Restoration 2.0

In last week's newsletter (if you haven't read, please read's important to the life and health of our church), I mentioned what I've been calling "Restoration 2.0". 

What, might you ask, is "Restoration 2.0"?

I'm glad you did! Restoration 2.0 is who we are becoming. It's the updated version of the church we started in 2012. It's not something new, it's just us, with some new features and updated applications. It's the next iteration of who we have been called to be...and it's really exciting!

Now, I know every "developer" thinks their update is the best, and some people prefer not to update because battery life goes down (if you have an iPhone), or the new features are not what we're used to, or we just like things to stay the same. I get that. Especially when it comes to technology.

Nothing mission-critical is changing for us, but it's essential that we continue to ask God where He wants to take us, what "tweaks" do we need to make, and how our vision need to be updated to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. So for us, that looks like:

A renewed focus on discipleship
Jesus called us to "make disciples." That's our mission and our calling. So who we're becoming will be who we have been, but with an emphasis on equipping, empowering, and sending people to make disciples. We're going to be asking: who's discipling you (teaching/processing/helping you learn to follow Jesus and seek His Kingdom), and who are you doing that for? In Restoration 2.0, these kind of relationships are critical and expected. 

Prayer must be central to who we are.
We've always been a praying church. But that's never been "out in front" of our identity. It is now. We want to create an atmosphere of prayer, especially on Sunday mornings. That's when we MUST be praying - for each other and for our mission. Think of it this way: when Jesus taught His disciples (see above) to pray, He told them they were to invite "His Kingdom to come, His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven." That's THE big deal. In Restoration 2.0, we long to see the Kingdom happening all around us. And it only happens if/when we pray!

Relationships, relationships, relationships!
Part of our call is to be a presence in the city that fosters relationships, both within the church...but especially with those outside of "us." That's who we are...and who we are called to become. In Restoration 2.0, we will continue to become a source for connection and deep relationships that ultimately demonstrate the love of God to those around us.

Mission and leadership experts say that an organization needs a season of re-visioning every 5 years to stay vital and be a movement (instead of a static organization). I think that feels right. We're 5, almost 6 years in, and God has been leading us toward this update for about a year. It's been a journey, discovering who He is calling us to be and how He is transforming us as we go. In his book Canoeing the Mountains, leadership expert Tod Bolsinger describes a leading, transformative church this way (paraphrase):

an energized community of people moving toward their own transformation in order to accomplish a shared mission in the face of a changing world.

I pray Restoration 2.0 will be this kind of energized community, because this is who God has invited us to become. We want to be intent on our own transformation, because that's what following Jesus looks like. And we definitely believe we have a mission to our city, our valley, and our changing world. 

So here's your invitation: Be discipled. Go make disciples. Pray. Build relationships with people in the name of Jesus. if you interested in any of these, or just want to know what it could look like for you, just email me or Kayla. All of this is part of following Jesus, and God is leading us to a place where this is simply "normal" for us, part of who we are...and who we are becoming.  

Moving toward transformation and on mission with you. 



I started my summer reading list this past week with a new book called "Reset - Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture" by  counselor/speaker/professor/pastor David Murray. (With all those titles, I'm assuming he knows a thing or two about burnout!)

Anyway, the first part of the book is all about diagnostics: how do you determine if you are on a path toward burnout? Or at least operating at a deficit emotionally, physically, and spiritually? Being mindful of things like: perfectionismDiet. Sleep. Comparison. Pride. People-pleasing. One of these on it's own is manageable. Two might not be totally unhealthy, but is likely unsustainable. Three or might be in trouble. 

At any rate, the one that jumped out at me was what the author called "backsliding." He defines that as:

"...the gradual loss of contact with God through regularly rushed or missed daily devotions, or of the life lived independently of God, resulting in a growing distance between us and God, and a growing proximity to temptation and sin."  

- David Murray

The thing I like about that definition is the simple diagnostics of it. There's no judgement, no shame...just the practical assessment of our condition. The thing I also like: it assumes that the baseline for every Christian is a regular contact with and connection to God.

I wonder, in our "burnout culture", where we stand with that definition. Are I...are with a baseline of regular connection to and contact with Jesus? Or is  "backsliding" more of our baseline? 

I think the primary tool of the enemy in our day is to keep us distracted and disconnected from God. If we believe there is an enemy to our souls, wouldn't it make sense for Him to keep the distance between us and the source of our strength/power/faith growing? If he can do that, he knows we're definitely headed toward a faith burnout.

Jesus described the situation like this to His disciples: 

"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing."

- Jesus

My hope for us as a church is that we cultivate that connection. Because the consequences are tragic if we don't. And the lie of the enemy (and our pride) is that we can sustain a life, and a faith, without it. 

Perhaps the place to start is a simple diagnostic in your own (and my own) life. Do I have a sense of contact and connection with God that's regular? Or is distance more descriptive? Do I carve out regular time to hear and gain strength from "the Vine," or am I separated from it? 

The simplest model I've seen over the years for maintaining this connection is simply called S.O.A.P.:


It starts by grabbing a cup of coffee (or wine, or beer...whatever!), and sitting down. Stop rushing. Just sit. 

And then: read a short section of Scripture. 4-8 verses is plenty. Maybe more if you're in an OT story. Maybe less in other parts of the Bible. But just read it. Twice. 

And then: Ask yourself, "what stands out here? What words seem interesting? What phrases catch my mind/heart? Why?" 

And then: Ask God, "why does this stand out? What are you saying to me? How does this apply in my life?" (You might even write some of this down. In a journal. Or in your Bible. Or on your hand...whatever.) 

And then: Pray. Like: "Jesus, make this true/real in my life." And then pray for your wife, your kids, your friends, your finances, your dog...whatever is pressing in at that moment.

That's pretty much it. Over time, it's amazing what God says, what kind of wisdom and revelation comes, what strength is gained, and how faith grows. 

I pray we would all be connected to the vine. I pray we would avoid the pitfalls of our burnout culture. And I pray we would walk in power, and the fruit would be abundant. 

Walking with you,


Do You Have Older and Younger People in Your Life?

"Who are the older men or women in your life who are a source of wisdom, strength, grace, and encouragement?"

Last month I was at a conference and the speaker asked the audience the above question. So, if you think back at your life, who are the people who have influenced you?

Who are the people who showed you how to follow Jesus?

When I took a moment to reflect on this question, a flood of older women came to my mind. The Sunday school teachers who picked me up for church, a mom in her 40s who loved me and my friends when I was in high school, seniors who met with me for coffee when I was a freshmen at Roanoke College, women at Restoration who have had me over for dinner, and the list goes on...

My life wouldn't be the same without these women. In the case of some of them, I may not have followed Jesus without their influence. 

That same speaker also asked: 

"Who are the younger men and women in your life and are you a source of these things for them?"

He went on to say that during college and young adult years people either decide to follow Jesus or they decide to walk away. His challenge was that we will lose an entire group of millennials unless we take inter-generational discipleship seriously. 

As much as I hate to label myself as a millennial, what I heard him say was startling but true. 

I shutter to think about where I would be if I didn't have older men and women who were invested in my life. 

In the Bible, Paul modeled this for us with his relationship with Timothy and we can see a glimpse of their relationship in 2 Timothy. With tender love, Paul addresses his letter to "My dear son" and he tells Timothy:

"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others." - 2 Timothy 2:1

We are given this example of not only receiving guidance from someone older, but also passing along what we have learned. 

Imagine what would happen if in our community we were all in a relationship with someone who we could learn from and then we were intentionally pouring into one person who was younger. 

I think that we would begin to see more people who enter into adulthood with a security in their identity in Christ. We would see more healing and restoration. We would see more Jesus. 

Let me speak for us millennials for a second. 

We need you. 

It is so easy to feel disqualified, especially in this culture that preaches perfection. Lies crop up about not knowing enough or not feeling like you have enough wisdom. Jesus rarely (aka almost never) chose people who had everything together.

Jesus' disciples didn't "get it" at first, they messed up, they lacked faith sometimes, but ultimately Jesus used them to change the world. 

What would it look like to let God work through us to love people who are younger? Who are you going to invest in during 2018?

Thanks for what you already do to love people!


P.S. Listen to the entire teaching from Dr. Gordon Smith here. 


  • Restoration Kids needs a K-1 teacher and a Sunday School aide! If you have kids, love kids, or act like a kid, this might be the gig for you! These are both a one-time per month commitment, all materials are provided.Contact Julie Habeeb to sign up:


  • Christmas Eve service will be 4:30pm at the Salem YMCA. Come join us for a candlelight service, perfect for celebrating the Light that came into the world!!


  • On New Years Eve, Sunday Dec. 31, instead of meeting at the YMCA, we're going to have brunch together at Mac and Bobs. See you there at 9:30am for some sweet potato pancakes or a Boston Zone!


  • If God has blessed you this year, please consider partnering with us and giving a year-end gift. We have big plans for 2018, and want to finish 2017 strong! Checks can be dropped in the towers near the coffee table on Sunday or mailed to P.O. Box 902 Salem, VA 24153 and you can always give online. Deadline for 2017 giving is Jan 3. Please date checks Dec 31, 2017.

A Cure For Our Hardheartedness

"When God becomes King, on earth as it is in heaven, He will provide a cure for hardness of heart. The healing that Jesus offered for sick bodies was to penetrate to the very depths of one's being. Transformed lives, healed from the inside out, are to be the order of the day when God becomes King...[there is] a many-sided transformation Jesus seems to have believed would happen when people followed Him and discovered what it meant for God to become King."   - NT Wright, Simply Jesus

This last weekend, we took on the idea of religion and politics. Well, we didn't. Peter did. In his letter to the early church. We just talked about it. 

What really jumped out at me this last week was how much anger there is in our culture at the moment. So. Much. Anger. People are mad about everything. We're mad about Trump. We're mad about the media. We're angry about congressional deadlock and cronyism and Russia and healthcare...the list just goes on and on.

But it's not just politics. It spills over into our relationships. It's in our communities and our neighborhoods and our families. We get angry, and finding complaint or blaming or demonizing are easier options than working things out with grace and forgiveness. 

And I guess that's the thing. Because anger turns from righteous to self-righteous pretty quickly. That's part of what we talked about on Sunday - how anger can take these two roads. Righteous anger that is motivated by compassion. This kind of anger motivates us to do something proactive and for people. It softens our hearts to the needs of others.

The other kind of anger is more readily identifiable in our world. It's a self-righteous anger that trades on ego and frustration. It's oppositional in nature, with lots of emotion directed at those with whom we disagree. This kind of anger motivates us to complain about things we can't control, to blame and demonize and tear the "other side" down. We become jaded, and it produced a hardness to our lives. Especially in our hearts. 

I love what NT Wright says above because I think it perfectly captures the situation. When we find ourselves complaining and blaming and demonizing, anything righteous about our anger disappears, replaced by "self." And when "self" is king, there's less grace. Less forgiveness. And every little perceived offense just hardens the heart a little more.

But when God is King, it moves us in the other direction. The more He has reign in our lives, the less "self" in control. We see people the way He does. We traffic in more grace, not less. We have more forgiveness to offer people...even those who offend us.

That's what it looks like when God is King. And it's the only cure for hardness of heart.

So as you consider your circle of relationships - from work, to school, to home and family - do you find yourself trafficking in more: complaint or grace? Blame or forgiveness?

When 'self' is king, our hearts will only grow harder. But when God is King...we find a cure that heals us from the inside out. 

Which way are you moving?


We All Have A Question To Ask Ourselves

Don't tell Scott, but I stole his Lion King illustration from Sunday for a talk I gave this week (if you didn't hear his sermon, listen to it online, it is AWESOME! While you're at it, read 1 Peter 2:4-12)

Every July for the last 4 years I've spoken to a small group of recent high school graduates. There is a small summer program that meets at Roanoke College to prepare students for college.

Each year I talk about 3 things: knowing God, knowing your identity, and knowing your purpose. 

This year, I issued a new challenge. 

We can KNOW our identity and our purpose, but what good does that do if it doesn't change how we live? We have a choice. To just sit in the knowledge that we are uniquely created by God for a mission or to actually live into that calling. 

Surprisingly, one girl that I was speaking to hadn't seen the Lion King.

As we were all explaining the movie to her so I could use the analogy, one guy interrupted us and said "It's basically Hamlet." I looked at her with a stunned expression....she didn't know a Disney film but she knew Shakespeare. 

As we talked about the decision that we each face to either be complacent or live actively for God's purposes, some people connected with the Lion King. With the idea of Simba leaving the easy life with Timon and Pumbaa to return to take his rightful place as King.

I looked at the girl who hadn't experienced the Lion King and, after a thoughtful pause, she said, 

"To be or not to be"

Then everyone picked up on the simplicity of that line. While it may be a little black and white, there is some truth to the juxtaposition. 

We either live into the identity God has given us or we don't. 

Transitioning from high school from college is a natural time to choose how you are going to live and what you are going to live for. 

But we each have that choice in front of us every single day. So, for you....

To be, or not to be, that is the Question.


Stones at the Foot of a Cross

It is so good to be back!

For those of you who don't know, I've been in Spain for the last 3 weeks walking El Camino De Santiago with one of my best friends Hollyn.  I'm so excited for the Pancake Breakfast on Sunday so that I can spend time with some of my favorite people and share stories from my trip. 

If you don't know much about El Camino De Santiago, its a pilgrimage that began when (supposedly) the remains of James, one of the disciples of Jesus, were found. Since that time, thousands of people have journeyed through Spain to reach the Cathedral in Santiago where St. James' remains are buried.

The trail is littered with churches, crosses, and traditions. One of my favorite was the Cruz De Ferro: 

 An iron cross with thousands and thousands of rocks scattered around the base may seem strange until you know the tradition. Each one of these stones was carried by a pilgrim from his or her home all along the route until this point, each one symbolizing something different to the carrier. 

I brought a stone with me from Tinkers Cliffs in Roanoke for traditions sake. All that morning while I walked I thought about what the rock meant to me. In my journal that night I wrote:

"To me that stone represented the 'what ifs' and 'trying harder'. I want to lay down always trying to control, always trying to work to gain favor. I don't want to fear the 'what ifs' of the future."

When we were at the cross, a middle-aged man named Mike climbed up the pile of rocks to the base of the cross and called me up to help him with something.

In his hand he was holding a ribbon with several names written on it. He told me that when he and his wife were younger they had a baby boy that died in his sleep with he was 7 months old. Three years earlier he had walked the Camino and placed a stone at the cross in memory of his lost son. Now, he returned with a ribbon to tie on the cross with the names of his family, including his deceased baby boy. He also brought another rock from near the boy's grave site.

He explained to me that there are some things in life that you just have to keep laying down at the foot of the cross, over and over again.  

If you were visiting the Cruz De Ferro, what would your rock symbolize? What do you need to lay down at the foot of the cross? 

Looking forward to Sunday,



Just Passing Through

One of the things I love about the calendar year is that it definitely has a rhythm to it. Especially if you have kids in school. But even if not, summer definitely has a different dynamic about it. It's a little less structured, a little more free. 

At Restoration, one of my goals is that we get these natural rhythms and work with them...because our faith grows within the natural rhythms of life, not in spite of them. So summer for us is a chance to do something a little differently, even on Sunday mornings. 

We tend to organize our teaching around topics that are relevant and important, and then mine the Scriptures to see what God has to say about those topics. In the past year, we've discussed God's perspective on growing more emotionally healthy (the "What's Your Emoji?" Series), how to be a blessing and leave a mark on our world (the "Rhythms" Series), and how Jesus and what Jesus invites us into is greater than what we often settle for (the "Greater Than" series), among others. But during the Summer, we want to organize ourselves the other way around: starting with a specific section of Scripture, and just see what God is saying about whatever topic comes up. 

Now, I can already hear the chorus of people, either complaining or championing one approach over the other. Christians tend to have more opinions about these two approaches to what gets taught on Sunday than they do the color of the carpet in the church hallway...#churchconflict. But our goal is to always seek God as He is revealed in the Scriptures and submit our lives to His wisdom, regardless of whether the origin of that is exegetically or topically. That's the point, and we want to approach it from both directions. 

So for this summer, we're going to dive into one of my favorite books in the New Testament: 1 Peter. 

We're calling this series #justpassingthrough because much of Peter's focus for his letter is helping us understand Jesus and how to trust and follow Him in a world that doesn't. One of his main points is that we're really living here as foreigners, just passing through because we belong to a wholly different world. That perspective will shape and inform every facet of our lives, if we'll let it. And when we do, like Peter says, we may just end up "...pulled into a way of life shaped by God's life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness." 

So starting June 11, we're also inviting you into a new rhythm with us. We want you to grow deep and KNOW this section of the Bible with us. Each week, in addition to the sermon, we'll also be putting out a reading guide and some reflection questions. These will be posted on our Facebook page, twitter (@restchurchsalem), and our website ( We know people are often all over the place during the summer...our hope is that we will stay connected, growing together as we interact with what God is saying to us. 

So take a listen to the sermon (you can subscribe to the podcast here). Read the passage over a few times each week. Reflect on the questions. If you want to find a deeper connection with God...this is your invitation. I hope you'll join us!


Lies From the Coffin

True story: A good friend of mine grew up playing hide and seek in the coffins stored in the basement of a funeral parlor. Where she lived. For her whole childhood. Her parents owned and operated a funeral home, so growing up was marked with phone calls in the middle of the night, bodies laying downstairs being prepared for the funeral, and a stream of people grieving sudden losses and tragic accidents.

That will leave a mark.

A few years ago, we sat in our living room with these friends, talking through some of the perspective she had toward life. – she lived with a constant sense of foreboding and anxiety about the future. And it could be paralyzing. So we dug down into the assumptions she was making about life. Summing it up, she lived with a constant expectation that something bad was going to happen, because it always does. Somewhere along the way, she’d believed this was true. It was a subtle, subversive thought that she agreed with. And this agreement had authority and exerted control over her life.

“By agreement I mean those subtle convictions we come to, assent to, give way to, or are raised to assume are true. It happens deep down in our souls where our real beliefs about life are formed. Something or someone whispers to us, Life is never going to turn out the way you’d hoped, or Nobody’s going to come through, or God has forsaken you. And something in us responds, That’s true. We make an agreement, and a conviction is formed. It seems so reasonable. I think we come to more of our beliefs this way than maybe any other.”

Most of us were not raised playing hide and seek around dead bodies. But we all have these agreements. Events in our life happen, and we interpret them as an indictment against us. The enemy of our souls whispers, “You’re not enough. See, you don’t have what it takes. That joy, that hope, that future – that’s for other people, not you.”

And something in us breaks and says, “Yeah. That must be right.”

As Tad was teaching, this memory came flooding back. As we sat in our living room that night, we talked a lot about anxiety and it’s source. We discovered (or at least started to discover) the lie behind my friend’s agreement. It sounded something like this:

Something bad is going to happen. Most likely to the people I love. They will get taken away.

The enemy had whispered this into her soul starting at an early age, and it had kept her trapped in anxiety. As she began to address the agreement, the lie behind it was exposed. She confessed to God that she’d bought into it. And then she broke the agreement.

Days later we spoke and I asked how she was doing. She said it was like a weight had been lifted. There was still some work to do…there always is…but a sense of life and joy had flooded in instead of anxiety and dread.

Jesus reminds us that there is an enemy that is out to “steal, kill, and destroy” the life that God has for us. He lies about who we are and tries to destroy our hope in Jesus by convincing us he’s right. That’s what he does. Our negative emojis are often a window into these lies. And when we allow Jesus to unearth these agreements, He steps in and starts to clear them out. Instead of believing the lie, we begin to live in the knowledge of what’s TRUE. And like Jesus said: when we know the truth – about who He is and who we are – it sets us free.

I pray we live as people who walk in more and more freedom.


What's Your Emoji?

In case you weren’t able to join us last Sunday, Josh kicked off a new series entitled “What your Emoji?” (or, as my 11-year old said “the Emoji Life”). The series introduces us to the idea that our spiritual maturity is intricately connected to our emotional health.  (Think “spiritual maturity” equals a more satisfying life because it leads me into my giftedness and into the person for which I was created.  All of this means a bigger, brighter, and fuller story.) A common belief says our spiritual maturity can outdistance and eventually suppress our emotions, so that we really have no need to face our emotional unhealthiness as long as we’re “following Jesus.” The reality is that both of these important categories must go hand-in-hand.

After Josh described an instance of his personal home decoration skills at a rental cottage during a recent vacation (the story is worth the ask or you can listen to the sermon here), he introduced us to Saul – a man who appeared to have it all together on the outside, but was hiding among the baggage of his life (both figuratively and literally).
The family of Matri took its place in the lineup, and the name Saul, son of Kish, was picked. But when they went looking for him, he was nowhere to be found.  Samuel went back to God: “Is he anywhere around?”  God said, “Yes, he’s right over there—hidden in that pile of baggage.” (1 Samuel 10:21-22, MSG)

Saul was a prime example of someone who never faced his emotional immaturity – and it marked him throughout his life as king of Israel. Because of the deep connection between becoming more of ourselves and our emotional health, we are invited to face our “issues”- unhealed patterns and emotional baggage that trip us up. Our issues get in the way of God’s desires for us and prevent us from becoming a better version of current selves. For many of us, we live in our baggage and it railroads our lives in unhealthy and unwanted ways.

Enter emotions. Our emotions are the language of our souls and reveal what issues are keeping us captive to unhealthy patterns. Consider the following baggage – emotion pairs below:

By asking, “When have I felt angry?” it might help me better understand the question “When was I hurt?” We were encouraged to consider our emotional reactions of bitterness, shame, and defensiveness, as potential indicators of the baggage where I hide that leads (hopefully) to an awareness of my issues.

Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story because that sounds a little painful if that’s all – my baggage spread out in more full awareness. (For whom to see?)  But David reminds is in Psalm 18, that this is not the end of the story:

God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before God … when I opened the book of my heart to God’s eyes. (Psalm 18:20, 24)

Our lives are made more complete as we bring our emotional baggage before God and face our issues in a healthy and transparent manner. “We are royalty who get stuck in our issues.  We are kings and queens who get caught in the baggage.” Is it possible that as we go out into the places where our story matters (family, employment, friend group, team, club), a more honest understanding of our issues might bring us to a deeper place of meaning, fullness, and adventure?

Who doesn’t want that?

As we move ahead, one starting point is to better understand your current spiritual maturity and emotional health. There’s a survey available to help us begin to navigate these water, which can be completed individually. It has some helpful descriptions for different places where our issues might be detrimental to us and others. You can download a PDF copy of the “Inventory of Spiritual/Emotional Maturity” here.

May we be led deeper in the journey inward so that we may extend ourselves further outward.

Matt Fleenor

It's 2017 Y'all!

There were and are so many incredible things to celebrate as a church. From all the new faces to the incredible missions to one of the most beautiful Christmas Eve services I can remember - this has been an incredible year! And now we're off into a new year together - our 5th as a church family.