Understanding the Path God has led us down, and why it leads to our homes!

Who we are:

Restoration church is a family of believers that are committed to going and growing together as we encourage each other through life as disciples.

We are going into our city as teams pursing the lost and committed to sharing the Gospel and love of Jesus with our neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends through the development of authentic and loving relationships.

We are growing in deeper intimacy with Jesus and one another through mutual discipleship.  We call this depth groups. We believe that disciples are best formed in the context of real, authentic relationships.  As we demonstrate the love of Jesus in each other’s life, study the Bible in small groups of men or women, pray for one another, and confess our sins to each other so that we can be healed, we believe both our knowledge and our relationship with Jesus will deepen.  This deepening will lead to greater obedience and obedience to mission.

But the most important part of who we are is in the together part.  We don’t believe that discipleship or missions is a solo event.  Jesus sent his disciples to do ministry together in teams of two or more.  Jesus discipled in large groups, in a group of 12, and more intentionally in a group of 4.  Following his example, we strive to live as a family on mission in this city.

Where we’re going:

Restoration Church has always worked to be a “sent” church.  From our humble beginnings, we’ve had a “We are missionaries in Durham” mindset and have sought to teach the people of our church to see themselves as sent by God to various professions and areas of the city that our paid staff and pastors couldn’t go.  We developed missional communities and depth groups and encouraged everyone to be a part of one.  But life is busy and being a church with missional teams usually tends to give way to the pull of the Sunday Morning gatherings.  While our family has grown when it comes to Sunday morning worship, our missional participation hasn’t grown equally.  

The idea of being the church is biblically inseparable from the idea of being on mission.  Jesus sent his church into the world to share the Gospel….that is our primary commission.  Therefore, as church leaders, we had to ask ourselves this, “Are we ok with growing in numbers and personally as disciples, but not as missional movement in the city of Durham and across the globe?”  After prayer and reading the scriptures, we were compelled to answer, “NO.”  For our church to grow complacent in the mission of sharing the Gospel, demonstrating God’s love for the broken, and fighting for justice in areas of injustice, would be directly disobedient to the call of Jesus for his followers.  So we had to think about making a shift and we started praying again.

After months of discussing the vision God had laid on our elder’s heart, talking with other church leaders in the area, and evaluating the context of Durham, NC, we understood the Lord to be leading us to form a different structure to go and grow together….a network of Missional House Churches.  

We would transition from a “come and see” model to a “go and be” model.  Our passion is to become a missional movement in the city of Durham and it’s surrounding communities that see the lost saved and the people of God living in obedience and discipleship with one another.  We would become a Church of missional churches….instead of a church with missional groups.  

The missionary dimension of the local churches life manifests itself, among other ways, when it is truly a worshiping community; it is able to welcome outsiders and make them feel at home; it is a church in which the pastor does not have the monopoly and the members are not merely objects of pastoral care; its members are equipped for their calling in society; it is structurally pliable and innovative; and it does not defend the privileges of a select group.

However, the churches missionary dimension invokes intentional, that is direct involvement in society; it actually moves beyond the walls of the church and engages in missionary “points of concentration” such as evangelism and work for justice and peace.

Understanding this has lead us to purse a model of a network of house churches instead of seeking to build a building and gather believers from across the city in one place every week.

“But why Missional House Churches?” you may be asking.  

Here are several reasons that we have chosen to pursue a house church model as our primary “church experience” in the city of Durham.  

  1. MHC closely models the way that the first century church made disciples as seen in the book of Acts, The oikos (extended family of God) on mission together.

  2. MHC can promote the multigenerational functions of the body of Christ easier.

  3. MHC promotes the development and use of everyone’s spiritual gifts and not just the platform leaders of the church.

  4. MHC takes the large city mission and makes it more local to where people live, work, and play.  

  5. MHC is more appealing to a person that is intimidated or turned off by the traditional church model for various reasons (you might say that the couch is a better gospel catalyst than the congregation).

  6. MHC makes “observational Christianity” (Come and listen, absorb information, pray, pay, and plop, but do little in the mission) more difficult and promotes active participatory discipleship and missions.

  7. The upkeep of a missional house church is less of a financial burden on the church body than that of a brick and mortar building….therefore more of our financial resources, energy, and time can be placed in reaching the lost than maintaining our facilities and programs.  

  8. Because after prayer and reflection we believe God is leading us to follow Him in this model.

How you can join us:

There are several ways that you can be a part of the mission with Restoration Church.

  1. Pray about joining us and being an active part of a local missional house church.  Discover your spiritual gifts and then use them to help an oikos love those who are not currently living for or with Jesus.  There is also room to rest for those disciples that are burned out, but that should be for a season.  Time is like a vapor and there’s work to be done in reaching and serving our broken and hurting community.  

  2. Join our vision and bring your house church, or established church into our network.  We can do so much more together than we can competing.  IF your church is looking for vision and your community is willing to sacrifice all your “sacred cows” to reach the loss, then come join us.  We have big dreams of churches collaborating together to flip this city upside down for the Kingdom of God.   

  3. Take on a leadership roll and help us expand our reach by starting a new house church in Durham.  If you’re willing, we’ll provide the training and encouragement needed to get started.  

  4. Join us for Sunday morning celebrations and encourage the body of Christ with your worship and testimonies.

  5. Pray for this vision to become a reality.  Our enemy is not flesh and blood, resources, or cultural traditions….our enemy is spiritual and we need people to go to battle with us in that realm.  

  6. Give to support this vision financially.  If you would like to hear more of the plan and details about our transition and then feel led to give to support us, we promise stewardship for the mission.  

Notes from Exponential: Ed Stetzer

The State of Church Planting in the US. 

4000 churches were planted in 2014.  

3700 closed in 2014.  

There was a net gain of 300 churches. 

On average a church plant breaks 100 after their 3rd years.  

A third are reaching unchurched people as opposed to simply gaining Christian membership.  

The majority of churches get to survivabilty (self-sufficiency) at year 4.

The challenge: we must commit to planting a church in our first 5 years.  

Notes from Exponential: 8 Steps to Establish Missional Communities

Below are the notes from a talk about starting Missional Groups from Alex Absalom. 

Write down a name who would not come to church but you want to know Christ. - This is where the kingdom wants to come. Jesus has already come into this persons life. 


1. ASK God through prayer: God what is your heart for my context?

2. That will lead you to your person of peace. 

peace/shalom was a greeting you would give to a household (oikos). Look for someone who responds to you with openness or who already is connected to you in a friendship. 

SEE free ebook called "Viral Gospel." (dandelion resourcing.com) 

You are looking for someone who responds to Jesus in you. They become the gate keepers to the context. 

3. Who am I "one of?"

This is all about intentional community. God is a God who is for us and a God who comes to be with us. His holiness and our sinfulness creates seperation but He comes to earth as one of us. As He lives in is we start to look like Him. We then get sent out of be a model of God to others -living for others and with them. Living missionally means being a part of a group -no longer "those people" that you are reaching but "us."

This means being in genuine friendships and relationships with the group you are becoming "one of" or are "one of."

Missions isn't reaching the physically needy. It's reaching the spiritually needy and they are everywhere! They could be defined by geography, career, Interests, anything! It's defined by your Missional context. 

4. Can I pray for you? 

This is an easy way for you to move into spiritual conversations. Pray for a person right there and leave it. Leave it to the Spirit. This will create room for Spiritual conversations. 

Simply treat unchristian friends like your Christian friends. Isn't this how Jesus sent his disciples out? To pray for healing and demonstrate the power of God. Create space for the demonstration of God's power within the context of relationships. They expect you to pray. That's what Jesus followers do. 

5. Do you want to learn from Jesus? 

This is how you invite people into a Missional community - a discipleship relationship. A disciple is one who hears what Jesus says and obeys what he heard. Ask what did Jesus say and how will you respond? When this is supported by the proof of relationships and community -where they get to see the teaching of Jesus lived out- they can internalize the truth. 

"But I'm not a Christian" - Not a problem! 

"But I've got a lot of junk in my life." Not a problem! C'mon! 

This means the community needs to be doing that as a party of their family rhythm to create a stage to bring the seeker into.

6. Who is with us and what do they need?

Build rhythms of relational discipleship into the community. 

7. Who is ready for more?

Move people from the larger group (Multiple families living in biblical community - what we call Missional Family Groups) into smaller groups for vulnerable relationship discipleship of 3-12 people.  [This is where we do Depth groups at Restoration Church of 3-6.]  "The best size for these groups is 3-7."

8. Who is ready to go?

How can we multiply? The key to this is a) cast the vision early and 2) develop a leader or leaders to go out and start a new group. 


Celebrate God's work by telling stories. Tell the simple stories, the little wins. Don't just wait for the big wins.  


[Note from Lance: This is so exciting! God is starting a movement to reach the unreachable though Missional Family Groups / Communities. Also, what a humble, Spirit-filled teacher -Alex Absalom. Wow!]


Step 3/4: Missional Family Groups | Build Out and Build Down

Enough planning. Enough talking. Let’s do it. You’ve established a plan. You are living in rhythms as a family with other believers. You have a strategy. You have a few people in mind that you want to reach, that you are on mission for. Now go do it. Live out the mission plan.

Build Out | Begin making friends with Outsiders

You have started truly becoming family with your Christian friends. You have determined through prayer and wisdom a certain group of people you want to reach. You’ve planned a strategic event or two to create an opportunity to make those friends. 

Action Step - Add these outreach events to your rhythms. Faith. Fun. Food. Friends.

Best Practices:

This isn’t just one event. Maybe a monthly or even weekly event. 
The point of the event is to make friends -build rapport, start relationships. 

Build Down | Become family with outsiders

You’ve been regularly connecting with your Christian family. You’ve been meeting and making friends with outsiders through parties or projects. Now what? Invite your new friends into some of the more surface family times your groups plans. The idea is to build them into all your family rhythms over time.

Action Step - Invite the friends you are most connected to to a fun night for your group. 
Action Step - Once they are comfortable invite them to a spiritual discussion, a “faith building time for your group.”

Best Practices:

- Take your time. The Spirit is the true evangelist. 
- Your group has different gifts use them all. One person may have the gift of hospitality and be great at making people feel welcomed. Others may be teachers and be best at talking through tough concepts. Someone may be gifted as a listener or counsellor and help take the convo to deeper levels. Someone may be a gifted evangelist. Its ok if they find themselves sharing the gospel more often. Everyone uses their gifts.
- Always be aware of the outsiders presence. Make them feel comfortable.
- There may be times where inviting a person into a depth group makes sense. The intimacy provided in a group of 3 or 4 other guys or girls allows for deeper honest conversation. Either way, the goal is to have everyone in a depth group either once they become a Christian or right after.


Step Two: Missional Family Groups | Build Up


Build Up | Make Friends. Throw parties. Do projects.

As we work to build together we can also begin to discuss how we are going to reach others. We can build up a strategy to reach out and show and tell the gospel to people in our city.

Action Step - Write out a list of activities the families and individuals in your group are interested in.
Action Step - Take some time during one of your faith building meetings to whiteboard a list of people you know that you hope to reach with the gospel. 
Action Step - For those individuals or families begin to list the things they are interested in.
Action Step - Determine the most common shared interests between the people you want to reach.
Action Step - Determine the shared interests for the people in your group.
Action Step - Focus in on one person/family/group to begin to reach.
Action Step - Begin to plan ways to reach a person/family/group like that.

Stage one is finding ways to make friends with people in the group you’ve decided to reach.

Best Practices:

- The goal is to have a “person type” you will all agree to reach.
- Think of yourselves as mission team on a mission trip because you are.
- Think parties or projects. The people you are going to reach will come to a party or join you in a project before they will be interested in faith discussions.
- The point is to create venues where your group can make friends with people who need Jesus.
- The next step in this process is to invite the people you are hoping to reach into the family rhythms. These are people that you will invite to eat with you, go bowling with, etc. Keep that in mind.
- Find ways you can included your current life naturally. For example: If your kids all play soccer maybe you build your group to reach other soccer parents.
- Some members of the group may have to temporarily sacrifice their preferred focus group to help reach others. This won’t matter long term because 1) there is always the opportunity to learn and build relationships around any topic and 2) this may simply mean God is preparing a person to start a new group with a new focus. Eventually, groups will be founded on the basis of the target mission more than other unifying factors.


Group A decides they want to reach John and Jan’s friends the Smiths. The Smith’s are big college football fans and so are a few of the other families in the group. The MFG decides to throw a big football party every Monday night. They invite friends over, including the Smiths.

Group B decides they want to impact the families in their neighborhood. The neighborhood is very conscious so the MFG establishes a mission project to the local school. They ask the neighbors to join them. Some of them do.

Step One: Missional Family Group | Build Together

Step One: Missional Family Group | Build Together


Over the next few days I am going to write a few posts giving everyone a script of how to start and establish a Missional Family Group. As a church, we may have one or two groups to get started but going forward, we expect missional family groups to be the main tool we use to help people get into depth groups. I have tried to include action steps for each leader/group to check off as the begin to live as family on mission. 

Build Together | Become Family with Insiders. Family. Food. Fun. Faith. 

It is important to give this part time. To reach outsiders you need different types of family rhythms planned out. If you skip this step you will not experience biblical community. You will not become a family. You will not have a natural place to invite insiders into. We have been in some of these rhythms in previous small groups so you may be able to go faster, but make sure you get into a full family rhythm together. What do you do to truly begin to engage each other as family? 

Action Step - At your first meeting, play a game to help you get to know each other.
Action Step - Study Scripture together during that first night. Ask application questions like “How will this idea impact your life? What do you need this idea/truth in your life right now?”
Action Step - Give everyone a chance to pray to start sharing spiritual intimacy. “I will start, my wife will end it, in the middle anyone who would like to pray feel free to jump in. Feel free to jump in more than once.
Action Step - Plan a day or two to share a meal together during the first month.
Action Step - Plan a fun event or two to do together in the first month.
Action Step - Plan your rhythms. This is more than a weekly meeting. Fun Time. Food Time. Faith Time. Monthly.

Questions to ask:

What night is best for you to meet?
What do we want to study together?
How often do we want to have faith time?
How often do we want to eat together?
How often do we want to do something fun?
Do we want to do those things on a different night?

Best practices:

Divide faith time and fun time so that there are spaces safer for outsiders.
Add food to one or the other or both.
Fun night doesn’t have to be anything more than just eating and hanging out.
Think of this more like hanging out with family/friends and less like a church event. 
What best practices would you recommend?


Group A - This group meets every Tuesday night to eat together. They’ve decided to order pizza every week and divide the cost to make it easier. They are studying Tim Keller’s book on prayer together on Tuesday nights. They’ve also decided that they want to go bowling together every other Friday night to just have fun. 

Group B - This group meets on Sunday night. They’ve decided that every other Sunday night they will develop their faith by studying the book of Ephesians together and praying together. On the Sunday nights they aren’t studying together they will share a potluck meal and play their favorite card game.

Questions? Engage here or via social media.

Is a Missional Family Group Just a Fancy Name for a Small Group?

Over the next couple of weeks we are starting Missional Family Groups at Restoration Church. In missional family groups believers commit to each other to live in family rhythms together and on mission together. A few thoughts on what makes this different than your average small group or Sunday School class?

1) It’s not different in every way. What do healthy families do together? Well at least in part, they pray together and study the bible together. That is what most small group models do too. Nothing different there.

2) Do family stuff together. This may be the different part for people. Missional Family Groups are where believers find ways and plan ways to live in family rhythms together. The word rhythm is essential. It implies regularity and predictability. Beyond Bible study and prayer, what else do families do together? Most share a meal together, at least some times. Some have a game night. Sometimes families have a movie night or go to a game together every week. I have one friend who takes his family to every Duke football home game.  For believers to live in authentic biblical community we have to live life together. Missional Family Groups plan to live in these kind of family rhythms together.

3) Make friends with outsiders. This is what makes a Missional Family Group missional. Each group must determine who they are best set up to connect with  and start planning out ways to make friends with that group. This group could be a neighborhood. It could be college students. It could be teachers at a school. It could be Auburn football fans. (That’s my favorite! haha) It could be business leaders or Doctor Who fans or a little league baseball team or... the list goes on and on. “I thought missions meant helping the less fortunate?” Everyone is equally less fortunate when they are outside of Christ... but, you may also focus on building relationships with the homeless, unwed mothers, orphans, or others who need our support. In these cases, the real mission could be the outsiders you invite to go with you. 

4) Parties or Projects. We have said that there are many people in our communities who will not come to church but, they may come to a party or join you in a project to support the needy. Don’t invite people to church. Invite them to a party. Invite them to support a project. 

5) Invite your new friends into the family. If you are intentionally making friends with outsiders and intentionally living in real family rhythms with insiders (other Christians) then you will always have an easy next to step for your new “outsider” friends to take. Imagine that you have been making friends with a couple at a party your Missional Family Group has been throwing every couple of weeks. They may be excited about coming to a Bible Study or to church, but for many, that step is too far. If your groups is living in family rhythms, you probably have a game night every couple of weeks or something like that. Invite them to your game night first. Then, maybe they are ready to join you for a meal. Then maybe they will be ready to join you for discussions about the Bible.

6) Build toward a depth group. We believe true life change happens in certain kinds of relationships. James 5 tells us what those relationships should look like. These groups should reflect four attributes. 1) You should speak truth into each others lives. 2) You should confess your sins to each other. 3) You should pray for each other. 4) You should act on your prayers, and serve each other in areas of need. This kind of relationship is most effective when its 3-5 people of the same gender who meet regularly to live out this vision regularly. We call these Depth Groups. The big goal of our church is to have everyone in our community in these kinds of relationships. That is the goal of a Missional Family Group.

SUMMARY: Over the next few weeks, we will dig in a little deeper and help everyone prepare to take specific actions to start or join effective Missional Family Groups. For now begin thinking of the people you are connected to that need to hear the gospel and become followers of Jesus. With those folks... make friends, become family, grow faith. -Lance

When did Peter become a Christian? Footnotes - Kinetic Part 2

We talked today about the fact that Jesus engaged the disciples -at least Peter, Andrew, James, and John- in relationships before He gave them a pretty radical call to "Follow Me." We learned that friendship with Jesus precedes radical obedience to Jesus, that the latter is the result of the former. We said it this way: Authentic friendship is always the root when authentic worship is the fruit.

With that in mind, when did the disciples "get saved" as we call it? Was it at a sermon? Was it during a crusade? Maybe a great worship band came to town? Nope. The disciples "believe on Him" when they went to a party with Jesus. (Read John 2:11.) In the context of Jesus' service of others at a wedding party, where the disciples were hanging out with Him and others, Jesus chose to reveal His glory. When He did, the most important converts in history trusted Jesus to be the One who would take away their sins.

Jesus can, of course, use all kinds of methods, models, and mechanisms to show people His glory. He can do so during sermons, worship, and in-the-moment gospel encounters. But, the more I pay attention to the tactics of Jesus as He started the Christian movement, the more I see Him engaging in relationships. And, in the context of those relationships non-believers believe and become disciples who eventually make other disciples.  -Lance

Right where He Wants Us | Footnotes - Kinetic Part 2

We are going to introduce something this week that we hope to become a tradition of sorts for us at Restoration Church. We call it "Footnotes." It's a chance to dig into details or thoughts from the message that we had to edit out. 

In today's entry, I wanted to add a thought that I would have loved to have covered during the sermon. Imagine with me for a second we visit another town far away, say in LA, and while we are there we attend a church. There's a big auditorium filled with thousands of people. They praise with passion. They are friendly. They listen to the message intensely. Most are taking notes. We probably leave that service thinking something like: This church is going strong. They are doing it right. Now, imagine we come back to LA a few years later. We are excited to attend that church again. "I bet they've grow even more," we might think to ourselves. When we get to the service though, we glimpse into the auditorium and see what appears to be around a hundred people in the large, now-empty worship center.

What thoughts do you think would come to our minds? Most of us, including me, would probably start to question everything we thought we knew about that ministry. I would probably assume some failure on the pastors' part. I would have no doubt that something went wrong. 

Maybe you have already figured this out, but the first church could be described pretty much that way. For most of Jesus' ministry He was preaching to thousands. In the days preceding Pentecost, the church had dwindled down to around a hundred. If Jesus wasn't the leader of this movement, we might all peer into that upper room with a bit more judgment and criticism. But, we would clearly be wrong to do so. Jesus had the church right where He wanted it -so to speak. 

Who was left? Out of the thousands that had gathered to hear Him preach very few remained. For the most part, it would appear that the ones who were left were the ones who lived in relationship with Jesus. As we continue to think about the ideas that define our church (Intimacy with God. Intimacy with Others.) we should be confident that we are heading in the right direction. It's the people that we engage in relationship that will be most ready to receive Christ, walk in the Spirit, and one day, turn the worlds upside down just like that handful Jesus left in the upper room. -Lance