What happened to January?!

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A strange thing happened. I turned around and it was like January had disappeared! If you’re like me, you’re wondering how we found ourselves in the second month of the year already.

So here are some highlights of what’s happened in the last couple months, and a short reflection on what God’s been doing so far in 2016.

GOINGS-ON

  • Dec 18: Had LASIK surgery. For the first time in twenty years, I don’t need glasses! One curious side-effect is that when I can’t read something, I have to remind myself that LASIK doesn’t make me Superman; it only restores my vision to 20/20!
  • Dec 24: Delivered a homily in our Christmas Eve service, entitled “Do Not Be Afraid” (click to listen). Teaser: Fear, it seems, is everywhere fear of losing control, fear of being alone, fear of not being loved, fear of not being enough. But to all of us, God says, “Do not be afraid.” He has good news for us.
  • Dec 27: Preached on “Good Endings” — how to end well. The podcast didn’t record so we turned it into a blog, which you can read here.
  • Jan 1: Rolled out a new tool to our church for spiritual growth and soul care — it’s called the SPIRE Plan, and you can read more about it here.
  • Jan 22-23: Survived Snowzilla (aka Winter Storm Jonas), which dumped a couple feet of snow on our city. (Asher had a blast, but we did have to cancel Sunday services for the first time in TDC history.)
  • Jan 29-30: Our Leadership Community (over 100 staff, small group leaders, and ministry team leaders) got away for our annual retreat last weekend, where Rich Nathan, pastor of Vineyard Columbus, helped us create spaces for the Holy Spirit to move in powerful ways.

Something else that I didn’t mention previously was that I was asked to join the board of the V3 Church Planting Movement, an invitation I humbly accepted. The District Church has several close ties with V3; with National Director JR Woodward having been part of our church for the last few years and our own Matthew Watson serving as a V3 coach for other church planters.

REFLECTION

So far in 2016, God has been challenging me in some discomforting but exhilarating ways. As I’ve prayed, I’ve sensed the call of the Spirit to a deeper, more consistent, and more fully present life, for myself, for my marriage, and for our church. And even in these first few weeks of the year, I’ve begun to see glimpses of what God is doing, the opportunities he’s providing, and the places the Spirit is moving.

2015 was a full year for me. By God’s grace, 2016 will be a deep year. I pray the same for you.

Learning to lead through weakness and failure

MeadowkirkWe had our Leadership Community Retreat this weekend, a time that saw almost 100 of The District Church’s leaders come together to be poured into for the coming year.  It was a tremendous 24 hours, full of spiritual renewal, rest, and rejuvenation; fun times with friends, sledding and playing football in the snow; and just general fellowship among the small group leaders, ministry team leaders, and other volunteer leaders of our church.

Two main takeaways:

  • Matthew Watson: our weaknesses don’t disqualify us. In fact, our call is to embrace our weakness, so that we might boast in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
  • J.R. Briggs: instead of allowing our failures to lead to rejection and then to shame, we need to yield to the gospel, acknowledging that someone else has the right of way, leading to a reminder of our acceptance by God not based on any achievement but because of his great love, and knowing that we are honored by the King as he welcomes us and adopts us into his family.

Of course, there was much more, but I’m still processing!

2012: Two weeks in

2012 is not even two weeks old and God has already begun his work in and around me. About a week ago, as I prayed about what God had in store for me this year, my mind was drawn toward the word “intentionality”–a theme I talked about in my New Year’s sermon (“In the beginning … rest”) and also in a recent blog. I got the sense that this would be a year of big decisions and big choices, with big consequences. At the time, I had no idea what those would be, but even in the last week, I’m beginning to see what God might have in mind.

This weekend, The District Church’s Leadership Community will be heading on its yearly retreat, for a time of spiritual renewal and re-visioning for the coming year. Last year, we had about thirty people; this year, our church having grown now to a community of around 250, we have over 50 people coming–and several other leaders weren’t able to make it this weekend! Please hold us in your thoughts and prayers as we get involved in helping this toddler-aged church learn to walk and talk.

As for myself, I’m learning to fill out my role as Associate Pastor at the church, moving from a manager and task-completer to a vision-casting, proactively-investing leader, with the remit to create, to innovate, to make space for other people to grow into their God-given potential. It’s, in equal parts, exciting and challenging, and I can’t wait to see how God does his alchemical work with what I have to offer. Discerning where and how to invest my time and energy is definitely a matter of prayer, and I’d appreciate yours for my continuing development in the calling God has for me.

Finally, I’m so stoked to inform you that–through the generosity of many of you getting this email–I’m now at over 50% of my target support for this year, after only two months! That’s not even including those of you who’ve said you want to support my work at The District Church but haven’t yet given! What an amazing testimony to your love and support; I’m so humbled, and glad to have you along for the journey. I count you as part of the ministry team without whom my work wouldn’t be possible! And as a reminder of how I ended up where I am, here’s a video produced by Lindsay, one of the storytellers (she’s a writer and photographer) at our church, from an interview we did last summer:

If I keep going at this rate …

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)

Happy 2011! I hope your year has begun well and that, if you made them, your new year’s resolutions are still unbroken.

My year’s started, as the subject suggests, with a bang. For the last few weeks, life has been steaming along at a fairly breakneck pace and I’ve gotten pretty busy preparing to step into leading a small group (which starts officially next week), and get more involved with leading worship (this coming weekend) and preaching again (on the 30th). I’m also stepping up my involvement in neighborhood and community outreachcollege outreach, and Young Life at the local high school. In addition to that, we’re trying out a new online database to centralize planning for our Sunday services and I’m heading that up.

We also just got back from our first Leadership Community retreat, which took a fair bit of planning, but was a great success: from the vision-casting and the dreaming, the practical steps that we laid out, the ideas we threw out, the fun we had, the friends we made, the songs we sang, the prayers we prayed … so much goodness. And to have 30+ folks show up was an added encouragement.

As you can see, there’s a lot going on!

Prayers would be appreciated as:

  1. I try to survive the month of January (see all the above)!
  2. I keep up the fundraising efforts—I was aiming to have raised $20k by the end of January, but it looks like I may fall a little short of that mark. I’m at 53% though, so not too far short! I’ll also be (finally) starting to make calls to folks (and by “folks,” I mean you) to get connected with people they/you recommend.
  3. I start to look more seriously for a part-time job.
  4. I have somewhere to live! This past week, I’ve been house-sitting for a couple of friends, and then this coming weekend I’ll be moving into the spare room that one of my friends and his wife have in their house. It’s a great deal, and will serve as a home for at least a few months until the summer when other options may open up. So thanks for your prayers there.

A couple final things: first, we’ve started a sermon series going through the Gospel of John, and I strongly recommend you go listen to Aaron’s last couple of sermons (“Know Your Role” and “Adventures in Missing the Point”). Both really challenged me. And second, while we know that numbers aren’t the whole picture, I still think it was super encouraging that we had over 110 people in attendance this past Sunday! God’s definitely doing something exciting here.

Thanks for journeying with me,
Justin.

If you’d like to support me, you’re most welcome to do so 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.