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.

My First Sermon

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)

Dear friends,

Well, I did it: this past Sunday, I tried something new … I preached for the first time ever!

I gave the second message in our Advent series, focused on joy and peace, and you can listen to my message, “Wanted: Some Joy and Peace, Please,” on the Media page of The District Church’s website.

I got a lot of good feedback and constructive comments, which will give me stuff to work with whenever I next get the opportunity to preach. For now, I’m just glad I got to engage in another part of what I feel God has called me to.

Have a listen and let me know what you think! I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and feedback. (Be warned: I start speaking a little quickly! And, apparently, I acquire a different accent.)

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

It took a lot of work; there was a lot of stress involved; at several points it looked like it wasn’t going to work out, and at others, we were tired enough of it to want to quit. But the inaugural Columbia Heights Christmas Tree Lighting was a resounding success given our limited resources and time. A lot of the folks in the community were very appreciative of our efforts and for the tree itself. The lighting took place this past Monday, which was windy and chilly (in fact, I think with wind chill, the temperature was about 14ºF)!

Anyway, you can read a couple of recap blogs (complete with photos) here at Prince of Petworth and No Limit, Just A Line. And here’s a pic that I took:

Prayer Updates and Asks

Your thoughts and prayers have been appreciated. To recap:

  1. The routine of life was just beginning to fall into place when Christmas season arrived and blew it all up with long days and late nights, especially working on the Christmas tree (see above). Hopefully in the new year, things will settle down again!
  2. An opportunity has come up for me to potentially babysit a friend’s kid—which would, if it works out, be an additional source of income. Will be talking it out this week, so I’ll have news one way or another by the time of my next update.
  3. No update on finding a house in the neighborhood for the church just yet. But we’re still praying and looking. Please also pray for the continuing fundraising as well so that at some point soon, I’ll be able to give Aaron and Amy their basement back. They’ve been most gracious hosts and I love living with them, but I also want to be able to give them some of their space back!

Moving forward, I’d appreciate prayer for the following:

  1. Our Christmas Eve, Eve, Eve (Eve3) service, which will take place on—you guessed it—next Wednesday, December 22. We want to invite people from around the neighborhood to celebrate Christmas with us, so please pray for our outreach, for me as I prepare the music for the evening, and Aaron, who’ll be speaking.
  2. Rest this holiday season. The last couple months have been amazing and extraordinary, but also exhausting, and I’m really learning my limits! I’ll be heading to Pittsburgh for the Christmas weekend to spend some time with some dear friends. Then I’ll be back in DC to ring in the New Year. Let me know if you’ll be nearby or in DC for the holidays—would love to see you!

Support Update

Out of the $30,000 I’d budgeted for the year (November to November) for rent, utilities, health insurance, food, transportation, etc., I’m now up to $13,400 or 45%, which is pretty stellar considering it’s only been two months since I started raising support!

As mentioned above, if the church were to be able to buy a house, this would help immensely, since it’d cut about a third of what I need to raise (for rent). Also, this potentially babysitting gig may not be substantial, but every little helps, so thanks to God for that possibility! Thanks also to all of you who are supporting me in love, in prayer, and in dollars!

For those of you who have given, I’ll be getting in touch soon (probably in the new year or when I get back from my Christmas break) to ask you to connect me with somebody you think would be able, interested and willing to support me!

Wishing you all joy and peace this Christmas time (and if you listen to my sermon you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about),

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.

Why The District Church?

Hey friends,

Having shared some of my personal journey in Washington, DC: Chapter 2, I thought that you might appreciate knowing a little more about the church. (Let me warn you now: this email is long. Like, really long.)

A Church for the City

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 from all over the world come, 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 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.

What We’ve Been Doing

As “A Church for the City,” we’ve been doing outreach into the neighborhood, including:

  • Cardozo HS Footballmaking connections with schools in the neighborhood, including cheering on one of local high schools at their football games with Young Lifers;
  • Central Union Missionserving at Central Union Mission last week;
  • sponsoring a Christmas tree for Columbia Heights, and organizing a tree lighting, complete with alternative Christmas marketplace. We’ve already got the support of the local councilmember, so we’re just working on getting a tree and lights!

In short, things are happening, and we’re super excited!

Prayer Updates and Asks

Your thoughts and prayers have been appreciated. To recap:

  1. Aaron and I have been figuring out job responsibilities, schedule and routine;
  2. I’ve applied for a couple of part-time jobs, as well as giving my résumé to friends at faith-based non-profits in case project/consultancy work becomes available; and
  3. I’m still (happily) ensconced in the Grahams’ dark (important when you’re a light sleeper like me) and warm (important when winter starts rolling in) basement.

Moving forward, I’d appreciate prayer for the following:

  1. For continued development of the job, and particularly for discipline and discernment on my part. It’s easy for me to get carried away doing work that I love, but I need to be consciously drawing boundaries and taking time off, otherwise I’m gonna burn out real soon!
  2. That fundraising continues apace (more below), that the church is able to purchase a house in the area to serve as a community outpost of sorts (which I would be able to stay in, which in turn would reduce the amount that I need to raise), and/or that a part-time job works out.
  3. That we continue making inroads into the community—it’s exciting to begin building some good relationships with folks in the neighborhood, and we want them to continue!
  4. For me on December 12 since that’s the date that I’ll be preaching for the first time (ever)! I’m starting to get really excited about it, and will post a link to the audio when it becomes available in a few weeks.

Support Update

The support has been slowly and steadily rolling in, and I’ve now raised about 33% of what I need for the year (November to November). To put this into context, I’m looking to raise about $2,500 per month (or $30,000 for the year), which includes rent, utilities, health insurance, food, transportation … everything, really! Through a combination of monthly and one-time gifts, I’m now at just over $10,000 for the year, which is pretty phenomenal for just a month of support raising!

Thanks to you all, whether you’ve given, committed to give in the coming months, or been willing but unable to give; your support and encouragement has been invaluable to me.

The next step for me is to ask each of you to connect me with somebody you think would be able, interested and willing to support me; I’ll be emailing again soon to follow up with this!

Thanks again, friends. Happy Thanksgiving (if you celebrate it)!

Peace,

Justin.

Previous installments:

  1. Washington, DC: Chapter 2 (October 11, 2010)
  2. Beginning November (and the Leadership Residency) (November 1, 2010)

Staying in DC!

Here’s an excerpt from the email I sent out this past week (for which you can still sign up here):

Hey friends,

While I was in London last month, taking time to figure out where my life was at, I read some of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermon on “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart.” In it, he said, a tough-minded individual has “firmness of purpose and solidness of commitment.” It was that phrase that stirred me, as I realized that my approach to making decisions has always involved more bet-hedging and playing it safe, waiting until the dust has settled before striking out, holding out until I know things will work out before committing.

And it struck me that God wants more than that. God wants more than playing it safe. Being responsible doesn’t equate with playing it safe. Making wise decisions doesn’t always mean going where things are guaranteed. Following God doesn’t always entail knowing how I’ll be taken care of, only that I’ll be taken care of.

So I decided to try to make my decisions based on who I want to become—who I believe God has created me to be—rather than just on who I’ve always been or what’s safe.

Which leads me to where I am now, about to step out in faith.

Read the rest here.