Pictured above: Joy. And good colleagues. The DOMA Synod was such an encouragement to us last weekend.
“There is a spirit of joy at Restoration that is tangible and visible to all who enter to worship. I see the joy lifting all who are within the walls—filling the church to the very rafters—until it wants to spill out every crevice—every open window—every open door—sinking deep into the earth below the church—we need to open more windows and doors to let the joy spill out and welcome others in.”
A Resto reflection from our Evening of Prayer, Music, and Discernment on October 29th.
Read on for my suggestion of five themes that emerged from what people heard the Lord saying.
“…as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.” (Psalm 59)
This has been an extraordinary autumn for our church. Thank you for being a part of it: for praying, worshiping, singing, giving, serving, leading, facilitating, celebrating.
This morning my thoughts have been on the period of time between our Fall Retreat (October 7-8) and last Sunday’s Service of Healing (Nov. 19). In those 6 weeks, our church experienced significant movements of the power of God.
At the Fall Retreat, our speaker, Ed Ollie, spoke to us from Mark 2 and the story of four people bringing a paralyzed man to Jesus. Ed called us to bring our friends to Jesus- with all of the creativity and persistence we can find. You have been doing that.
At the Service of Healing last weekend, close to 200 people crowded into our sanctuary to be in the presence of God and His people. You invited your friends and family. Thank you. The music from choir, strings, and Porters Gate was gorgeous and easy to join in. The spoken words were few. The Eucharist– our souls being nourished by the sacrament of the body and blood of Jesus– was at the center. The prayers were many. People had space to pray and listen from their pews. People courageously came forward to five different prayer teams for confidential intercession. People asked God to do what their hearts were longing for him to do. It was a beautiful, non-complex, Trinity-focused space that provided what we needed: we prayed for healing.
Along the way, in this autumn of deep engagement with God, in the time between the retreat and the healing service, we have experienced this:
- We preached the rich depths of Romans 6-8. In your small groups, you worked hard to apply these Gospel truths to your day to day life. You prayed to be set free, to fly away from the things that hold you. You received grace.
- We had 2 baptism Sundays (+1, earlier in September!). This fall, 16 people were baptized; 3 of them were adults; 1 of them was a grandmother from a country where it is hard to be a Christian, who came to the US, grew in her understanding of God’s love for her, and wanted to be baptized with her granddaughter- whom we joyfully baptized on the same day!
- We remembered our loved ones who died and gave thanks for their life.
- We grieved and groaned as war erupted in Israel and Gaza.
- We gathered for an evening of prayer, music and discernment on October 29. You listened for what the Lord was saying to our church and you sorted through it in prayer by yourself and in small groups. You beautifully shared what you were hearing on response cards that I have been praying over for the last 4 weeks.
It was a significant night for our community to participate in prayer together. And similar to the feedback from our November Service of Healing, many of you said that you want to do it again. You want to have regular opportunities to gather in prayer. You are grateful that our church leadership is choosing to pray (and leading us in praying together) before making plans for our future.
This response captured the gratitude that many of you felt:
“I love how you all encouraged us as a community to stop, slow down, and reflect in prayer about what God is doing here. I envision us becoming a community who does that more and more, turning first to the Lord before “solving” our problems. Going deeper with the Lord in our walks. I also keep coming back to the question: how do we connect and welcome those who are right around us in the neighborhood?”
Read on for more themes that came out of our time.
Five Themes from our Evening of Prayer, Music, and Discernment on October 29th.
These themes are not an ‘action plan’, ‘manifesto’, or ‘strategy to implement’. They represent what we are hearing from the Lord, not necessarily what we are going to do for the Lord! Let’s give thanks for His words to us and… we can anticipate that these things could become plans in the months to come.
We received 105 response cards and each of them had something precious that one of you had heard the Lord say in our time together. Thank you. The quote at the beginning of this newsletter captures the tenor and tone of the cards as a whole: We are full of joy because of what God is doing at Restoration. Joy is a great gift and I don’t take it for granted. God is leading us in joy.
Theme 1: Let’s go deeper.
- “We need to be a church with deeper roots—there are so many people in our neighborhoods and circles of influence hungry for the Gospel, but the workers need equipping. We might grow deeper to have a more flourishing church.”
- “Bringing God’s love to the broken places of our world. Going deeper. Growing in grace. Jesus, Lord of all.”
- “That Restoration would be a place investing in and equipping these many young adults to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world, not to be obsessed with the law and being “good Christians” but leaning wholeheartedly on the Spirit. Let us be a church equipping and sending new leaders in their spheres of influence.”
- “Our men’s small group has several fathers who yearn for Restoration to be a place where our young men, high schoolers, would come gladly to be discipled.”
- “God has blessed us like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. This is our season! Don’t stop!”
Theme 2: Let’s grow.
- “I was stirred by the idea that Resto has a unique or maybe just unusual ministry and role to hold onto and expand with any transition.”
- “Big. Full. Warm. Light. Flowing in. Going out. How do we remain aware of our total dependence on God? While moving toward (large scale) excellence.”
- “Our church is big! Stay big/grow bigger!!! People want to be here at Resto. Lord help us to adjust to care for them.”
- “People are coming to Resto. Nothing good/bad about big v. small. But it is happening and no one wants to leave.”
- “I see a church where people are known and God is worshiped. I see someone new walking in and—besides finding a literal seat—finding a real place to belong. I see them recognizing God’s power and presence through our Sunday services and in our small groups.”
Theme 3: Let’s create more space.
- “Two words come to mind what God wants: 1) Space (physical and spiritual). For the uninvited to know they’re invited. To invite the uninvited so that all would love God and neighbor. 2) Closeness. To the heart of God—let space create opportunity to draw closer. To create space for others to draw closer to one another.”
- “Consider a community gathering space that might act as a bridge or gateway to church. The community gathering space would give people the chance to serve our neighbors in a different and unique way—perhaps art space.”
- “The question of space is important—it’s a question of repurposing existing space, building new space (eg. building a balcony), or renting new space.”
- “People are hungry for an encounter with God. The time of day is not important to them. Resto has the resources and the Holy Spirit’s power to make anything happen. Have another service in a different place.”
- “Rent a school on Sundays for Apex. Have a third service at the church. Rotate priests so no one is overworked—another part time person to help manage the third service kids’ program.”
Theme 4: Let’s be very intentional with our neighbors.
- “Lord give us a heart of compassion for our neighbors. To reach out with your love in a way that they can see and understand what makes us different. Give us the words to introduce them to Christ.”
- “That we would be welcoming of the poor. That we would humbly ask the Lord to show us how to be welcoming of all people (those who are embracing identities of their own making or are outside of His design). Lord give us wisdom. Let your light and truth go past every barrier we might construct.”
- “I have this vision of my neighborhood and my neighbors actually knowing each other. That our neighborhood would be a place where Jesus is known and each family is known and loved.”
- “I have found myself dwelling on our neighbors. I know some attend Resto and others find us a nuisance. I’m curious if we might find an opportunity in this time to become more committed to being a neighborhood church, or at the very least, a church that is for our neighbors.”
- “We are planted in a neighborhood for a reason.”
Theme 5: Let’s not plant a church… for now.
- “Let’s be comfortable being uncomfortable on Sunday mornings. Let’s wait for the next church planter—there will be one if God wants us to plant a church. In the meantime, invest in poets and tangible grace(s).”
- “What if we waited for a planter to emerge, and then meanwhile, launch a 5 pm Sunday service, led by no one who led on Sunday am, but provide space for our curate and others to preach and lead worship and pray.”
I’ll leave you with an image that was so beautiful to me:
“Resto is emanating a sweet fragrance that is attracting newcomers like a bee to pollen. May that continue to bless the congregation.”
And one more:
“He has time- He’s not in a rush. He hears us, we are heard. This was a time for us to speak and be listened to.”
Amen. Thank you, God.