Subway Inspiration

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Last weekend, a hero of mine announced he would be retiring in a year.  I can still remember the first time I heard Bill Hybels speak at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit.  He stood before a room of leaders and in a voice trembling with emotion, said very simply, “The local church is the hope of the world.”  His words pierced my heart, I knew he was right and I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  From the beginning, my love for the local church has been paired with a desire to bring hope to our world.

Today I’m more convinced than ever that Bill Hybels was right.  Of course, a lot of my confidence comes from the realization that he was paraphrasing Jesus who was the first to tell an ordinary group of people that they were “the light of the world” in His Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:14)  And the rest comes from fifteen years of pastoral ministry and an increasing awareness of how desperate our world is for hope.

This past weekend, I had the privilege of preaching for my friend Will McGee at Crossroads Christian Church in Brooklyn.  On Saturday evening, I took the subway from Bay Ridge to Midtown Manhattan to grab dinner with Will.  And the whole way there, I kept hearing Hybels’ voice in my head, “the local church is the hope of the world.”  I kept thinking about the incredible opportunity for the gospel that exists in the great global cities of our world.  I was thanking God that I get to pastor a church in one of those cities.  I was reminded that all the challenges of urban life are worth it.  And I was reminded of why I do all of this.  The local church really is the hope of the world.

I hope that’s how you see yourself today.  Not because you’re awesome or better than anyone but because God’s Spirit lives in you.  You carry the hope the world is looking for inside of you.  God makes His appeal through you.  He shines His light through you.  You are an ambassador of the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords.  He sits on the throne of glory and His Kingdom will have no end.  Great global cities may come and go but Jesus will never change, never leave you, never fail you, never forsake you.

You’re the hope of the world.  Of your office.  Of your neighborhood.  Of your family.  Be the church.  Show grace.  Embrace mercy.  Be quick to forgive.  Be generous with your time, your wisdom and your resources.  Sacrifice for the good of others.

You’re the hope of the world.  In Brooklyn.  In DC.  In your city.

Shine.

Launching Grace Hill

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I’m so grateful for the messages Dan Iten and Allan McCullough preached the last two Sundays at Restoration City.  If you missed either of them, do yourself a favor and listen online or subscribe to our podcast.  Both of these guys are incredible pastors and great friends and it’s a huge joy in my life to be connected with both of them.

As you also know, Allan and an incredible team of people are planting Grace Hill Church in Herndon, VA and they will officially launch on Sunday, September 10th.  We’re privileged to be their sending church so we’re already committed to Grace Hill financially, spiritually and in sending members from our church to join their launch team.  But in these next few weeks, I want to add a new element to our commitment to Grace Hill – being a voice for them.

Being a voice for Grace Hill isn’t any where near as hard as you might think and would likely accomplish much more than you might think.  Here are two really simple things every one of us can do to help our brothers and sisters at Grace Hill reach their communities with the gospel:

  1.  Text friends who live in the Reston, Herndon, Sterling and surrounding communities and let them know Grace Hill is launching on September 10th.  Best thing to do?  Send them a link to Grace Hill’s website: http://gracehillchurch.com/.  In particular, be thinking about friends who don’t have a church home, are looking for increased opportunities to serve or don’t know Jesus.  One simple text might make a huge difference in people’s eternities.
  2. Post a link to Grace Hill’s website on your social media feeds letting friends know that Grace Hill is launching soon.  Same deal but with a bigger audience.

As a church, we want to launch Grace Hill well – and your voice will help us in that.  So, take a minute to do a little texting and posting for the advance of the gospel!

DNA Forms Early

IMG_1706I loved having this year’s class of Summit Network Church Planting Residents in town over the weekend.  These amazing guys are going to be planting gospel centered churches in Charlotte, NC; Asheville, NC; and Denver, CO in 2015.  Getting to spend a weekend with these men was awesome – they’re great guys and the faith God has given them to plant the churches they will lead is inspiring.

For me, it’s a really big deal to be able to do a weekend like this when our church is so young.  I believe God is calling us to weave church planting into the DNA of Restoration City from our earliest days.  From what I’ve seen, many church plants wait too long before they get meaningfully involved in planting another church.  I’m praying God will protect us from that at Restoration City.

Even though we’re incredibly young as a church, we’ve made the decision to give 8% of our internal giving to the planting of other churches.  In our short life, your generosity has allowed us to invest just over $4,500 in new church plants!  Having church planting residents in town for a weekend is an extension of that spirit in the same way as our time praying for these guys in yesterday’s gathering.  Part of the vision for Restoration City has always been loving, supporting and encouraging other church plants and we want to be in on that from the beginning of our journey.

We aren’t involved in church planting because it’s trendy.  We’re involved because it’s biblical.  I pray God will open the doors for us to be even more active in the months and years to come.

One Year Ago

IMG_0877Exactly one year ago today, a group of people got together at Summit’s Chapel Hill Campus to talk about planting a church in DC.  It was the first public step we took on the road to planting Restoration City Church.

I remember walking into that day with absolutely no clue what was going to happen.  I wasn’t a 100% sure anyone was actually going to show up.  And I really wasn’t sure how many would be interested by the time we were done!

One year later, I love scanning this photo and seeing how God has knit people who were total strangers a year ago into a church meeting weekly in DC.  It’s been an amazing ride that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.  But if I could go back in time and talk to myself a year ago, I know what I would say:

  • Get Over Yourself.  Jesus is the One who builds His church (Mt. 16:18).  Sure, vision, strategy and leadership matter but the success of Restoration City Church has little to do with me and everything to do with Jesus.  A year ago, I was worried about being impressive.  Today I would much rather have people impressed with Jesus.
  • Stop Worrying.  One, it doesn’t accomplish anything (Mt. 6:25-34).  Two, Jesus is faithful. (Deut. 7:9)  It’s so strange that we all think the God who has never once dropped the ball might just start with us.  If God calls you to do something, He’ll get you where you need to go.  A year ago I didn’t know what the road ahead looked like and it freaked me out.  Today, I have no more clarity about the road, just more confidence in the One who leads us.
  • Have Fun.  Don’t get me wrong – this last year was great!  Laura and I have so many good memories of our time at Summit and in NC.  But sometimes I don’t fully enjoy this moment because I’m so focused on the next.  I keep thinking about tomorrow and missing out on today.  Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve made much progress on this one!  But I know the ability to slow down and present is a really big deal.

If God is leading you into a new season, take a deep breath, relax, trust Him and enjoy the ride.  It really is an amazing thing to walk through life with the Living God.  RCC is one small example of His power, His faithfulness and His mercy.

Reflections On Vision Weekend

This past weekend was absolutely amazing as we got to host our first public vision meeting for the planting of Restoration City Church in Washington, DC.  We had about 40 people show up and express interest in joining our team!  That’s crazy when you think about it – 40 people from Raleigh-Durham showing up to talk about how God could use them in planting a church in Washington, DC. Unreal!!!  My heart is still so full and I am so excited for what God could do through this team.

I don’t know that I have one big summary thought from the weekend.  At this point, it’s more a collection of random thoughts.  But here they are:

1.  I love planting a church!  There is absolutely nothing like seeing Jesus be faithful to His promise to build His church.  It’s thrilling to watch God work and I love seeing Him bring something new to life.  I can’t imagine doing anything else right now and am so grateful this is what God has called me to do.

2.  It feels really good to use your gifts.  As I was driving to church on Sunday, I realized it had been well over 6 months since I had gotten to be in a room of volunteers and cast vision for what God is doing through a ministry.  That’s not a complaint about those months…I just hadn’t realized how long it had been.  And I had forgotten how much I love it.  If you can’t get inspired by people showing up to see how they can leverage their lives for God’s glory, I don’t know what would fire you up!  It’s just amazing and I love times like those.

3.  I’m so grateful to our team.  We had a small team of people who helped pull the whole meeting together and they did a great job.  They served so well and I’m so grateful to call each one of them friends.

4.  This is only the start.  Our goal isn’t to host a successful vision meeting.  Our goal is to plant a church that God uses in a powerful way to reach the lost in Washington, DC.  This isn’t the time to sit back and congratulate ourselves on a good start.  This is the time to pray bigger, trust more, work harder and believe all the promises of God.  This is a time to prepare for what’s ahead…but I do love the first indication that it’s going to be an incredible ride!

Now starts the really fun part – seeing Jesus turn a room full of strangers into a team that loves one another and is determined to see restoration come to Washington.  When I think about that, it really does seem like the best is yet to come!

Our Church Has A City & A Name

God has called Laura and I to lead a team in planting Restoration City Church in Washington, DC.  And, yes, it’s a pretty amazing feeling to actually write those words!

When we started moving down this road in August, we knew the story of what God was doing in our lives would be told in two parts.

The first was clear at the time.  We came to Durham, NC for a 9 month church planting residency with The Summit Church.  We knew God had called us to plant a church, we knew we needed a season of preparation and we knew Summit was the right place for us.  So, we moved our family to Durham.  But we came knowing our time here was limited and preparation for the second part of this journey – actually planting a church.

Laura and I have been praying about planting a church for the last four years.  We’ve spent hours talking about what the church would look like and what kind of culture we wanted to create.  We’ve dreamed about who we would want to plant with and where we could have the greatest impact.  We’ve doodled church names.  We’ve been inspired by friends.  We’ve wrested with fear and doubt.  And through it all, our sense of calling to this work has only increased.

And now it’s time to talk about the church God is calling us to plant.  In May, we will be returning to Washington, DC to plant Restoration City Church in one of the greatest and most strategic cities in the world.  In the weeks and months ahead, I’ll be writing more about what the church will look like, our timetable, why DC, what God is doing in all of this and what I’m learning on this journey.

But for today, I just want to ask for your prayers.  Pray God would be pleased with the church we plant and use us greatly for His glory in our nation’s capital.  That’s our desire.  That’s what we’ve invested our lives in and that’s what we’re believing God for in this new season.

Having a name and a city is an important step in this journey but we know there are so many more in our future.  Our hope for these first steps and all the ones to come is the same – the faithfulness of Jesus to build His church and the power of the Gospel to change everything.  That’ what we’re standing on in these days and that gives us all the assurance we need for the journey.

For Christ’s Fame in DC,

John

Pastor|Restoration City Church