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Posts Tagged ‘RVA United’

Richmond SunriseWe celebrated KOH2RVA yesterday at Richmond’s First Baptist Church—the end of our year-long, every-member mission trip—and we did it in style. The RVA United band started things off in our gym as people gathered, I offered a welcome, and then they played a few songs in a gentle, acoustic style that was perfect for that time of day. We showed videos of how the church had worked to bring the kingdom of heaven to Richmond, Virginia, this year, and heard testimonies of gratitude from Mike Maruca (head of the Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School) and Kimberly Lee (Principal of Glen Lea Elementary, a Richmond public school). Steve Blanchard talked about the work that’s been done at Essex Village, one of the largest housing projects in our city, and we wrapped things up with a slide show of images accompanied by a song about how heaven is coming down to this world.

In the worship service I shared my vision of how this mission can go forward through partnerships with other people, churches, agencies, and institutions. I suggested the name KOHX2 (that is, “Kingdom of Heaven Times Two”), and had some of our youth spell it out with giant cardboard letters so everybody could see it and remember it. And then I said this:

KOH times 2. Think about that with me for a minute.

In the past year I’ve been trying to post something on my blog almost every day as a way of sharing the stories of our members who have been busy bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, and inspiring the ones who hadn’t yet found their way. But can I tell you something? Blogging every day is harder than it looks! You have to think of something to write, you have to write it, you have to edit it, you have to find a picture to go with it, you have to publish it, and then you have to promote it on Facebook (at least I do). It often takes an hour to an hour-and-a-half just to get something up there, even something that’s not very good. And so I’ve decided to start a new blog called KOH2RVA and invite other people to contribute to it. I’m hoping that anyone who is bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, would be inspired to write up a few paragraphs, attach a picture, and send it to me so I can post it on the new blog. And then, sometime in the spring and perhaps again in the fall I’m going to invite all those people to a city-wide conference called KOH2RVA right here at First Baptist, and we’re going to see what we can do to start a missions collaborative that will make a visible impact on our city.

And then I said, “That’s what I’m going to do to go forward with this mission. What about you?” Before the day was over I’d heard from Melissa Ansley Brooks, who shared with me her own vision of how to go forward. Grateful for her partnership in this mission, I posted her email on the new blog. You can find it by clicking HERE.

Every ending is a beginning, friends. Our year-long, every-member mission trip has come to an end, but our year-long, find-a-partner mission trip is just beginning. I hope you will find a partner and join us on KOHX2.

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Rob and Katie CourainSo, I was talking with Rob Courain yesterday about this crazy idea he has to raise money for missions. Rob is a member of First Baptist who, along with his wife Katie, was baptized in the James River on August 18. He is also a co-founder of RVA United, the ministry with and for 20-30somethings in Richmond that rocks First Baptist Church with a powerful praise service on Tuesday nights (Rob plays guitar in the band). And, as it turns out, he is something of an entrepreneur.

Here’s what he’s thinking:

Using the business model made popular by Groupon, Rob has made arrangements with Arianna’s Grill at 700 N. Sheppard Street to offer up to 500 vouchers to our congregation valued at $20 each. When you buy a $20 voucher and take it to Arianna’s you get $20 worth of delicious Italian food. But here’s the interesting part: in exchange for the in-church publicity and promotion, Arianna’s will give half that money to the mission cause of our choice, in this case to Mark and Sarah Williams, CBF missionaries working to save the lives of AIDS orphans in South Africa.

Before reading any further, stop to appreciate that last point: Arianna’s—a friendly neighborhood restaurant less than two blocks from the church—is going to give half of the money it earns on these vouchers to missionaries in South Africa, evidence that the Kingdom of Heaven is coming to Richmond, Virginia.

Now, here’s the catch: in order to offer this kind of deal Arianna’s has to sell at least 200 vouchers. If they don’t sell 200, the deal is off. They believe that the publicity and promotion they receive through the church will be well worth the minimum of $2,000 they send on to Mark and Sarah. And they are hopeful, of course, that people who discover Arianna’s through this promotion will like it and want to come back at other times.

I have.

In fact, I’ve had lunch there the past two days. I love their lunchtime specials, their big, conversation-friendly booths, and the charming and attentive wait staff. But I looked at Arianna’s differently when I was there yesterday. It wasn’t just a friendly neighborhood restaurant, serving up good food at good prices: thanks to Rob I looked at Arianna’s as a partner in mission.

Vouchers go on sale at First Baptist on One Sunday, September 8. I want to be the first person in line, holding my $20 in the air, knowing that half of it will go to Mark and Sarah Williams and the good work they are doing in South Africa.

I hope you will be right behind me.

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hotspot-one-sundayIt’s going to be a drop-dead gorgeous day in Richmond, Virginia, friends: a perfect day to throw back the covers, get out of bed, and come to church. Kaky Minter is going to share the story of her own miraculous healing today as a prelude to the Gospel lesson about a woman who was miraculously healed (Luke 13:10-17), and then Mary Eldredge, Ruth Szucs, and Margaret Wilson are going to sing “His Strength is Perfect.”

Heaven will come to earth.

Speaking of that, you may have noticed that we are on Day 350 of this year-long, every-member mission trip, which means that two weeks from now we will gather to celebrate all the ways the Kingdom of Heaven has come to Richmond, Virginia, in the past year.

We’re going to begin in the gym at 9:30, with music from the RVA United praise band, followed by a word of appreciation from the principal of Glen Lea Elementary School, a representative from Essex Village, and the head of the Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School. We’ll see some of the KOH2RVA videos that were produced by our communication ministry and finish off with a slide show of images accompanied by a song that says, “I don’t know but I’ve been told heaven is coming down to this world.”

At 11:00 we’ll gather in the sanctuary for one combined worship service followed by dinner on the grounds. In my sermon on that day I want to talk about what we’re going to do for an encore. I don’t want to give it away here, now, but I’m excited about sharing it with you then.

I hope you will make every effort to come.

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2013-08-06 20.29.14Last night was National Night Out but that’s not why I ended up in front of Richmond’s First Baptist Church with a group of 20-30somethings. We had come for the Tuesday night gathering of RVA United—an outreach ministry to and through young adults in the Richmond area. I had been asked to tell them something about KOH2RVA and Lynn Turner had been invited to lead in prayer. Surrounding those “talking times” there had been music—glorious, thunderous, not-for-the-faint-of-heart music—offered up with abandon in praise to God. It was a powerful worship experience. We came out of the sanctuary with our hearts still pounding and found…ice cream.

That’s right: ice cream.

It was being dished out by graduates of the Ralph Starling School of Radical Hospitality. Ralph himself was in the crowd, meeting and greeting those 20-30somethings while his graduates (mostly 60-70somethings) served ice cream sundaes with a smile. The picture above is a little dark, but maybe you can see the RVA United sign on the front porch of the church and just to the left of it people standing in line to get ice cream. The others have come down the steps to eat their sundaes and enjoy each other’s company. They stayed for an hour after the service, until it was so dark nobody could see anything. Even then, some of them didn’t want to go home.

This morning, as I was re-reading parts of the Gospel of Luke, I found that place where Jesus says to his opponents, “If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (11:20). Jesus had just cast out a demon, and here he seems to be saying that in that act, in that moment, the kingdom of God had come.

That’s how it felt to me last night when I stepped out of that powerful worship service and found some of our members cheerfully dishing out ice cream for young people they had never met before—as though in that act, in that moment, the kingdom of God had come upon us. If I were putting it in the form of a parable I might say, “What is the Kingdom like, and to what shall I compare it?”

It’s like an ice cream sundae offered to a stranger.

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black eyeYesterday’s post generated lots of discussion, and a number of important lessons:

The topic of homosexuality is red-hot. There were 1,588 views on my blog yesterday, the second highest number since I’ve been writing. It wasn’t because the post was so well written; it was because I was writing about homosexuality. I discovered once again that everybody has an opinion on this topic, and the opinions tend to be strong.

Never assign motives to another person. I did that yesterday. I said that I was trying to imagine why 15 churches were thinking about pulling out of the Richmond Baptist Association and the only reason I could come up with was fear. One of the people who commented on my blog wisely pointed out that I could have asked someone from those churches, rather than making up motives. She was right, and I apologize.

Fear is not the only factor. When I did talk to someone from one of those churches yesterday I was assured that there were several reasons a church might consider such a move. Identity was one of them: you might get to a point where—without any animosity—you simply sensed that “these just aren’t our kind of people” anymore. Fidelity was another: where, in order to be faithful to your understanding of Scripture, you might choose to distance yourself from those with a different understanding.

People can disagree respectfully. Although there were a number of different views expressed in the comments on my blog yesterday, they were expressed with courtesy, and even with Christian love. I especially appreciated the one that began by addressing a fellow commentator: “I love you. You’re my sister in Christ.” While opinions were strong, they were never used as weapons.

It’s easy to be distracted. I have to admit, I spent a good bit of time yesterday checking my blog, reading the comments, answering email, talking on the phone, meeting with people who had questions or concerns, and in all of that, I’m sure I neglected much of the other work of the Kingdom. At the end of the day I went to RVA United, in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, where a group of young, committed Christians had been working for days to create an incomparable worship experience for 20-30somethings in our city. They weren’t distracted. They were focused. And it showed.

You would think that by now I would have learned all of life’s important lessons, but I haven’t. There’s still plenty to learn. And yesterday I learned some things.

I hope you did, too.

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