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,


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.

Guest Post: A Good Kind of Uncomfortable

My friend Jason’s started up a new site called Jabberbox, and I wrote a post for it entitled “A Good Kind of Uncomfortable,” about my experience with urban Young Life kids. Here’s an excerpt:

That night last week, God broke my heart for those kids: for Delonta, Antoine, Jamal, Will, ‘Twaan, and D. Because now they have faces; they have names. They’re not just “the kids at the local high school” who need help or charity or mentoring. They’re boys with names and futures; they’re kids whom God loves with every fiber of his being.

And he’s called me to do the same.

Check out the full blog here.

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,

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.