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.