West Coast, East Coast, Gulf Coast

American Airlines Terminal 3 at Chicago O’Hare Airport.

I’m not known to travel very much, especially by plane. However, as the Lord would have it, He put me on six planes in the span of 27 days that took me to the edges of the country for the purpose of joining Him in His mission. The picture above became a familiar sight for me. It was also symbolic to the purpose of each of these trips and how the Lord continues to be leading – “You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

San Francisco, CA

On February 9, the Lord provided an opportunity for a pastor friend of mine and myself to fly out to San Francisco, CA to spend four full days with a missional micro-church planting network We Are Church, founded by well known pastor, author, and speaker Francis Chan. The purpose of this trip was to discover what a church planting movement (CPM) that resembles the miraculous advancement of the Kingdom of God in the first century, and is presently taking place in locations such as China and India, could possibly look like here in America. This was also a trip to explore an alternative expression of the church that doesn’t heavily rely on institutionalism, but rather embraces decentralization and an emphasis for Gospel-mission.

Francis Chan interacts with our Church Intensive cohort, answering our questions about We Are Church.

What we experienced in our four-day intensive was not a show, nor someone’s well articulated presentation, sales pitch, conference speech, or carefully scripted spiritually-charged emotional retreat. Instead, we got to be part of something that was real, truly authentic, raw, messy, unassuming, small, and largely unimpressive. However, this was its true beauty. In its simplicity, and what I might call “outward mediocrity”, was a deeply rooted, Biblically grounded, and humble community that was truly living by the Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:14).

Rob Zabala (lower right), a leader at We Are Church, was our trainer for the week at We Are Church.

There were a number of important takeaways from our experience, some of which we have begun implementing already at Restoration Church, including the focus on true Spirit-abiding prayer and worship in the context of an intimate community. Another key takeaway has been the intentionality of deconstructing the drive for “excellence” towards institutional models and programs that keep people coming with the expectation that the church, its staff, and volunteers keep serving up a “5-star meal”. Instead, we’re focusing our innate drive for excellence exclusively in our love for God and love for others (Matt. 22:36-40) by inviting everyone to be part of a spiritual “potluck”, where everyone has a gift to bring, use, and celebrate for the benefit and blessing of the body.

(I have more on my time in San Francisco in my previous post, The Tenderloin).

Washington, DC

What a joy it is to see our “spiritual children” grow up and give their lives to the extension of the gospel wherever the Lord may take them! This is what brought me out to Washington, DC to First Baptist Church of Springfield, VA. From a college student in my living room to now Associate Pastor, leading children, teens, and adults of all walks of life, Jacob Boyd has become a dear friend of mine and fellow soldier for the Kingdom. Jacob invited me to be the guest speaker at an annual youth retreat at the end of February to inspire and train students on how to live by the Spirit and share Jesus with everyone, everywhere.

Students listening to the Christian rock band “Unbroken Light” who led us in worship all weekend.

Orlando, FL

Finally, to the (almost) gulf coast, I finished my month of traveling last week by attending the annual church planting conference Exponential in Orlando, Florida. One of the highlights of this trip was being able to attend with some of my fellow Reach Chicago planting pastors and process all that we were learning together over meals and coffee.

Personally, this was a helpful follow-up and encouragement to the journey the Lord has been taking us on. The Lord was clearly articulating something to me on the final day of the conference and broadly through the week – be courageous! Before the last session on Thursday began, my prayer app reminded me to pray for that very thing. As the session unfolded, this was the predominate theme spoken to us: abide in Jesus and confidently step into the clear calling the Lord has on our lives.

(Left to right) Luke Miller & Matt Solie (Village Church Chicago), Peter & Julie LeBlanc (The Beacon Church), Matt Till (Restoration Church)

Acknowledgements

Thank you to the members of Restoration Church for providing me the opportunity and the unwavering support to travel last month for the benefit of our church and the ministry the Lord has called Mary and I to. Your encouragement, prayers, and belief in the vision means so much to us! Also, thank you for caring for Mary and the kids while I was away. They were loved by you and that makes this husband and father grateful and at ease.

Thank you to our supporters and prayer partners for continuing to believe in our mission. Without you, these educational trips, training, and Kingdom-mission opportunities would not be possible. Restoration Church and myself are benefiting from them already.

And most importantly, thank you to my partner in life and ministry, Mary. Her courage, strength, resolve, and sacrifice last month has grown us together in our calling and marriage.

Stay Tuned …

We’re working on a new website for Restoration Church and plan to share some new updates on what we’re up to in the Chicago suburbs. I’ll share when it’s ready!

By the Cross and for the Kingdom,
Matt

2 thoughts on “West Coast, East Coast, Gulf Coast

  1. Wow Matt, I wish I’d had that kind of exposure, especially to Chan’s missional micro-churches, when I was a young pastor. I’m glad to say the last 12 years have been a wonderful learning curve for me in terms of many of these things. Not all pastors are as ‘open-minded’ as you to the genuine move of the Spirit of God. Thanks!

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