December 22nd, 2012
Giving Praise to God
On October 27-28, 2012 Grace Church of Alexandria celebrated our first five years as a local church! Check out the audio testimonies and photo gallery below.
We held this celebration weekend to honor our church planting team members, give thanks to the churches and individuals who partnered with GCA, unify our church family for the next five years, and give thanks to Christ the Head of our church.
Photos Gallery of the Testimony & Thanksgiving Service
Testimonies from Grace Church’s First Five Years
Click on any of the links below to listen in on (or download) testimonies from that weekend about God’s work at our local church–
- Welcome & Reason For the Celebration
- Partners in the Gospel: A Devotional from Philippians 1
- Testimony by Jen, a new believer at GCA
- Testimony by Dave Ruse, GCA church planting team member
- Testimony by Ryan Johnson, a GCA member
- Testimony by Ron Bean, GCA elder
As a church family, we give thanks to God for causing our church plant to flourish in the five years since we first began meeting. 2012 has been a monumental year for us, as this year we became self-supporting and transitioned from church plant to a fully-planted local congregation.
December 12th, 2012
As a church planter, I’m blessed to have a number of friends who have paved the way for me to follow in church planting and grace-filled shepherding. Several times each year our elders meet up for prayer and idea-sharing with one of these friends, Ian McConnell, Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Grace Bible Church of Philly, PA.
Ian set out to plant a church in Northeast Philly, and instead found himself re-planting and revitalizing an existing local church, by God’s sovereign plan. And now, 6 1/2 years later, that church is embarking on a project to plant churches to methodically reach nearby Northeast Philly neighborhoods.
The following two videos featuring Ian capture a heart for gospel ministry in cities for Christ, which is also the heartbeat of our church, Grace Church of Alexandria. The first video highlights the difficulty and importance of revitalizing existing churches. As Ian says, God “brings dead things to life.”
In this next video, Ian shares their vision to reach nearby neighborhoods with the news of Christ’s lordship and cross by starting new community churches.
October 26th, 2012
Why a celebration?
This weekend we’re celebrating Grace Church of Alexandria’s first 5 years, and our financial independence which we just achieved this fall. Come celebrate God’s faithfulness to our church family and give honor to those who’ve helped along the way.
BBQ Dinner RSVP is now closed, but join us for everything else! All our members and attenders are invited, and all friends of the ministry, including former church planting team members, prayer partners, and financial suporters.
Saturday, October 27
- 5:30 pm BBQ Dinner (by Red Hot & Blue for all who RSVP’d)
- 7:00 pm Thanksgiving and Testimony Service
Location: Franconia Baptist Church - Directions
Sunday, October 28
- 9:25 am Adult Bible Class, guest speaker Pastor Will Arndt
- 10:30 am Celebration Service with guest speaker Pastor Eric Sipe
- 12:00 pm Free pizza lunch for everyone
Location: Our Sunday meeting place, Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School - Directions
What will the celebration include?
Saturday will include a Dinner and Thanksgiving Service where we’ll hear from residents of the community and church members how God worked in their lives through the church plant. We’ll also give recognition to those who contributed in all sorts of ways to plant GCA.
Sunday will include a 9:25 am talk by Will Arndt of Heritage Bible Church on what’s next for Grace Church as an urban church plant. Then during the 10:30 am service, Pastor Eric Sipe who oversaw the planting of GCA, will be our guest preacher, and we’ll have a panel discussion reflecting on God’s faithfulness to GCA. A 12 pm free pizza lunch for all will be provided.
Thanks to everyone (supporters, prayer partners, church planting team members, and all our members & attenders) who has been a partner with us for gospel growth here at Grace Church of Alexandria!
October 16th, 2012
The Roller Coaster Ride of Church Planting
My friend, church planter and pastor Tim Richmond, recently wrote from the heart to fellow church planters who feel bounced around by the exciting yet rough ride that is church planting. In his article, “Help for Bipolar Church Planters,” Tim so accurately captured the highs and lows, joys and sorrows, pressures and progress that church planters feel on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
Along with Tim, many days I’ve lifted up my face to heaven with joy over the conversion of a lost person, or seeing a new believer take the next step of faith, but then the next minute my head is hung low, burdened for an unrepentant member, grieved by sin in my own life, or bewildered what to do about a financial shortfall or the news that we have to find an alternate meeting place for our church this Sunday. Church planting gives you a front row seat to God’s grace, yet often times feels like being tortured on the rack.
Taking Time to Understand Church Planting’s Stresses
If you’re an aspiring or current church planter, or helping out with a church plant in some capacity, I encourage you to read this article to prepare yourself for planting, ground yourself in wise thinking for ministry pressures, or better know how to understand and serve your pastors who are pastoring or planting.
Tim Richmond’s Diagnoses and Remedies
Tim’s article starts with these accurate observations about church planting:
- A pastor must be emotionally connected to the flock individually and corporately.
- All churches go through ups and downs. Church plants commonly have more ups and downs than other ministries.
- Church planters’ emotions ride a roller coaster.
Next, he describes common spiritual and physical symptoms of church planting overload, which I’ve often seen in my life these past 5 years of planting.
- Impatience and irritability with family;
- Overindulging yourself (in sinful or not so sinful things);
- A deep sense of discouragement and an urge to quit when Sunday’s numbers don’t add up to your preconceived notions success;
- Stale worship;
- Jealousy over other men’s gifts or “success.”
He then advises four steps to “escape the bipolar church planting mindset”:
- Fix your mind on the sovereignty of God in Christ as the Head of the Church.
- Fix your identity on the love of God in Christ.
- Change from a worldly view of success.
- Find other stuff to do (worship, friends & family, other hobbies.
September 18th, 2012
Most guests who drop in to check out Grace Church of Alexandria on Sundays heard about us through our web site. When our church was a fledgling church plant, and even now as a fully established church, hands down, our web site is the #1 way people first have connected with the church, and have decided to check out our church family.
We are indebted to the excellent team at The Worthwhile Company for designing and hosting a stellar web site and blog for us. I want to give a shout out to them, because they’re one of the key reasons our church plant was able to establish a clear identity in our community of West End Alexandria, without having the visibility of our own church building. Perhaps they can help your ministry or non-profit too.
The designers, programmers, and strategists at Worthwhile have never truly been satisfied with the site they created for us, but have regularly suggested improvements and enhancements as the web has changed and as their skills as a team have increased. If your church plant, church, or ministry is looking for a creative, reliable, effective partner to establish or strengthen your web presence, I heartily recommend you check out Worthwhile.
We have been blessed that not only did Worthwhile put their brains and skill to work for our church plant, their lead designer (the one who designed our web site) Dave Ruse and his wife ended up relocating to Alexandria, Virginia, to become members of our church and lend a hand in even more personal, meaningful ways. Truly, the team at Worthwhile are fast friends and key partners in our mission of making the glory and majesty of Christ known inside the Washington D.C. beltway. These are just a few of the many ministry partners that helped our gospel preaching church get off the ground, and we give thanks to the Lord Jesus for them.
p.s. Worthwhile recently set up a foundation called Web For Good that creates and maintains ministry web sites free of charge to needy, deserving ministries. Check it out! www.webforgood.org
August 29th, 2012
We did it! Grace Church of Alexandria has become a fully established local church, four and a half years after starting as a home Bible study. This means Grace Church is no longer a church plant! We give thanks to the Lord Jesus for forming and growing our congregation as a gospel centered church in the City of Alexandria.
The Final Step In Church Planting
On August 5, 2012, the members of Grace Church took the final step in the church planting process. Attendance and offerings have grown enough for GCA to cover all ministry expenses, including the salary of lead pastor Jonathan Matías. And so the church voted to become financially independent, no longer needing to rely on the support of the two churches and dozen individuals who have financially backed the church plant. We’re able to stand on our own two feet in every way as a local congregation!
Grace Church when we were just a home Bible study (spring 2008)
Challenges of a Start-Up
Church plants that aren’t able to become fully self-supporting within 5 years often end up closing their doors. But church start-ups that make it to financial independence within 5 years are able typically to thrive for the long-term. Much credit for our church’s health goes to our sponsoring church, Heritage Bible Church, for their incredible backing and investment of people, advice, funding, prayers, and encouragement. We couldn’t have a more faithful and encouraging support in church planting than what we’ve received from Heritage!
100% Member Participation
Grace Church has also strengthened and grown because God has graciously provided dozens of believers who gladly have gotten plugged in to our church family and invested themselves in the work of worshiping, discipling, praying, witnessing, and serving others. I’m pleased to say that we have 100% member participation in serving at our local church. That means every member has volunteered in some way to be involved in setup on Sundays, or working in GraceKids, or as a musician, or providing meals to needy members, or any other number of serving roles. It is a joy to pastor this flock which is so committed to the glory of God through the local church.
Grace Church when we met in Capitol Hill Baptist Church (summer 2008)
All Credit Goes to Christ
Above all, we give all praise to Christ our Head, for He the one who promised, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18)! It is our desire to know Christ so well that our joy in him spills over and makes him known to others inside the Washington D.C. beltway. It’s been wonderful to see Christ save several individuals from the community by drawing them to Grace Church where they’ve heard the gospel and been joyously saved. It’s been thrilling to watch believers with struggles and questions come to Grace Church and find answers from the Bible and grow up in the faith. All of this has come about, not because we’re such a great group of people (you see, we’re broken, sinful rebels who are being transformed by Jesus) but because we have a great Savior!
So, as we have transitioned from being a church plant to a fully established local church, we echo the words of 1 Corinthians 1:31 —
Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord!”
a recent Sunday at Grace Church (summer 2012)
A Time of Spiritual Renewal
Two weeks ago, Grace Church’s pastors and their families spent the week at the Heritage Pastors Gathering in Greer, South Carolina. We gathered with nearly 75 other pastors and wives who have planted churches out of Heritage Bible Church, pastored at Heritage, or attended Heritage in past years. What an encouraging, Spirit-guided time of confession, worship, idea-sharing, and sharpening we experienced together! I can testify that the gathering was a tangible time of spiritual renewal for us, and brought us back to what is central for life and ministry.
Fellowship From Coast To Coast
In the mornings we met together for devotions, discussions about our heart, and prayer time. Lunches were a fabulous time to mingle and catch up with fellow gospel ministers from all over…from L.A., Salt Lake City, and Brooklyn, to Columbus, OH, Columbia, SC and McAllen, TX.
The Gospel Sung and Preached
The evenings were a real treat…extended times of singing the gospel and preaching on the gospel by Chris Anderson, author of Gospel Meditations for Men and Gospel Meditations for Women. If you’re in any kind of ministry (small group leader, personal discipler, church planter, missionary), his talks about Christ’s interaction with the Samaritan woman in John 4 are well worth your time.
I just want to express thanksgiving for our church plant’s partnership with Heritage, our sending church. Our elders and deacons have learned the centrality of the cross, the glory of Christ, and the sovereignty of God from our time at Heritage. It is our prayer that we will be living out and feeding the flock in the D.C. area with these same central values we’ve been entrusted with by Heritage.
November 10th, 2011
This past Sunday, November 6, 2011, marked the fourth anniversary of our church’s founding. In our four years, by God’s gracious hand, we’ve seen sinners converted, believers repentant over their sin, Christians taking the next step in maturity, and members serving and loving one another in amazing ways. And so we give thanks to our gracious God for establishing our church and gathering worshipers for his name here in Alexandria, Virginia.
Enjoy this visual history of Grace Church of Alexandria that was shown during the celebration service last Sunday. You can also read about our church’s story here.
November 4th, 2011
This weekend marks the third visit made by leaders from our sending church to us as a church plant. For three days, Pastor of Community Will Arndt and Deacon William Jana are meeting with me and our elders and deacons for prayer, assessment, idea-sharing, and to serve as a sounding board. And on Sunday, I’m delighted that Will will be delivering the sermon on the Sunday that marks the fourth anniversary of Grace Church of Alexandria’s very first meeting.
I’m amazed how much Heritage Bible Church continually invests in us as a daughter church. You’d think after four years of faithfully getting behind our efforts of establishing a local church that Heritage would concentrate their work elsewhere. Yet this is the 3rd visit by their officers this year to shore up our leadership and help us wisely lead the church. Heritage has continually supported us with finances, by sending new team members to Alexandria every year since 2005, and by listening and advising all along the way.
Aspiring church planters, one the most important ingredients for a thriving church plant is a sending church that is thoroughly committed to preparing, equipping, and encouraging your church plant from start to finish. We have been blessed with the best sending church I can imagine. Paul’s expression of thanks in Philippians 1:3–5 is an appropriate expression of thanks from Grace Church to Heritage:
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Here’s my blog post about the 2nd visit from Heritage leaders to our church in June 2011.
September 28th, 2011
Started in 2009, Redeemer is one of the newest church planted by Heritage Bible Church, the same ministry that helped our local church get its start. Our friends Todd and Carissa Davis, accompanied by a team of believers, established Redeemer in the greater Denver area to offer hope in the Lord Jesus Christ and bring glory to him. In July Redeemer celebrated their charter service and affirmed three believers as their elders.
Learn more about Redeemer and how to pray for their local church: