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?

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