The Difference You Made

My last sermon, preached on July 17, was on Colossians 3:18-4:1–the “Wives, submit to your husbands” passage, and it was entitled, “Can We Make A Difference?” I’ll let you listen to it for yourselves if you haven’t already, but my main point was that oftentimes we wait for this or that situation or circumstance changes before we do what we think God wants us to do–just let me get this job first, or let me be in a relationship first, or let me get to this level of income first. But God calls us to make a difference where we are, in the places he has placed us. Right now.

And you already have, in my life. Because, with nine months of my year-long Leadership Residency over, I’m happy to announce that I’ve achieved the budget that I’d set out at the beginning of the year. To those of you who gave one-time, thank you. To those of you who have given regularly and committed to continue giving, thank you. To those of you who were unable to give but prayed instead, particularly when I asked for the provision of a job, thank you. Because it’s been a combination of your giving, and the prayers you prayed, which I credit for my landing the position at ONE, which has launched me over my target. So, thank you, thank you, thank you.

In my last email, I said that we’re still working out the future, and this remains true. Nothing’s been set in stone and there’s much still to be finalized, but I can say with a tiny amount of certainty and a large amount of faith that I’ll be in DC for a few years to come. I am, as I have felt all year, exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what God has made me to do. An update will be coming soon, I (hope and) promise.

As always, grateful for your friendship and your faithfulness,
Justin.

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,
Jus.

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.

Want to support a young pastor?

Dear friend,

When I agreed to spend Christmas 2009 with Aaron and Amy Graham, little did I know what I was getting myself into. Aaron and I spent a lot of time together, especially as we both attended, and taught at, Urbana 2009 (InterVarsity’s triennial missions conference). We talked a lot about churches, about what we felt God was calling us to, and about what church could look like.

At the time, Aaron and Amy were thinking of planting a church in our neighborhood of Columbia Heights, and a few months later they took the plunge. I’ve been involved with The District Church since we began meeting as a small group of twelve in the Grahams’ living room, through to our public gatherings that began in September with several dozen more people.

After a couple months of discernment, prayer and a lot of time trying to figure out what God wanted to do with me, I felt led to join the staff of the church, which I did on October 31, 2010.

So here I am, the first Leadership Resident of The District Church, which, depending on how you look at it, makes me either a pioneer or a guinea pig … or some hybrid. My responsibilities for the next year and a half essentially cover the gamut of pastoral urban ministry: teaching, preaching (which I did for the first time in mid-December; see right), discipling, chaplaincy, church and community outreach in the neighborhood, and leading worship. (For more on what it means to be a Leadership Resident, you can check out the “About Us” page of our website: www.districtchurch.org.)

Due to the church’s youth and its identity as a non-denominational missional church plant, Aaron and Amy have raised support in order to live and serve full-time. I’m committing to do the same, raising support in order to enable me to serve the church and the city, the church in the city.

To that end, I’m excited to invite you to be a part of what I believe God’s doing in and through me, this church, and this city.

I hope that you will prayerfully consider joining me in helping found this new church in our nation’s capital.

Peace and grace,

Jus.

***

WHY THE DISTRICT CHURCH?

At The District Church, we want to be centered around and excelling in worship, community and justice; we want to be a church that seeks to love God, to love our neighbors, and to love the city to which God had called us. If you look on the church’s website (www.districtchurch.org), one of our first descriptors is “A Church for the City.”

This vision and passion is built upon God’s words to the Israelite people in exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC:

“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).

Washington, DC is a fascinating city. On the one hand, it is a city rich in culture and history, a city to which movers and shakers come from all over the world, a city that leads the country in terms of life expectancy, education and income.

And yet it is also a city with devastating poverty, a struggling public education system, and an HIV infection rate higher than many sub-Saharan African nations—it’s estimated that one in every twenty adults in DC has the infection.

People come to DC to change the country, to change the world … and yet changing the city is often overlooked. We want to be a church that seeks to make a genuine, tangible difference in the place to which we have been called.

Moreover, community is hard to find in a city whose transience is so ingrained by the political cycles; in this context, we want to be a church that provides such community to people. People may—and will—leave DC because God calls them to other things, but we don’t want people leaving DC because they couldn’t find a faith community and friends.

***

RAISING SUPPORT

I began raising support in mid-October and by the grace of God and the generosity of family and friends, I’ve already been able to raise $15,000 in support both pledged and given, both one-time and monthly.

To put this into context, I’d budgeted about $2,500 per month (or $30,000 for the year, November to November), which includes rent, utilities, health insurance, food, transportation … everything, really! So I’ve raised half of the support I need for the year, and I’m asking you to help me get the rest of the way!

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:________________

Address:______________________

City:______________ State:___  Zip/Postcode:__________

E-mail:___________________________________

You can set up your online giving by visiting www.districtchurch.org, clicking Giving, and selecting the “Leadership Residency” fund in the drop-down menu. You may also make checks payable to “The District Church,” with “Leadership Residency” in the memo, and mail to: PO Box 3116, Washington, DC 20010.

All gifts are fully tax-deductible.