2019 Family Meeting Keynote Address

I want to thank you for being a part of our traditional Fall Family Meeting! I say “traditional” because our plan is that this is not a one-time event: we want to build a rhythm of gathering each year in the fall, near Revolution’s birthday, in order to do a better job of talking about our church as a church together. We hope these annual meetings give us a chance each year to look back at the year that has been and start to pivot towards the year ahead. We want these meetings to give us a chance to celebrate together, and to talk through changes and updates in the bigger-picture work we are doing as a church in a way that we don’t have time for on Sunday mornings. We want to challenge one another to continue to be invested in the health and future of our church. And we want to spend focused time together in prayer for our community and for the health of Revolution.

So, this evening, there are 7 things we need to talk about, and you can see them there on the front page of the handout you were given when you sat down. We’re going to cover:

  • Our Year-in-Review
  • Budget: Updates and Direction for 2020
  • Medical Debt Relief Update
  • 2020 Theme
  • Staff Recognitions and Transitions
  • New Governance at Revolution
  • Your Church


2019 in Review

So, first up: our 2019 year in review. I want to start by saying two quick things: first, I want to say that we haven’t talked about it all that much, but 2019 has been a tremendously important and complicated and even difficult year in the life of our church. This isn’t just because of things that have happened specifically to us; it’s also because of the season we are passing through as a church community. This year, we have walked through a transition in our church’s leadership from the planting pastor–the person and the family who worked to see this church come into being–to a new pastor and a new season. Statistically, transitions like this are incredibly hard on churches: it is typical for a church to see significant percentages of its community leave; it is typical for hard feelings and tensions to surface, and even for communities to split or die. So, first, I want to acknowledge that we have been walking a hard road. But second, I want to personally thank all of you for seeing this process through. I want to thank you for accepting me so quickly in this role, and I want to thank you for continuing to celebrate and love the Burnett family. I want to thank you for unity in our church, and for committing to walk this road together, both with me and with each other. I am honored to be here, and I am privileged to be in a church with each and every one of you. Thank you.

As we look at the year so far, we can see that some of those difficult statistics have shown up…and others haven’t. As many of you know, we have seen the size of our Sunday services shrink over the last 3 years as we have stepped away from Annapolis High School and from the level of production we put on when we were there. A lot of that is sad, but it isn’t unexpected: we believe in the church we have become at Germantown, and we aren’t planning to change course. 

In 2019, our attendance decline seems to have plateaued, which is encouraging. In the spring, we averaged around 160 people on Sundays, and over the summer, that dropped to around 130. This fall, we have rebounded back to that 160 average, which is encouraging. I want to thank you all for sticking it out this year, and I want to encourage you by saying that Revolution’s plan for real growth isn’t going to be driven by mass-mailings or billboards or attention-grabbing events, and the reason is because the folks who come because of those things don’t typically stick. The way we want to grow our church is by you–by me–inviting people we care about who are still trying to figure out what they think about faith to step into our community and look for answers with us. We really and truly want to reach the people of our city who don’t know what they think about church…and we’re only going to do that by being a body of people who love what our church is and want to invite other people to share it with us. 

Other things that have happened this year? This March, I baptized the first person I have ever baptized in my life: my daughter, Cecilia. And next week, Cecilia will be joined by Sophia Derico, as Revolution’s second baptism of 2019. Two weeks after that, Rob Johnson is going to be baptized. I am so, so excited for these two folks and the commitment they have made to chase after Jesus. 

This year, we have also launched several new Groups, including a new Local. Our Groups continue to be welcoming and wonderful places for people to discover community at a level that pushes (but doesn’t overwhelm) them. Many of you know this from experience…but if you don’t, please join a Group!! We have seen Group attendance rise this year, even as our Sunday attendance has fluctuated, and I think that’s a really good sign. 

All in all: 2019 has been a challenging season, but I am proud of how this church has persisted and grown deeper. I am really excited about who we are and where we’re headed.


Budget Updates & 2020 Direction

Our next topic is our budget. You may or may not know this, but the last 3 years–since we left Annapolis HS–our budget at Revolution has undergone extremely significant changes. In that span of time, we have reduced our annual operating budget by more than 60%. This has been in response to major changes both in our giving and in our vision for the church. For the first time in our history, we have less than 3 full-time staff members: right now, we have just one. We have reduced operational costs dramatically, including going fully-mobile during the week. We’ve made big changes. 

In this pretty radical season of downsizing, we have been operating by the philosophy that our job, as leadership, is to build the church God provides. This means that who we are–how we are staffed, where we meet, how we are generous–is going to reflect the tithes and offerings that come in. As the lead pastor, I’m a steward or a caretaker of those gifts: and it’s my job to make the most of what we have. 

This year, although our overall giving has been down, we have been efficient in ways that will ensure Revolution ends 2019 in a safe place financially. And we are committed to being the kind of church we currently are: God has led us to focus on community, discipleship, and impact in our city, even if we aren’t a megachurch…and we continue to “punch above our weight,” so to speak, on that front. 

At a meeting like this, it’s appropriate to say that we have needs, financially: we don’t talk about this often on Sunday, mostly because I don’t want any of you who show up with a guest to feel the cringe of “Oh no! It’s a money sermon!!” while you’re sitting there! But here’s the thing: we believe, as Christians, that it is good to give. That ALL of us are stewards of the wealth God blesses us with. That YOUR job as a steward is the same as my job as a lead pastor: God has provided you with resources, and you have a calling to live efficiently and to bless others. One way you can do that is by contributing to a local church like Revolution, but that’s not the ONLY way. Giving is GOOD FOR YOU. It resonates with how we are all made. And I want you to do it, no matter where it goes. I want you to live generously, with your time and your talents and your wealth, and I want you to feel stretched in this…and then I want to be able to celebrate with you in this. 

If you are giving currently to Revolution, THANK YOU. This church is OUR church: it exists because of the people in this room. And it is FOR God’s glory, both in our city, and in each of us.


Medical Debt Relief Update

While we are on the topic of generosity, I wanted to tell you guys some pretty cool news that you have all played a critical part in bringing to light.

This past spring, our small church raised an extra $15,000 and donated that money to forgive almost $2,000,000 of medical debt in our local area. To do this, we worked with an organization called RIP Medical Debt, who at the time had an organization goal of forgiving half a billion dollars of medical debt in the United States over the course of their lifetime. We were the second church in the country to approach them, and the first to ask about focusing on debt in a single community. Your generosity ended up reaching 11 counties throughout Maryland, emptying RIP’s portfolios for the entire state. 

As our story spread this past spring, I ended up doing interviews with the Capital, with news stations in DC and Baltimore, with Christianity Today, with Fox News, and even saw our church’s story translated into Korean and Portugese. As our story spread, RIP began connecting other church leaders with me who wanted to follow our example so they could ask questions. I ended up on dozens and dozens of calls, including with megachurch pastors in Texas and Bethel in California. We connected RIP to Stadia, so they could make debt forgiveness a part of launching new churches, too. To date, more than 70 churches in America have partnered with RIP, forgiving almost half a billion dollars of debt in the last 6 months. Our model of geographically-focused campaigning have become a key part of RIP’s strategy nationwide, and this spring, we will be continuing our partnership with them by exploring how we can partner directly with local hospitals to buy more-expensive debt and forgive it BEFORE it can wreck people’s lives. This story is not over, and I promise we will hear more about it in the year ahead!


2020 Theme

And on that note, I want to take a second to introduce our “theme” for 2020: we will be following up our year of exploring the question “Why Church?” by spending next year looking at “Mission.” We want to investigate what it means to be people on mission together, and I am excited about how God will use that focus to deepen our work with RIP, see us hopefully beta-test Josh’s Flourish project in our own city, continue deepening our partnerships with Lighthouse Shelter and the Harbor House neighborhood, and developing even more ways for us to have a positive impact on the lives of the people of Annapolis. I’m really excited about this!


Recognitions and Transitions

Speaking of the future, I want to update all of you on some changes in our staffing, too. Or, if you don’t actually know who is on staff, I want you to know that, too! 

First of all, I want to take a moment to thank and recognize Shawn Livingston, who is our Children’s Pastor. Shawn stepped in last fall on a 6 month contract, and this past spring, he told me that he would be willing to stay on indefinitely. I want to thank him for bringing steady and consistent leadership to that department, and to making his team a model for recruitment and involvement in our church. Shawn has been a blessing, and I am really excited that he will be staying on with us as a part-time employee. 

I also want to thank my wife, Meredith, who has been serving as our graphic designer for the last few years and who stepped into the chief administrator role this past January. Meredith has brought such incredible consistency to our systems and operations, almost all of it through work that is almost invisible. She manages accounts, handles church emails, runs CCB, does all of our social media on Facebook and Instagram, and also designs every bit of printwork you see at Revolution. She has been amazing.

Sarah Kramer leads our Worship Team, and she has also been an incredible asset. Not a week goes by when there isn’t a line in a song that connects so well with the sermon, it stuns me. And she does that: she picks music that deepens our experiences on Sundays, and I am so grateful for her, for her creativity, and her thoughtfulness. 

And lastly, I want to take a moment to celebrate SUSANNE LEACH, who has led our Production Team for the last several years. Susanne has been a model of faithfulness and consistency: she is there every Sunday, at the crack of dawn, to make sure that our space is set up and ready to go. She also edits and publishes the podcast and puts together the slides and lights each week. She has been so, so steady and faithful, and I have loved working with her.

However, I also want to announce that she is stepping down from her position this month. She has been in a “temporary gig” for several years at this point, and she actually told me last February that she was ready to step down…but she would stay until we found the right replacement. That’s a microcosm of how selfless she has been: she worked 9 more months after giving me her 2 weeks notice

But this month, she is going to be replaced by Garrett Rivera, who will be stepping in to oversee Sunday production and lead those teams. Garrett is really eager to serve the church in this role, and I am excited to have him on the team. I know he’s going to do a great job!

I also want to give Susanne a token of appreciation for her hard work…


New Governance at Revolution

Okay, so in some ways the biggest announcement we are making this evening is this next one about changes to our governance model at Revolution. A bit of backstory is warranted here, so here we go:

In 2009, prior to Revolution’s launch, Josh was responsible for building a Management Team to oversee him and to oversee the church as it came into existence. The roles on that team were held by 6 folks from the organizations and churches who played a role in funding the church. In 2013, members of that external Management Team began rotating off, and they were replaced by new members from our church community. Last winter, the last of the original team members rotated off, and for the last year, we have been entirely governed by folks who are also a part of our church. For the last year, the team and I have been steadily working on building a fully internal and fully independent model and system for our governance moving forward. This process was set up in our bylaws all the way back in 2009, and we are ready this evening to announce that we have completed the first phases of our work and we have voted to move forward with a new system.

So, beginning in the first quarter of next year, Revolution will no longer have a Management Team but will instead by governed by a group of what we are calling Lay Leaders as part of a 7-person Leadership Team. That team, which will include 6 Lay Leaders and the Lead Pastor, will govern the church through what’s known as a plurality of leadership model. That means that we will have equal authority, as members of that team, and all the big decisions about our church’s future and life and health will be made together. This is really exciting news, and I am incredibly excited about this plan!

But how does this impact everybody here? And what are the details about what these positions are and how they will work for the health of our church?

What is most encouraging for me about the plan we are pursuing is that each of the 6 Lay Leader positions we will be looking to fill has a specific area of oversight, or focus, that the Leader will be focused on. This means that our team won’t just be a group of 7 “leaders” getting together to make decisions…each “leader” will have a department, of sorts, that they will be responsible for praying for, developing, and representing in the group. These 6 focus areas are going to be a tremendous help for our church because they are going to help break up a lot of the planning that has traditionally fallen on the Lead Pastor and staff in a way that will help the body of our church have tremendously improved level of access to what we are doing. To say that a bit more clearly: if the old model was one that ended up putting a lot of the planning and vision for the church on the shoulders of the staff, the new model is going to bring a lot of that work out front here, for the people of the church as a whole. 

So, what are the 6 positions we are going to be filling in the next few months? 

  1. Discipleship
  2. Financial Oversight
  3. Church Life
  4. Community Engagement
  5. Sunday Services
  6. Benevolence/Generosity

The 6 Lay Leaders filling these 6 roles will help give our church energy and focus as we plan for the years ahead. 

So, who will the Lay Leaders be? 

That’s the second big part of this announcement. Lay Leader positions can be held by anyone in our church, male or female, who is a committed part of our community, passionate about the particular area the role covers, and is approved by the existing Team after submitting an application and being successfully interviewed. These are roles that are open, in other words, to many of the people in this room. 

Over the next few weeks, the team and I will begin meeting and talking with folks, and I want to encourage all of you, even if you’ve never quite thought of yourself as a “leader,” to ask yourself: am I passionate about one of these areas? Would I be interested in stepping in to a responsibility to pray for this, to work with team leaders on existing teams on this, and to represent this area in our church’s governance? If that’s something you are considering, I want to ask you to talk with me, or to talk with any member of the current Management Team, about it. 

Our plan right now is to gather applicants for these roles through the end of November, meet with and interview candidates in December, and introduce the new Leadership Team in January or February of 2020, where members will serve terms of up to 3 years. Each fall, in our annual family meeting, we will discuss upcoming vacancies on the team–after building the team this year, we will rotate two folks off each winter–and work through this process again. 

My big hope for our meeting today is that each and every one of us leaves here asking ourselves: what am I passionate about? How has God gifted me to serve in my church? What can I offer or bring to the life and health of Revolution? Because here’s the big point: this church is made up of the people in this room. There isn’t something else, or somebody else, somewhere else making Revolution happen: it’s us.

And as we’ve been talking about over the last few Sundays, the Bible teaches us that the church is a body. We are, each and every one of us, members of that body. And for the body to be healthy, we all have to do our best to play the roles God has given us. What part are you? What role do you have to play?

I want to close by framing things up like this: 

My hope for all of us is that each and every person who calls Revolution their church home will one day find ourselves fully plugged into this church community in 4 ways:

  • We will find a way to connect to the church outside of Sundays, through a small group or through some other personal relationships
  • We will find a way to serve our church on Sundays, by joining an existing team or even inventing something totally new that is just the right fit for us.
  • We will be supporting Revolution by giving financially, at a rhythm and amount that is comfortable for us, but also hopefully always stretching us to live more generously.
  • We will be investing in relationships both inside and outside of our church. Some of you might remember the “fishbowl project” we did last January: are we continuing to do things like this? Are we being intentional about making friends with one another, and strengthening our connections with one another, as parts of the same church body?

These are the 4 ways we can play our essential part in this church. It’s how we can find and embrace our roles here. And more than that: it’s what we need as a church if we want our church to grow and to be healthy. You are Revolution; Revolution is this church family. 

I love this community. I am “all-in” here. I am honored–continually–to be here, as your lead pastor. And I am so, so eager to see all of us take these next steps towards an even healthier church. I am so excited to see what God can and will do through this church in the year and years ahead. I am for this, in every way I can be. Will you be “all in” with me? 


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