Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Scrappy Church

I remember a sermon preached by Leighton Ford many years ago entitled, "Pay Attention."  He quoted a poem by Mary Oliver and shared the invitation to "pay attention, be astonished and tell about it." In many ways, this is an invitation to all of us to look for God's promptings as we move through our days.

One of our Elder-elects, Bobby Pauley, paid attention to something that God put in his path a few months ago. He was visiting a family member when he noticed a book. He picked up the book and read it. The book was Scrappy Church by Thom Rainer.

Bobby sensed God's prompting to share the book with other leaders. He bought multiple copies and passed them out to some of our Elders and Deacons. Others, in turn, bought the book and shared their copies with others. Eventually, we decided that all of our Elders and Deacons (both currently serving and those who have served in the past) should read it.

At this point, a large majority of our leadership (both current and past) have read the book. The primary focus of the book is to provide a road map for churches regarding how to engage a community, welcome in new people and help them stay connected. Rainer provides examples of how churches have lived into these steps.

Our Elders and Deacons met a few Sundays ago to discuss the content of the book and brainstorm possibilities in the three areas. I was deeply encouraged by the energy in the room. I was also excited to see many of our at-large Elders and Deacons re-engage in the work with their gifts. The groups will be pulling together ideas in the coming weeks and we will all meet again in January.

I believe that these renewed efforts will help us to experience and share the love of Christ with more and more people in our community. I cannot wait to see how we can utilize our gifts and shared interests to reach out and welcome more people into our church family. God has blessed us with so many gifts and we will have fresh opportunities to share them with one another and with our community in 2020 and beyond!

Do you want to join in the conversation and discernment? 

I invite you to read the book -

I would love to connect with you about caught your attention and see how you can help us as we move forward together as a church family.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Lease Review

I am still thanking God for the breakthrough prayer from a few weeks ago that I believe opened the way for us to receive the draft lease.

God calls us to a deeper faith and He gives us opportunities to lean into Him, His Word and His promises on that journey. I believe that we will continue to see and experience God's hand at work as we surrender ourselves more and more to Him.

This update will be short and includes another call to prayer.

Our Relocation Team and real estate broker have been reviewing the draft lease. We have been going line-by-line and putting together a set of changes and requests. We completed this initial review earlier this week and we have sent our edited version to our attorney for review.

In parallel, our church family is prayerfully consider their 2020 financial commitments and we will be handing them in this coming Sunday morning as part of our worship service.

Our leadership is also meeting this Sunday afternoon for a special planning meeting based on the book Scrappy Church by Thom Rainer. The goal of this planning meeting is to kickstart strategic brainstorming regarding how we can reach out into our community, welcome new people and help our current people stay engaged in their faith and church family relationships.

I ask that you continue to join me in prayer every day. Our prayer challenge for the month of November is to pray every day and use the church's prayer email as a tool for guiding your prayers.

May God continue to lead us forward together as we seek to plant deep in our community through relocating to a dedicated space that will help us be a blessing to one another and to our community.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Prayer Breakthrough!

Jesus said, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

Matthew 7:7-11

We unveiled the potential location for our dedicated space at our quarterly communications meeting a few Sundays ago. We also shared that we were waiting on a draft lease for our review and that we anticipated receiving that draft lease any day. We thought that we would have something to consider within a few days or a week.

I found myself wondering why we had not received the draft lease. Our Relocation Team kept checking in with our real estate broker but they did not have any updates for us. They shared that they anticipated it coming soon.

We still did not have the draft lease yesterday morning.

As I was preparing for our weekly staff meeting, I had a clear sense from God that we needed to pray. In fact, I had thought multiple times over the last few weeks, "God may not allow the draft lease to come to us until we earnestly pray." 

I am somewhat embarrassed to share that I did not take action on this thought even though my intentions were to engage others in prayer. I can recall multiple instances in the last few weeks when I was going to send an email or make a phone call about this but then I was pulled away to something seemingly more important.

Yesterday was different. 

I shared with our church staff that we still had not received the draft lease. I could feel the questions in the room and they were the same questions that I was feeling. I then shared openly that I felt like God was asking me and us to pray and ask Him for the draft lease. I went as far as to share that I sensed that God was not going to give us the draft lease UNTIL we prayed and asked Him.

We decided to pray together specifically for this request at the end of our staff meeting. 

We asked God for the draft lease.

We acknowledged God's sovereignty, will and timing while also sharing openly our desire for the draft lease to be given to us. 

We finished praying at 11:20 am.

We then took some time to share about how we have seen God at work with our church family (men's retreat, women's gatherings, youth Sunday nights, 150 DNOW2 registrations, compassion/care of our congregation members, and more!). 

I went to check my email at 11:40 am and saw that the draft lease had been sent to us at 11:32 am!!

I am not making this up.

I walked out to the front room of our office and exclaimed, "We have the draft lease!!"

Everyone cheered!

We then paused to reflect on the fact that we had just stopped to pray. 

We also paused to reflect on the fact that I had felt the burden for us to pray and that God had convicted me that we needed to ask Him together.

God may not always respond right away like this but I believe He responded to our shared step of faith through this prayer.

God is in control. God is sovereign. Our role is to acknowledge His sovereignty while also sharing our requests openly with Him as our heavenly Father. God wants us to come to Him. God wants to give good gifts to His children. We can grow in our trust of Him as we bring our requests to Him in faith.

Hebrews 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

** The draft lease is now being reviewed. As a reminder, this is not a done deal and we have multiple steps of discernment to complete before we make a decision. We ask for your prayers as we review the lease and communicate with Restoration Church about the next steps and possibilities.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Blessed To Be Blessed

We met as a church family on Sunday, October 20th at 9 am for our quarterly communication meeting (see below for links to the meeting) and our Session shared an exciting update about where we believe God is leading us. 

God is calling us to plant deep in our community through relocating to a dedicated space that will be a home and home base for our church family. We envision a home where we can gather and welcome people. We also envision a home base from where we can launch out into our community to share the love of Christ.

I have been sharing in exciting conversations regarding the possibilities. I believe more than ever that God has blessed us as a church family to be a blessing - to one another, to others. Jesus instructed his disciples, and us by extension, to love one another. He also instructed them, and us, to go and make disciples. We will have the opportunity to experience this in a renewed manner as we move into this next chapter of our church's story.

What comes to your heart and mind as you consider the exciting possibilities for our new space?

In what ways can we deepen our relationships with one another?

In what ways can engage our community?

How can we be a blessing to one another and to our community in light of the blessings we have received from God as a church family?

I ask that you to pray for Restoration Church and include these questions in your prayers as we continue to prepare to move forward together.

In Christ,

p.s. The 10/20 communication meeting was recording is available to view in three parts: 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Big Announcement

I invite you to read the initial verses of Joshua as we consider God's call to get ready to plant deep in our community.

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’”

God is leading us to get ready.

He is inviting us to live with a sense of expectancy and to lean into His promises.

He is calling us to take steps of faith based on His Word so that can know Him more and see the greatness of His glory.
We are gathering for our Restoration Church quarterly communication meeting this Sunday (10/20) at 9 am in the Oak Knoll Middle School library.

Our Relocation Team will be sharing exciting updates on Planting Deep, including a big announcement about where God is leading us in terms of a location.

If you are interested in hearing these updates, then please carve out the time, set your alarm and come to the library in Oak Knoll Middle School at 9 am this Sunday.

Let's get ready!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Settler vs. Pioneer

Do you relate more to a settler or a pioneer in your faith journey?

Five years ago, Pastor David Dwight from Hope Church preached at a Restoration Church worship service on Sunday, 10/5/14 out of Genesis 11:31-12:1 with God's calling of Abram as the focus. The worship service marked the beginning of Restoration Church as an official church in our denomination (EPC). 

In the middle of the sermon, he read from "The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus" by Brennan Manning. The focus of the reading was the difference between settlers and pioneers in terms of our faith journey. 
Here is an excerpt from this book in Chapter 3 "Freedom Under the Word." As you read this, consider whether you range more toward a settler or pioneer approach to your faith and how that impacts your view of the steps of faith that God is calling us to take in order to plant deep as a church family. 

The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus

There are two visions of life, two kinds of people. The first see life as a possession to be carefully guarded. They are called settlers. The second see life as a wild, fantastic, explosive gift. They are called pioneers. 

These two types give rise to two kinds of theology: Settler Theology and Pioneer Theology. According to Wes Seeliger in his book Western Theology, the first kind, Settler Theology, is an attempt to answer all the questions, define and housebreak some sort of Supreme Being, establish the status quo on golden tablets in cinemascope. Pioneer Theology is an attempt to talk about what it means to receive the strange gift of life. The Wild West is the setting for both theologies.  

In Settler Theology the church is the courthouse. It is the center of town life. The old stone structure dominates the town square. Its windows are small, and this makes things dark inside. Within the courthouse walls, records are kept, taxes collected, trials held for bad guys. The courthouse is the settler’s symbol of law, order, stability and— most important— security. The mayor’s office is on the top floor. His eagle eye ferrets out the smallest details of town life.  

In Pioneer Theology the church is the covered wagon. It’s a house on wheels, always on the move. The covered wagon is where the pioneers eat, sleep, fight, love and die. It bears the marks of life and movement— it creaks, is scarred with arrows, bandaged with bailing wire. The covered wagon is always where the action is. It moves toward the future and doesn’t bother to glorify its own ruts. The old wagon isn’t comfortable, but the pioneers don’t mind. They are more into adventure than comfort.   

In Settler Theology God is the mayor. He is a sight to behold. Dressed like a dude from back East, he lounges in an overstuffed chair in his courthouse office. He keeps the blinds drawn. No one sees him or knows him directly, but since there is order in the town, who can deny that he is there? The mayor is predictable and always on schedule. The settlers fear the mayor but look to him to clear the payroll and keep things going. Peace and quiet are the mayor’s main concerns. That’s why he sends the sheriff to check on pioneers who ride into town.  

In Pioneer Theology God is the trail boss. He is rough and rugged, full of life. He chews tobacco, drinks straight whiskey. The trail boss lives, eats, sleeps, fights with his people. Their well-being is his concern. Without him the wagon wouldn’t move; living as a freeman would be impossible. The trail boss often gets down in the mud with the pioneers to help push the wagon, which often gets stuck. He prods the pioneers when they get soft and want to turn back. His fist is an expression of his concern.  

In Settler Theology Jesus is the sheriff. He’s the guy who is sent by the mayor to enforce the rules. He wears a white hat, drinks milk, outdraws the bad guys. The sheriff decides who is thrown into jail. There is a saying in town that goes: “Those who believe that the mayor sent the sheriff, and follow the rules— they won’t stay in Boothill when it comes their time.”  

In Pioneer Theology Jesus is the scout. He rides out ahead to find out which way the pioneers should go. He lives all the dangers of the trail. The scout suffers every hardship, is attacked by the Indians. Through his words and actions he reveals the true intentions of the trail boss. By looking at the scout, those on the trail learn what it means to be a pioneer.  

In Settler Theology the Holy Spirit is the saloon girl. Her job is to comfort the settlers. They come to her when they feel lonely or when life gets dull or dangerous. She tickles them under the chin and makes everything okay again. The saloon girl squeals to the sheriff when someone starts disturbing the peace.  

In Pioneer Theology the Holy Spirit is the buffalo hunter. He rides along with the covered wagon and furnishes fresh meat for the pioneers. Without it they would die. The buffalo hunter is a strange character— sort of a wild man. The pioneers never can tell what he will do next. He scares the hell out of the settlers. He has a big black gun that goes off like a cannon. He rides into town on Sunday to shake up the settlers. You see, every Sunday morning, the settlers have a little ice cream party in the courthouse. With his gun in hand the buffalo hunter sneaks up to one of the courthouse windows. He fires a tremendous blast that rattles the whole courthouse. Men jump out of their skin, women scream, dogs bark. Chuckling to himself, the buffalo hunter rides back to the wagon train shooting up the town as he goes.  

In Settler Theology the Christian is the settler. He fears the open unknown frontier. His concern is to stay on good terms with the mayor and keep out of the sheriff’s way. “Safety first” is his motto. To him the courthouse is a symbol of security, peace, order and happiness. He keeps his money in the bank. The banker is his best friend. The settler never misses an ice cream party.  

In Pioneer Theology the Christian is the pioneer. He is a man of daring, hungry for new life. He rides hard, knows how to use a gun when necessary. The pioneer feels sorry for the settlers and tries to tell them of the joy and fulfillment of life on the trail. He dies with his boots on.   

In Settler Theology the clergyman is the banker. Within his vault are locked the values of the town. He is a highly respected man. He has a gun but keeps it hidden in his desk. He feels that he and the sheriff have a lot in common. After all, they both protect the bank.  

In Pioneer Theology the clergyman is the cook. He doesn’t furnish the meat. He just dishes up what the buffalo hunter provides. This is how he supports the movement of the wagon. He never confuses his job with that of the trail boss, scout or buffalo hunter. He sees himself as just another pioneer who has learned to cook. The cook’s job is to help the pioneers pioneer.  

In Settler Theology faith is trusting in the safety of the town: obeying the laws, keeping your nose clean, believing the mayor is in the courthouse.  

In Pioneer Theology faith is the spirit of adventure. The readiness to move out. To risk everything on the trail. Faith is obedience to the restless voice of the trail boss.  

In Settler Theology sin is breaking one of the town’s ordinances

In Pioneer Theology sin is wanting to turn back.  

In Settler Theology salvation is living close to home and hanging around the courthouse

In Pioneer Theology salvation is being more afraid of sterile town life than of death on the trail. Salvation is joy at the thought of another day to push on into the unknown. It is trusting the trail boss and following his scout while living on the meat provided by the buffalo hunter. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

One Team

“We get to be a part of what God is doing together!”

I heard this quote this past weekend at a Presbytery meeting in North Carolina from the pastor of Hope Church in Fredericksburg, VA.

I had the opportunity to meet him, his wife and a few of their church leaders at the meeting. I thanked them for their generosity of the gift of their 300 chairs. I shared with them about how our staff had come to discern the number 300 about the worship area in our dedicated space and how the email came from our Presbytery shortly thereafter.

A big smile came to their faces when I shared this update and they shared the quote that I mentioned above.

We talked more about how churches like ours need to support one another and how God can shine through the process. In addition, we discussed how much we can be encouraged as we watch God work in and through relationships like the one he has formed through their generosity with us.

I felt like God had provided some new friends. In fact, God had opened the way for me to get to know some more brothers and sisters in Christ.

A few days ago, a team led by Dick Class went up to Fredericksburg to get the chairs. Tom McMahon, Bobby Pauley and Bill Moore joined him for the work. Tommy Sibiga from Hometown Reality lent us his big truck to use and the team loaded in the 300 chairs. In addition to these chairs, Hope Church also provided about 50 more of those chairs and 40-50 padded folding chairs. They also gave us 6-8 tables of various sizes.

Hope’s pastor and those present prayed for us and commissioned the chairs for their new use with us in the future.

The team transported the chairs and tables to Antiques Little Dodge City in Ashland where Bill & Charlotte Pauley have opened up space for storage. The team was met by Lynn & Leo Mesco to help unload while Bill & Charlotte shared water and love in the process.

God has given Restoration Church 400 chairs and 6-8 tables. 

God also has given us a new relationship with Hope Church in Fredericksburg.

God also provided the opportunity for our church members to use their gifts and share their resources (energy, space for storage and love!)

As we continue on this journey of Planting Deep, I believe that God will give us more and more opportunities to grow closer to Him and to one another while also opening up doors for new relationships along the way.

We are all one team and God is leading us forward together in Christ.

Scrappy Church

I remember a sermon preached by Leighton Ford many years ago entitled, "Pay Attention."   He quoted a poem by Mary Oliver and ...