Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Our world has been put on pause since Sunday because of health issues for myself and Jagen. I had been struggling with a virus since Wednesday but Jagen's reflux issues had been getting worse. Foolishly I pushed myself too hard on Sunday. Long story short, Sunday night Kelli had her son on one side of the ER and her husband on the other side. Not a great scenario. I got the fluids in me I desperately needed along with some anti-nausea medicine but Jagen's problem is taking much more time to figure out.

God always know though doesn't he? He's never been caught off guard... never. The VanGo girls who I have mentioned in previous blogs have become the VanStay girls as they've committed to serve with us in Tacoma for 6 months. Until they move into their apartment they have been staying at our home. I am certain God put them there at this time because I needed to be in bed resting and recovering and Kelli needed to be at the hospital with Jagen. They have been a God send, along with others including Becca and John, taking care of Rylan and bringing Kelli what she needs at the hospital.

At this point I am doing much better. Ry and I went to the hospital this afternoon to visit with Jagen and Kelli and we had a good time. We have two main prayer requests at this time. First, pray that the doctors would find out the source of Jagen's GI issues. They found out underneath his reflux are a stomach and esophagus full of ulcers. Today they ran some blood tests and did a sonogram and we should have the results tomorrow evening. Please pray for answers so we can get his pain relieved.

The second thing we need you to pray for is a new "Gather to Scatter" phase The Pathway is entering into. We have learned that every time God starts to bring momentum here in Tacoma, our kids health gets attacked. Tomorrow night is a big night for The Pathway as we are combining all our Community Groups to cast a new strategy and approach to more effectively accomplish our vision. I'm so excited about it but I don't know how we're going to get through it with Jagen still in the hospital. Please pray for wisdom if we need to cancel and faith if we need to push through. We know God has called us here for his glory and we want to do everything according to his purpose and plan.

Thank you for praying.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Transfer Growth

Tonight I'm sitting in a hotel room in Eugene, OR at the annual meeting for the Northwest Baptist Convention. Today was the pastor's conference and the speaker was Ed Stetzer. Many of you who have heard of Stetzer think of him as a brilliant statistical mind, author of too many books, and a big-wig at LifeWay Christian Resources. While all of those things are factual, something you may not know is that Stetzer began his journey into the world of church planting about 24 years ago in the inner city of Buffalo, New York. I definitely learned a couple things from Ed tonight from his brilliance, but I also learned a couple things from his experience.

After the main gathering of pastors there was a smaller Q&A time with Stetzer. For those who know me you won't be surprised that I asked the first question. I had read of his experience as a newly married 21 year old in the inner city of Buffalo so I asked him what were some of the good things God did while he was there. One thing he said really resonated with what I am feeling and learning and trying to trust God for here in Tacoma. He said that when you're working in the inner city, you are often living around and working with people who aren't there by choice. They're in the city because they are poor, because they are addicted, because they are struggling in someway... because they have to be, not because they want to be. If they were natural leaders they probably wouldn't be in the inner city.

That's how I feel all the time and I have told Kelli and others that most of our people don't have leadership potential (although thankfully we do have some). However, that's not an excuse not to develop leaders. Our calling is to develop potential in people and then develop that potential into leadership. It's an extra step in the process but it is completely possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. Stetzer said that 5 people from that first church plant in Buffalo are in full-time ministry today. Wow! Not to mention the church is still going. I needed that encouragement.

The second thing I learned was a revelation of sorts. The idea wasn't new but the lens through which I view the problem is new. One of the people in the crowd asked if Stetzer believed that the church planting success we are seeing in North America today is mainly due to conversion growth or transfer growth? His answer was "both." He said his goal as a church planter is to have about 50% of his congregation be new converts and the other 50% will inevitably be transfer growth. That ensures that as a church plant they will continue to reach the lost but that they will also have believers to help disciple the new converts. There needs to be a balance.

I have mentioned in many recent blogs that we don't have enough mature believers. The purpose of our most recent trip south was to find families and couples who are willing to move their lives to Tacoma. Then tonight it hit me. In our whole church I can only think of 1 person that came from another church in Tacoma. Everyone else is a new believer or was unchurched when they connected with us. That is a problem. We are nearly 100% conversion growth. While that sounds like something to be excited about it has in fact been the cause of our stifled growth recently. We desperately need some people who love Jesus in Tacoma and believe in what God has called us to do and be to jump on board with The Pathway so that we can continue to grow and multiply in our city and beyond.

Who would've thought it? I worked so hard to reach the lost and unchurched that I truly believe I pushed away many believers who would've joined the work God is doing in Tacoma. Chalk it up to another lesson learned. Thanks Mr. Stetzer. More appropriately, thanks Jesus!

Monday, November 7, 2011

So... how was your trip?

Whenever we head south for a partnership trip the most common question we receive is, "So, how's it going in Tacoma?" The question is asked with a genuine heart but I've never really known how to answer it. Finally, on this trip, I decided to answer honestly. I would say, "It depends on the day you ask me."

Well, now that our trip is coming to a close we've already started being asked, "So, how was your trip?" I think the best answer to this is that time will tell. We have made no secret about the fact that our prayer for this trip was pointed and specific. We desperately need people, couples and families to be precise, to move their lives to Tacoma and help us raise up new believers, pour our lives into them and teach them to make disciples.

Although only time will tell, I can honestly say the trip seems to have been great so far. First and foremost we got to experience the uniqueness of the body of Christ. We got to worship and share The Pathway's story with mega churches, a house church, a church in rural Oklahoma, a country church in south Texas... and more. It was amazing to see such a diversity of people all serving the same God through the grace of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Second-- we were encouraged and loved on in a way that quite frankly we needed. Our last meeting was with First Baptist Church in Charlotte, TX. We got to share stories of "life change" with about 15-20 people and at the end they gathered around Kelli and myself, laid their hands on us and prayed. Kelli was moved to tears and she said it best (as she always does) when she said, "We pray over people so often in Tacoma but no one ever prays over us... thank you."

Finally, we have already seen God begin to move in response to our prayers. The night before we left Tacoma the VanGo girls (mentioned a few blogs ago), came and told me they saw our need for more mature believers and they decided to stay and work with us for the next 6 months!!! While in Oklahoma we heard from an amazing godly woman who has served with us before that God has called her to move to Tacoma!!! We had another awesome woman of God who came and served on a mission team that she wants to serve with us all of next summer. I already have another email in my inbox from a college student wanting to intern with us and I just got the flight itinerary from a godly young man who will be graduating college in May and feels like God may be calling him to Tacoma. He will be flying to Tacoma in December to spend a little over a week with us trying to discern God's will! The point is that God is working, God is moving, but God is not finished yet!

I tell you what, by God's grace we have been able to pour ourselves out over the past year for the glory of God and the sake of the gospel and in a matter of 10 days God used the body of Christ to fill us back up.

So, how was our trip?

It was... worship. Thank you to all who played a part and all glory to God through Jesus!