Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Have you ever been more than tired? Have you ever just been exhausted, drained, spent. I think Kelli and I are in a phase like that. Jagen and Rylan are growing like crazy. They're walking, talking a little, and becoming more and more active. Along with that growth comes more ability to throw temper tantrums and fight with each other... you gotta love brothers and sisters!

The Pathway is in an exciting adventure right now. We're not seeing extreme growth at this point but we're really seeing some awesome and effective leadership development. Along with that we're witnessing the people of our church taking ownership of the church's mission. They're hungry to gain boldness through the Spirit for sharing the gospel. Spiritually hungry people require a lot of time and energy. I think about my kids again. They're so young in life. They are learning to do things on their own but they still need constant help, continual encouragement and a watchful eye to keep them on track. Planting a church that reaches the lost and unchurched is a very similar growth process. Our people are growing, they're hungry, but they need constant help, continual encouragement and a watchful eye to keep them on track. Praise Jesus Kelli and I don't have to do this alone. We're so thankful for the Leadership Team God has put in place around us. But it's exhausting. It's draining.

This is probably a little bit of a selfish post but please pray for our family. We genuinely love where we are and love what we're doing. So many people encourage pastors to disengage with the world and just focus on themselves, their families and their "ministerial duties." That's just not who we are. We believe our lives are meant to be lived with people, in biblical community, for God's glory. Sometimes that is extremely hard and sometimes it's very easy. But to live missionally, to truly "be the church" is exhausting. It's worth it. But it's exhausting. Pray for strength as things will probably not slow down until after the summer. Thanks for following our journey.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Life Change

Those of you who have followed The Pathway from the beginning know that our prayer for the people of Tacoma from the very beginning is that God would bring about "life change" at the very core of who they are. The parable of the soils has become more applicable in my life on almost a daily basis. Those in whom the gospel is planted but does not take root are ineffective at best and are not believers at worst. We don't just want "butts in the seats." That's not our prayer at all. We have been praying, continue to pray for and want to plead with you to pray for genuine, deep-rooted life change in Tacoma. Here are a few stories of how that is happening and a few stories where it is not yet happening. Please pray for all of these and remember to be planting the life-changing seeds of the gospel in your own families, neighborhoods and cities!

Antwon Grodon: Most of you have heard me talk about Antwon. He was one of the first people I became friends with here in Tacoma and after a time of questioning and refusal to believe that Jesus would take him just as he was, he became a follower of Jesus. Antwon is devoted to becoming a passionate follower of Jesus. He changed his work schedule so he could be a part of a Community Group. The CG had to change their meeting night and Antwon works at 5pm on Sunday's (worship service is at 4pm). However, he is so hungry for the word that he reads the passage on his own and comes to worship from 4pm-4:50 every single Sunday.

Jamaal Lee: Jamaal was homeless when our intern Cris met him and he is still homeless. However, by the grace of God he has put his faith completely in Jesus, humbled himself to the point of taking a job at McDonald's (he was formerly a chef in some nice establishments), and is so hungry for God's word that he meets with one of our guys on a weekly basis just to study God's word more (he also attends worship and Community Group).

Rodney: We connected with Rodney through the boldness of our mission team from FBCUC. They knocked on a lot of doors and came across Rodney, homeless at the time, and desperate for help. They prayed with Rodney and the next day he found a place to live. He immediately began to seek God out and became our most consistent Community Group member. However, Rodney has since fallen into deep struggles with depression. He is 65 years old and disabled and can't understand that Jesus still has a purpose for his life. Many of our church still call him, check on him and he'll show up at worship from time to time, but so far his roots are not deep. He needs that deep-rotted life change.

Susan Haunhorst: We met Susan because her daughter Heather is a part of our youth group. Susan recently lost her job and struggles with many things that have a hold on her life. She has spent time with our family several times over dinner and has come to one of our Community Group meetings. She knows the gospel and understands that Jesus wants her but so far she has not experienced the life-changing power of new life in Jesus.

Monica Hansen: We met Monica because our church spent a year loving on the people of a transitional housing community in Tacoma. By God's grace I was connected with Monica's son Andres just a couple of weeks before they moved out into their own place. Through that relationship Kelli was able to get to know Monica and she has surrendered her life to Jesus. Monica's life is hard. She recently lost her job due to cutbacks and is raising 3 boys on her own. However, she is still pursuing Jesus because he has changed her life. She is choosing to put her hope in him instead of losing faith due to her situation.

True life change is a powerful and undeniable thing. It does not mean we won't have bad and faith-less days, but it does mean we will continually walk toward Jesus despite our circumstances because who we are has been changed. We need to see more life change in Tacoma and in our world.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Prayer for boldness

Yesterday at our worship service our former pastor from Lifepointe in Snoqualmie came down and preached through Acts 4:23-37. For anyone who is a pastor... and this is new for me... it is a great blessing when you get to be taught the word of God from another perspective. It is a good thing. It is a healthy thing. It is an introspective thing that must be expressed outwardly in a changed life in the same way that I call our people to on a regular basis.

Long story short I want to ask you to pray for some specific people. Chris preached on boldness for Christ from a unique urgency as a result of the reminder of the fragility of life that came from Friday's double tragedy in Japan (earthquake and hurricane). I read an email from another pastor that said less than one half of one percent of the people in Japan have a relationship with Jesus. That makes for a triple tragedy.

The message Jesus preached through Chis was powerful throughout but one of his main focuses was where we are to start in the process of preaching the word of God with boldness. The starting point is prayer. At the end of Acts 4 we see that the believers gathered together in prayer and the Holy Spirit was so powerfully present that the place where they gathered together was shaken. Did you know that's not just a beautiful word picture? That actually happened. Have you or I ever prayed with a boldness and a faith worthy of God shaking the entire place in which we sit. Wow. I want to pray that way.

Well, at the end of the message I was reminded of a Scripture that rocked my world this week in 2 Corinthians 5:14 that says, "The love of Christ controls us." I have to ask myself if his love really does control me on a day to day, moment by moment basis. Instead of continuing on with a time of singing we allowed the Spirit to move, by the grace of Jesus, and we split up into groups of 3 or 4 and prayed individually for the people God has been calling us to share Jesus with boldly. We went one at a time in our groups and prayed for boldness this week. We also told the unbelievers in the group that they would need to be bold and admit that they don't yet believe, and we would pray for them (if there were any unbelievers in the group).

I want to ask you to pray for some specific people that God is calling us to be bold with.

John-- our next door neighbor who comes from a family of Lutheran pastors, experiences deep depression, yet sees no need for "religion." Pray that I would be bold in telling John I agree with him, I just believe he needs a relationship with God through Jesus!

Micah-- This is a friend of ours who claims Christ but does not live for him at all. Pray for his wife whom Kelli is getting to invest in and who is actually seeking Jesus right now.

Keanna-- This is a woman that Kelli has been investing in who we don't believe knows Jesus. Pray for Kelli to have patience and know how to pour out the love of Jesus on her.

Monica & Maria-- These two women are followers of Christ but are very new to their relationship with Jesus. Pray for Kelli to be bold in love with them about what it means to live for Jesus.

Who is God calling you to be bold with. Pray for them but pray also for boldness in you so his Kingdom would grow!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Filled with the Spirit

This weekend our Leadership Team went to a conference in Tacoma hosted by the church of a pastor friend of mine, Bo Noonan. The church is New Communities and was planted in Tacoma 4-5 years ago as a part of the New Frontiers family of churches. The conference was called "Reformed, Charismatic, Missional..." an intriguing title to say the least. We attended for two reasons; One, I always try and take our leadership team to at least one conference a year to challenge us, develop unity and spawn creativity. Second, I didn't want to take everyone to a conference where we already agreed with and knew everything that was talked about. To be honest, as a Southern Baptist born and raised, the "Charismatic" in the title scared me and intrigued me the most. I knew it would step on our toes a bit and force us to look at Scripture. Boy did it ever?

Terry Virgo is the founder of New Frontiers and he was charged with speaking biblically on the filling of the Holy Spirit. He did the most amazing job of taking a biblical look at what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He began in Acts and walked through several different examples. Beginning of course with Acts 1:8 he pointed out that the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit in a unique way that day. He noted that, "prior to the day of Pentecost, Jesus told his followers to "wait" on the Holy Spirit. After Pentecost, no one was ever told to wait again." In other words, as believers we all have free access to the Holy Spirit's indwelling power. But, the question is do we all receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation, as I have always believed and taught?

That led Mr. Virgo to take us to Acts 19:2. Paul asked the "believers" at Ephesus, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" "And they said no, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." That is a very interesting response to focus in on for someone like me, who has always believed that the Holy Spirit comes at salvation. How could these believers, recognized as believers, not have the Holy Spirit?

Mr. Virgo also walked us through several other passages. Acts 9 for instances shows us that Paul was "saved" during the famous supernatural experience he had with Jesus on the road to Damascus, but it was not until several days later that he received the Holy Spirit.

However, Mr. Virgo also pointed out another passaged that showed another way in which the Holy Spirit came on believers. In Acts 10:44 we see that as Peter is preaching the word to the Gentiles that the Holy Spirit came upon them. In this particular passage the Holy Spirit came as the the people were hearing the message. However, that is clearly not always the case.

So the question remains-- are we "filled with the Holy Spirit" at the moment of salvation or is that something that happens later? The answer... I haven't figured it out yet!!!

Based on the Scripture I've looked at so far it seems that there is not one way or moment that the Holy Spirit comes but it is very possible that a person can be saved without being filled with the Holy Spirit. However, the Scripture also seems very clear that there is no reason not to be filled with the Holy Spirit. All we have to do is ask and believe. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 1 that it is his responsibility to fan into flame the gift that he has been given. Mr. Virgo contends that this gift is obviously the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, many would contend this gift refers to specific spiritual gifts. If this does refer to the gift of the Spirit then it would lead me to believe we can have the Spirit but we can quench the gift through a refusal to use the power of the Spirit. I also notice in the beginning of Acts that Peter is filled with the Spirit at Pentecost but then again in Acts 4:8 he is "filled with the Spirit" before he speaks to the court of the High Priest. Does this show we can be filled with the Spirit multiple times? Tough questions that need to be asked but are obviously not easy to answer.

All this and we haven't even gotten into speaking in tongues, a topic most of us think of immediately when we hear the word charismatic. One thing I will say is that when we read of conversion experiences in the book of Acts they are not always followed with speaking in tongues, but it is undeniable that they are "often" followed with speaking in tongues. It's something that as a Southern Baptist I can't ignore. I don't want to be content with being faithful to my Southern Baptist roots... of which I am very grateful... but I want to be faithful to Jesus through my faithfulness to the Word of God. There is absolutely a charismatic... Holy Spirit filled... element to the Christian life that far too many of us have ignored for far too long.

I don't have it figured out but I'm not ignoring it anymore. I believe in the Holy Spirit and the power that he brings. God promised him to us for so many reasons and I want to use his power and filling to the fullest measure for God's glory. Ask yourself this question: have I ever looked objectively into what Scripture says about the filling and purpose of the Holy Spirit or has my opinion been shaped by those who have gone before me? I've been challenged to seek the Scriptures for answers. Will you do the same?