Monday, January 30, 2012

Roller Coaster

I love roller coasters. I haven't been on one in years. But I love them. They're fast, rough, exciting and scary. But one of the best things a roller coaster has going for it is that it's not a straight and predictable ride. It has many ups and many downs. That's one of the great things about church planting too. I know that sounds a little off. As a church planter shouldn't I want as many ups as possible? In a way that is true. If I had a choice to have people coming to Jesus and the church thriving and growing all the time of course I would take it. But if that were the case, I think my faith in God and devotion to Jesus would start to slip. The ups are where my faith is strengthened but the downs are where my faith is tested.

The last month has been really fun. We have seen God moving in a new and fresh way on the Hilltop. We have seen leaders step up, worship attendance increase and an Intentional Community launch made up of people who are passionate about reaching our mission field... the Evergreen Neighborhood. Then yesterday, seemingly all at once, the momentum came to a screeching halt. It's like when you come to the end of an amazing loop on a fast roller coaster and you slam to a stop before beginning another incline. It really wasn't that dramatic... it just felt that way in the moment. We probably had half as many people at worship yesterday than we've had for the past month. None of the people I invited came and my message just felt... well... not great. It was just a bummer all around. It was then that I realized I have to be certain of why I am doing what I am doing. Is it for numbers or is it for Jesus? That is when my faith was tested and by God's grace my faith increased.

Then a blessing came. One of those exhilarating parts of the roller coaster ride. We have an awesome family in our church that is as committed as anyone to coming to worship but they have yet to be a part of our Community Groups or more recently our Intentional Community. I love them and there is so much potential in them, but hey haven't taken that next step. It always appears to be scheduling problems but I always wander if that's just an excuse. Then yesterday the husband came to me and told me that he and his wife came up with an idea so that they could be involved with our IC despite their schedule. They asked if they could skype in? I told him that was a great idea! I told him I was so encouraged that they value being a part of biblical community so much that they're willing to skype in until we can offer a gathering on a day of the week that works for them.

Roller coaster rides are full of ups and downs but it's faith in Jesus alone that sustains us through the ride. Thanks for praying. Please keep praying as we Gather to Scatter.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In awe of God's timing

Let me tell you how amazing our God is.

Most of you know that we are in a new phase in the life of The Pathway. We are calling the months of January-April our Gather to Scatter phase. We have combined all our Community Groups into one Intentional Community for the purpose of modeling what "being the church" can and should look like and then scattering at least 5 new IC's across the city. As a part of that modeling, we have adopted a section of our community called the Evergreen Neighbors as our mission field. Over the course of the next several months, as an Intentional Community, we are doing everything we can to pray for, serve and share the gospel with the people who make up the Evergreen Neighborhood.

We made the Evergreen Neighbors our mission field around November. That is when we started planning and praying about our Gather to Scatter strategy. Then, just before Christmas, God did something only he could do in a way that only he could pull off. Most of you remember that God gave Kelli and I another daughter when we moved to Tacoma. Her name is Tiffany and she came to us when she was 17 years old. The pain in regard to Tiffany is great but God is still working in her life and she is still in our life.

One day in December I received a call from a number I didn't recognize. On the other end of the phone was a lady who was looking for help for her pregnant sister. The lady's sister had just escaped an abusive relationship. She was pregnant, close to giving birth and did not have any of the things so many parents are used to receiving from baby showers, family and friends. I told her I would connect her with Kelli because we have so much baby stuff... it's practically coming out our ears! Before I hung up I asked her how she got my number. She said from Tiffany. I asked, "How do you know Tiffany?" She went on to tell me that Tiffany had called her in response to an ad on Craigslist requesting "baby stuff." She told her that I was a pastor and that I could "help."

Fast forward a few days and weeks and the lady and her sister came over to our house, went shopping in our miniature baby boutique (our garage) and spent a little time with Kelli. Kelli invited them to our worship service and they came that week. But they didn't just come. Over the course of the last month they have brought almost their entire extended family with them to various things we have done as an Intentional Community. This past Sunday the lady who originally called me on the phone came up to me teary-eyed and expressed her gratitude toward God. She told me she was amazed that we were putting all our focus on the Evergreen Neighbors because she has numerous siblings, cousins and other family members who live in the boundaries of the Evergreen neighbors. She said that God has used The Pathway to get them to be a part of a church and to hear the gospel for the first time. Awesome.

I love to plan, strategize and vision cast. But ultimately, not even the best strategist could orchestrate something like that. God is moving on the Hilltop. Please pray for us and for the Evergreen Neighbors as we Gather to Scatter for the glory of God and the sake of the gospel.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Intentional Community

We had a great kick-off to the "gathered" phase of our Gather to Scatter strategy! All praise to Jesus for that. We began this past Thursday evening as we are seeking to model what intentional and biblical community should look like. The goal and our prayer is that on Easter Sunday, April 8th, a day we are calling Scatter Sunday, we will be able to pray over, commission and launch out at least 5 new Intentional Communities in Tacoma's Hilltop & beyond!

This past Thursday our Intentional Communities Director, Stacie Hooks, and I were discussing how many people we should prepare for. I of course said, "I have no idea!" Seriously though, the first time you try something is the hardest because you have no idea what to expect. I remember the first time me and Kelli tried to start a new small group in Snoqualmie we sat there alone, looking at each other, until we decided to go home! That being said, we had to plan for something so I told Stacie I would be excited to have 15 people at the first group so we should set up for around 20. Well, as he so often does, God did more than we imagined. He brought 28 people to our first IC gathering and about 10 kids came to our new Thursday night Kids Ave! It was awesome and all praise goes to Jesus.

We met at 6pm for dinner and then at 6:30 we began The Story-formed Way, a unique way to tell the entire narrative of Scripture in 10 weeks that is put out by Soma Communities, also based in Tacoma. Well, Stacie did an amazing job telling the story of creation and the not so small group really opened up for discussion. It was a great time of learning about and worshipping God for the Creator that he is. We got to learn about the beauty of creation, the pain of the fall and the love of a perfect Father.

I would ask that you pray for our Intentional Community going forward as we have a lot of work to do and we are relying on the Holy Spirit to get it all done. Between now and Scatter Sunday we are intentionally going to be serving and sharing the gospel with a group on the Hilltop called the Evergreen neighbors. They are an organized block group that we are trying to love and serve whether or not they are currently interested in the gospel or The Pathway. However, we are training our church not just to serve but also to share. If we serve in love and grace but do not share the hope we have in Christ, we are simply making people feel good as they journey farther and farther down the path that leads to hell. That is just not okay.

Tonight will be our first big open door to love the Evergreen neighbors as Stacie and some of the IC members will be attending the groups monthly meeting just to make ourselves available and build relationships. Please pray that God opens unexpected doors and that the gospel will bring life change to the Evergreen neighbors!

Also, I want to give a big shout out to Jesus for gracing us with a new interim worship leader!!! Donna Christian has been sent to us by a sister church of ours in Tacoma, Discovery Church, and will lead worship for us through may or until God brings us a part-time worship leader. That is a huge answer to prayer and thank you all for persistently presenting that request to Jesus. Please continue to pray that God would bring long-term staff to serve with The Pathway.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

God is moving... please be praying

I want all of you who follow this blog to be encouraged. God is moving. I know that I have a tendency to be very truthful in my posting. When things are hard and we are struggling, I do my best to be honest about that. I think it is a vital part of my partnership with all of you and I think that is what God expects of his church... authenticity and transparency grounded in the hope we have in Jesus. While I try to be honest about the hard things, I also want to share with you the good things. And over the last month and a half we have begun to see some very good things as God responds to what you have been praying for.

First and foremost, we have begun to see God raise up leaders for our church from within and without. As most of you who follow the blog know, the VanGo missionaries who were planning to help us for 3-6 weeks have now committed to serve as part-time staff for at least 6 months. Jenna Jones is our new Kids Ave Director and Stacie Hooks is our Director of Intentional Communities. One of the blessings is that we are paying them very part-time pay and they are working with full-time commitment. A huge load has already been lifted from my shoulders personally and we have already begun to see growth.

We have also see people take ownership from within in various ways. We've seen our church come together to decorate our facility for Christmas, host a New Years Day brunch and meet needs in various ways. It has been beautiful to see. The things we need you to continue to pray for are 3 fold. 1) Please pray that God raises up replacements for Jenna and Stacie as they are only here on an interim basis. 2) Pray that God continues to raise up passionate leaders from within our church to host and lead new groups that we will be starting. 3) Pray that we can find a worship leader!!! God has opened the door for a potential interim worship leader which is a huge praise but we desperately need some leaders to commit for the long haul.

I also want you to be encouraged regarding your prayers for my family. Satan definitely attacks us through our kids health but your prayers are being answered and multiplied. Our children are growing healthy and strong, we've had a great month of health and God has been providing for us in miraculous and overwhelming ways. Please continue to battle for us, but be encouraged!

Finally, we are beginning to see growth! Only time will tell if that growth sustains and continues to multiply, but we are seeing great things and prayers answered. We are seeing new families come in and take steps forward in their commitment... praise to Jesus! We are seeing God open doors for opportunities for us to serve within our community and connect with more people, more families. We want to grow because we want God's Kingdom to grow. Please continue to pray for salvation. We desire to see that more often and in greater numbers. But be encouraged, God is blessing us with spiritual, leadership and numerical growth. All praise to Jesus.

Lastly, I want you to pray for our facility that we call The Spot. We have great dreams for how we can use it for the city and for the glory of God, but we don't currently own it. There are a lot of open doors and possibilities for improvements and support, but God is going to be the one to put all the crazy puzzle pieces together if anything is going to happen. Please just pray that his will be done with The Spot because having a facility is nothing I planned or even wanted, but it is obviously a part of God's plan for The Pathway. Please pray that he would put the pieces together in his timing.

We love you all. Thank you for your faithful prayers and generous support of our church and family. Be encouraged! God is moving.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year!

I'm feeling as many of you are that I can't believe we are already in 2012. We are about to enter into our 5th full year in the state of Washington, we just began our third year in Tacoma, our kids will turn 3 this year and Kelli and I will celebrate our 6th year of marriage in 2012! Where does the time go?

We were blessed to ring in the new year with some of our close friends. We celebrated the mountain time new year for Kelli (those of you who know her understand she can't stay up until midnight) and then the rest of us rang in the new year pacific time with Jack Bauer and season 1 of "24." It was wonderful.

Then on New Year's Day we had so much fun indulging in pancakes and waffles with our church family. Rich and Susan Llufrio-- King and Queen of throwing a good party-- had the idea of a pancake breakfast and they came full force ready to cook and serve with several others who pitched in to pull off the event. We had a great turn out of our normal crew and some new faces and families to The Pathway. It was an excellent start to 2012 but there is much, much more work to be done.

God has given me such a great peace over the last couple of days that our work is not in vain because it is a work orchestrated by him, for him and through him. What a glorious confidence that brings. Please pray for us as we enter into our Gather to Scatter strategy this coming week that will culminate around Easter with Scatter Sunday where we will commission 5 new Intentional Communities to infiltrate our city with the gospel of Jesus.

Can't wait to see what God does in 2012. As always I'm certain it will be far more than we have asked or imagined.