Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I've been sharing with people a lot lately about the reality that inviting people into a relationship with Jesus, inviting people to Community Group, inviting people to dinner often ends with a very familiar word... "no." That sound pretty discouraging and honestly it is. As a Christ-follower I am passionate about sharing my faith in Jesus with people but constant rejection can be hard to overcome. You get tired of being told "no," even if you understand the reality that they are not rejecting you, they are rejecting Jesus.

Thankfully, God knows the amount of "no's" we can handle. Honestly, I've been discouraged lately and wondering if I would ever hear that beautiful 3 letter word in response to any invitation again. Kelli and I have been reevaluating our Community Group as it seeks to find an identity. We decided to add dinner to our group this past Sunday and see what happened. We still opened the word and prayed for each other, but we invited people to share a meal as well. As we called & invited people that have been a part of our Community Group we were amazed at the number of "yeses" we heard on the other end of the phone.

In all we had 6 yeses in addition to the two of us not to mention the 10 kids that would come with those yeses! When Sunday night finally arrived we had 2 "yeses" turn to "no's" (reality & the testing of our faith), but God brought the right people. We ended up with 7 total people at our group (1 new face & 2 that we haven't seen in a long time) and 8 kids! We dug into God's word, and were all stretched and challenged. We took a big step forward in becoming a "community" of believers. The group that was there will probably never be "best friends" but we can live in biblical community together. All it took was the willingness of people to say "yes."

Thank you Jesus for the "yeses."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Jesus prayed a lot. We should too.

I know that sounds obvious enough but too often my prayer times are rushed by other obligations. Too often I ask and ask and ask God for things but I seldom listen to what he wants from me. Prayer "meetings" often become a time of gossip or simply heart felt sharing instead of Spirit led, two-way communication with God. Whatever the problems are with my approach to prayer I learned last week (more accurately it was confirmed to me last week) that God has surrounded me with a leadership team that understands the NEED for humble, worshipful and extended times of prayer.

As many tangible things as God did in the first 6 months of our ministry here in Tacoma it seems things have slowed down that much in the last 6 months. My family, our team and our church have been spiritually attacked from all angles and we have realized that we are nothing without the leading of the Holy Spirit and the confidence that being in his will is enough... results are up to him. With that in mind I felt compelled to have a guided time of prayer at the beginning of our leadership team meeting last Thursday. When I told everyone we would be spending more time in prayer than the usual "opening" and "closing" of the meeting, there was an excitement and a bit of relief that filled the air. Everyone knew we needed to spend some time together with Jesus... completely submitted to him.

I've shared with a couple of people since that night that I have been guilty in the past of determining whether or not I would pray allowed in a prayer meeting based on the time, other things on the agenda and how many others were praying for a particular thing. My leadership team does not share that struggle. We prayed through multiple areas and topics from repentance to revival and it seemed that every topic led to multiple prayers being voiced by each individual with no regard to time or schedule.

I don't say this with pride but with humility because I did not lead out in this. The leaders were God's people, our team, burdened to speak to God and hear from God because we have no where else to turn. I share this because it was powerful, peaceful and beautiful. As we prayed, minutes turned into hours and the agenda went out the window. We never did get to the "meeting," but for once we did not miss prayer, communication with and worship of our God.

When was the last time you truly prayed with no pre-determined end? I'm convinced that is where revival is birthed and awakening begins. All glory to God through his son Jesus!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Failing Forward

So I was at my in-laws house last month while we were in the midst of our partnership development trip and I saw a couple of John Maxwell books on the bookshelf including one I had never heard of , "Failing Forward." I was immediately drawn to the title because anyone who has been around church planting knows that you will see many failures on the road to growth!

Well, I bought the book for our leadership team and we are about to go through it. Honestly, I have not started it yet and I am chomping at the bit. It has been a "season" of failure for myself personally and for The Pathway. Hear me clearly, I don't believe I'm a failure or that The Pathway is a failure. An optimist would say we're in a time where the successes are fewer. However, anyone who knows me knows that I am a realist (i.e. pessimist) and I try to shoot straight. We are in a season of failures. However, I believe God has a plan for these "failures" that will refine us and make us into who we are called to be.

Here's how I would ask you to pray. Pray for myself and my family. We feel like we have failed with Tiffany in so many ways. We understand fully that it is not us who will save Tiffany but the reality is we hoped that she would move out of our house stronger and closer to God than when she came and that's just not the case.

Also pray for our Leadership Team and Community Group Leaders. We had a tough Community Group Leader meeting last night. We came into the night with 5 groups and ended the night with three. That can be seen as failure but because we are confident that it was the Spirit's leading I truly believe that these three will be significantly stronger than the other 5 and will allow us to develop new leaders and multiply more effectively than had we hung onto the groups as if stopping them meant that we had given up on God.

Finally, pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit we would "fail forward." Pray that God would give me direction as the pastor of The Pathway on where to go from here both with my family and as a church. The Spirit is stirring here in Tacoma. It's obvious because there is so much spiritual attack. Pray that the Spirit of God would fall on Tacoma and this time next year I would be blogging about how much stronger we have become through the fire of being refined!

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Prodigal Daughter

I never thought I would be on the Fatherly end of a prodigal story... at least not at the age of 29. However, most of you know that God gave us Tiffany about a year ago and he supernaturally implanted in us the ability to love her as one of our own. It's unexplainable really. Nevertheless our love for her is undeniable.

Most of you also know that a while back we learned that Tiffany had been living a lie, a double life almost, that came to a head when she found out she was pregnant. By the grace of God we were able to love her through the pain and continue to walk with her, showing her the grace that our God shows to us daily. Some of you know that after a short time we found out that she was still deceiving us, living another life behind our backs and lying to us at every turn. That discovery was especially difficult for Kelli because while I had held back a little of my heart after the first round of deception, Kelli had opened her whole self to Tiffany. I truly believe a piece of Kelli died that second time because she could not believe someone would deceive her so maliciously. However, by the grace of God we fulfilled our promise to Tiffany that she would always be a part of our family, no matter what she did or didn't do. She is our daughter and no amount of hurt or hate will ever change that.

Well, we have shared with some that the last few weeks have been wonderful. Tiffany had been showing us love, talking to us about her relationship with God, and answering tough questions when we asked them. However on Saturday... our "family day"... things just didn't add up. We finally caught her in the midst of more blatant and malicious lies and are still in a great deal of shock. Call us ignorant, call us crazy, but we chose to trust her again and for a third time she proved to us that her words have been empty and that she has never felt for us what we feel for her.

Sunday I had to have one of the hardest conversations of my life. I told Tiffany that we still love her, and I meant it. I told her that she will always be a part of our family, and I meant it. But I told her that I could no longer allow her to rip our family apart from the inside. I told her that God had placed this family in my care and I could not allow her to destroy us purposely and maliciously. I told her that I would never throw her out because people have done that her entire life but I truly believe that through her actions she has made the decision to leave.

I told her that we still want to walk with her through her pregnancy. We are still family. She is still welcome to call and come by but that she could no longer live in our house, purposely destroying us from the inside. We told her that everything in her room is hers, from the bed to the hangers, from the clothes to the bassinet. It's all hers and we will help her move it wherever she decides to go.

What are we feeling right now? I don't know that I can categorize it. I gave much more of my heart to Tiffany this third time. I feel like I've been taken into an alley and beaten to a bloody pulp, left for dead but still very much alive. Someone I love with so much of my heart sat across the table from me on Sunday and told me that she did not want Jesus. She told me she did not want my Savior, her Savior, my God and the one true God.

It feels as though Tiffany has punched my wife in the stomach and taken a lot of the spark out of her eyes. There is anger, frustration and pain... but honestly, we're mostly sad and broken. We're sad because we know Tiff didn't choose to be born into the life she was born into. We're sad that she has so many obstacles to overcome yet she continues to build more obstacles in front of her. We're broken because she confirmed what we had feared; that her relationship with God, much like her relationship with us was a scam, a way to survive. It was a show. It was fake. We're broken that this daughter that we love with all our hearts is on a path to hell and she seems completely okay with it.

Please pray for our family. We can honestly say that we have "hope" right now. A supernatural hope that only comes because of our relationship with God through Jesus. I don't think we are yet at peace with this. We want to hold Tiffany close but we know we have to let her run if she is ever going to decide to stop and come home. Pray for Tiffany. Pray that the Holy Spirit would draw her and that God is not through with her yet.

We have a prodigal daughter. Her name is Tiffany. Please pray that someday she makes the choice to come home. But even if she does not, we will not stop preaching the wonderful name of Jesus who works everything for the good of those who love him.

Monday, November 8, 2010


God has filled me with hope today.

The Pathway had our 4th worship service yesterday and God did things we did not expect. First of all, my 2 babies were not the only kids in our kids ministry... God brought a new family! Second, a guy who is about to move to Tacoma was in town last month on a Sunday and saw our sign (our only sign). He checked out our website and then came on his own to our worship service. God is moving. Hope.

I was also filled with hope as I attended a pastors conference today that is a lead-in to the Northwest Baptist Convention's annual meeting. I'm going in to this time an open skeptic about whether or not the SBC is headed in a direction that I can truly believe in. However, I talked with a number of guys today who truly desire to be a part of Kingdom work... bigger than themselves... and their ready to be in it for the long haul. That gives me hope for the Kingdom of God in the Northwest.

Finally, my wife has been struggling. Today I called to check on her and she shared with me what God has been teaching her the last couple days. He is increasing her faith, reminding her that we can't get jaded, we just have to believe, and he was obviously confirming in her the call he has placed on her life.

Hope. Yeah, it's a good thing. Praise Jesus.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Day of Worship

Sunday's are commonly referred to as a day of worship in the evangelical world. It's a time held sacred by some. It's a time to rest and a time to gather for worship. It's a time I don't think I will ever again take for granted.

As most of you know our church only recently began holding Sunday worship services and we only do it twice a month. So far it is small but passionate. The last 2 Sundays my family was in Texas and we were able to be a part of the worship services that we were accustomed to growing up. We went to a really nice building, with a bunch of really nice people, we sang amazing and truly worshipful songs and we were challenged by a really good message. Although imperfect, God's people were gathered for worship. God was the focus. His glory our aim.

Most of my Sundays in Tacoma are a bit different. Yesterday was truly a day of worship but in a very unique way. Generally on our off Sundays we sleep in a bit and have some good family time. However, this week one of our leaders sent out a text saying he felt burdened to pray more and invited anyone who wanted to join him to meet at a local spot to pray for our city. There were 5 of us. We prayed. We worshipped.

After that I received a call from a man I had been trying to get together with. It's a man going through a lot of pain that I know about and probably more that I don't. I didn't want to spend more time away from my family since I knew I had a busy afternoon but I know this is what Jesus wanted me to do. As we sat and talked over coffee I noticed that he wasn't making a ton of since and he just seemed very distant. I came to find out that he was high as a kite. I encouraged him to give his life to Jesus and told him that we should get together again when he was sober. I left frustrated at him for wasting my time. But I know it wasn't a waste. He needs to be loved. He needs Jesus. I worshipped.

After that I headed to lunch with Antwon, the first man we saw come to Jesus in Tacoma who has battled to continue walking with him. We hung out, talked about how he was doing spiritually and how he could be more involved in the church. We ate, we watched football, we prayed together. Worship.

That night I sat at home with my wife. We live in a sketchy neighborhood so although we were prepared for tricker treaters, we only had 4. We hung out together, somewhat under the weather. We ate chicken and mashed potatoes and watched Titanic until Kelli couldn't keep her eyes open any longer. It was a wonderful night. It was actually a wonderful day.


Thursday, October 28, 2010


It's Thursday but I can honestly say the first thing I wrote in this post is "It's Wednesday." That's how exhausted we are after an amazing trip south. Me, Kelli, Jagen and Rylan were able to spend an amazing 10 days in Texas and Oklahoma and we are still recovering! I can honestly say this was one of the best and most encouraging trips we have taken since moving to the Northwest in 2008. We were able to meet with some of our current partners and share with them in person how much their support is impacting the people of Tacoma for the gospel of Jesus and to honestly share with them that we need their continued support into the future.

We were able to meet with some new churches as well, some of whom have already decided to partner with The Pathway and some that are praying about the role they will play in the Northwest. We also got to spend some time with the Lohman and Campbell families in Oklahoma who are like a second family to us. They pray for us, support us and encourage us in so many ways and it was refreshing to spend 24 hours with them just getting loved on!

Thank you all for your continued prayers for The Pathway. Sorry for the sporadic posts the last couple of weeks but we'll be back on schedule with posts this Monday! Please pray that Jagen and Rylan recover from our travels. And remember, NEVER take 11 month old twins on a plane!!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


As many of you know God has finally been opening some doors for The Pathway to connect with college students at the University of Puget Sound (UPS). Right now we are just showing up to Intervarsity meetings on campus (they are the only outside Christian influence allowed on campus), hanging out with students, learning what Jesus is up to and trying to walk through any open doors he gives us. Well, last night Tommy and me were able to hang out with some of the guys before the meeting which was great. The meeting was good and we brainstormed ways to partner with an organization in India called Freeset whose sole purpose is to buy back women who have been sold into prostitution and employ them in their factory making t-shirts and bags. Pretty amazing... but that wasn't what stuck out about the night.

Before the meeting a student named Jasmine told me that she was so excited that finally, this Wednesday night, all the Christian organizations on campus (all 6 of them) would be doing something together for the first time. They are having a prayer time around the big fountain in the center of campus. I asked her what other Christian groups were on campus and she went through the short list but one of the groups she mentioned was the LDS club... as in Latter Day Saints... as in Mormon. That's right, a Christian club! My mind went back to my first meeting a year ago with the UPS chaplain when he gave me a list of the Christian clubs and the LDS club was included.

I don't even know where to begin with how my heart feels about this. I'm sad that Christ is so masked in our city and on this campus that Christians don't know a cult when they see it. I'm frustrated that the so called "christian" chaplain encourages students to chose whatever faith or lack of faith works for them... and he thinks they'll be okay in the end. But I'm also hopeful.

First of all, the Holy Spirit is working in Tacoma and that always brings hope. Second, at the end of the meeting last night Jasmine invited not just me, but our church to come to the prayer meeting on Wednesday night! You better believe we'll be there. Finally, the Bible says in the last days so many false gospels will be preached. But we know who already has the victory won and his name is Jesus. Pray for us on Wednesday at 9pm pacific time. Pray that we would have opportunities to speak truth. Pray for boldness. And pray that the true gospel would win the victory at UPS and that the LDS students would put their faith in the real Jesus!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Red Lobster and Small Prayers

If you've been following The Pathway or the Higginbotham family for the last month or so you know it has been all but an encouraging time. We have been under what feels like constant spiritual attack as a family, a leadership team and as a church and we have really been fighting discouragement and frustration. Well, things are not all roses and we are still battling but God encouraged our hearts in a major way on Saturday and reminded us how much he cares, how much he knows us and how he always provides in every way.

The week had been rough and Kelli came to me on Thursday night and told me she really needed to go out on a date with just me. No babies, no friends, just me and her. She asked me to take her to Red Lobster. Most of you know that my wife and I date pretty regularly. Thursday morning is date morning at the Higginbotham house and Saturdays are family days. However, with twins and a Tiffany our dates are not always just the two of us! On top of that, Kelli has never asked me specifically to go to Red Lobster. Those of you who know Kelli well know that she is incredibly indecisive and her favorite line is when I ask her where she wants to go or what she wants to do is, "I choose that you should choose!"

Well, I set up for Tiff to watch the babies Saturday night and I asked Kelli to go out to Red Lobster. Thankfully we had just gotten paid on Friday but Red Lobster is not McDonald's. It's a little pricey but when my wife makes such a specific request I know it needs to happen. Well, Saturday morning came around and we were spending time as a family as usual. I went outside and checked the mail and we had received a card from our local church association. Here's where God is just so intimate, so personal, so relational, so good. I opened the card and out fell a gift card... to Red Lobster! Kelli and I just laughed... as we often do... when God provides in a way that we never would have asked. Not flashy, not extravagant... just God. Praise Jesus for Red Lobster!

Please continue to pray for all of us going forward. This past Sunday at our second worship service I prayed a small prayer beforehand as I often do. It's a small prayer but a dangerous one. I prayed that God would bring the "right people" to our service. We had a great turnout the week before but I really wanted the right people to come this past week as we were going to be preaching on our specific vision as a church (you can hear it at www.thepathwaytacoma.com). Well, not many people showed up and I found myself doubting God's answer to the prayer. Small prayers can be dangerous, can be risky, but God's answers and his ways are always right. Please pray that I would have the faith to believe the right people were there and that those people would buy into the vision God has given us in such a powerful way that we would begin to see dramatic life change and the church in Tacoma would flourish!

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Glimpse of What our Church will be

Last night was The Pathway's first worship service. I had no idea what to expect. I absolutely love worship services but I think they hinder "people" from being the church at times because they think that "going" to church is what it's all about. That being said, I never planned to have a worship service before 2011. I so wanted to focus on building and developing our Community Groups that the idea of having a worship serve so early on didn't even seem like an option. Have you ever tried to tell God what to do? It doesn't work. God made it evident a couple months ago that having a worship service would open the door for more people to connect to our Community Groups and to Jesus. It was also something our people were "yearning" for... so we did it!

Last night as I looked out at the people gathered together I could only smile at the reality that this group of people is not yet our church. All of those people were attending our worship service... but church is so much more than a worship service. However, the reason I smiled is because God gave us a glimpse of who our church will be. As I looked at the chairs inhabited by souls in need of a Savior I saw a man that was homeless until just last week. I saw several registered sex offenders. I saw a small group of college students from 2 different Tacoma campuses. I saw the families of some of our youth whom I had never met before. I saw young couples, I saw singles, I saw the employed and the unemployed. I saw teenagers, children, young men and old. I saw black, white, Native America & Asian. Most importantly I saw Christians... genuine followers of Jesus Christ... worshipping God and lifting high the name of Jesus while welcoming unbelievers, doubters, skeptics into our fellowship.

It was messy. It was diverse. It was beautiful. Thank you Jesus.

All those people aren't yet a part of the body of Christ. All those people aren't yet a part of The Pathway. But God faithfully showed us and told us last night, "Yes, this is the church I've called you to plant." WOW! I stand amazed in his presence.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I apologize for the late post this week. Satan has definitely been on the prowl. My heart is broken tonight in so many ways.

Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that "... we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

I don't know that I have ever felt the presence of this darkness more than I have this week. We've seen a life forever changed as the result of sin. We've seen a mom literally hand over her two teenage daughters to two girls in their mid 20's because she could not put a roof over their head. We've seen a young girl removed from her home because of multiple kinds of alleged abuse only to be placed back in that same home a few days later... scared, confused and alone.

I am broken for these peoples but I refuse to relinquish the authority given in the rest of Ephesians 6. I will not set down my shield of faith to defend against the flaming arrows the devil is hurling at us. I am confident that these attacks are coming in an effort to thwart the work God is doing through our church, to take the excitement away from our first worship service this Sunday and to steal the glory that our Creator God is due.

Well, it's not going to happen. We are going to charge full speed ahead with the sword of the Spirit attached to the belt of truth and we are going to preach the gospel of Jesus for the glory of God and the transformation of our city. Please go to battle with us through prayer. Pray for a bigger shield of faith and that lives would be changed as we continue to press on. Pray for the name of Jesus to be lifted high in our Community Groups and through our worship service this Sunday at 4pm pacific time.

Monday, September 13, 2010


One of my most consistent prayers for our church is that everyone who is a part of it would begin to take ownership of the mission of the church. The way I believe I will know the church is taking ownership of the mission is when the church begins to take initiative in accomplishing the mission. By taking initiative I simply mean anything they do, personally or as a group, to develop other mission-minded Jesus followers in our community without asking me about it or needing me to come up with the idea and push them to act on it.

Well, it happened. This may seem small to everyone else but it is huge to me. It's honestly not the first time someone has taken initiative, and I did know that they were talking about it, but it was the most prominent step that a group within our church has taken to make disciples without my "permission." I loved it!

Here's how it went down...

Yesterday we had a bunch of people over to our house to watch the Seahawks actually win a game! One of the girls that came over does not know Jesus and one of our other girls has been trying to get to know her. This morning her facebook status said... "okay God, I'm listening." Pretty amazing. Well, I asked our church member about it and she said "yeah, she is so excited about attending our new group tonight." I immediately responded, "What group?" She said, "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry, I thought you knew we were starting a new group tonight."

I said I knew there had been talk but I did not have any idea it was happening and I definitely didn't know it was happening tonight! I told her that I would be praying and I was genuinely so excited about. Three people from our church got together, without the approval of a "committee" or the "permission" of a pastor, and decided to start a new community of people for the purpose of living out the mission of God. How cool is that? I believe with all my heart that this kind of initiative is the only way we're going to see Holy Spirit sized Kingdom multiplication in Tacoma and beyond!

Please pray for this new group that will be meeting on Monday nights at 7:30 beginning tonight. Pray for the girl who will be there that has decided to "listen" to God. Pray that more people who are a part of The Pathway will start taking the initiative to accomplish God's mission for our church. Finally, ask yourself, am I taking initiative for the gospel?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Missionary Heart...

Cares more than some think is wise.
Risks more than some think is safe.
Dreams more than some think is practical.
Expects more than some think is possible.
I was called not to comfort or success but to obedience.
-Excerpt from a letter from Karen Watson, 1973-2004
Mission worker killed by terrorists in Iraq

Wow. Do I have this commitment to the cause of Christ?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"The Fellowship"

Acts 2 is one of my favorite passages of scripture for obvious reasons. The glimpse it gives us into the way the early church expressed itself is awesome to say the least. So often I share with people that The Pathway is founded on Community Groups of people who are "doing life together" but to be honest living in true biblical community is something that requires sacrifice, transparency and work. Because of that, it is something that we work for but don't always experience.

Well, this past Friday I experienced being a part of "the fellowship" of believers as mentioned in Acts 2:42 in a way that I never have before. It happened in the most unexpected place. I think I've mentioned in a post before that one of our guys, Tommy, recently started a Community Group made up of his landscaping co-workers and his boss on Friday mornings before work. Their shop is near our house so they meet in our kitchen about 7:00am. Well, Kelli and I were invited to be a part of the group this past Friday and it was amazing. We sat around for about 30 minutes drinking coffee, eating muffins and sausage McMuffins from McDonald's and talking about life. A little while later we began to read through the first chapter of 1 John and it really spoke to one of the ladies hearts. She opened her heart up and her pain just spilled out. She shared honestly, without holding back, of the pain she has been through and is going through with her father. We all listened, she received encouragement, scripture and counsel. The rest of us were able to then feel more comfortable opening up. Prayer needs were voiced authentically, we continued through the word and we were genuinely experiencing community as a part of "the fellowship" of believers.

It started off slow, it took one person making themselves vulnerable, and the Holy Spirit was present... really present. I want to challenge you, don't just talk about being a part of "the fellowship" of believers. Initiate it. "Fellowship" is from the Greek word Koinonia and it is translated "sharing." Who do you "share" life with. Someone has to start it. Will that someone be you? It's not just a suggestion, it's the way the church is called to function as the carrier of the gospel, the hope of the world!

Monday, August 30, 2010

God is definitely up to something...

I didn't have a specific topic in mind for this weeks post. Because I'm not usually one who struggles with what to say I decided to sit back and think a little about what God has been doing. It's been a lot. We've had our fair share of pains and struggles over the past several months but there has been no shortage of joys and it is obvious that God is moving. Let me give you 5 ways that I see God moving in Tacoma. Hopefully it will encourage your heart but even more than that I pray that it will give you some specific ways to pray...

1) Tommy is on our leadership team. He's 21, bold and working on a landscaping crew. His mission as a landscaper overlaps with his mission as a Christ-follower. He wants to see Jesus infiltrate his crew. Over the course of the last several months he's learned that all but one of his crew claim to be Christians but none of them go to church. He asked his boss if they could begin a Community Group before work on Friday mornings to pray, hang-out and talk about God's word. Guess what? His boss said yes! God is moving.

2) We discussed our purpose as a church last night at our Community Group. One of the guys, in his 60's, living in a shared housing for registered sex-offenders said that he is realizing his purpose but he's scared to take action. He made breakfast for the guys in his house yesterday and he said everything inside him told him to share the gospel with them. He didn't. Missed opportunity? Yes. Failure? No. He wants to share the gospel with these men. Men most people won't even look at. God is moving.

3) I had the opportunity to take the 5 members of our Leadership Team to a Catalyst Leadership Conference on Thursday in Seattle. One of our mantras as a church is always take someone with you so of course I told everyone to feel free to invite someone. We took 10 people to this all day Leadership Conference and it was incredible. I sat with Vinny at lunch who I have never had a full conversation with. He is a member of on of Tommy's Community Groups. Vinny told me that he was saved when he was a kid but at 18 he started running. He's now 28 and ready to come back to Christ! He told me that he knows people on the streets and believes God can use him to reach people that I could never reach! He wants to start a Community Group at his apartment. God is moving.

4) I shared a few posts ago that we are going to begin monthly worship services. Well, God showed us he wants more than that. We are now going to have our first worship service the last Sunday of September and then we'll be having worship services the 1st and 3rd Sunday's of every month at least through the end of the year. God is moving.

5) We haven't seen anyone saved recently but we are praying & believing that God is moving. Will you join me this week in praying for salvation & life change?

God is moving.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God is dead.

A shocking statement to say the least. As a believer and follower of the one true God to read that statement much less to hear it uttered literally twists my stomach in knots and I almost don't know how to respond. We have a 15 year old girl that is a part of our church that asked for help this week in getting out of a living situation with her mom who is addicted to drugs. The situation has become worse and worse and it is heart-breaking to say the least. She is currently staying with other family members and as we sat around their table after a discussion about what to do next I asked if we could all pray together. The conversation went from somber to awkward as it was obvious this was a new concept for the family.

What followed was a sad testimony to the reality of the world we live in. The 6 year old daughter of the family asked in reference to prayer, "What is that?" I told her that it is how we talk to God and ask him to help us with tough situations like the one her cousin is going through. This little girl then said with complete confidence, "God is dead." While not much could hurt my heart more than hearing those words come out of a child's mouth I was even more disheartened by the response of her mom, a strong and obviously loving wife and mother. She said with all sincerity, "God is not dead, Jesus is." My heart drop and my voice, shocked and not nearly as passionately as I wish it had been said, "Jesus is not dead, he died but he rose again."

How do we live in a world, a country, a nation where a 6 year old child can believe that God is dead? How do we live in a culture where a loving and "good" mother and wife could whole heartedly correct her by saying that God is not dead, Jesus is?

This is our calling. This is our purpose. We must proclaim passionately, urgently and in a loud voice that Jesus is not dead, for he has risen!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Praying for life change. Believing even when it doesn't happen.

Well, so many times as a church planter I enjoy writing about, reflecting on and sharing the stories of hope. The stories with good outcomes of changed lives and people who have chosen the narrow road. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that so many more people choose the wider road. I don't know the "real" numbers but I share with people quite often that for every one life we see changed by the gospel we've probably walked with 20 or more who have left somewhere on the journey. It is hard, it is sad, it is frustrating. To ask why is futile other than to say in belief that it is all for God's ultimate glory.

I've been asking for prayer over the last couple of weeks for Shannon. Shannon is an abused, addicted paraplegic who we have been walking with, sharing the gospel with and encouraging to chose life... to choose Jesus. Unfortunately about a week ago I dropped Shannon off at her hotel knowing in the back of my mind that I may never hear from her again. I knew that as much I can and should fight for her, I cannot change her and I cannot choose for her. That is a hard reality to accept. She must choose Jesus for herself and the power of the Holy Spirit is the only one who can change her life. Wow!

Now I'm faced with the reality, as I have been so many times before in our short time in Tacoma, that there is a precious life out there wandering the streets. She's hurting, she's broken and she has knowingly rejected the God of the universe. How do we keep going? I'm not completely sure. I know it's only by faith and only through grace that we can persevere on the journey in the midst of great loss.

Thank you for your prayers. Please continue to pray for Shannon as you think of her because as long as there is still breath in her lungs the grace of Jesus is available to her.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Territory

God is such a provider. He is always directing our paths. His plans are perfect and his ways are definitely not our own. One of the next steps for The Pathway is beginning a worship service that meets every other month. The problem is, the Methodist Church that has been such a huge blessing to us for meeting space is becoming less and less accessible. That means we have to find a new place to meet consistently. However, the Methodist church was cheap and provided all the chairs, sound, video, etc. that is needed. It even has a nursery that we can rent with all the kids stuff provided. Well, the "plan" was to have our first bi-monthly worship service the last Sunday of August but August was already here and I had no idea where we would meet.

One afternoon everything was going wrong and I was actually kind of frustrated so I went out for a drive. I just started praying as I drove and praying about where God would have us meet. Of course he took me through a couple of obviously closed doors and then brought me to the Temple Theater... a huge meeting space right down town... central to everything. Surely this was too big but I figured I needed to go check. Long story short they have all sorts of meeting space sizes in the Convention Center and we found a room that is perfect for us. It is actually cheaper than the Methodist church and comes with chairs, set-up and clean-up when we're done. It also allows us to stay in the same location as we grow because they have space that can seat hundreds! However-- no sound, video or kids stuff!

Well, why doubt God. Unfortunately one of our church planting network church plants died recently and a couple of weeks ago our church planter strategist asked me if we could use their trailer with sound, screens and kids stuff!!! Since we're not using it on a weekly basis we're still working through the details of possibly sharing it with another plant or exchanging it for something smaller in the future, but either way I've been guaranteed the things we need for our worship service! Praise Jesus! It's just amazing to see how God pieces the puzzle together.

A couple things to pray for...
1) Pray for our first Worship Service on Sunday August 29th
2) Pray for Shannon from last weeks post-- we are still working with her and she has an appointment with the Tacoma Family Justice Center this morning. We are still trying to figure out how to get her to her daughters place in Oregon.
3) Pray for our Community Groups-- 2 are doing awesome, 1 is struggling through infancy and 2 are just struggling!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, [4] even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.
(Ephesians 1:3-4 ESV)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What? I actually have to live what I teach?

So here's the deal. Sunday morning we were invited by The Commons, a church plant up in Arlington, WA, to share what God is doing in Tacoma. I am always excited to get to be a part of another church's worship service and especially to get to share the vision of The Pathway and all that God is doing. As I spoke Sunday morning my main emphasis was that at The Pathway we are learning to "be the church" instead of just "going to church." Another thing I emphasized was that part of "being the church" is not drawing a line in the sand between personal life and ministry life. Ministry is personal. It's messy, it's painful, it's hard on your family. But when you truly let the two collide, God is glorified and brings life change.

Well, God didn't even let me finish the day before having to put my money where my mouth is. That night, as Kelli and I were falling asleep I got a call from a homeless man named Pat who is a part of our Community Group. He is a great guy. Honestly, he is busting his hump to get off the streets. He loves Jesus and is sharp mentally, he just has a really bad back and struggles to provide for his own needs. Well, Pat called and said he had been staying with some people the last couple weeks and the husband was beating the wife so he finally just took the wife and left. The wife just happens to be a paraplegic who struggles to live independently. They were borrowing a phone just to get ahold of us but they needed help... now.

Well, I could have not answered the phone. I could have said, "Pat, my wife and I are in bed, we have a busy day tomorrow, our twins are asleep and our oldest daughter Tiffany is already in bed too." I could have said, "Pat, we'll just figure this out tomorrow. You left so you're going to have to figure out tonight." Fortunately, by the grace of God, not 12 hours earlier I had claimed to be learning to "be the church." Well, we rolled out of bed, woke Tiffany up and gave her the baby monitor, and we went out to the park to meet up with Pat and Shannon.

Long story short it is a messy, painful and sad situation that I'm certain does not have an easy solution. We were able to get a voucher in the middle of the night from the YWCA to get Shannon a hotel room in a safe place. Now, my normal southern baptist self would never have agreed to allowing Pat to stay with her in that hotel room but God had set out a perfect plan. In talking with Shannon privately Kelli learned that she really couldn't easily stay in a hotel room by herself. She needed assistance. Still, Pat? A man? Not the husband? Well, Not 6 hours earlier God had taken us to another church service to hear a friend preach. They were teaching on the story of Ruth and Boaz. I was reminded of how Ruth lay under the covers at Boaz's feet and because it was God's plan, Boaz's heart was pure and she was safe. Although it was not the ideal situation that you would advice every woman to put herself in. God had put Ruth their for a reason. The same was true for Shannon and Pat. They are not Boaz and Ruth, but Pat was able to be there for her in a way that we could not. More than that, he was willing and his heart was pure. On top of it all, we were able to share with Shannon the hope she can have in her true Kinsmen Redeemer... Jesus Christ.

Being the church.
Is it messy? Yes.

Is it beautiful? You bet.

Thank you Lord for your providential hand.

Please pray for Shannon as we are still working through the possible situations to keep her safe and keep her off the streets. Specifically pray that she would be open to going to live with her daughter in Oregon and that her daughter would be open to having her.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Riding in a Uhaul

Today was good. Today was sad.

Today was about Jesus. However, I couldn't help but think about Trudy, a lady I have never met. God has really made it obvious that he wants us to pour our individual lives and the life of our church into an apartment community known only as 435 Fawcett Apartments. It's a low income facility run by the Metropolitan Development Council (MDC). It's high crime has made the management open to any possibility of possible change. They are coveting genuine community. Enter The Pathway!

As I stood talking to the MDC housing Director last Wednesday at their Community Meeting I once again offered our help anyway they needed. That's when she asked if we could help clean out Trudy's apartment. Truly was a mentally challenged woman who was 66 years old when she was hit by a car this past July 5th. She died just last week. Trudy was all alone in the world. No family. No friends to speak of. No funeral. No one to clean out her apartment. Honestly, no one will miss Trudy. That is sad.

However, God has used Trudy's life and untimely death for his glory and to open doors for gospel community in her former apartment complex. As we cleaned out her roach infested and cluttered apartment (she was a hoarder) we were able to have fun. Why? Simply because we love Jesus and we love each other. Our group of 6 Christians were able to work for 4 hours along side 1 person from the complex and 3 case workers to bring joy and purpose to an empty moment. Jesus was talking to his disciples and he told them a new commandment... that is to love one another, for the sole purpose of allowing others to recognize them as Jesus' disciples. I truly believe that is what happened today.

I wish some of those people would have chosen to follow Christ today... they didn't. But God is moving, opening doors and using seemingly purposeless and tragic events for his glory. As I was riding in a Uhaul back from the dump, where we left all of Trudy's belongings, I looked to my right and saw my church. A 35 year old new convert to Christianity who lives in Trudy's apartment and a 16 year old new believer who is so passionate about growing in his walk with Jesus he attends 4 churches that meet at different days and times just so he can learn more! Bible scholars? No. Quiet time everyday? Probably not. Desire to love one another. Starting to look like it!

I love my church. I love the Jesus is using us for his glory in disgusting and tragic circumstances. Pray for Sindy, the apartment manager at Fawcett, that we would continue to develop a relationship with her and that she would give her life to Jesus. Pray for the MDC as we are hoping to receive approval from them this week to hold a Community Group for their residents in their community room. Praise Jesus for what he is doing here and please, look for your Trudy and your 435 Fawcett Apartments. There are broken people who need Jesus everywhere. We just need to go to them with the gospel and love!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Where does the time go?

I was sitting at the breakfast table this morning with my kids and they were so full of personality! Jagen was sitting in a high chair instead of in our laps and I thought to myself, "Where does the time go?" They're getting so big so fast. The same can be said for this summer. I cannot believe we're almost to August of 2010. We've been serving in Tacoma for more than a year now and we will have lived in Tacoma one year November 1st!!! So crazy! Where does the time go?

It's been a couple weeks since my last post and I have to apologize for that. God has definitely been at work though. Where to begin? I guess without boring everyone with all the details of the past few weeks I'd just like to praise Jesus and reflect on the reality that we are slowly becoming a church! Of course we are already a part of God's church but we are still very much a church plant. The Leadership Team has been doing most of the work and we are definitely only able to survive by the generous support and prayers of our partners. But still, we're showing signs of truly becoming the church God has called us to be. A few examples...

We have a guy in our church who is a believer but has gone through a rough patch the last 3 or 4 years of his life. One of our students actually invited him to The Pathway and he has since become plugged into our church. He really believes in the vision God has given us to reach Tacoma with the gospel. Well, we don't yet take up an offering from the people attending The Pathway. We will hopefully begin that in January. Right now our Leadership Team gives faithfully but of course no one else is chomping at the bit to give away the little money they have. But... this man came to me and said that The Pathway is his church and he'd really like to give financially to support his church!!! And he actually did! Praise Jesus for the heart as well as the giving!

We've also begun to see our vision taking shape for being a church made up of small Community Groups. What began as one mid-sized gathering and then turned into a youth gathering and an adult gathering has now become 1 youth gathering and 3 adult Community Groups with a 4th about to begin if the Lord opens the door! The number of groups we have doesn't really matter but the fact that we are really beginning to "be" the church instead of trying to just "go" to church is really starting to show itself!

Finally, as a result of the new groups beginning there are more and more people who are a part of The Pathway that I have never met! Some people may balk at that and think, "How could he not now the people attending his church?" For us though, that's the point. The church is not about Bobby Higginbotham or any one person on our Leadership Team. The point is not for me to know them, the point is for Jesus to know them. If I have to know and engage every person that connects with The Pathway our growth will have major limitations. However, if we simply focus on training leaders who can and will lead people to know and follow Jesus, the sky is the limit for the Kingdom growth through The Pathway.

Becoming a church looks much different than I ever imagined but it's happening right before my very eyes. Jesus I'm in awe!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Gospel

We recently finished a month long study in our small groups about the vision of The Pathway. One of our 4 sessions was spent on sharing the gospel. It's ironic how central sharing the gospel is to the continuation of Christianity yet out irregularly the majority of Christians actually do share the gospel. We defined the gospel as the good news that we can have eternal life simply be putting our faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross and through the grave. It's pretty simple really. The results of the choice to believe the gospel is life changing.

Over the past few weeks my heart has been incredibly encouraged. We had 2 mission teams come to Tacoma. One was from Trinity Baptist in Ada, OK and the other from FBC Universal City, TX. Our only objective while they were here was to put them around people and give them the opportunity to share the gospel. I honestly did not know how this would go since so many people don't share the gospel, or even know how to share the gospel. However, God blew my pessimistic expectations right out of the water. These two groups obviously came from churches where the gospel is central and sharing the gospel is expected. The were bold, excited, equipped and faithful to share the gospel!

Praise Jesus for the harvest we believe he is preparing to bring in Tacoma and for the faithfulness of his people to simply share the gospel!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Sorry for the late post. We have a mission team here from Ada, OK. Life is busy but God is really good. We met Jayla a few days ago when the mom who was babysitting her came to our Community Group. We found out the next day that Jayla's mom had dropped her off 3 days earlier and hadn't been heard from since. Jayla was sad, scared, confused and uncared for. Her diaper had not been changed in days and she was very hungry and thirsty. We're in Tacoma, WA... the United States of America for crying out loud. This isn't supposed to happen here... but it does. It's far too common a tale.

The church must step up to the plate. James instructs us to take care of the orphans and the widows. Am I doing that? Is my religion pure and undefiled? Are you doing that? I saw Christians go to bat for Jayla this week and it was a beautiful sight. She spent the day with our family and the mission team as we worked with CPS. Jayla was changed, bathed, fed and most importantly... loved.

Long story short, Jayla is back with her mom. Is this the best place for her? Only Jesus knows. She experienced love though and we will not forget her. We will keep praying for her, fighting for her and others like her. All of us as American Christians have been taught all the reasons not to take care for the poor, needy, broken, orphan and the widow... we've even learned to rationalize it. It's time we stop making excuses, stop turning a deaf ear and a blind eye and start taking action... the way Jesus did.

Pray for Jayla and specifically for salvation for her mom Kayla.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Spiritual Warfare

Whenever Satan attacks a person or a church there is mixed emotions involved. On the one hand, it's a spiritual attack. It's painful, personal, discouraging and challenging in many ways. On the other hand, Satan doesn't make a habit of attacking things that aren't a threat to his mission. Therefore, when Satan attacks an individual or a local expression of the church, that is a pretty good sign that the person or church is doing effective Kingdom work by the grace of Jesus!

Well, this weekend we experienced some serious attack. Some of it was just as a result of human nature but I have no doubt that some of it can be directly attributed to the spiritual battle that is being waged even as we speak. This week was actually a great week for our youth gathering. We always have some random questions during Bible study that are so far off track I usually don't address them in the moment. However, this week some random questions were raised by focused and sincere hearts so we ended up spending the whole time addressing questions. The kids were engaged, focused and challenged. You could genuinely feel the presence of the Lord!

Well, the end of the night was somewhat discouraging because when we started to clean up Becca realized her ipod was missing. My heart just sank as we all knew what happened. It could have been anyone who took it but that's really not the point. Even though Becca could care less about her ipod, it is seriously like a spiritual stab in the back when you pour your time, energy, love, prayers and resources in to peoples lives and then someone in their midst steals from you. Becca handled it with grace, but it hurt.

Heading into the weekend we were very excited because our adult gathering was growing to the point where we started a second community group. However, by the time Sunday came we could tell that we weren't going to have much of a turn out at one of them... discouraging. Then, just hours before our two adult groups were going to start, we found out that one of our teenagers was being thrown out of his house... discouraging. Three of our leadership had to go and deal with that very serious situation which meant we had to call on two others to lead the groups with about an hours notice. Honestly though, it was very encouraging to know that we had people we could call on who would step up and the meeting with the student and his parent went as well as it could possibly have gone.

Finally, Monday morning came and I had to have a very difficult conversation with one of our people. Again, it ended as well as it could have but the situation was discouraging. Finally, to add fuel to the spiritual fire, Becca received a call this morning from a number none of us recognized and the person called her one vulgar word and then hung up. Again, not the worst thing in the world, but a painful spiritual stab in the back when all she has been doing is selflessly investing her life into others.

Pray for us. Pray that our new group would take off this week. Pray for spiritual and emotional encouragement for our team. Pray for perspective. Pray that we would remember why Satan is attacking. Pray for the student and his parent as they struggle with their relationship. Pray for another new group that will be starting the beginning of July. Pray for encouragement for our team. Please Pray.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Innocence Revealed

This past week we had a mission team from FBC Universal City come and spend a week with our church. They were amazing... and I'm not just saying that. They were bold, faithful, ready and obedient to share the gospel. Two men made professions of faith in Jesus Christ and we ended the week with a cook-out with 30-40 people in attendance! Praise Jesus for his faithfulness and pray that we are able to follow-up with numerous connections that were made. Pray as we start a new group this Sunday and as we look to start at least 2 more over the next month!

Although I intended to tell you all about the week, God has again led me back to the girl I've blogged about several times in the past few weeks. She is the one who had attended and disrupted our church multiple times, jumped Tiffany after school one day while drunk, and then came face-to-face with Tiff 2 Fridays ago when she came to church. Her heart appeared to be made of stone and then Tiffany said three words to her, "I forgive you." God used those three words to begin to break that heart of stone. We shared the gospel with her but she was not yet ready to place her faith in Jesus.

Well, I received a surprising call last week from this girl's social worker because she is in foster care. The social worker called to find out details about our youth retreat so that this girl could attend (the mission team was helping us put on a one night retreat). I said I was surprised she wanted to go and the social worker said the girl really wanted to. Well, sure enough she showed up, slightly cold and obnoxious at first, but then my Jesus showed up!

After we had been there for the evening the girl came up to me and asked if we could do this every couple of weeks because it was so awesome. That sounds innocent enough but my heart broke because I know she truly desired to be there as often as possible, removed from the difficult, unloving street life that she had become accustomed to. I wish I could have said "yes, we can stay here forever," but the reality is we couldn't. I would go back to may safe, loving home, and she would go to her new foster home, nervous to see how she would be treated.

Before our final session on Saturday morning I asked if anyone wanted to share what God had been doing in their life that weekend. To my surprise this girls hand was the first to go up. She looked at the entire group and told us with complete transparency that her idea of fun had always involved alcohol, drugs and sex. She said she had more fun this weekend than she ever imagined and none of those things were involved. She said, she never knew she could have fun like that.

Once again my heart broke. This bully of a girl who I genuinely believed was unsavable and unchangable, is being broken before my very eyes. I am having the blessing of watching this 15 year old girl being drawn to Jesus. She is being transformed. What does the Bible say? "What is impossible with man is made possible with God" (Matthew 19:26). I am a man of little faith but I truly believe my God can do the impossible.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Has someone ever done something horrible to you or hurt you in a deep way? I'm sure we've all be through some sort of experience where we were wronged and the pain was almost too much to bear. However, in those painful moments of life, how many times have you chosen forgiveness over retribution, bitterness and rage? How many times have you chosen to forgive when you had no idea if the person who wronged you was or ever would be remorseful.

A couple weeks Kelli and I were spending the afternoon with some friends in Bremerton, WA. We got a call from our oldest daughter Tiffany in tears because she had just been jumped after school in the park by a young girl who also attends are church. The girl punched her in the back of the head, tackled her to the ground and bit her finger before one of Tiffany's friends was able to pull the girl off. The police were called, the girl took off and Tiffany ended up at the E.R. for her finger.

Well, to make a long story short, Tiffany had the opportunity to press charges against this girl but she chose instead to show her a real life demonstration of grace by choosing to forgive her and move on. Of course, the girl had fled the scene so she had no idea what Tiffany had chosen to do. Now, I was very proud of Tiffany for her attitude and decision but I also wandered what would happen if the girl showed back up to church. She did this past Friday.

The tension was there and instead of allowing it to linger I took the girls to a back room and asked if either of them had anything to say. The girl said no and then Tiffany spoke up. She said, "I want you to know that I forgive you." You should have seen the entire demeanor of this girl change as the words rolled off Tiffany's tongue. The girls body language changed, her eyes softened and her attitude disappeared. She looked at Tiffany and as sincere as she could be said, "I'm really sorry, I was drunk that day, it won't happen again." From that point on the girls were able to talk about the situation and we were able to explain grace to this girl and point back to Jesus and share the gospel with her.

The girl did not accept Christ on Friday but something changed. God is working and it was a direct result of forgiveness given in a situation where no one expected it and no one would have looked down on Tiffany for not giving it. Forgiveness. What a concept? I think it could change the world!

Monday, May 31, 2010

I can't "fix it!"

So here's what God has been teaching me over the past few weeks... "I can't fix it!" Now those who know me might assume I'm talking about all the things that can break around the house. I'm known for not being a handyman (just ask my Dad who is given a list of things to fix every time he comes to visit). However, I've been learning that on top of the things around the house, I'm also completely inadequate and incapable of fixing the brokenness in people's lives.

This may be obvious to some but it has been a liberating revelation to me. Almost daily I encounter people by phone or email who need something in their lives "fixed." Because the church is often known as a place of restoration (which is a good thing), people come to the pastor of a church to "fix" them. Whether they have physical, emotional, financial, psychological or spiritual problems, they come to me wanting to be fixed. Most of the time we've lived in Tacoma I thought that if I could just "fix" whatever was broken in their lives, they would see the power and grace of Jesus and give their life to him... I was wrong.

What I found instead was that by acting in my own strength not only was I not helping them, I was stealing glory from God and getting myself more and more frustrated. Does that mean I refuse to be there for people in the midst of their brokenness? Absolutely not. That is what the entire church is called to do (not just the pastor). We can often provide a "patch" (Matt. 25) while God brings the eternal "fix." However, over the last few weeks I've stopped trying to fix people and just been really honest with them. I've told them that the only thing that can fix them is a relationship with God through Jesus. Some people are interested in what that looks like, some people move on to the next place they think they can get a quick "fix."

Don't get me wrong, we still meet physical, emotional and spiritual needs. I've just switched the order in which I offer things and I've changed the expectation of where the results lie. I first offer Jesus, and only Jesus. Then if we can meet a felt need we will do so. However, I've learned to make it clear that Jesus promises brokenness, hard times, and junk in our lives. It's guaranteed. If you disagree, read the beatitudes in Matthew 5, or read James or 1 Peter. Our lives this side of heaven will never be completely "fixed." However, we can have an eternal "fixing" that will give us hope through our worldly struggles.

What I've learned is that only Jesus brings that kind of "fixing." Only Jesus can give that eternal hope. I can't. I can just point people to Jesus. So can you.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Starting to "get-it"

Monday started rough. We began another adult small group a while back on Monday afternoons at one of our guys apartments. We would usually have 4-6 people but no one really "connected" and it was often a different 4-6 people every week. We restarted it a couple weeks ago but it has just been me and the guy whose apartment we meet at. Not bad, but not effective. I think the host of the Monday group is going through a lot of personal struggles and I'm seriously praying about pulling the plug on it and encouraging him to reconnect with our other group for a while. That feels like backward movement? I'm just not sure.

Then comes Friday. I think Becca Hurst might disagree with me when I say Friday was good. I know she was thankful for it, but it was much harder for her than it was for me. To be honest, the girls we are reaching can be the most self-centered and obnoxious group I've ever been around in my life. That's hard for the one (Becca) who is pouring her life into them. I'll give you a brief example of what we see most weeks.

The way our student gathering works is we eat dinner together and then we all meet together in a large group for a teaching time and then we break up into guys and girls groups for discussion. Right now we have more girls than guys by far, but the guys are actually a great deal more reserved than the girls. Well, this past Friday when I was teaching in the large group, one of the girls who was wearing huge baggy sweatpants, sagging them like you would see many guys do, and a tank top reached into her bag while I was teaching out of 2 Timothy 2 and pulled out a stick of deodorant. She preceded to raise her hand as if to ask a question but instead she applied her sweat guard right there for everyone to witness. How do you keep teaching during that? How does everyone keep from being distracted? How can God be glorified during that? Only the grace of Jesus!

We went on from that and the Word was spoken. Being the teacher, I have the blessing of being able to look into everyone's eyes and know that while a few were in another world, the majority were engaged this week. Both small groups bore some fruit but the girls was also a continuation of the distracting challenge I just described. Pray for our students. Pray that they would catch the fire that is the Holy Spirit. Pray for myself and Becca. Pray that we would trust the sovereign working of our Lord Jesus in the midst of "deodorant" distractions!

Sunday was what made the week truly great! I know it is the first day of the week but for me in many ways it is the end of the week. We had a great group, somewhere around 12 or 13 people but that is not what made it good. The goodness came from the fruit that we saw and the evidence that at least some of our people are finally starting to "get-it!" Every week (not Sunday to Sunday... but almost everyday of every week) we emphasize, teach and challenge people that the Kingdom of God will not grow until they begin reproducing themselves... simply taking the gospel and what they've learned about it and sharing it with others. We also continue to remind them that the church isn't just a place you go on Sunday. We should be there for each other everyday of the week and available to meet each others needs as well as the needs of the people in our community.

Well, an example of reproduction is Anthony. Anthony is 15 or 16 years old and he is always sharing the gospel and inviting people to The Pathway. It doesn't matter if the person is 5 years old or 50 Anthony will invite them. Well this week he invited to our adult Bible study (remember, he is a student) a homeless man he had met the previous week. It was awesome to see that man come, share some of his story and admit that although he acknowledges God he has not been a part of a church in a very long time.

We also have a man named Orlando who has recently become a part of our church. I am constantly telling him that he can call on our church to help others who have needs. He took me up on it this week and introduced us to a friend of a friend who was in the hospital and all alone. Kelli and I both were able to go visit this woman and as a result both Orlando's friend Maryanne and her friend Deborah who had been in the hospital came to The Pathway on Sunday. It is a beautiful picture of God's church in action and it had nothing to do with me or our leadership and everything to do with the Spirit of God.

An awesome side note is that two of the 3 new faces at The Pathway are homeless. God continues to remind me that homeless does not equal unredeemable. The third has been clean and sober for a little over a year now and is vocal about the role Gods grace has played in her transformation.

Truly beautiful.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Confessions of a Church Planter

A quick update on how our small groups are going. Our Friday night youth gathering is going awesome! We had to draw a line in the sand regarding the ages of the people who were attending in order to assure spiritual depth over numerical growth. That is a test of faith to say the least but even though our numbers have definitely dipped, we are seeing a new depth of Bible study, discussion and spiritual growth that gives me great confidence that numerical growth will soon follow.

We started a Monday afternoon small group a while back that grew to about 6 people but it was always a different 6 and then kind of faded when bad weather hit because we were having it outdoors. Antwon and I brainstormed and restarted a few weeks ago. So far it is just me and him so please pray that we would be faithful to invite more unchurched and lost friends. Antwon has agreed to work towards leading that group which is very exciting!

Our Sunday group is where I want to spend most of my time and honestly confess my backwards heart. Those who know me and anyone on our leadership team you know that we have prayed for a diverse church from the very beginning and at the core of our church we have a heart to bring spiritual & physical restoration to the poor, broken, forgotten, needy... the "outcast." Well, a lesson I should have learned a long time ago... be careful what you pray for because God just might give it to you... has become very relevant in my life!

I think in my heart I truly wanted a diverse church that included the "outcast" as a part of the church and not just a "ministry" of the church, but I wanted God to birth the church in the order that was convenient for me. I wanted him to connect us with lots of cool, young, techsavvy people who would bring innovative ideas to the table so we could have a church "worthy" of church planting in 2010. I truly wanted God to bring us those people who have a heart for the "outcast," and then together we would begin to bring diversity to our church... How ignorant I am!

What God has decided to do instead is bring us a church where I am the minority in every way... ethnically, economically, marital status... our church is diverse, but the lost, unchurched, poor "outcast" has become the foundation and it is hard for me to accept. One of the most difficult things about reaching the poor is that it is almost impossible to communicate with them. Every church planting class I took in seminary and since has emphasized the importance of social media. Okay seriously, the people God has brought to The Pathway seldom have a home phone, much less have a clue how to afford a cell phone or stay connected via our website,facebook and twitter! Talk about frustrating! Now I could ramble on and complain about this for ages, which is my sinful tendency, or I could accept what God has beautifully begun to piece together and trust him with the results.

What has God taught me through this unusual church birthing process? That's easy. Everyone, including our 30 year old schizophrenic, our 2 brothers with mental handicaps, single mom full of questions whose rebellious & recently saved daughter brought her to church, our 21 year old Montana intern, our 19 year old homeless guy, our 50 year old Cuban single dad and everyone in between, every single one of them is a soul, created by God, separated from him by sin and desperately in need of a Savior. All of these people need Jesus and I have decided, no matter what order God decides to piece together our diverse church, I will be thankful and faithful to the call he has placed on my life.

Jesus-- I'm sorry I wanted it my "selfish" way. Thank you for moving despite me. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your church.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hitting the Wall

There are all kinds of walls in life and I believe running into them at times is a virtual certainty.

I believe we have hit our first wall in Tacoma. To be honest, if you asked our leadership team I don't know that they would agree because of all the things we are seeing God do. However, I believe the fact that God is still moving does not have any bearing on the existence of a wall in the life of our church. Walls pop up at many points along the pathway of life but God never stops moving. It's simply an obstacle that must be recognized and overcome.

What is our wall? Our wall is one of leadership. I have alluded to this wall before but it is becoming more evident everyday. Our church is built on the idea of reproduction. We want to reproduce believers, reproduce disciples, reproduce leaders, reproduce small groups and reproduce churches. The only way we can do this is if people, from all different backgrounds and experiences, lead. There are two major problems with this at The Pathway (and maybe in your church as well).
1) Many people don't want to lead.
2) Most leaders have been taught to look for the potential in a future leader rather than to create a future leader by believing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

What do we do about this? The short answer is "I don't know." If I did, we would already be through the wall. What I do know is that we can't start by working on problem #1. The only way to change #1 (which is built into others), is for us to change our own struggle with #2 (which is built into us). We have to realize that if we wait for leaders that show "potential," especially in unreached and pre-Christian cultures, we will be waiting a long time. God has called us to take fisherman, tax collectors, prostitutes, persecutors... sinners... introduce them to Jesus and teach them to believe they can lead. Only then will they want to lead. Only then will we break through the wall of leadership and begin to see rapid reproduction.

The wall is before us.

The question is, how will we respond? Will we lay at the foot of the wall stunned and unresponsive? Or, will we find a way to climb over, go around or break through the wall we have encountered?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Completely Inadequate

This week flew by so fast I don't even know what happened. My desire is that this post be a testimony to God's desire and ability to use us in our weakness. I laugh with Kelli on a regular basis about how inadequate we are for the calling God has placed on our lives. We genuinely don't mean that in a self-deprecating way and we're not throwing out a lame attempt to get sympathy. It's just that the things God is doing through our church, in the lives of the lost, it's simply amazing and most of the time we have no idea how to handle the situations that come up. We literally just have to keep our feet moving forward and trust that God is going to provide the answers.

We were reminded of our inadequacy about a week ago when we were fortunate enough to be able to attend the Catalyst West Coast Leadership Conference in Orange County, CA. It was an amazing time of learning and refreshment. Kelli and I even got to spend one awesome California evening walking barefoot on Laguna Beach... but I digress. Most of you have heard of Louie Giglio and Christ Tomlin (The Passion Events). Well, they are now planting a church in Atlanta, GA and Louie Giglio was speaking at Catalyst. His comments really hit home and reminded us of the small role we play in this whole process and the huge role the Holy Spirit plays. To sum up his comments he basically said, "I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing!" To hear a guy like Louie Giglio say that, and really mean it, was awesome! Not because he or we want to be a part of an "ignorant" church planting movement. But because we want to be a part of a Holy Spirit led church planting movement. And when that happens, you literally have no idea what your doing, you just bask in the grace of Jesus and watch lives being changed!

That's how we feel here in Tacoma right now. We truly believe God is preparing our city for something great. Something deep. An awakening. We don't believe it will be because of us or The Pathway. We believe it's going to happen in spite of us and through the church. We believe that the Holy Spirit has been at work here for a long time, using many churches and church plants, and for whatever reason we believe he has chosen us to be workers in the harvest field. I think though that the key is our complete inadequacy. We're nothing special... on our own. But through the grace of Jesus and the Acts 1:8 power of the Holy Spirit we can be used in a special way.

Keep praying.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Harvest is Growing... Lord bring the workers!

I'm beginning to feel like a broken record but I have to say it again... God is so great! This week we get to praise Jesus because two more have been added to the Kingdom! Michael Cornelius, a 15 year old self described atheist has been attending The Pathway with friends for months and months. Over the past few weeks it has been obvious that the Holy Spirit has been drawing him to salvation. Today I was mowing the lawn and Michael came walking through our gate. We started chatting and he began telling me how he and about 5 or 6 other students want to form a leadership team and start reaching more students and stepping up in their leadership roles. I said, "That's great Michael... so have you decided to place your faith in Jesus for salvation yet." He said he really thought he was going to be ready soon. I asked him what he was waiting for and after he began sharing his story with me a bit he said, "You know what, I think I'm ready now!!!" Praise Jesus... now he is ready to lead!

Jessica is also a teenager that Tiffany has been sharing Jesus with. Becca H. has started a new high school girls Bible study on Thursdays and while Kelli and I were at a conference in California this week we got a call from Becca and Tiffany telling us that Jessica had put her faith in Jesus!!! Well the story doesn't end there. Jessica spent the night at our house this weekend and I was able to talk with her mom on the phone. Her mom had tons of questions for me and I was able to share the gospel with her and invite her to place her faith in Jesus and come to our Sunday night Bible study. She has not yet decided to follow Jesus... yet... but she did come to Bible study yesterday and she showed a lot of excitement. Please pray for Vitha and Jessica!

God is continuing to grow our current groups. He has provided us with more leadership for our Friday night student gathering and new direction for our Monday and Tuesday studies. We've been averaging 10 at our Sunday night gathering and tonight we had 20!!! Please continue to pray simply for "life change." That has been our prayer since The Pathway's birth and God has been so faithful to provide exactly that!

Finally-- I want to leave you with an excerpt from an article written by Francis Chan, author of Crazy Love & The Forgotten God, describing what God has been teaching him about the church. It sums up beautifully our vision for Tacoma & beyond. Please feel free to leave comments with your thoughts, agreements & disagreements about the true nature of the church.

Practically, I'm toying with the idea of starting a network of gatherings that meet in homes in order to practice the commands of Scripture. They could watch sermons via DVD or have a leader give the lesson. They may even sing together. But the gatherings wouldn't stop there. They would discuss how to live out the sermon in their neighborhood. They would also pray for each other. They would take communion and remind each other of the mission. They would meet the needs of the members of their group and their unsaved neighbors. Rather than coming to church, they would be the church-- not in a sacred building, but in their neighborhoods. Occasionally, we could all gather in an auditorium or stadium to celebrate and worship collectively.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"I want to be one of your first church members..."

This week we began to see the first fruits of the harvest we believe God is desiring to bring through our relationship with the Tacoma Rescue Mission's transitional community called Tyler Square. We have been hosting "Family Night" at Tyler Square the last Thursday of every month. Our prayer has been that through those times we will be able to make friends, share Jesus with people and eventually connect them with existing small groups and then start a small group at Tyler Square. The long term prayer is that Tyler Square will become a launching pad for new believers being sent back out into our city.

Well, Kelli has connected with very nice single mom who is extremely interested in getting to know God. She has come to one of our Bible studies and has joined us for dinner at our home. Most recently God has connected us with Orlando. Orlando is from Cuba and has recently found himself at Tyler Square with his young daughter Mariella. The first time I met Orlando I was inviting him to Tyler Square and he yelled at me to go away and that he was not interested in that kind of stuff. Over time and through the power of the Holy Spirit Orlando began attending our Family Nights and he and his daughter came to our Good Friday Gathering. Finally, last week, he called me and told me that he knows God but hasn't been living for him in a long time. He said, "I want to come back to Jesus. I want to be one of your first church members."

Wow! Orlando and his daughter came to our small group Sunday night and he is excited about helping us start a group at Tyler Square.

Something to be praying about is our Monday group that was started by Antwon. After growing to about 6 in attendance it has dwindled and Antwon has been struggling to keep his passion. Please pray that a new shot of energy will be shot into the Monday group and God will begin using it to reach people for Jesus!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What to do?

It's Sunday morning just becoming afternoon and I'm sitting at Tully's Coffee feeling incredibly excited, somewhat anxious and slightly overwhelmed by all that God is calling us to be and do. It's a testament to God's grace that I'm able to function on a daily basis because my mind is constantly bouncing back and forth between what I WANT to do, what I'm SUPPOSED to do, what I NEED to do and what GOD has actually told me to do. I'm pretty sure if there were 42 hours in the day instead of 24 hours my dilemma would not change.

Leading is CHOOSING.

Following Christ is SUBMITTING.

If we are to follow Christ AND lead others in a lost and dying world to do the same I'm convinced that we will have to CHOOSE to SUBMIT to Jesus and ignore what we want to do, need to do and are supposed to do and just do what God has told us to do. Doing this, or even considering this, leads to my original statement...

I'm "incredibly excited, somewhat anxious and slightly overwhelmed."

So what does this mean for The Pathway? Well, if I knew for sure I'd be in really good shape but here's what God has been doing and how you can be praying. First-- we are committed to being an EFFECTIVE and MULTIPLYING church. We believe God has called us to do this by starting small groups throughout our city that live and function individually as the church but are just as much the church when gathered together. We are also CERTAIN that God has not called us to reach the reached... he's told us to reach the lost and unchurched. So here's the question...

How can we start small groups (churches) throughout the city of Tacoma (and beyond) if we're only reaching the lost and unchurched?
1) Those of us who already know Jesus must focus not only on reaching more lost people but teaching new believers how to share their faith, teach what they know, and lead small groups.

2) We MUST, amazingly enough, TRUST the HOLY SPIRIT! If we continue to set the "spiritual" bar for leadership so high then we cannot reach the lost, poor & broken of our world and expect them to reach others. We must lower our bar for leadership and raise our FAITH in Jesus to a whole new level. New believers must be empowered to lead and reproduce themselves from day 1, not after they've gone through years of "discipleship" and theological training... that is why we are losing the battle.

Ask me in a week if I'm living this out. I'm going to be asking our leaders if they're living this out. We all need accountability. We all need to sacrifice. We need to lead. We need FAITH!

I'm "incredibly excited, somewhat anxious and slightly overwhelmed" but my FAITH is increasing by the grace of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Taste of the Harvest

Thank you all for continuing to pray for us as we do our best to follow Jesus and specifically for praying for our Good Friday gathering. As usual God did not do things the way I had it planned out in my head but he did answer our prayers and do more than we asked or imagined!

Friday started out a little rocky to say the least. First of all it was one of the nastiest, cold and rainy days we've seen in a while. Because God has been saving souls we were excited to be able to baptize some people Friday and The Commons Church up in Arlington, WA allowed us to use their portable baptistery. Unfortunately, when we went to put it together Friday morning I realized we had forgotten a major piece!!! Arlington is about an hour and half from Tacoma if there's no traffic so we hit the road and thankfully The Commons Pastor (Tim Corbin) met me half way so we didn't waste the entire morning!

The complications had already begun because one of our leadership team came down with mono the week before (Becca E.) so she was not able to come and another one of our main helpers (Matt B.) got a new job and had to work. Things were shaping up to be pretty rough. However, somehow God kept me calm (not usual for me) and we were able to remember how much he has done without us to this point... why let our worries and attitudes get in the way!

Well, long story short we had a great turn out (not really sure of the numbers) plenty of help setting up and tearing down, the baptistery was perfect and we were able to baptize 8 people... 2 of whom made a public profession of faith that night for the first time! Now the work begins as we attempt to follow up on the connections we made and see if God desires us to start a new group or two. The journey is far from over but another milestone has been accomplished. Praise be to our God and Father and our Lord Jesus Christ for the work that is being done. God alone is the initiator and the redeemer. It's fun to walk with you all through this process!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Praying for GREAT things on Good Friday!

Sorry I'm a day late on posting. My lap-top had an unfortunate run-in with a cup of coffee... the coffee won but we were able to salvage my hard drive... Praise the Lord!

This will be a short post because I'm a playing catch up (thanks to the coffee incident) and we're getting geared up for our Good Friday Gathering. In a nut shell, God has been doing some amazing and difficult things through our church and in the lives of some people in Tacoma. In the past couple of weeks we've seen 3 people put their faith in Jesus for salvation. Although that is not the thousands that we read about in the book of Acts, we truly believe that time is coming! Please pray for Nate, Brandon and Raijoneah as they begin walking in the eternal security of the amazing grace of Jesus!

We have also seen some disappointment this week as we have seen some people take steps backward in their journey with God. Please pray for three unnamed people who are very angry and are running from Jesus. We no God's grace is big enough for them, please just pray that they would jump into the arms of his love.

This Friday is our Good Friday Gathering called "The Passion" for Haiti. We will be watching a portion of "The Passion of The Christ," taking communion, presenting the gospel, baptizing at least 4 and opening it up for new believers and taking a love offering for the people of Haiti. Please pray 3 specific things.

1) Pray that our people would invite their friends and family who don't know Jesus!
2) Pray that those people would choose to follow Jesus (or at least begin the journey)
3) Pray that we are able to start at least 2 new small groups after this gathering!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Preparing for the Harvest

We really believe God has been working in Tacoma for quite some time and a great Harvest is coming that we are just blessed to get to be a part of. On that note we have a huge praise to report. You have all been praying for Nate over the past month and he finally gave his life to Jesus! I was so excited when he called me and told me and I know God has great things in store for him.

Our weekend small groups were fantastic. Friday's with our students are beginning to show some fruit and are becoming a much more effective place for making disciples. Becca H. & Becca E. are leading the girls group and they finally feel like they are beginning to break through some barriers and connect with the girls. I am leading the guys group and we are starting to show some signs of spiritual growth which is very exciting.

We had a great turn out last night and we're starting to see some adults come back that we had lost on Friday nights with the influx of students. One of those returning adults is Cindy, in her 40's I would guess and very spiritually confused. She had disappeared for a while but has come the last 2 Sundays. I challenged her to invite her boyfriend of 20+ years to our Easter gathering and she said there is no way he would go. I challenged her to pray for him for the next week (and I would pray for him too) and then to invite him next Monday and see what God does. His name is Mike and I would ask that you all be praying that the Holy Spirit begins drawing Mike to himself and his response is a testimony to Cindy and many others.

We are very excited about our Easter gathering and we are expecting God to blow our expectations out of the water. We are doing much traditional publicity because we really believe in the relational aspect of ministry. We are challenging and equipping our people to invite their friends and family so please pray for a great spiritual awakening to begin April 2nd!

Thanks for all your prayers!