Easter Sunday, CNN, kids getting shot

Time sure flies, doesn’t it? Next week, I’ll have been serving as the Leadership Resident at The District Church for SIX MONTHS. If you’ve been following/reading along, you’ll know it’s definitely been an adventure—getting to be a part of all the amazing things God has been doing in our neighborhood, in our city, and especially in our church.

April has been a particularly good month. ONE’s Lazarus Sunday campaign worked out extremely well, with churches all over the country, including The District Church, joining in to raise awareness about the issue of AIDS in Africa and the life-saving anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) that are making a phenomenal impact. I even got to be interviewed by CNN! (Full article and video here.)

I got the opportunity to preach on Palm Sunday last week, and then somewhat unexpectedly, this morning. Aaron and Amy had been going through the process of adopting a second kid, and everything came through between Thursday and Saturday morning. So they are now parents of a beautiful baby girl—Natalie Rose; and I was drafted to pinch-preach on Easter Sunday! This morning was a fantastic celebration—we had the most people we’ve ever had at a TDC service, and everything came together nicely!

And here, for your listening pleasure, are my first five messages from the last six months:

Finally, I also spoke at Young Life in the middle of the month, and while it’s hard to know how much ever goes in or sticks with these kids, I was able to say what I wanted to say—what I felt like God wanted me to say—and I guess I’m just leaving the rest to God! Things have been going well with building relationships, but recently, a couple of the boys were involved in a shooting incident and one was hit in the leg. He’s going to be okay, but it was a reminder that there’s still much work to be done. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated!

Wishing you life and peace in the name of the risen Christ,

Not easy; but definitely right

Hey friends,

Sorry for being incommunicado the last month—as I alluded to in my last email, things began getting a little busy with the addition of my ONE job; and they really didn’t let up in March. Here’s a quick update on both fronts:

  • ONE: we were aiming to have 250 signups for our Lazarus Sunday campaign (check the last email for an explanation), and have been overwhelmed by the 1,500 we got! Now the big task is following up with all of these churches and pastors, and making sure that at least some of them follow through with the event! Meanwhile, I’ve absolutely LOVED working there—awesome work environment, awesome people, awesome mission. (And I get paid.)
  • TDC: I led worship in mid-March, and preached last Sunday (“What Mary Did,” now available on iTunes and the church website; as usual, would love to know your thoughts and feedback). The small group I’ve had the privilege of leading has been going fantastically well: again, awesome people, and I think we’ve really been able to build some solid community there. And serving with Young Life at Cardozo High School has been a great experience as well—glad to be building some good relationships there, too.

I’ll end with a little anecdote: Aaron preached this morning from John 13 about “The Authority of Service,” about the difference between power and authority, and how Jesus’ authority was evidenced in his service. Now, in mapping out our Gospel of John sermon series in January, we didn’t plan it this way at all: we had no idea that John 13 would fall on this day, nor did we have on the calendar the three service opportunities that will be going on these next three weekends: Columbia Heights Service Day this coming Saturday, our Kids’ City Festival next weekend, and the 3-on-3 basketball tournament the weekend after. It’s sort of amazing to see how God weaved it all together. Just another reminder that God’s been in control, and even when we’re not totally sure what we’re doing, God does!

So life has been all kinds of amazing. Several times in the last few weeks, I’ve been struck by a strange sense of peace,  something I’ve understood as divine affirmation that I’m in the right place, doing the right thing, being who I was supposed to be. There have certainly been challenges, ups and downs, and difficulties—I’ve been pretty tired, and I don’t enjoy the numerous consecutive days of not getting home until after 9 or 10 because of dual responsibilities and activities. It definitely hasn’t been easy; but it has definitely been right.

And I pray the same for you, wherever you are: that you might walk where God leads you, and though those paths might not be easy, that they would be right.

Peace and love,


In case you haven’t heard via phone/email/Facebook/Twitter, I got the job at ONE! I’ve been working there for a week and a half now, and I absolutely love it. It’s a challenge—and it’s pretty exhausting, too—to work two jobs (30 hours a week at ONE and 20-25 hours at The District Church), but I love both; and am grateful for your prayers last week for the interview.

As a quick summary, the campaign that I’ve been hired for is coordinating a nationwide event on April 10, called “Lazarus Sunday” (so-called because one of the passages in the lectionary for that day is the raising of Lazarus in John 11). We want to use this occasion, in conjunction with the (RED)/HBO documentary “The Lazarus Effect”—which looks at the positive impact of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) on people living with HIV/AIDS, and which you can watch here—to raise awareness and push for advocacy asks through churches, and thus build relationships with churches to engage in the rest of ONE’s work on fighting extreme poverty and preventable diseases.

I’m excited to be working on such a worthwhile project; I love the people I get to work with; and I’m looking forward to seeing more churches engaged in fighting HIV/AIDS. I’ll include more updates on how this goes in future emails, too.

Getting this job definitely helps with raising support, as it’ll take me up to about $23,000 of the $30,000 that I forecasted I’d need for this year; but it means I still have a few grand of support left to raise for this year. If you know anyone you think would be interested in supporting a certain musician-activist-pastor, let me know!

Prayers please …

  1. For the family and friends of Lucki Pannell. She was a senior at Cardozo High School, where several from our church—including myself—volunteer with Young Life; in fact, she also attended Young Life. This past Saturday, she was killed in a shooting two streets away from where I live. Please pray also for the peace of our neighborhood and the life of our community.
  2. For the boys I’ve been getting to know at Young Life, whose lives are so different from mine, and yet whom I know God has called me to invest in.
  3. For The District Church, as we continue to grow, build relationships within the church and in our neighborhood, seek opportunities to serve and love the people around us, and seek the transformation of our city.
  4. For myself, as I try to be disciplined with my time, balancing a couple of jobs, trying to give my best to both, and also to take some rest and not burn out! Prayers for the success of the ONE campaign I’m working on would also be appreciated!

Grace and peace to you and your loved ones,

Previously on “Justin @The District Church”

  1. Washington, DC: Chapter 2(October 11, 2010)
  2. Beginning November (and the Leadership Residency)(November 1, 2010)
  3. Why The District Church?(November 18, 2010)
  4. My First Sermon(December 15, 2010)
  5. What a difference a year makes(December 29, 2010)
  6. If I Keep Going At This Rate(January 18, 2011)
  7. A Message and a Job Interview (January 31, 2011)

TO GIVE, PLEASE FILL THIS OUT AND SEND BACK TO justin@districtchurch.org.

I/we would like to offer monthly support by donating on the 1st____ 16th____ of the month:*

$500____  $250____  $100____  $50____  $25____  Other______

These contributions will be mailed ___ transferred online___ automatically drafted online ___.

I/we would like to give a special gift of $_________________

Name:____________________  Phone:________________


City:______________  State:____  Zip/Postcode:_________


Checks can be made payable to “The District Church,” with “Leadership Residency” in the memo and sent to: The District Church, PO Box 3116, Washington, DC 20010.

* The initial commitment would be for one year, though you’re welcome to lengthen or shorten your commitment; just include this information in your response.

** The most convenient option for you to give would be online via the church website. Please make sure to select “Leadership Residency” when it asks you to “Choose a Fund.”

All gifts are fully tax-deductible.

World AIDS Day: A Prayer

God, we lift up all those suffering from HIV and AIDS; bring your healing and restoration to their bodies. Help us to do our part in ministering in loving care, support, and patience for your people who suffer with HIV and AIDS. Lead us to do whatever it will take to eradicate this illness from the lives of those who are touched by it, both directly and indirectly. Trusting in you and the strength of your Spirit, we pray these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Adapted from a prayer by National African American Catholic HIV/AIDS Task Force