supplies.  We will be collecting the following this Sunday and next:
    • backpacks
    • glue sticks
    • binders
    • #2 pencils
    • colored pencils
    • 3×5 index cards
    • 5 subject notebooks
    • 3 subject notebooks

Here’s why this matters so much: we are ambassadors for Christ. (2 Cor. 5:20)  The way we handle these requests is going to communicate volumes to Gunston not just about Restoration City but also about Jesus.  We represent Him!  So, this isn’t a game of “let’s exceed their expectations so they’ll be really nice to us.”  This is a question of “let’s show the immeasurable power and generosity of Jesus.”  That’s what we want.  We don’t want Gunston to think that Jesus over promises and under delivers.

So, on behalf of Jesus, let’s knock the ball out of the park the next few days!  I’m praying we not only meet the full need at Gunston but exceed it in every way possible.  That would just make sense if we’re ambassadors for the God who is able to do “exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or imagine.”(Eph. 3:20).

Please join me in showing our love for Gunston through how we serve Gunston.

Kids, Kids & More Kids

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When we first planted Restoration City, kids ministry was otherwise known as, “who’s going to watch Jack this week?”  Since then, a lot has changed.  Alex Dibble and her team have done an amazing job of building an environment that is safe, loving and focused on Jesus.  Our goal at RCC Kids is so much more than providing babysitting during the worship gathering.  It’s about pointing future generations to the life and hope found in Jesus.

If you haven’t noticed, there’s a whole lot more kids running around the church these days than just Jack.  It’s been amazing to see the number of families with young children who have started connecting with the church in the last few weeks.  As a church, we want to do a great job of serving these kids and their families.  We want our kids to grow up loving church and believing that following Jesus is the greatest adventure in life.

In order to do that, we need your help.  There are two main ways you can start serving with our incredible RCCKids team:

  1.  Serve on a Sunday morning.  This is what most of us think about when we think about Kids Ministry.  It’s incredibly powerful and we want to create the best experience possible for our kids.
  2. Help with childcare during Community Groups.  This is a little different from RCCKids in that it is a little more like babysitting.  But we want parents of young kids to be able to participate in a Community Group without having to pay for a babysitter every week (that’s a big strain on a family’s budget).  So, we offer childcare options for parents who want to connect with a Community Group (either at the group or at the family’s home, depending on the circumstances).   It’s one of the best things we can do to bless young families and strengthen marriages as a church.

We really need help in both areas.  If you’re willing to give us a hand and help shape future generations for gospel effectiveness, please let our kids team know.  You can just shoot them an email at RCCKids@restorationcitydc.com.  They would love to hear from you!

Now That Our Fast Is Over

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I’m hoping you were able to participate in Restoration City’s fast in some way this week.  If you did, I hope God used it to ignite your hunger for Him and fuel a desire to see Him bear much fruit through us on Easter Sunday.  I’m also praying this fast wasn’t a one time experience but rather a catalyst for renewed pursuit of God’s mission in our daily lives.  Fasting shouldn’t leave us spiritually depleted.  It should clear the ground for fresh life to emerge.

In order for that to happen, we need to remember that fasting isn’t as much about depravation as it is about pursuit of intimacy with God.  If it’s only about seeing how long we can go without food, it’s a meaningless test of our willpower.  In fact, you can be quite committed to fasting and quite displeasing to God.  Consider His words to Israel through the prophet Isaiah:

Cry aloud; do not hold back;
lift up your voice like a trumpet;
declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet they seek me daily
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that did righteousness
and did not forsake the judgment of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments;
they delight to draw near to God.
‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isaiah 58:1-5

God found Israel’s fasting wicked because it was an inauthentic attempt to manipulate God.  They wanted to impress Him into blessing them more than they wanted to know Him.  We can’t fall into the same trap – we didn’t do this fast to show God how awesome we are.

We’ve been fasting because we want to know more of how awesome God is.  And if that’s the case, that desire will now be translated into action.  Again, from Isaiah:

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

Isaiah 58:6-8

In other words, genuine fasting fuels sustained action for the glory of God and the good of others.  God isn’t thrilled that we skipped a meal.  He’s thrilled when we get so close to Him that His heart for the world starts to beat in us.

That’s our challenge in the weeks ahead, Restoration City.  Don’t be impressed that we fasted.  Be determined that others would see the greatness of the God we love.  Maybe that means inviting someone to church on Sunday.  Or connecting with one of our ServeDC ministries.  Or getting to know a neighbor.  Whatever it means for you, that’s the part God finds most thrilling!

Shoveling & Loving DC

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I’ve had a lot of time to think the last few days.  Most of it has come while shoveling.  I’ve been thinking about snow, our city and the mission of God.

As one of my neighbors said at some point over the last few days, “snow brings people out.”  It’s true.  We got to meet a neighbor who moved in three doors down two months ago and hasn’t been seen since.  I found out a neighbor I always thought was a jerk is, in fact, a really nice guy.  People are genuinely happy when you help them shovel and there were many chances to make people happy in our neighborhood.  There’s more waving on my street these days and more smiles.  We’re greeting each other by name.  It’s all rather pleasant.

It’s also an incredible demonstration of how we’re called to love our city.  Our hope of reaching DC is directly tied to our willingness to relationally engage and sacrificially serve.  It’s a beautiful thing when the church gathers.  And it’s a powerful thing when the church scatters, if we’re scattered with the mandate to engage and serve.  You don’t need to fly somewhere to take a mission trip.  You need to walk out your front door.  

My love for this city has only deepened in the last few days.  It’s filled with extraordinary people doing their best to get by in a city that can be really lonely and overwhelming at times.  There’s no other place I would rather pastor.  But I don’t want to just preach to the saints on Sunday.  I pray we would be the best neighbors on our block or in our apartment buildings.  I pray we would be the relationship builders and I pray we would be the servants.  It’s funny.  When we’re willing to engage and serve, God opens doors to share. Yes, He’s what our city needs most.  It’s our job to make Him as visible on our streets as He is in our sermons.

Restoration City, we’re a people on mission.  We aren’t creating a comfortable gathering for us.  We’re fighting for the good, the life and the salvation of our city.  Don’t sit on the sidelines!  Engage, serve, share.

It’s how streets get shoveled and lives are transformed.

DoSomethingDC’s Christmas Plans

At the center of the Christmas story is an infant King who was born to ransom His people from their sin.  The King of all glory came to live a life of humble service, outrageous sacrifice and selfless love.  The One who created the universe left the throne of heaven for the throng of humanity.

We’ll never fully experience the joy of Christmas if we don’t find ways to free our hearts from the greed, stress and self-indulgence that can so easily sneak into our hearts this time of year.  Finding a way to serve this Christmas is really about finding a way to maximize our joy this season.

That’s why I’m so excited for the work our DoSomethingDC team has done in creating two different ways for us to serve our city through our ministry partners.

Our friends at the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center have a huge need for diapers for families who can’t afford them.  They’ve told us the one thing we could do that would have the largest impact this Christmas is help replenish their supply of diapers.  So, we’re collecting diapers at our worship gatherings on Sunday, December 14th and 21st.  All you need to do is go buy a pack of diapers (any size) and bring them with you to Restoration City.

Our friends at Casa Chirilagua are hosting a Christmas party for the community they serve on Saturday, December 20th from 7-9 pm.  They are looking for a number of volunteers to serve with them in very specific capacities.  I’m so grateful that God opened up a door for us as a church to help defray some of the cost of this party.  But I would love to see a number of you join Laura and I in serving the Casa Chirilagua community the evening of the 20th.  You can get more info and sign up here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0e4eafa92ca64-20142

I don’t ever want us to lose sight of the fact that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).  Following Jesus means adopting that same mindset and translating that mindset into action and generosity.  I hope you don’t miss the chance to be a part of DoSomethingDC this Christmas season.

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/.