Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Eve... from a different perspective.

The Pathway Christmas Choir
I was planning to blog about our Christmas Eve gathering.  Our worship leader is Donna Christian.  She planned and organized the entire gathering and did a fantastic job.  One of the best things she did was recruit her mother-in-law Roberta to play key board for us.  God has done a work in and through Roberta and by his grace he used our church and our Christmas Eve gathering in the process.  Roberta wrote about what God has done... her perspective is significantly more beautiful than anything I could write.  As you read, please know that the way God has used Roberta is the same way he uses all of you who pray for and support The Pathway.  Thank you and Happy 2013!

The Best Christmas Gift of 2012- Roberta Christian
I hesitate to share this with you, as it may be misconstrued as being about me, but this is a story that needs to be told. It is a story about God working in the lives of ordinary people who love Him. It is a story of God’s compassion and care for the people He seeks to love and to redeem. It a story of God’s great plan, His ability to work out all the details, but most importantly it is a lesson about how much God loves us and the kindness and goodness of God’s heart.
In the fall of this year I was approached by my daughter-in-law, Donna. She asked me, with some reservation, if I would be interested in playing the piano for her church’s Christmas Eve program.  It was an interesting thought to me, and was hard to refuse because our Pastor had just announced that our church would not have its Christmas Eve service this year. He said that he hoped that each of us would find other places to serve the community on this night. Since 2005 we had attended our little church, and every year we have had a Christmas Eve service, so what was I to make of this? Without much hesitation I told Donna, I would be glad to help.
The Pathway-- Kids Ave Choir
Donna explained that there was no one available to play the piano that would be able to play well enough to help with the program that she was planning. Donna explained that her church has about sixty people who attend.  She explained that her church is called, “The Pathway” and was started about three years ago on the Hilltop area of Tacoma, Washington. What I knew of the Hilltop area of Tacoma was not good. I remember as a newly-wed in the early 1980’s hearing the news reports that this area had the highest murder rate in the entire state of Washington. I had driven through it several times on my way to and from work at Tacoma General Hospital in the 2004. Every time I drove through this neighborhood I would pray and ask God to protect me. I really did not want my car to break down in this neighborhood.
After we arranged a practice schedule, Donna emailed me the sheet music. It had been some time since I had played new music, but after browsing through the music and playing it through, I thought that with some practice, I could do this. Our church loves the old hymns and a traditional form of worship, but I as I played, I knew this would be a bit out of my comfort zone. I found it enjoyable and nerve-wracking listening to the music; enjoyable, because I loved the challenge of learning a new song, a new style; nerve-wracking because I would have to play it in front of everyone and playing with musicians likely more comfortable with this style of music. 
The choir of about 8-10 people met a few times before the program to practice. Each time we had a different group. I loved their enthusiasm. I loved their joy. I could see that I could find a place in their group and could help where I had strengths and they could teach me a great deal about soul and rhythm and heart. It was a great joy to be with them. 
The day before the program was a Sunday. We met for practice together after our church service. I met several more members of their church and I met their pastor, Bobby. Talking with them and hearing them talk and pray helped me to understand the heart they had for the Hilltop community. Practice went well. Donna made sure everyone knew the dress code, but was reassuring anyone who did not have black pants, dress shoes and a jewel-toned dress shirt, not to worry, but to wear the best they owned. Once again, it showed me the limits of the resources these fellow believers have. 
After rehearsal Ritchie, my husband, Josh, my son and Donna and I went out a got a bite to eat. As we were sitting waiting for our meal, we began to talk about the needs of their church body. Donna and Josh explained how the church got its name, a little about the people, about the church’s mission and the activities at the church. I asked Donna if the piano I had seen in the corner of the church’s meeting room belonged to the church. She said that it was and that it was presenting some difficulties in their worship. The piano was a tall, upright grand piano. She said that it had great sound and was a fine piano, but because she lead the worship team, it was difficult to see the congregation as she played and lead the singing and worship. 
On the way home from practice, I said to Ritchie that I think this church needs us to help them. I sensed there was a need for a new keyboard so they could worship in the way that fits their style. I told Ritchie that I thought we should give our keyboard to them. Ritchie said that he did not think we could as we needed it to help with our church’s music services. I did not say much, but thought about it the rest of the ride home.
Monday night was Christmas Eve and we got to the church at about 3:30pm. We helped with some of the loading of equipment into the vehicles. Again I could see the heart of this little group of people. They so desperately wanted to reach the hearts of their community. They were loading chairs, tables, sound equipment, decorations, refreshments, and everything that would be needed to have their small Christmas Eve program at the small public elementary school a few blocks away. They said that they wanted to be in the community they were trying to reach. We prayed with them as they were about to leave. Their hearts were full of warmth and care as they asked God to bless their efforts and prepare the people to come and receive God’s message with an open heart.
We caravanned the few blocks to the school and followed the lead van and trailer through a set of gates that opened into the playground. Within about thirty minutes the gymnasium was turned into a church auditorium. The sound equipment was checked after hooking up all the equipment. I watched as the drummer spent almost thirty minutes making sure the chords were all securely taped down so the choir members and the children would not trip during the performance. The gymnasium was very cold, but thanks to a kind lady who worked at the school, she had come earlier to turn on the heat and the lights and give us entrance into the building. The room then filled with music as the choir went over their songs. 
At seven o’clock, the program began. More than sixty people watched as the screen introduced the reason we had gathered. Jesus’s birthday party had begun. We sang. We listened and watched with enjoyment as the children sang. The pastor shared his heart and the vocalists sang. The band played and the worship team led us in praises adoring the baby, who came so humbly and quietly. We knew the end of the story, and were reminded of the immense price He paid. Sadness and joy were intertwined in our hearts. The program ended with candles and, “Silent Night”. It seemed like it had only lasted a few minutes. After the music ended, the chairs, tables, sound equipment, decorations and everything else that had come out of the vehicles, were loaded back into the vehicles and driven back to the little church. We all drove home very tired. This little group of people had worked so very hard.
On the way home I stared blankly out the front window of the pick up and said to Ritchie, “I am convinced now, more than ever, that this church needs us to get them a keyboard.” Ritchie said, “We can’t afford it right now. You know that there may be a strike coming up.” I said that I knew that, but that I was convinced this is what we should do. We said nothing more about it the rest of the drive home.
The next day was Christmas. I got up early and put the sticky buns in the oven and set the timer on the oven for thirty-five minutes. I sat down in my chair and began to pray. I told God that I could not get this out of my mind. I knew that He wanted me to work within the boundaries of my marriage, and my husband had told me that he did not think that we could get this keyboard right now. I told God that He says that we do not receive because we do not ask, and that anything we ask in Jesus name, He will give it to us. I reasoned with God and told Him that I was not asking this for myself, but for this little church that has such great needs. I want Him to provide a keyboard for this church, and if possible through me and I wanted it to be the same keyboard as mine. I also wanted the place or person we purchase the keyboard from to use the money that we give them to serve you. I also requested that He prepare a special person to play the piano. Besides Donna, I wanted Him to find a person in the Hilltop community that He has placed a special talent of playing the keyboard. This person could be just learning to play or already be an accomplished musician, but that the person would be changed by this keyboard and would use it as a tool to further God’s kingdom. 
After my prayer was over, I opened my Bible. As I began reading, the verses I had just spoken to God were right in front of me. My regular Bible readings had stopped in the middle of John chapter sixteen and as I began the following words were the first words I read, “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” Could this be the Lord speaking directly to me to confirm what I had just prayed? I read on and continued to look for confirmation about my prayers. At the end of the reading, I was more convinced than ever that God was going to accomplish what I had asked. 
As I cleaned up from breakfast and began preparing the Christmas meal, Ritchie came up from down stairs and said that he had just sent off an email to a guy on Craig’s List inquiring about purchasing a keyboard. He was selling the exact same keyboard that we have, for significantly less money than a new keyboard. I smiled and let Ritchie know that I was happy that he had done this and told him about my prayer. 
The next day I had to work. I asked Ritchie if he had heard anything from the man selling the keyboard. In an email, he said that Outlook had not sent the email the previous day, and that he had just sent it. I said, “No worries. God is in control.” I was expecting that if this wasn’t the right solution, then God would provide a better one. By the end of the day, Ritchie had heard back from the man and they agreed that if the keyboard was still available that we would purchase it and pick it up in Vancouver, Washington on Friday on his way to see his parents in Portland. He also learned that the man was a music pastor at the First Evangelical Church in Vancouver and that he was using the money to pay for a guitar for his wife. It sounded to me like God was hearing my prayers. Ritchie picked up the keyboard on Friday, December 28, 2012 and by 5pm that night, The Pathway worship team was practicing with their new Christmas gift.
As I said at the beginning, the events that happened are all about God. God’s direction and guidance, God’s timing and plan and God’s care for his people are all demonstrated during these events. What I love most about this story is that God has made statements in His Word that He has demonstrated as utterly reliable. When I took Him at His word and pleaded my case before Him, He showed me, without questions, that I can depend on Him. And this story is a testament to all who are eagerly looking to see the relevance of God at work today. He is who He says He is and He cares about us. What better Christmas gift could one get?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Leadership Challenge & God's Provision

Those of you who have been following our journey for several years now know that for the longest time our greatest challenge, our greatest deficit, our greatest need was leadership.  For over a year I would shamelessly beg through my blogs and my newsletters that we desperately needed the help of some mature Christian leaders.  Kelli and I dedicated one whole trip to Texas to recruiting singles, couples or families to move their lives to Tacoma to help us make disciples.  For the longest time it felt like God was not moving.  It seemed that God was not answering.  It seemed that nothing would happen.

Then, in what felt like a blink of an eye... God said yes.  It kind of reminds me of bed time with my kids.  We usually let them have a small cup of chocolate milk before bed.  Healthy?  Probably not.  But it's just one of those things we stumbled upon that makes them smile and makes bed time easier.  Well, often times Rylan will start asking me an hour early for her chocolate milk.  I seldom respond with a "no".  Sometimes I say, "Not yet sweetheart".  Or I'll just keep quiet, not responding at all, knowing the time is coming.  Then, when that time finally comes and I let them know it's time for chocolate milk, they get so excited, start screaming and yelling frantically about which cup they want their treat in and then they run and jump on the couch because they know that's where they need to be to receive their reward.  However, in the midst of the frenzy, they seldom say thank you.  They rarely recognize that they have been asking for the milk for so long and when I finally give it to them they are so consumed by the goodness of the treat, they don't acknowledge the one who provided it.

That little story describes how I feel I've acted as the recipient of God's answer to my prayer.  I begged and I pleaded with him to provide leaders and for the longest time it seemed that he was either saying "no" or just not responding at all.  When in reality, he had a plan all along.  He knew what he was doing.  He knows what he's doing.  And he has provided so perfectly.  So graciously.  How has he provided?  Let me just tell you...

Towards the end of last year God brought 2 young adult ladies to serve with us for a month or so.  They were awesome.  A breath of fresh air.  They were energy and life to us as we have been exhausted and tired.  Right before they were about to move on I shared with our small leadership team, and they happened to be present, that I felt like God wanted us to pursue some specific leadership.  Two specific positions were a Kids Ministry Director and a Director of Intentional Communities.  Shortly there after these ladies came to me and told me they wanted to fill those spots for the next 6 months.  Before I knew it, they had decided to move their lives to Tacoma permanently.  God has used Jenna to grow our Kids Ministry from 5-6 kids to 30+ and has used both of them to plant an Intentional Community in their apartment complex where several people have already come to know Jesus.  God has used Stacie to help us recruit and train leaders, launch Intentional Communities, develop a direction and vision for our IC's and to develop an intentional discipleship process.  

While all this was going on God had also been stirring and moving in the heart of one of our former interns.  When Kyler left us after her summer she knew that God had uniquely connected her heart with Tacoma.  She was so committed to this that she went home and worked through her calling with her then boyfriend, shortly to be fiance, and now husband Chase.  They wrestled for a year with this calling and Chase even came up on his own to see if Tacoma was the place for him.  Along the way the challenges of ministry were overflowing my plate and I realized I needed help with the day to day aspects of ministry.  Kyler and Chase answered God's call to Tacoma by moving here a week after their honeymoon.  Kyler has stepped in to be our Ministry Assistant and they have both been passionately living as missionaries in their apartment complex where they are planning to start an Intentional Community.

While all this was going on we still didn't have a worship leader.  For those who have heard me try to lead worship, you know this was something that needed to change!  We have a sister church in Tacoma called Discovery and their pastor has been nothing but a support and encouragement to us since we've been here.  He knew of our need, connected us with a young worship leader named Donna and then blessed her and her husband to be sent out to serve with us.  An amazing demonstration of a heart for the kingdom.  The other area where we definitely lacking was in the "gray hair" department.  Our church is very young and we desperately needed some committed believers to be a part of The Pathway not in an official position, but just as regular people pursuing Jesus.  I approached another church in our area and asked their pastor if they could send us such a couple.  They prayed and approached 5 couples about the possibility and God pulled on the heart of Duke and Miri!  Now they are not exactly gray hairs... although I like to give them a hard time... but all their kids are out of the house and they have so much wisdom and life experience to share with our church.

All that has been going on and God has also been raising up leaders within as well.  One of our interns from this past summer is moving back to help us full-time in March and another young single lady is moving from Texas in a few months to be a part of The Pathway.  It's simply been amazing to watch God move in response to not only my prayers, but your prayers as well.

All I can do as I reflect on the leadership challenge we faced and how God is providing is to say thank you Jesus.  He knows what we need when we need it.  My challenge for you is this.  What might God be calling you to do that seems absolutely crazy?  Is he calling you to help a church plant?  Not as a pastor or worship leader, just as a committed disciple of Jesus.  We still have needs... a youth pastor, a future church planter, an associate pastor and more IC leaders.  But there are similar needs all around you.  You might be the solution to the leadership challenge that a church plant is facing today!  Pray and see how God responds.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Advent Conspiracy

For those who don't know, my wife Kelli had strange abscess in her bottom lip that popped up very quickly about 2 weeks ago.  She went from bad to worse pretty quickly and before we knew it she was in major pain, had her lip sliced open three times and was extremely sick.  A week ago Thursday we found ourselves in a plastic surgeons office and Friday Kelli had surgery to clean out her lip.  By God's grace Kelli's mom flew in from Dallas to help with her recovery, help with the kids and ultimately to celebrate thanksgiving with us.  For all the health issues Jagen and Rylan have had I often take Kelli's health for granted.  She's pretty much back to 100% now and I'm certainly thankful for that.  God is so gracious.  Thank you for your prayers.

Two weeks ago when I posted an update on our vision series I asked you to be praying for several things.  One of those things is the series we launched this past Sunday called Advent Conspiracy.  If you're not familiar with it you can learn about it at  It's an awesome movement of churches in America who are trying to reclaim Christmas from our consumeristic culture for the glory of God.  I tell you what, we're in week 1 and it is rocking my world.  Each week has a different theme but the basic idea is to remind ourselves that Christmas is about Jesus.  In doing so, the goal is that we would be much more intentional with our spending and gift giving.  The idea is that if we think more about what we give, we will not spend our money on frivilous things that will be forgotten about or thrown away in a month.  The hope and prayer of Advent Conspiracy is that the money we save by getting creative and thoughtful with our giving, can be given back to Jesus for his glory, his mission and his purpose.

I'm incredibly excited about the way The Pathway has decided to give back to Jesus.  Some of our ladies have set up a weekend of inexpensive and creative gift making using our church network called The City along with that insane thing called Pintrest.  They are rallying the church to spend less and give more... two of the Advent Conspiracy themes.  In the meantime, we have picked a local cause and a global cause that our church is going to give to.  Every week people can designate their giving to one of these causes and then we are going to take up an offering at our Christmas Eve gathering where 100% of the giving will go to these causes.  

The first cause is a halfway house in our neighborhood .  It's a home for women and their children who are in recovery and God has blessed us with the opportunity to get to know many of the ladies.  Quite a few of them are now an active part of our church.  It's amazing to see the change in these ladies lives and their hunger to know Jesus.  The global cause is to support an organization called Living Water International.  The mission is pretty amazing.  They have identified a need... the global water crisis... and they are intentionally helping provide clean water for people who don't have access to it and at the same time are sharing living water, the gospel of Jesus.

In just one week it's been phenomenal to see the response of our church.  This is the first time we've intentionally pushed ourselves to look beyond Tacoma for the purpose of meeting physical and spiritual needs.  I don't know what will happen over the next 4 weeks but I ask you to pray that our church, myself included, would take our eyes off the gods of consumerism that have attempted to steal Christmas and place our faith back in the God of the universe who gave us his only Son Jesus.

A closing story... the first week's theme was Worship Fully.  One of the things we talked about was that to worship fully means that we have to always worship.  We have to take worship into our homes.  I challenged our church to read the Christmas story in Luke 2 with our families at least once a week for the rest of the advent season.  Kelli and I started tonight by reading to our kids from the Jesus Storybook Bible.  As a parent, it was one of those moments that humbles you and makes you so thankful for the love and grace of God.  By the time we were part way through the story Jagen was anxiously awaiting what would happen next with "baby Jesus."  Of course it hasn't all registered yet.  But we are prayerfully and intentionally trying to teach our children (and ourselves), that Christmas isn't about giving in general, it's about the one gift that changed everything.  It's about God's gift to us... Jesus.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Vision Series Update

Where to begin?  Sometimes my heart and soul are so full, excited and even overwhelmed that I don't know how to start sharing with you all that God has been doing in an adequate way.  I've shared that we have been going through our 2012 vision series entitled What if? and we challenged our entire church with an initial question.  We spent the entire month leading up to the vision series asking...

     What if... you committed to taking part in the 3 week vision series including all three worship gatherings and 3 Intentional Community gatherings?

To be fair that is a hard thing to ask of people.  Lives are full and busy.  Plans are made for things in advance.  Work happens.  Life happens.  We tried to be clear that we know some people just won't be able to do all 6 gatherings.  But we were also clear that we believed many people could do it.  We asked unapologetically for people to rearrange their schedules, ask off of work, stay in town and quite simply to make the vision series a priority.  Why?  Because our leadership truly desires for the entire church to know where we've been, where we are, where we're going and what we're asking each individual and family to do in order to get us there.  We challenged, but the question remained... how would our church respond?

Let me just tell you the response was overwhelming!  People have gotten excited.  People have decided to commit.  People have shown up.  We asked three questions over the course of the three week series and it was all based around our vision scripture and vision statement...

Vision Scripture

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in 
       him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  
       And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of
       those who preach the good news!”
(Romans 10:13-15 ESV)

Vision Statement:
We want to be a church with beautiful feet committed to walking with our city down The Pathway of life by...
          Serving our communities extravagantly.
          Sharing the gospel with those we serve.
          Showing people how to grow with Jesus.
          Sending missionaries to start new Intentional Communities and new churches in Tacoma &

The 3 Big Vision Series Questions:
1) What if... we served our communities extravagantly? (serve)
2) What if... we make our mission making disciples? (share & show)
3) What if... you ARE a missionary? (send)

As we preached through the series and dug deeper at our IC gatherings it was amazing to see the response, the consistency and the commitment.  Every week I got to hear stories of how God is working in the lives of the people who make up The Pathway.  I had a teenager come up and ask me to help him serve his school extravagantly. I had a couple ask for prayer as they welcome an unbelieving family into their home as they try to get back on their feet.  They said they don't just want to serve them but they also want to try and make disciples.  I had a young dating couple come to me desiring to be baptized.  We had a man who has only been to our worship gathering once but is a committed part of one of our IC's give his life to Jesus last week!!!  That's right, you should be saying "Amen!" and jumping up and down... the Kingdom is growing!

Numerically speaking we are so encouraged!  We are basically out of room in our Kids Ave area... we're trying to figure out how to cram them all in!!!  Our Wednesday IC had over 15 adults this past week and more kids than I could count as we talked about how to engage in making disciples.  One of our IC's meets in a local apartment complex and they had 15 adults crammed into a tiny one bedroom apartment!  Now I know sometimes people don't want to focus on the numbers... I get that... I actually put filters in place for myself so I don't even see our numerical growth on a regular basis.  But lets face it... the people I just mentioned are not just numbers.  The 2 getting baptized, the teenager wanting to serve his friends, the couple opening their home, the man who gave his life to Jesus... the over 30 adults in two IC's.  These are not numbers, they are souls.  They are lives that God cares deeply about.  They are lives being changed, transformed & saved by the gospel of Jesus!  Praise Jesus for those numbers!!!  Our desire is to see the Kingdom of God grow in Tacoma.

So what's next?  How can you pray?  Let me tell you a few things.
     1) Pray that the commitment we've seen over the last 3 weeks does not dwindle.  Pray that it
         multiplies.  I don't know how it will happen.  But God does!

     2) Pray for the Christmas season.  We are taking part in a pretty amazing movement within the
         church in America called Advent Conspiracy.  We are going to be launching this series the last
         Sunday of November.  It's all about Jesus & all about the true meaning of Christmas... that would
         be Christ being born for us!

     3) Pray for salvation and life change.  Pray that God continues to change lives and bring people  
         from lostness to salvation and from spiritual milk to solid food.

     4) Pray for our Christmas Eve gathering.  We have never done this before but everyone is so
         excited!  We want it to bring glory to God, be an awesome worship time for the church and a way
         to connect our community with the gospel!

That was a lot.  Thank you for caring.  Thank you for praying.  Hard times will come.  Satan doesn't like God's kingdom growing.  Please go to battle with us in prayer.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Beautiful Feet

Today we began our 2012 vision series.  We really challenged the folks in our Intentional Communities and those connected with our church to commit to attending all 3 weeks of the series... including worship gatherings & IC's.  I really believe this series is going to be a milestone for our church as we prayerfully and intentionally seek to build on the growth and momentum God has given us over the past 6 months.  In preparation for the first message I simply wrote out my heart regarding where The Pathway has been and where we are going.  I shared it with Kelli and she suggested I share it with all of you.  I pray it gives you some insight into our vision for the future.  As always, thank you for caring & thank you so much for praying. (Warning!!!  This is really long!)

What if... we serve our communities extravagantly?

We are beginning a 3 week journey together.  The journey has a theme.  That theme is “What if?”  The journey requires commitment.  Not permanent commitment.  Although that is the ultimate goal.  Right now we’re just asking for a short term commitment.  3 weeks to be precise.  We’re asking that for 3 weeks you commit to be a part of The Pathway’s worship gathering as well as an IC gathering of your choice.  For 3 weeks we’re asking you to commit approximately 3 hours/week... that’s 9 hours total.  Why?  Because God has called us as a church to go after a very tangible vision but it’s going to take the majority of us buying in.  And even though none of us will agree all the time, it's vital that we have examined the foundations and values of the church together.  

Vision, according to pastor and author Andy Stanley, is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be.

What is our vision?  It starts with “Church. Different.”
-If you are only interested in “going” to church... this is not the church for you.
-We want to do church different because we don’t believe God wants us to do church at all.
-We believe God wants us to “be” the church 24/7/365 & this happens through our Intentional Communities!
-Over the next 3 weeks we are going to examine how God has called The Pathway to “be” the church & how you can
        know if you have been called to be a part of it.

That leads me to a story...
Back in 2007 Kelli and I were newly married... it had been about a year since we tied the knot.  We were living a blissful newlywed life on 500 acres of land in the black hills of Oklahoma (one of the few pretty parts of the state of Oklahoma).  We had tons of privacy, tons of beauty... we lived right on a lake... and tons of time to just be together.  It was a wonderful existence.  But it was all about us.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, God began to place in each of us, individually and then as a couple, what we can only describe now as an overwhelming feeling of holy discontent.  There was nothing inherently evil about our lives.  Our lives were full of fun, full of each other, full of love.  But something was missing.
I remember Kelli telling me one day about a vision God had given her.  As I mentioned earlier there was a lake at the camp where we lived and worked.  But there was also a smaller, man-made swimming hole next to the lake and there was something of a land-bridge that went between the larger lake and the smaller swimming hole.  Kelli said God had put a picture in her heart of the two of us... husband and wife, a God ordained team... walking along that land bridge, perfectly dry and perfectly safe, with people all around us in the water screaming, drowning, not knowing how to get themselves back up on land.  Kelli said she saw us walking along that land bridge, together, reaching down and pulling people back up on land.  God showed her a picture of us pulling people out of the clutches of death and onto this land bridge... this pathway of life.

Now, at the time, we had no idea what this meant.  We just knew that God was giving us a discontentment.  He was telling us... I have something I want you to accomplish... more specifically I have something I want you to be a part of that isn’t about you at all.  It involves saving the lives of countless people.  Are you willing to sacrifice the comfort, security and enjoyment of this life so that I can accomplish my will for you?

As time went on God began to give us insights into this vision.  I was in seminary at the time and one of my professors introduced me to a staggering statistic for a boy that was raised in a Christian home and for the most part inside the boundaries of what we affectionately refer to as the Bible Belt.  He told me that in the greater Seattle area, less than 4% of the population attended any type of Jesus loving church.  What?  How could this be?  Less than 4% even go to church?  Now I’m no rocket scientist, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that there is a significant number of people who do go to church who are not actually followers of Jesus.  Church is a check list for many.  It is the right thing to do but it is not about a relationship with God.  Less than 4%.  More discontent.

Then we were visiting Kelli’s mom’s church in Dallas one Sunday morning and the youth pastor announced to the church that he and his family, along with another family in the church, would be moving their lives to the Seattle area to help start churches.  Kelli and I just looked at each other and by this time we knew that God was definitely up to something.

Vision.  A clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be.  At this point I did not have a clear picture of anything in my mind... but I knew that something was not right where we were... living a life in Oklahoma surrounded by no one.  Something had to change.

Here’s where I want to pause and ask you... What is God’s vision for this world?  What was Jesus’ vision for this world?  Do you know?  Let me start by reading to you a portion of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi.
In Philippians 2:10-11 Paul says at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under
        the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
-In short, God’s vision for the world is that all should confess Jesus as Lord and give glory to God the Father.
        -If that’s the case, then what did Jesus envision for the world?
In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says very clearly and explicitly... Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That means we all fall short of the Philippians 2:10-11vision that God has for this world.  We are the ones standing in the way of God’s vision being accomplished. BUT... Jesus also commissions us to be a part of accomplishing God’s vision.  He says, even though we all fall short of God’s glory, we can be put back in right standing if we will become disciples of Jesus.  And he tells us that as disciples... worshippers of Jesus as Lord... it is our purpose... it is his vision that we would not just be disciples but be disciple-makers.  That is what Jesus wants from us.

But sometimes it is tremendously hard to know where to start.  After all, you are just one person.  How can you possibly know where to begin as a disciple-maker setting out to accomplish a God sized vision?

Remember the story I was telling you about Kelli and I’s journey?  Well we still did not have a complete picture of what God was calling us to but he had begun to clarify a portion of his big picture vision for this world.  And that’s important.  Before we can begin to see the vision God has for our individual lives we have to see clearly the vision he has for the world.  God began to show us that he wanted us to be disciple makers.  We figured a great place to do that was not in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma.  We figured... and again, it didn’t take a genius to figure this out... that going to one of the most unchurched parts of our nation was a great place to start.  So in the beginning of 2008 we quit our jobs, raised some money and embarked on the biggest, hardest, scariest and most fulfilling journey of our life.  We went to Snoqualmie, WA & helped plant Lifepointe Community Church.

During this time we saw God do so many amazing things.  But the coolest thing was experiencing God place in our hearts a micro-level vision for planting a church and making disciples in Tacoma, WA that was a part of his macro-level vision for seeing the world profess Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father.

So in 2009 God brought me, Kelli (and two weeks later Jagen & Rylan), Becca and another, slightly younger Becca to Tacoma, WA to plant The Pathway church.  While on some levels we had no idea what we were doing... we did have a clear vision.  This vision fueled everything we did.  It fueled every action we took, every relationship we started and every person we served.  God had given us a clear mental picture that the city of Tacoma was not just unchurched... it was full of brokenness, pain and spiritual confusion.  He had given us a glimpse into the reality that Tacoma was physically broken and spiritually lost.  But we believed... and still believe... that Tacoma could be, and more importantly should be... a breeding ground for disciples of Jesus Christ.

So that leads us to our vision.  The Pathway’s vision. The Pathway wants to be a church with beautiful feet, committed to walking with our city down The Pathway of life by
    1. Serving our communities... both the brothers and sisters in Christ we do life with in Intentional Community and also our neighbors who live around us personally and who live in the neighborhood where our IC’s meet.
    2. Sharing the gospel with those we serve.
    3. Showing people how to grow in their relationship with Jesus
    4. Sending missionaries to start new Intentional Communities and new church in Tacoma and beyond.

But here’s the deal.  For every vision there is a foundation.  When I was preparing for this message I was reading the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright... the first men to successfully accomplish a sustained manned flight.  For the world that 12 second flight was the start of a revolution of flying that impacts all of us in one way or another.  But for the Wright brothers, that day was simply the culmination of a vision who’s foundation was an experience they had with their father when they were still little boys.  They recount the story of their father coming into the house with something hidden in his hands.  When he opened his hands a foreign object.. that they referred to as a “helicopter” came zipping out into the air... flying around the room for a few seconds and then falling to the ground.  They were amazed by the short flight of the mysterious toy.  But that was the foundation for the vision that they began to see that would lead them to pioneering flight in the world.

What, then, is the foundation for The Pathway’s vision?
1) God’s word.
-Romans 10:13-15 says, For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they
        call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never
        heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are 
        sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
This passage of Scripture resonated with me so deeply when Kelli and I first felt called to leave Oklahoma and come help start churches in Washington.  Verse 13 is a declaration of hope.  Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But then we come to verse 14-15 which bring challenge and personal conviction.  Paul steps on our toes because he says while God is the one who saves, he has chosen to use us.  If we don’t take ownership of the vision... if we don’t preach the good news, how on earth will people ever know the hope that we have found in Christ.

2) Our 3 Core values.
The next foundation of our beautiful feet vision is our values.  We value a lot of things as a church but there are 3
essential things that we will not, cannot let go of.  They are biblical and we believe they are essential to 
accomplishing not just the vision God has given our church but the vision God has for the world.  These values are...
1) Gospel.
-Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21, For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we
                might become the righteousness of God.
-Everything we do is centered on the gospel.  The good news that Jesus died for our sins and that in him we can 
                have hope in this life and the life to come.
2) Community.
-The book of Acts, specifically acts 2:42-47 paints a beautiful picture of how God designed his followers to live
                and function.
-He designed us to live in community.
-He designed us to know each other... warts and all... love each other, challenge each other and grow together. 
-We do this in Intentional Community.  We love and value intentional Community because it is where Christian
                Community collides with our local communities with gospel intentionality.  Intentional Community is real life
                and it is where the vision is accomplished.
3) Mission.
-Our third value is mission.  Community is the inward focus of the church but mission is the outward focus of the
                church.  Both happen within the context of Intentional Community.

-We love a lot of things, we try a lot of new things but the gage of whether or not we will do something as a church is if it is founded in our 3 core values.
-If we ever lose the gospel, if we ever lose community, if we ever lose mission... we lose the beauty of our feet.

So what is todays message.  What do we want you to leave with today?  
3 take aways from Part 1?
  1. What if... we decided to commit to the “beautiful feet” vision of The Pathway?  Not believing or acting like it is the only way to be the church, but committing to go after the vision God has given us together.
  2. What if... we decided individually and as a church to measure everything we do by the gage of gospel, community and mission?  It may be good but if it doesn’t accomplish these things we will invest our time in areas that do.
  3. What if... we serve our communities extravagantly?
This is the one aspect of todays take aways that we haven’t yet explored but it is the first part of our vision.

What if we served our communities extravagantly?
Let me go back to the beginning of The Pathway.  Some of you know these stories and some of you don’t.  The Pathway started by serving... and God moved.  Before we knew anything about Tacoma our initial leadership team decided to infiltrate Wright Park with the love of God and the gospel of Jesus.  We went to Wright Park every Friday for an entire summer... rain or shine.  We fed people, played games with kids, played basketball with all the young guys... and some not so young guys.  We gave rides, bought foot, paid rent and utility bills... we tried to serve extravagantly.

Why?  2 reasons.
  1. That is what Jesus did.
  2. It opened up opportunities to share the gospel
We’re going to talk about the vital importance of sharing the gospel with those we serve next week.  But this week I want to talk about the fact that our heart and vision for serving our communities is based on what Jesus has done for us.

Lets read John 13:3-5 & 12-15.  
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
(John 13:3-5 ESV)
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
(John 13:12-15 ESV)

I cannot imagine being in the presence of my Savior and my Lord and having him wash my feet.  A lowly act.  In all honesty a somewhat awkward act for both parties.  But an act that demonstrates, very clearly, a desire to serve.  And what we can’t miss is Jesus clear command to wash one another’s feet. He made it clear that we are to go and do like wise.  He made it clear that his is an example that his disciples... you and I included are to follow.
Back to our story. So where is the fruit in serving.  Well, sometimes we see it and sometimes we don’t.  But let me tell you something cool... something that only God could orchestrate.  By serving at Wright Park week in and week out, a guy named Antwan Gordon gave his life to Jesus.  Antwan lived in a local apartment complex, 435 Fawcett.  Because Antwan lived there we found out several opportunities to serve and that’s how we met the 4 McQuerter boys that many of us know and love.  As a result of meeting these boys many of you had the opportunity to share the gospel with them.  When we met them one of 4 brothers were believers.  Today, all 4 brothers believe and follow Jesus Christ as Lord!!!  It started with serving.

But there’s more to our vision than just serving the lost.  We are also called to serve each other.  Paul says in Galatians 6:9-10 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
We are called to serve anyone and everyone we can... but especially to those who are fellow believers.  This again happens within the context of Intentional Community.  One example of this is very personal to me.  Most of you know that my son Jagen had a lot of health problems over his first couple years of life.  Well, one time in particular he went in for a surgery and things went a little haywire.  His throat closed up and they were not able to extubate him.  We ended up in the hospital with our son much longer than we originally anticipated.  We live 2000 miles from our blood family.  We had to call on the family of God.  We called Maria and she was there for us to help take care of Rylan so that both of us could be with Jagen while he was battling all sorts of medical trouble.  Serving the body of Christ... convenient?  Not usually.  A formula for beautiful feet? Always.

Here’s the deal.  The Pathway has a vision that God has given.  But our vision is not Scripture.  It is not the only way to accomplish God’s vision for the world which is making disciples and seeing every tongue confess Jesus as Lord.  But it is one way to see this happen and we believe it is a biblical way to accomplish it.  But in order for our vision to be accomplished effectively we need each member of the body to commit?

What does that look like.  It looks like Intentional Community.
-Gather weekly with an IC.
-Be transparent and vulnerable.
-Don’t be afraid to let your IC meet your needs (but don’t abuse their generosity).
-Be intentional about meeting the needs of your IC.
-Be intentional together about meeting the needs of your neighborhood.

-Copy Jesus.  Serve people.
-Use the tools we give you
-Sept. for Tacoma.
-Monthly IC serving opportunities
-the worship gathering.
-The City... we want you to log onto the city because it is the quickest way to post needs and prayer requests.
-We’ve had several people in our church lose loved ones recently... Through the city we could organize meals for the family, rides, etc.
-Through The city we can plan events like one of our IC’s that did a dump day.
-Find out when and where it is.
-What time.
-Who’s attending.
-What supplies are being brought and what are needed.

What if we served our communities extravagantly?
-Try it.  But don’t try it alone.
-Try it in the context of Intentional Community.
-As Ephesians 3:20 says, he is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

-God has given The Pathway a vision to reach Tacoma.  Will you commit?  Will you go all in?  Will you become an active, giving and receiving part of Intentional Community.  Will you serve extravagantly?

One last picture of what it means to serve extravagantly.  Philippians 2:3-8 says, Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus-- the only one who is truly worthy of being served, decided to come and serve.  His ultimate act of service was not the miracles he performed, or the kindness that he showed.  His ultimate act of service was his willingness to go to the cross.  To die an excruciating death so that you and I could live.

The question remains.  Jesus gave up his life to serve and save us.  What will you do to serve him?

Remember the beginning of Kelli and I’s story? God gave Kelli a vision to pull drowning people out of the clutches of death and onto the pathway of life.

That’s what Jesus did on the cross & that’s what we want to be a part of in Tacoma.  That’s what church.  different is.  It’s not about us.  It’s about God’s glory & seeing people come to know him.  Will you commit not just to serving... but to being the church with us?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


My biggest fear in writing this weeks blog post is that I won't be able to adequately explain the emotions that my heart feels and that my words are going to try and express.  At this moment I am overwhelmed and I want to try and let you know why.

The Pathway is growing.  This is a wonderful thing.  Although our ultimate goal is not numerical growth for The Pathway, the natural outflow of our ultimate goal is numerical growth.  What is our ultimate goal?  I'm glad you asked!  Our ultimate goal is for God to get the most glory he can possibly get out of our church.  We believe we can give glory to God in numerous ways but the most basic way is to make disciples.  That means the people that make up The Pathway church will disciple, or lead, people too Jesus and then when those people meet Jesus first hand the people that led them to Jesus will show them how to follow Jesus.

The result of this is that the Kingdom of God grows and The Pathway church as well as many other Bible believing and Jesus following churches in Tacoma will grow too.  Why does this overwhelm me?  Because the number one reason people like The Pathway as a church is that it is small, relational and intimate.  It's quite overwhelming to try and show people that although this is a great thing, it's not the point.  The point is the glory of God!  I'm overwhelmed with a desire to see people catch the vision for making disciples without losing a love for the church.

Wrapping my mind around Intentional Community.  The first reality leads to the second.  I believe that as The Pathway grows in size, if we keep our eyes on the ultimate goal, we will be surprised to find that the intimacy of the church can remain.  It's hard to express to people all the reasons I believe so strongly in Intentional Community, but one big reason is that it keeps the church small while allowing God's Kingdom to grow big through that same church.  I'm overwhelmed by the task of conveying this message.  I'm overwhelmed by the responsibility to teach personal intimacy with the Almighty, authentic biblical community with believers and the call to make disciples all at the same time.

But I'm also overwhelmed with the way our church is responding.  People are wrestling with the tension of growing big for the purpose of increasing God's Kingdom but staying small through Intentional Community.  I'm overwhelmed with God's grace being poured out in our church.  It's beautiful.

The role of an under-shepherd. Jesus is the good Shepherd.  Jesus is the head of the body that God calls the church.  Jesus is the Senior Pastor of The Pathway church.  But he has, for reasons known only to him, called me to be his under-shepherd.  He's called me to be here on the ground loving his sheep, pushing them forward into Kingdom purposes, calling them back from worldly pleasures, and loving them every step of the way.  Overwhelming doesn't seem an adequate term to describe this calling.  Dependent is actually the best word.  I've learned... scratch that... I'm learning that the only way to effectively pastor a church is to be completely dependent on God.  I have to depend on him for my value & worth.  I have to depend on him for guidance, direction and discernment.  I have to depend on him for wisdom, grace, patience and love.  Most importantly, I have to depend on him so that our church will depend on him.  It's overwhelming but again, it's beautiful.

A glimpse of the BIGGER Kingdom.  This past week my family and I left our church and got to spend some time with another piece of God's kingdom here on earth.  We went to a missions conference hosted by one of our partner churches.  The week was great!  It was refreshing, educational, restful (at times), and most importantly filled with fellowship with other people who are also overwhelmed.  This particular church partners with 19 other church plants in the United States alone not to mention their numerous local ministry partners and International missionary partnerships.  The goal of the entire week was God's glory.  I can say that with confidence.  And they were going for God's glory by pushing their church to get on mission.

The final day of the conference was Sunday and the church had been challenged to meet a goal for their Missions offering.  They call this their "faith commitment" offering because they are asking their people to commit to give a certain amount of money over the coming year specifically to missions.  They are asking them to give it above their normal giving and they are asking them to trust God to provide what he leads them to commit.  The pastor compared it to your cable bill.  He said that we commit on faith that the $100 a month needed for cable/Internet/etc. would be there for the upcoming year, so why can't we step out in faith in our commitment to missions.

Well, the pastor preached a tremendous message on the will of God and the role of missions in accomplishing that will.  Then the time came for the missions offering.  They had all of us "missionaries" come to the front of the stage and hold baskets for their people to come and lay their commitment in.  At first I thought it would be awkward and cheesy but I quickly realized it was neither awkward nor cheesy.  It was worship.  It was beautiful.  It was... overwhelming.  There were probably a couple thousand people in the worship service that day (the second of two) and the people flooded down the isles.  These people, who didn't know us from Adam.  These people, many of whom had never spoken to me or Kelli.  These people of God who had never been to Tacoma or met the people of The Pathway poured out of their isles making pledges to see the will of God, that all men would come to know him, accomplished around the globe.  I tell you what, Kelli was balling beside me.  Tears were filling my eyes.  The words thank you were hard to get out and seemed far to shallow to convey the emotions of my heart.  We embraced so many people we had never met.  Some people cried, some people high-fived, and all we could do was cry.  We stood their in awe of how God's people, gathered into this band of believers we call the church, can come together and impact a lost and dying world.  These people were committing their money, their treasure, to reach the city of Tacoma, a place the majority of them will never see first hand.

Our church... 1/57 the size of the church we were visiting... is on the same team, working toward the same goal... the glory of God through the making of disciples.  This concept is unfathomable.  It's overwhelming.

I hope my ramblings were not too much for you to take in.  They were not all directly connected but they all lead to this overwhelming feeling that pushes me to utter dependance on the one whom it's all for.  All that we do as a church and all that I do as a pastor and as a Christian is for the God of the universe and the name that overwhelms me... the name that is above every name... the matchless name of JESUS.