Monday, January 25, 2010

Slowly learning...

Thanks to all who faithfully pray for The Pathway, specifically on Friday nights during our gathering. Each week it seems like God throws us a new curveball. I truly believe he is sharpening us, refining us by fire. Just when I reach what I believe to be my threshold of patience, he brings a spiritual break-through.

This week we were looking at the encounter Nicodemus had with Jesus. We were discussing the fact that Nicodemus truly believed with all his heart that he knew what it meant to know God. He really believed he could achieve right standing with the HOLY Father through knowledge, "righteous" living and religious tradition. As I was teaching on Nicodemus' misconception of what it meant to be born again, the question was raised "Is there anything that we must DO to be born again?" One of our younger girls (14 or 15) said that in order to be born again you had to be baptized by the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. One of the things we emphasize at The Pathway is that everything we believe is founded in Scripture. So I asked Shawndrea... "Where does the Bible tell you that?" She really impressed me by saying, "Acts 2:34... I think." Well, she didn't have the verse just right but she did take us to the appropriate chapter. So, we all turned to Acts 2 and read.

After finishing the section about the Holy Spirit coming down and the Apostles speaking in different "tongues," I asked the question, "Does this passage tell us that we have to speak in tongues to be born again?" Shawndrea, along with all the rest, some of whom profess to speak in tongues, said "well, no!" Shawndrea said that was the passage she was taught proved that all believers will speak in tongues. We had a great opportunity to briefly share a correct biblical interpretation in Acts but we also learned 2 important lessons.

1) Never be afraid to go back to Scripture and allow it to teach you truth, even if it's not what you thought was true before.

2) Jesus teaches that being born again is "spiritual." It is about faith and is contrary to what Nicodemus... and many Americans... believe to be true.

We ended the night challenged, thinking, learning and growing in the knowledge of God's Holy Word. I would challenge you to take a look at your convictions just as Nicodemus did 2000 years ago and just as Shawndrea did 3 days ago. Are your beliefs completely founded in Scripture or are they simply sacred traditions handed down to you by well-intentioned believers?


Pray for us this Thursday night as we have our first "Family Night" at Tyler Square. We have 7 people outside our leadership team signed up to help. Pray that the Gospel is shared and relationships are built!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Walking Humbly

"Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves..." --Philippians 2:3

This past Friday was unique, somewhat painful, but I truly believe it will increase our effectiveness as a church in the long run. Over the past month or so I've become increasingly discouraged by the lack of humility displayed by many of the younger people that have been attending our church. There is often an attitude of selfishness and arrogance that displays itself on Friday nights. Not only is it sinful, it has started driving away people who are genuinely seeking out truth.

This past Friday the majority of the people who came fell into that category and I really felt the Lord telling me that they needed to hear what the Bible says about humility. Being the "preparer" that I am, I struggled for a bit with whether or not to go with the Spirit. Thankfully in this instance the Spirit won out over my pride. We were able to spend about 30 minutes talking about Philippians 2 and learning how true Christ-like humility displays itself. I do not know what kind of fruit the message will bear. I have to be honest and express that it was not an easy message to give. I had to look at my own life first because I know how full of pride I often can be.

Only time will tell if The Pathway will genuinely begin to reflect the type of unified, bond-servant, selfless humility that Paul saw in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. However, I would ask that you join me in praying that The Pathway will become just that kind of church. We don't have room for vanity and selfish conceit. We are trying to reach people for Jesus and I believe it will take nothing less than humble love.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Friday Update

This past Friday was one of great faith! Thank you to those who joined in praying that my faith would be increased and that God would bring 10 people to salvation. I can honestly say we had a phenomenal night and my faith was stretched to a point where it had not been before. Praise Jesus for that and thank you for your prayers to that end.

We were going through the end of John chapter 2 and looking at Jesus' passion for his Father as demonstrated by his cleansing of the Temple. We had a great time of study and discussion about the peoples reaction to Jesus. The Bible says that after he performed many signs at the Passover there were many who believed but that "Jesus, on his part, was not entrusting Himself to them..." (John 2:24). This passage stumped me at first but as I studied and prepared I realized that Jesus does not accept purely emotional and intellectual professions of faith. Although many salvation's begin there, they cannot end there. If they do, they will most likely be a part of the sad group of people in Matthew 7 who hear the Lord proclaim, "I never knew you." We must have faith that stretches across our emotions and intellect and deeply invades our hearts.

After Bible study we had a great response time where several people met with our leadership team for counsel and prayer. I know of one guy in particular that expressed his need for salvation but was not ready to take that step of faith yet. Pray for Tommy this week as he follows up with him.

Why did God choose not to bring 10 people to salvation last Friday? I honestly don't know. But I do know he could have. I also know my faith was increased a great deal just by walking through the week leading up to our Friday gathering. As I contemplate God's power, love and goodness I'm reminded of one of my favorite Old Testament stories about three men full of faith: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3). Even in the midst of certain death they believed, truly believed God would save them. However, they proclaimed to the King that even if God did not save them physically, they would not bow down and worship anyone or anything else!

That is the kind of faith I pray will be found at The Pathway. God did not save 10 this week but he moved mightily and I am certain we will be reporting hundreds of salvation's soon! Please continue to pray for the people of Tacoma and the work of Jesus through The Pathway.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Pathway 2010

I'm sitting in the Mandolin Cafe going over a few things before our gathering tonight. God has really convicted me that I am not demonstrating nearly enough faith that he can bring salvation to the people we are reaching. Yesterday I began praying for the faith to believe and God really laid it on my heart to ask for salvation at tonight's gathering. He asked me to pray for 10 people so that's what I am doing. That's such a BIG request in my mind and heart but such a simple task for the God of the universe.

My ultimate desire is that God be glorified in and through those who are a part of The Pathway. I also happen to believe that one of the ways God gets the most glory is when sinners are converted to Him! If you happen to read this blog before tonight please join me in praying for 2 things: 1) Pray that I don't get in the way of what God wants to do because of a lack of faith. 2) Pray for those 10 people. Pray that the Holy Spirit would be stirring in their hearts and drawing them to Jesus.

I believe that God is faithful. I believe that Jesus is Savior.

Monday, January 4, 2010

What is a Church?

The question "What is a church?" is one that has been posed to me time and again over the last several years of my life. Although there is a specific definition that I should give according to the statement of my denomination on biblical ecclesiology. I've come to the conclusion that we... and by we I mean all humanity... have complicated the issue to such an extreme that I'm sure God is looking at us with a sheepish grin as to say..."They think they have it all figured out don't they?"

Well, I do believe in the New Testament church but I've learned and I am continuing to learn that it expresses itself through so much more diversity than I've even begun to wrap my mind around. Before you read my thoughts on this topic I would ask that you refer to the book of Acts, the churches at Ephesus, Corinth, Philipi, etc. and tell me if they all looked the same... falling neatly into one category that is "church." Don't misunderstand, the foundation must be the same (The Bible as authority, Jesus as Savior and the only way to salvation) but the expression is as diverse as the day is long.

The reason this is so fresh on my mind is because I believe that the members of our leadership team... Kelli and me included... are struggling to fill the "church" void in our lives as we plant this unique expression of the Kingdom in Tacoma. For those who have been to The Pathway you know that we are very much a "church plant" at this point rather than an established local church. However, we are a plant because we have the seeds of the body of Christ (i.e. Christians) and we certainly worship the Master Gardener (i.e. God). And by the grace of God we will soon be a fully established, evangelizing, disciple-making, autonomous, giving, worshipping, baptizing, communion taking missional CHURCH. However, I believe God is stretching us to the point where we recognize that the "church" is not a service, it's a people on mission. And, the service held by the church is not as much about emotion and experience as it is about a choice to worship the God of the universe in community with other believers.

Although I believe this to be true, I believe the "churched" on our leadership team... again, myself included... will always struggle with the fact that we are not walking into a "church" building, led by a dynamic worship team, and going through the typical "order" of worship found in most American churches today. Thankfully, I believe God has put our leadership team in urban Tacoma for a reason. He wants us... and you... to step out of your "church" box for a moment and take a look at the New Testament church as Christ established it. Did they all have church buildings...? no. Did they meet in houses...? often. Was every church in every city the recipient of a weekly expository sermon???

My point is absolutely not to bash church as we have come to know it. I tell people all the time that I'm probably more proud of traditional Southern Baptist Churches than I should be because I am a product of the efforts of many an SBC church... from Texas to Hawaii... from Colorado to Guam... many have had an enormous impact on my calling to live a Great Commission life and plant Christ-centered, Bible believing, reproducing missional churches!

However, I think if we accept the idea that all churches must look as neat and tidy as our upper-middle class church mindset has come to tell us it should, we need a swift kick in the pants from the Senior Pastor of us all, Jesus Christ!

This issue came to a head for me as I sat in the worship service of the Church of 2nd Chances-- A Church of God congregation that I was invited to be Antwan (the guy I shared was saved most recently). His sister brought him to that church for years as she prayed that he would find Jesus. He continued to ignore Christ for years but that "church," which looks very different from what the majority of my friends and family would describe as "church," planted the seeds that initially led to Antwan joining the Kingdom of God!

What did the church of 2nd Chances look like???
- A worship service that was carried out with anything but "professional excellence"
-Location: a store front right next to the industrial park in Tacoma
-The service:
-singing led by the praise team (2 ladies and a drummer!)
-Multiple times of shouting praises to God.
-Offering (everyone filed out by rows, led by an usher, to place their offering in the bag at the FRONT of the room)
-Preaching-- not expository, not hilarious, not incredibly deep... just SCRIPTURE.
-Fellowship (I was a visitor on that day and I was asked to stand and introduce myself. After my introduction I was swarmed by children and church members welcoming me and giving me hugs!)
-More singing!
-A time to praise God for what he had done in our lives
-Corporate prayer proceeded by all in the congregation being anointed with oil

Three hours after I arrived I walked out refreshed, filled with the power that comes from the Holy Spirit after worshipping God in the context of his church. Was this church perfect...? no. Do they have the market cornered on what the church should look like...? no. Were there certain theological and doctrinal issues that need to be addressed...? yes.

Did they love and worship Jesus proclaiming that salvation is found in no one else??? YES!

Was this a church? Absolutely!

I love the true CHURCH no matter what it looks like. I want The Pathway to be an authentic CHURCH. I will admit to you all right now that I'm not a deep theologian. I do have a seminary degree but it is in Missions rather than divinity or theology. I screw up all the time, I don't have all the answers and I am learning something new about the Church of Jesus every day. I'm a disciple, a learner, a follower of Jesus... and I happen to have been called to be a Pastor too.

My desire is for The Pathway to be a local church that brings glory to God... that worships above all else. The church is messy. It is made up of people after all. Thanks for praying for our church. All praise be to Jesus!