Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: More than Imagined

I guess it's only natural to look back as we prepare to move forward.  This year has been full, like most, with ups and downs, twists and turns, joys and sorrows, victories and defeats.  But through it all there has been a constant, his name is Jesus.  I know that's what I'm supposed to say... I am a pastor right?  But I truly mean it.  There are days when I just think what we're doing here in Tacoma is impossible.  There are days when I want to punch people in the face and throw them into the Puget Sound.  I want to scream at them... "Why are you being so stupid?!  Why are you getting frustrated at me?!  All I'm trying to do is introduce you to a living Savior and walk with you out of the crap you've been living in!"  But when those frustrations come.  When I feel like there's no point... there he is.  There's Jesus.  Through his indwelling Spirit he wraps his arms around me and reminds me I'm right where he wants me to be.  Our family is doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing.  And the Holy Spirit is working.  He's working in ways we can't see... but make no mistake, he's also working in ways we can see.

So that's what today's post is about... the things the Spirit of God has done and is doing and has graciously allowed us to see.

This was 2013...

We asked God to show us how to launch a one-on-one discipleship process.  We wanted it to be easy, reproducible and helpful.  We thought we should write it ourselves (In know, don't laugh).  But then God introduced us to an awesome tool that many in our congregation are using.

We baptized 13 people in 2013!  But we decided we wanted to make baptism a big deal instead of an afterthought during a jam packed worship gathering.  So we started holding baptism gatherings.  We share the gospel, explain baptism, hear testimony, dunk 'em and then we eat cake... celebrating new birth!  It's been so good.

For 4 years we've been praying for God to give us a connection on the campus of the University of Puget Sound.  For 3 years he's said "no."  This year he opened a small window in the back room of the smallest building... metaphorically speaking.  But there is one undergraduate and one graduate student that have connected to The Pathway and we're asking God to show us how to serve those students.

We hosted a Good Friday Worship gathering.  Our Worship Leader Donna Christian planned and ran the whole thing.  It was one of the top 2 best things our church has ever done.  It was incredible.

We moved our worship gathering to Franklin Elementary and for the first time ever had over 100 in attendance on Easter Sunday... Wow!

Under the leadership of Stacie Hooks, God allowed us to launch new Intentional Communities, raise up new leaders and we now have an IC gathering on every week night!

We connected with a mom of 4 during one of our events named Tiffany.  She was uniquely interested in Jesus and community.  She assimilated quickly but was hesitant to put her trust in Jesus.  My wife discipled her.  We welcomed her into the church.  We prayed and prayed and prayed.  She grew and grew and grew.  And finally she trusted Jesus!

We learned that you don't have to gather just because it's Sunday.  We're still small and holidays are hard.  We decided to take some Sundays off to save money and gather with family and our IC's.  God blessed it and it taught us to value Sunday gatherings all the more!

We were averaging 15 in our Kids ministry in June of 2013.  In November of 2014 we had launched KiDCity under the leadership of Jenna Jones and we were averaging 32!

We heard God say he wanted our church to think bigger than Tacoma.  He knows we're young and still immature, but he made it clear he wanted us to think about the nations from our earliest stages.  We said yes, with very real fear, and God raised up a team of 3 to go to South Africa this February.  The Pathway is sending missionaries to South Africa... in awe of God.

We had over 140 in worship on an intentional outreach Sunday... wow!

We held our first Covenant Partnership class (membership) and we were overwhelmed by the attendance.  We had 26 people become covenant partners.  That's 26 people committing to take ownership of this body of believers... thankful and amazed.

What will God do in 2014?  As always we're dreaming big.  We so appreciate all of you who pray for us and support our church in a variety of ways.  Please keep praying.  Please keep dreaming.  Please keep believing.  We have no idea what God has in store, but we're asking him for life change and we're asking him for Kingdom growth.  I just can't wait to see what I get to write about 365 days from today.  To God be the glory!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Year of Prayer... Please Pray

It's been an exciting year for The Pathway and most ultimately for God's kingdom.  We've seen God do some pretty incredible things.  He's answered so many prayers, he's raised up leaders, multiplied Intentional Communities and most importantly he's brought life change.  In 2014 we saw 13 baptisms, God allowed us to finally reach the point of having Intentional Community gatherings on every weekday night, we moved our worship gathering to Franklin Elementary and we raised up our first global mission team!  We saw numerical growth in the number of Intentional Communities that are gathering, the number of people gathering in those IC's and the number of people attending our Sunday gathering.  But most importantly we've seen growth in discipleship.  We've got a long way to go, but we were able to implement a discipleship process and see many people enter into disciple-making relationships.  All glory to God!

So what's next?

Going into 2013 I would have told you that The Pathway has 3 core values: the gospel, biblical community, and the mission of God.  If an idea, strategy or approach to church pops up that does not encompass these values, we won't do it.  Even if it's a great idea.  But as I prepared for this years vision series, God began showing me that he wants us to intentionally value something else.  Something vital.  Something that really comes before and leads into the other 3.  Prayer.  At the same time, or probably before, God was working in our Intentional Community Director, Stacie Hooks heart that our church needs to value prayer and lean into prayer if we want to see a movement of God beyond our capacity.  Beyond what we could make happen on our own.  It seemed like a God thing to me!

So what have we been doing?

Well, over the last few months we've been preaching prayer... not just on Sunday mornings, but any chance we get.  Stacie has headed up a small team of people to read multiple books on prayer and how God has used it to spark spiritual awakening in the past.  We brought it to our open leadership gathering as well as our Leadership retreat.  Stacie's team has been praying, learning about prayer, and planning to launch monthly concerts of prayer beginning the first Sunday evening in January.  We really don't know what to expect, and I think that's a good thing.

So what are we expecting?
We are expecting BIG things.  We are doing our best not to dictate to God what he should do and how he should act.  But we are asking him for things.  We're asking him for growth.  Somethings we're asking specifically, somethings we're asking generally.  But we are expecting him to do what he does in an Ephesians 3:20 manner.  We know that prayer brings in the power of the Holy Spirit in a unique way and we know that he can do more in a minute than we can do in a lifetime.  Our request is that you pray with us.  Pray for life change.  I'm asking God to more than double our baptisms in 2014!  Please pray with us for that.  We're asking God to double our IC's in 2014.  Please pray with us for that.  Most importantly, please pray that God would spark in our church a passion for prayer that goes beyond our leadership.  Pray that we begin to value prayer so strongly that we cannot, we will not function with out it!

If my people who are called by my name ghumble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

Monday, December 2, 2013


What is our purpose as followers of Jesus?  I believe our ultimate calling, purpose and mission is to give glory to God by making disciples.  It's that simple.  We complicate it, fancy it up, avoid it and come up with all sorts of things we can do in place of it, but when the rubber meets the road, we are called to make disciples.  All of us.

As a full-time pastor I have always been aware of and sensitive to the challenges Christians face as disciple-makers in the secular market place.  Coming from a family of teachers, I understand that the laws of the land often work against us being able to preach the name of Jesus and make disciples without fear of persecution.  While I'm incredibly sympathetic to the reality that as a "professional Christian" I'm expected to make disciples, and the majority of you who make up the local church face obstacles and challenges that I never experience, I was reminded over the past week that despite the circumstances, fears or threats of persecution, all of us are commanded to make disciples.  Pastor and principal, student and teacher, doctor and lawyer, hourly employee and corporate executive, all believers are called to the same mission.  Let me share my experience with you.

Last Sunday our Intentional Communities Director, Stacie Hooks, finished up a 3 part teaching series on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) as a part of our current series on Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. In part 3 Stacie talked about the reality that as followers of Jesus, we are blessed when we are persecuted.  In fact, we have a heritage of persecution as Jesus points out when he references the prophets of old who endured great persecution for their faith.  And the crux of the message centered around a belief, based on the teachings and accounts in Scripture, that as Christians we should expect persecution.  If we're faithful to Jesus' mandate to make disciples, persecution will inevitably come.  This is serious.  This is not fun.  But persecution is the path to blessing that begins with obedience.

This week one of our Intentional Communities that has decided to make the teenagers of Tacoma their mission field held their first official outreach.  They hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and had 15 teenagers show up!  Several of the teenagers are connected to our church.  But a good number of them are students of Kyler, one of the IC leaders.  Kyler has only been a teacher for a short time and you don't have to be around her long to realize she loves it.  She is definitely a "math nerd," but her primary motivation in teaching is not to develop a generation of students who excel in mathematics.  Her passion, purpose and objective in teaching is simply to make disciples.  That's what led her to invite those students to Thanksgiving dinner with her IC.

But Kyler understands disciple-making is more than an event.  She has been prayerful through the process, getting to know her students and gauging their spiritual openness to find out where God is working.  There is one student in particularly, her name is Lucy, that God has placed on Kyler's heart.  Lucy is a Hispanic student whose parents speak mainly Spanish.  She has a Catholic heritage that includes attending mass a couple times a year.  Last week Kyler asked Lucy, her student, to go to coffee.  Kyler's purpose was not academic, it was spiritual.  She told Lucy she wanted to teach her about Jesus and help her figure out her faith and what she really believes.  Lucy was caught off guard but was interested.  Last night Kyler met with Lucy and her parents and asked permission to disciple Lucy.  While her parents were guarded and hesitant, they agreed, and Kyler begins meeting with Lucy on a weekly basis next Wednesday!

I am amazed and inspired by Kyler's faithfulness in one of the most difficult places to make disciples, the public school system.  Did Kyler stand on the desk and preach that her students should repent?  No.  But from speaking with her, I can tell you that she prays for her students regularly, looks for gospel opportunities, takes those opportunities every chance she gets and leaves the results, including her job security, in the hands of the God of the universe.

All I can say is Wow!  I don't know that I would be as bold as Kyler if I was in her situation.  I hope and pray that I would.  But what if all of us, no matter our situation, decided to obey Jesus' command to make disciples?  I'm sure the unemployment rate would increase! But I'm confident the Kingdom of God would grow exponentially as well.  Please pray for Kyler and Lucy and for who God is calling you to disciple.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Reaching a Milestone & pursuing a new value

Had an amazing weekend with The Pathway leaders.  From the time we moved to Tacoma one of my primary prayers and goals was that God would bring 12 passionate and committed leaders to join our leadership team.  At times it felt like that was a pipe dream that would never actually happen.  At times I have to admit that I placed people in leadership too early and paid the price for it.  But God has been moving, God has been providing, our leaders have been training and raising up new leaders and this weekend I realized we hit a milestone.  

Although our leadership structure has changed, one of the keys to multiplication and kingdom growth is still raising up new leaders.  As I looked around the room at one of our first gathering times during the weekend I was counting the crew to see if everyone was there.  For some reason at that moment it struck me.  There were 12 of us.  With several part-time staff and 5 Intentional Communities going strong it's amazing to see the people that God has raised up and brought to us.

Thank you Jesus for answering that prayer!

But does that mean were finished?  Heck no!  There is still so much to be done, so many people to be reached, so many hurting and broken individuals and families to serve.  The gospel is so deep and so wide but the lostness in our world is vast as well.  Penetrating that lostness is going to take even more people, even more buy-in.  The work is far from complete.

We did a lot at the retreat.  We rested, we played and of course we ate!  We dreamed, we updated, we heard stories from some of our newer leaders so we could get to know each other better.  We calendared, we shared ideas and we debated.  But the most important thing we did was pray.

For quite some time now if you asked me what the core values are of The Pathway I would have rattled off 3 words: Gospel.  Community.  Mission. Everything we do or don't do is decided and filtered through the lens of those 3 values.  But leading up to our vision series this year we realized that something has been missing.  There was a value that we have cared about, but have not emphasized nearly enough.  We realized that this new value was going to have to be emphasized in 2014 if we really wanted it to become a part of who we are.  That value is Prayer.

It seems odd at first to suggest that we haven't valued prayer.  But to put it very simply... we haven't valued prayer.  And it's my fault.  I think strategically.  I think big picture.  I think in terms of vision and what I think could ultimately be accomplished.  But too often, far too often, I get so focused on vision and strategy that I neglect inviting the God of the universe into the mission that he has sent us to accomplish.  Crazy right?  But our hope is that this will no longer be the case.  2014 is going to be a year of prayer for The Pathway.  We don't know what all that entails, but I want to ask you to be praying for us as we figure it out.

We've already gathered a small team of passionate prayer warriors together to seek the Spirit's guidance on how to make prayer a true value, on how to make it a part of the DNA of our entire congregation instead of a passionate few.  This small team is gathering weekly to pray.  They're reading multiple books on prayer and prayer movements.  And they're searching the Scriptures to see what God has done while we ask him to spark a new movement.  We are planning to launch a monthly Concert of Prayer in January.  We don't know exactly what it will look like, but it will be a time of worship and crying out to the Father to move in power in our city.  We believe he will respond.

So to kick off our leadership retreat, we prayed.  We spent an hour praying.  Repenting of sin, asking God to prepare our hearts, praying for God to remind us that our work is not in vain.  We asked God to spark something in us during the weekend, a flame that cannot easily be extinguished.  

Where will this lead?

Only God knows.  But I'm excited to be a part of the journey and I'm expecting the population of the Kingdom of God to grow exponentially as a result.  To God be the glory!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Celebrating New Life in Christ

Last night we had the awesome joy of holding our third baptism gathering of the year.  It's rapidly becoming one of my favorite things to do.  I know you might be thinking... "No kidding, of course you love baptisms!"  But like all things in church planting, it takes time to figure it out.  When we first started, we would include baptisms as a part of our Sunday morning gathering.  We used a HUGE rented baptistery that is sort of like a hot tub.  Of course it was fun and exciting because we were still celebrating new life in Christ, but it also felt a bit rushed.  That hurried feeling definitely took something away from the celebration.  So we just kept trying things a little different until we came up with the idea of having an entire gathering dedicated to baptisms.  We wanted "new life in Christ" to be the focus of the entire gathering.  We wanted it to be a party.

Well, we partied last night!  It was amazing.  We planned on baptizing three people which is exciting.  We got to film them sharing their stories, work with them through that process to help them develop an understanding of what God had been and is still doing in their life as well as getting to coach them on telling their story with confidence.  But then Sunday morning came and 2 more young men that we've been working with felt called to take this huge step too.  I got to talk with them about what it means to put their trust in Jesus.  It's just an amazingly unique experience for each person, but it's all founded on the one true gospel.  I love it!

Well last night we gathered at the spot to celebrate new life... to party.  We started with some worship songs and as always it takes a few moments to get our focus on Jesus.  But by the final song we were declaring "How great is our God" in a beautiful anthem from a fledgling local church.  We took moments to pray and moments for the congregation to shout out why God is great to them.  And then we opened God's word, briefly, and talked about the "why" of baptism.  We talked about the reality that every time someone is baptized, the are giving a "visible sermon" of the gospel message.  Our sins are put to death with Jesus on the cross and we are given new life through the power of the resurrection.  Beautiful.

Then the video of Tiffany Thurman played.  You've probably read about Tiffany on my blog before.  We met her through our last Community Dinner outreach and she was hungry to know Jesus.  My wife began discipling her to Jesus and then finally, she decided to put her trust in him!  Now my wife is discipling her in Jesus and I have no doubt that she is going to be a passionate disciple-maker herself.  Baptizing Tiffany, with her husband and kids in the congregation cheering her on was a beautifully inspiring moment.

The other 4 came into the waters of baptism and publicly professed their faith in King Jesus.  Every time a person came out of the water the congregation cheered.  Not polite clapping... a roar like you would hear at a sporting event.  Cheering as if someones life had been saved!  Imagine that?  One of the 4 recently had foot surgery.  But she was determined.  With a cast on her leg she hoisted herself up into the tub, trash-bagged foot hanging over the side and declared herself a follower of Jesus.  What a powerful testimony of devotion.

I'm in awe this morning.  In awe of what God has done and is doing.  After the gathering a young man that I have been working with off and on for a years now came to me in tears.  He told me he was ready to change.  Ready to surrender.  Right there, as a result of that "visible sermon" of baptism.  This young man put his trust in Jesus.  Please pray for him.  It's a long road ahead.  But with the Holy Spirit's power, all things are possible.

I want to challenge you this morning.  When was the last time you shared the gospel with someone?  It's never easy.  It's awkward and challenging for me every time.  But someones life is at stake.  And when was the last time your congregation stood up and roared when a new believer came out of the waters of baptism?  Lets all commit to party like the angels when lives are changed by the gospel!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Partnership & other things...

Praising Jesus as we wrapped up our 2013 vision series yesterday.  It is hard for me to believe that was our fourth vision series as a church!  Where on earth does the time go?  Part 3 of our vision series boiled down to 3 things.  The local church, commitment and partnership.  We talked a great deal about the reality that part of our vision includes becoming a church.  Right now we are still very much a church plant.  But we are not content with that.  We want to become self-sustaining and more importantly reproducing.  We talked about the importance of commitment to Christ and the local church and discussed what it looks like for individual believers to become covenanted partners with The Pathway.

With the partnership portion of our vision series paving the way, I taught our first ever Partnership class last night.  I'd say the class itself went well.  No matter what you do to prepare for something, the first time always has its ups and downs.  We had a much bigger turnout than I expected, praise Jesus, with over 30 adults in attendance.  I learned very quickly that in the future we need to keep the class smaller so that people can engage more effectively and ask more questions.  I learned what people care about, what they're interested in and that their questions about partnership are different than what I expected.

But most importantly, I learned that there are a good number of people who care deeply about being the church in Tacoma.  My heart was encouraged by the number of people in attendance but I was also excited about who was in attendance.  We had diversity in age, race and gender.  We had new believers, seasoned believers and not-yet believers in attendance.  When it was all said and done I learned a lot, and I think the folks in attendance did to.  Most importantly, we have 25 covenanted partners of The Pathway church.  Twenty-five people who said I'm all in for the next year of my life and I'm want the leadership of the church to hold me accountable to my commitment.  That's a big deal in my book.

Please pray for our new partners.  Pray that the passion doesn't die.  Pray that the commitments are taken seriously.  Pray that accountability happens and that grace is poured out on all of us.  Pray that these 25 people turn into 50 people.  And those 50 people turn into 100 and so on and so forth as the church spreads it's wings in Tacoma and beyond!

I'd also like to ask for prayers for my family.  We've had a challenging month in a lot of ways.  I always like to be as transparent as possible in my blog, but we're just worn out.  We've had some emotional/relational struggles.  We've had crazy things happen.  Our dog got hit by a car last week.  Praise the Lord she's ok and didn't need surgery!  Good ole' Bobby screwed up on our taxes last year and we had been figuring it out, but it all kind of hit the fan this month.  And then we got a citation from the city of Tacoma that the renovations done on our house before we bought it were not done with the proper permits.  We've been working through what this means but it has the potential to be a pandora's box of time, money and energy.  A friend reminded me that when these things happen, it usually means Satan is attacking.  And Satan usually attacks when God is in the midst of doing something big.  I needed that reminder!

Thanks for letting me share the joys and the struggles.  In regard to the struggles, it truly has been amazing to see God provide for every single one of our needs (inspire of my small faith at times).  Thanks for your prayers.  All who read this are truly a part of The Pathway and we thank God for every single one of you!

Monday, October 14, 2013


Most of the time when we think of God's provision we think of material things (and I don't mean that in a bad way at all).  We think of God providing for us financially.  Sometimes we just don't have enough income to pay the bills.  We also think of God providing tangible goods.  Sometimes we see God provide vehicles for people who need transportation, food for the hungry or even clothes and kid stuff for young parents having a new baby.  We even see God provide food for the hungry or water for the thirsty.

But God has taught me a lot over the past few years about his provision of people.  When I think of God providing people I think a lot about Moses and that famous conversation he had with his father-in-law Jethro.  Moses was the leader of the Israelite people.  In a lot of ways they looked at him as their savior.  After leading them out of slavery and oppression and into the promised land, he became overwhelmed with the task of leading so many people.  He was spending an overwhelming amount of time settling disputes and handling small issues between people that could be handled by any good leader.  So Jethro stepped in and told him he needed to share the load.  He needed to delegate.  What he needed was people.  And God provided.

I also think of the Apostles in the first century church.  Early in the book of Acts we see the church grow like crazy.  Thousands of people gave their lives to Jesus and the Apostles quickly became consumed with all the needs of the people.  They found themselves spending so much time meeting tangible needs that they were neglecting the ministry of the Word.  Thankfully, God revealed to them the need for deacons, servant-leaders who could carry a great deal of the day-to-day responsibilities of the church so the Apostles could be effective in their areas of leadership.

All that to say God has taught me the value of shared leadership and the provision of people.  From the very beginning of The Pathway we had 3 other adults on our team who shared responsibilities.  When we needed someone to take on the role of Kids Ministry Director, Intentional Communities Director and worship leader God provided people from unexpected places.  And when we just needed some spiritual maturity and missional passion injected into our congregation of new and not-yet-believers, God provided people from places like Puyallup, WA and Ada, OK!  His provision amazes me.

Most recently we've been praying for God to provide us with a worship leader while Donna, our current worship leader, is on maternity leave.  Every possibility we came up with kept falling through and she was slated to wrap up at the end of this month and be out through January.  For any of you who have heard me lead worship... well, lets just say we don't want to go down that route again!  So we've been praying.  I was in Oklahoma this weekend and shared specifically with some people our need for a worship leader.

Then, just as God always does, he provided.  It was either the Sunday or Monday that I was in Oklahoma that I got an email from a worship leader that's a part of another church here in Tacoma offering to help us out.  Not just once or twice, but for 3 months!  The church he's a part of is incredible and has always been willing to help us out in the past.  The church gathers for worship right now on Sunday evenings so it's a perfect fit.  God's provision is absolutely perfect and when he provides people I still stand in awe!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Starting Point

I feel like I'm beginning more and more posts the same way... I'm exhausted!  Feel free to leave a comment or shoot me a text telling me to "suck it up!"  I definitely need to hear that sometimes.  But I can honestly say I'm exhausted in a good way.  We've been pouring ourselves out for the sake of the gospel and asking God to bring Kingdom growth here in Tacoma.  I'm so amazed and humbled by the people of our church.  We push them so hard, challenge them so much, ask them to serve tangibly, sacrifice significantly and share the gospel boldly... and for the most part they do it.

Two Sunday's ago I preached on "Prayer in the Mission of God."  One of the key texts we looked at was Acts 4:31... "And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness."  Speaking the Word of God with boldness is no easy task.  And Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 3:15 that we are to do it "with gentleness and respect."  We definitely don't do it perfectly, but yesterday was an amazing day when I got to see our church, be the church, and engage so many lost and unchurched people with the love of God.  Let me fill you in on the details.

We've been praying and planning for quite sometime now to host a special Sunday gathering and community lunch.  We've had a unique opportunity to get to know Jon Kitna, a former NFL quarterback (Seahawks, Bengals, Lions, Cowboys), who came back to his home town of Tacoma, WA to coach high school football and invest in the young men on his team with gospel intentionality.  We've done a few things to partner with Jon to serve the team and I asked him to come and share his story with our church this past Sunday.  We also planned a community lunch immediately following the gathering that was catered by Panera Bread (You can hear Jon's message at www.thepathwaytacoma.com).

We encouraged our people to make the most of of the opportunity and invite their lost and unchurched friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.  We sent out invitations to nearly 15,000 homes in and around central Tacoma.  And we prayed.  We prayed for God to move.  We prayed for God to give us gospel opportunities.  We prayed that the Holy Spirit would give us an opportunity to bless our neighbors and then sit across the table with them for lunch and get to know them, taking advantage of any opportunity to share with them why we had provided a great speaker and a free delicious lunch.  To be honest, I had no idea what to expect.  Literally, no idea.

But guess what happened?  God happened.

People started arriving at Franklin and the stream of people just kept coming.  To put it in context for you, we've been averaging just over 70 people including kids in the month of September.  Yesterday we had over 140 people!  It was amazing.  Our worship team did a phenomenal job.  Our official and unofficial greeters were engaging and welcoming.  I got an opportunity to share with everyone who we are as a church and why we care about them.  Jon shared his story in a powerful, Spirit-filled way that was so personal.  You wouldn't think that's the case because he's lived the NFL life, but the guy was raised on the streets of Tacoma.  His roots are the roots of the people that were sitting in that room.  The obstacles he faced are the same as the obstacles faced by the people that were there.  It was powerful.

We live in an area that is filled with single parent homes.  We wanted people to know that we understand their situation.  And while we can't parent for them, we strongly desire to partner with them.  To walk with them through life's obstacles and apply the gospel to every situation they face.  In order to do this we brought our older kids in to sing some songs.  We had 3 families dedicate their children to Jesus yesterday morning.  It was powerful and beautiful.

We had a response time.  Thirty-eight people filled out a response card... 38!  Some just left us their name and information.  Some asked for prayer.  Some asked for more information about an Intentional Community.  And several asked for us to call and share with them how they can place their trust in Jesus.  I have no idea how we're going to follow-up with them all!  But God does.  And we're going to give him everything we have.

Then came the lunch.  It was incredible.  Just to walk into the gym at Franklin Elementary and see so many faces.  There were people that I had never seen before.  There were people I hadn't seen in a long time.  But the most encouraging part was when I grabbed my lunch and began looking for a new person to sit next to.  I had trouble finding someone.  Not because they weren't there, but because the people of our church were not sitting together.  They had literally scattered across that gym and were all engaging new families and new faces.  It wasn't until I got to the very end of the gym that I finally found someone to sit next to.  Our vision starts with serving our communities intentionally.  I was watching this happen before my eyes.

Why did I title this post Starting Point?  Mainly because I'm asking all of you to keep praying for the people who came to Franklin Elementary yesterday.  I'm asking you to hit your knees, maybe even right now, and pray that the gospel would take root.  You see, when we plan a BIG event like the one we had yesterday it's so easy to view it as the culmination of a lot of hard work.  When we gather a good crowd it's so easy to view the outreach as successful.  But one thing God has taught me is that to view an outreach this way is to ignore the Great Commission call to discipleship.  Yesterday's event was amazing.  But it was only the beginning.  The real work begins today.  We don't want to gather a crowd, we desire to make disciples.  Please pray with us for God's Kingdom to grow as a result of what began yesterday.

Monday, September 16, 2013


I've been reading a book called The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.  The book has been out for a pretty good while and I've always wanted to read it.  It's a challenging read because it is talking about things that we can do to cause trends to take off.  As a follower of Jesus, I whole heartedly believe in the sovereignty of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.  So as a church planter, it's a challenge to apply this tipping point principle without negating the necessary role of the Holy Spirit.

In the book, Gladwell is examining the nature of fashion trends, social trends and even criminal trends that begin to take on a life of their own.  He explores the environments, people and circumstances surrounding those trends and what exactly happened to cause the trend to tip.  What was the one thing, and in some instances, what were the several things that finally caused the craze to go viral?  I think this is intriguing for me because I want so badly for the gospel to hit a tipping point in Tacoma.  I really do.  I understand that there will always be folks who reject the gospel.  I know full well that we will never see every person in the world place their trust in Jesus.  You can call me crazy, but I believe the Holy Spirit can still bring spiritual awakening in the hearts of humanity.  I believe that God, in his power, and through his people, can take over a city with the good news of Jesus.  I believe Tacoma can tip.

Do I have all the answers?  No.  And Gladwell doesn't claim to either.  I can't stress enough that the tipping point for the gospel happens according to the will of God, in his timing, and through his Spirit.  But I also believe God uses our obedience in this process.  And our obedience as The Pathway church is displayed through the reproduction of Intentional Communities.  You've all read or heard me talk about our IC's before.  We currently have 4 IC's gathering, living life & doing mission in various parts of the city.  Now in my "church" experience, the way new groups usually start is by finding a teacher and having some sort of sign-up event.  Many churches will re-start their groups every quarter or every semester.  They meet together for a specified period of time, and then they can either "re-up" or they can find another group.

But that's not Intentional Community.  The life of an IC is similar to that of a family.  It gathers together, it stays together, it grows spiritually together, it plays together and when it reaches maturity, it reproduces... naturally.  When an IC is functioning in a healthy way... growing together in communion with God, living together in biblical community, and going together on mission, it will grow.  Just as a mama's belly grows before it gives birth, so will an IC grow in depth and number... swelling... until it has to reproduce.  No sign-ups needed.  Just Holy Spirit enabled growth... similar to what is described in the book of Acts.

Don't get me wrong, this doesn't happen easily and I'm not exactly sure when the tipping point comes.  But I do know it starts with reproduction.  We've been striving & praying to develop this kind of reproducing environment for years as a church.  And it just hasn't tipped yet.  But we have seen it happen.  And right now one of our IC's has swelled to the 9 months pregnant point if you know what I mean, and it must reproduce.  In some ways it's a sad time.  Because when you reproduce, you're also saying good-bye.  A new family is started.  You'll always be a part of the same bigger family.  Just as families get together on holidays and special occasions, our IC's still gather together on Sunday mornings and other times.  But it's time for the new IC to grow, spread it's wings, and work towards the beauty of reproduction itself.

I'd like to ask you to pray for 3 things with us...
1) Pray for this new IC that's being born.  Pray for it's leaders, those who are being sent out and those who are being left behind.  Pray also for those that this IC will reach with the gospel.

2) Pray that God would lead us to the tipping point of reproduction.  We don't just want to reproduce in an addition sort of way... one new group every couple of months.  I'm the father of twins... I'm the husband of a twin & the uncle of twins.  I have experienced the awesome power & joy of multiplication in a personal way.  And that's what we want for our IC's... multiplication.

3) That leads to the last request.  We want our IC's to multiply because we long to see the tipping point for the gospel in our city.  Please pray that the gospel would saturate Tacoma.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Intentional Baseball Game...

Mackie & Seth, Rachel & Maria, & Crazy
excited Gene all having a blast at our
Intentional Mariners Game!
Most of you who read this blog know that The Pathway believes church is not a place we go, it's who we are every single day of the week.  With that in mind, we gather weekly with smaller groups of believers that we call Intentional Communities. The idea of an IC is not to turn church into a different location (i.e. a house or apartment instead of a church building or school), the idea is to create a people on living together on mission for God.  We definitely don't always accomplish our goal.  We still fall into the trap of church attendance rather than church as community on mission.  But we also get it right sometimes.

At least once a month our IC's are expected to serve or bless their neighborhood.  This fits right into our vision of serving our communities intentionally for the purpose of sharing the gospel with those we serve. Sometimes we do this in traditional ways.  Baking cookies, mowing lawns, throwing a block party.  But sometimes God gives us unexpected ways to serve.  Earlier this year a local non-profit organization that we partner told us they had a bunch of free Seattle Mariner tickets and that we could request some if we wanted to.  I decided to request 30 tickets so we could use it as an intentional opportunity to spend time with our neighbors.  It went far better than I could have ever imagined.

Our IC really embraced the idea.  We ended up taking 25 people total to the game.  There were 15 people that would fall into the category of lost and unchurched.  We invited 2 or the neighbors in our IC mission field or target neighborhood.  they both came.  One of the moms brought her 3 year old son, the other mom brought her two kids (2 & 4 years old) and invited her Dad, mom, brother and sister!  I was also able to invite a friend of mine who brought his wife and 2 young girls that Kelli had never been able to meet.  It was a great connection point.

One of our IC members brought her boyfriend and another brought one of his kids friends from their neighborhood.  It was amazing to see our community of believers intentionally start conversations with many of our unchurched friends and neighbors.  It was awesome for them to know we were doing this because we are the church, not because we expect them to "go" to church with us.  The work is not over.  The mission is not accomplished.  We are still praying for more relational opportunities and chances to engage in gospel conversations.  But this was a HUGE step.  Seeing our community of believers live with intentionality and to see our friends and neighbors engage was simply incredible.

Thank you for praying and please continue to pray that the Holy Spirit would move in the hearts of the 15 friends and neighbors who attended our Intentional Baseball Game on Friday night!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Finding myself in Awe of our God

Because we live in Tacoma, we have the joy of being able to view the majesty of Mt. Rainier on a regular basis.  It is truly awe-inspiring.  However, after living here for 3+ years, I often find myself looking right past this miraculous mountain.  It has become normal to me.  But then there are those moments, when the mountain has been hiding behind the clouds for weeks or even months at a time, when it bursts back into the spotlight and I once again find myself standing still, jaw dropped, in awe of it's beauty.

Unfortunately I often find myself in the same situation with the God of the universe.  He is no less majestic today than the day I first met him personally.  But because he is a daily part of my life I often find myself treating him in a "business as usual" sort of way.  It's crazy to even put it in words.  But I truly find myself viewing God as someone normal.  Shame on me.

Well, yesterday God gave me a wake-up call.  For those of you who have been following Jesus for an extended amount of time, you probably know what I am talking about.  We get into our routines.  We believe God is real and worthy of worship, but we start treating him like any other aspect of our life.  We just loose our sense of awe.  And then, when we least expect it, he bursts back into the forefront of our lives and reminds us of just how unworthy he is and how awesome he is.

We have been praying for our friend Tiffany to give her life to Jesus for some time now.  We met her at one of our community dinners during March into April.  Tiffany and my wife Kelli have become fast friends and really our families have just become really close.  Tiffany has been wrestling with God, even pursuing him, but hesitating to surrender her life to him.  We've been praying and praying.  Then yesterday, during the response time at our worship gathering, Kelli and Tiffany came to me right where I was sitting and told me that it was the day.  She was ready to trust Jesus!  Another couple in our IC was sitting next to us and was able to celebrate the moment.  It was truly awesome!

At the end of the gathering we got to introduce Tom Abbott, who we were able to send to Seattle to plant a church almost 2 years ago.  He got to share all that God was doing in Seattle, introduce his core team, and share with us how we could partner with their church to reach Seattle with the gospel.  The fourth part of our vision as a church is to send missionaries to plant new churches.  I was in awe of the fact that God would use our church, still in it's infancy, to do just that.

Immediately after the gathering I took 3 out of 4 people in to a meeting about our first global mission trip as a church.  God has given us the opportunity to team up with another church in our area to send a pioneer group from The Pathway to learn about global and short term missions.  It was amazing to sit back and soak in all that God is doing.  To think about God taking a group from our church all the way to South Africa to plant the gospel is nothing short of miraculous.  It's humbling.  It's awesome.

I'm reminded of a song that we sing a lot as a church.  Our God is greater, our God is stronger, our God is higher than any other.  Our God is healer AWESOME in power.

Just basking in the awesomeness of God today.  I think we should all do this more often.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Through My Eyes..D

First and foremost I want to thank all of you who prayed for & supported KiDCity kick-off.  There is no way we could be saturating as much of Tacoma with the gospel as we have been without your extreme generosity, faithful prayers and willingness to come & help.  I thought I'd give you a glimpse at KiDCity Kick-off through my eyes.  It will be an honest look & my hope is that it will lead you deeper into fervent prayer not only for our family, church and city, but for your own mission field as well.

KiDCity Kick-off Block Party: This was day #1 and I usually stress over the first day of our BIG outreaches the most.  It's the starting point, the event or moment that sets the tone.  It was Sunday morning and I had been stressing over logistics and whether or not there would be a good turn-out.  I had been in TX the week leading up to the kick-off so I felt like I was a little behind.  But God is so good.  My beautiful and supportive wife allowed me to get away (as she always does) on Sunday morning and just be with Jesus.  During that time he reminded me who does the work... and it's definitely not me.  He brought me into our outdoor worship gathering with a peace in my soul and it was awesome not just to worship through the gathering, but through the ensuing block party.  We had a group of 2 families from a local church, High Pointe, that supports us in so many ways come out to help us.  You have no idea the power of knowing there are other believers who have your back.  The block party was a huge success in every way.

HayDay Kids Club: Our expectations were high for Kids Club.  Last year we had a mission team lead our first Kids Club.  We sprung it on them at the last minute with very little advertising to our church or the community.  They did a great job and we learned a lot so we were expecting even greater things this year.  We had a new partner coming to host Kids Club this year, Humble Area First Baptist Church.  Before I get to the actual Kids Club I just want to share my perspective on this group.  Most churches have trouble fielding a mission team that consists of anyone over the age of 22.  This church brought 21 adults ages 18-50+ including their senior pastor & wife, missions pastor & wife as well as their children's pastor.  Their were multiple ladies on the trip whose husbands had used their vacation time to stay home with the kids while they went on mission.  Their was one couple, Paul & Amanda, who found multiple homes for their 5 boys to stay in while they came together on mission.

As I watched the kids club unfold I was amazed.  We had more than double the kids that we had the previous year.  The gospel was shared.  The kids were loved on and the parents were visibly moved by how much we cared about their kids.  One young boy was even moved to tears on the final night when he realized many of the adults who had loved him were going home.  We have known this boy and his mom for well over a year now and it was amazing to see them in worship on Sunday.

Community Block Party: For those of you who know Tacoma or the Seattle area, you know that although it rains a lot during the year, rain seldom comes in August and we almost never get thunder storms.  The night before the block party we got both.  Thunder, lightning and rain.  And the forecast was calling for more of the same the night of the block party.  The band that would be playing even called to see if we were calling it off.  We pressed on... with small faith (on my part anyway).  But God was so good.  Not only did he hold back the rain (that was hitting to the north of us), he also brought the people.  We had our largest block party to date.  It was amazing to see the "plan" working thanks to the grace of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit.  The mission team was handling all the behind the scenes work and our people were with the community.  I think we still have room to grow.  These outreaches are supposed to be intentional.  We try and sacrifice time with the community of believers so we can spend time with the community as a whole.  As I walked around I saw lots of opportunities and I trust that God was moving hearts together.  It was amazing to see God move.  It was amazing to see the community come together and experience the love of God first hand.

KidCity Launch: Sunday was our launch.  We had invited kids and families to come for our KiDCity launch, to get a KiDCity backpack with school supplies and a "Jesus Storybook Bible."  We were expecting a HUGE turn-out based on all that God had been doing.  I was so excited Sunday morning to see face after face walk into Franklin Elementary that I didn't recognize.  It was so amazing to see our church step up and volunteer as greeters, KidCity workers, etc. so that our community would feel welcome.  When it was all said and done I will be honest, I was disappointed at the turn-out.  I think I'm not supposed to say that as a pastor and leader.  But it was hard to see the mass of people at the block party Saturday and the smaller fraction that was at our gathering on Sunday.

But here's what I have to remember.  What we have to remember.  3 things really...
1) It's not about the gathering, it's about the gospel.  I say it over and over but when the rubber meets the road I often forget.  We're trying to change a culture with the love of God and the good news of Jesus.  It's going to take time and the harvest isn't going to come from the gathering, the gathering will ultimately come from the harvest.  Think about it.  There is a significant difference there.

2) Jesus said in Matthew 7:14, For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.  I cannot get discouraged when the words of Jesus prove true.  But we cannot back down.  While the number is few, there is always room for more.

3) 2 Chronicles 7:14, If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, than I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  All those faces, all those people, all those souls created by God at the block party need the good news of Jesus.  We cannot force it on them.  But we can pray desperately to the Father that he would open their hearts and that they would put their trust in him.

KiDCity Kick-off was a gift from God and he is not finished yet!  Please continue to pray for the children and families that we met and that the gospel would not just transform individual lives, but families all over central Tacoma!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Update-- KiDCity Kick-off

What a whirl-wind the last several days have been.  I spent all of last week in Texas and Oklahoma.  I was in Texas for the "Send" conference put on by the North American Mission Board and it was an inspiring couple of days.  Churches are being planted all across our country and the gospel is impacting lives everywhere.

I got home late Friday night and was able to spend all day Saturday with Kelli, Jagen and Rylan.  It was so good to see their faces and spend a whole day with my beautiful family.  The longer I'm married and the older the kids get, the more miss them when I have to be gone.  After a day of catching up with the family it was time for KiDCity Kick-off.

We have been going through 1 Peter as a church and as I was preparing to preach through chapter 5 this past week vs. 7 really resonated with me.  Peter instructs the church by saying, "cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you."  I have a tendency to stress out leading up to a big outreach like this.  I want so badly for everything to go perfectly that I try to play the role of "Holy Spirit."  I focus so hard on making sure every detail is in order that I get in the way of what God really wants to do.  Not to mention I don't end up enjoying the process at all.  Well thankfully God had us in 1 Peter 5 this week and he reminded me to cast my anxieties on him.  To literally lay them at the foot of the cross.  As a result, Sunday was perfect.

We kicked things off with an outdoor worship gathering.  The whether was beautiful and so many people showed up early to get things set-up.  We sang praises to Jesus, taught the Scriptures and had a special prayer time for KiDCity Kick-off.  Then came the block party.  It was great to see so many people start to make their way to the party.  People came from all over.  Our folks invited friends, new faces, old faces, so man central Tacoma neighbors.  It was awesome to see the body of Christ come together to love our neighbor.  The Reptile Man came and did a show for us.  We got to see, touch and take pictures with lizards, turtles, snakes (including a cobra) and an alligator.  It was incredible.  To see the joy on the faces of parents and children, laughing together and feeling the love of God was an awesome thing.

Then today we got to pick up Humble Area First Baptist Church from the airport.  This is their first mission trip to Tacoma and it kicked-off with a bang.  They got off the plane, got some lunch, checked into the hotel and then got to work on night #1 of HayDay Kids Club.  Twenty-one adults who decided to reorient their lives around taking the gospel to Tacoma.  I am blown away.  The Kids Club was awesome!  The team was incredibly prepared and just loved on the kids the whole time.  We had over 30 kids including 4 sets of twins!  Many of the parents of some of the new children stayed and watched.  We got to meet people and be intentional as we stood by and watched our kids play, sing and learn.  What an awesome opportunity God has given us.

Thank you for praying.  Thank you so much for asking God to move in power!  He is working.  Please continue to pray as our mission team is out in the community this week.  Pray that even more kids and families would connect to our KiDCity Kick-off.  Pray for salvation to come to entire families!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Life Change

It's hard to actually define "Day 1" of The Pathway Church.  I'm not sure if it's the day that Kelli and I said "yes" to church planting, the day we realized that Tacoma was where God had placed our lives, the first day we went to Tacoma on mission or any of the other major milestones along the way.  Either way, I can confidently say that since "Day 1," our biggest and most repeated prayer has been for God to bring life change in Tacoma.  As I think back on on our journey, I even remember speaking at Trinity Baptist, our home church in Ada, OK, during my ordination service.  I read Romans 10:1... My hearts desire and prayer to God for them is for their salvation.

Well, by the grace of God, it's happened.  More accurately, it's happening.  Let me give you a few examples.

About 3 years ago we met a single mom with 3 boys.  She was in pain.  She was coming out of a transitional housing program, was facing more challenges in a day than I think I faced in a life time, but she was looking for hope in the right place... the God who created her.  As we walked with her things seemed to take 1 step forward and 3 steps back.  But along the way we were able to meet a need a friend of hers had.  Now if you were going to make me bet money on which one of them I thought would still be a part of The Pathway today, I'd have guessed the first.  But God's ways are not our ways right?  Well, over the course of time the single mom pulled back from her creator. But the friend, also a single mom, stuck with Jesus and his church.  And her life is radically different.

She struggled for quite some time with her roots as a catholic girl who feared God.  She wrestled (and still wrestles) with the difference between belief in God and becoming a follower of his Son Jesus.  But she's choosing to follow as she grows.  And guess what, she's growing as she follows.  In the last several months she has faced an incredibly difficult obstacle in life... but in the midst of it she chose to place her trust in Jesus.  She has approached one of our leaders and asked for help discipling her children.  She is in a discipleship group with my wife and has even led the group in Kelli's absence.  And just recently she has volunteered to play an extremely significant role in multiplying our Intentional Communities.  Life Change.  Glory to God!

There's another young single mom that connected with our church during September for Tacoma. She too wrestled with the difference between belief in God and being a follower of his Son Jesus.  She had a difficult past and had been baptized multiple times.  Trying to find forgiveness and hope, she kept falling back into her old life.  But then she met Jesus!  I mean, really met him.  To see the hunger in her eyes, the change in her life has been incredible.  She is a missionary to the people she lives with.  She is passionately pursuing what it means to be a godly mom.  She is embracing community, accountability and discipleship.  And just this week we asked her to be one of the first Pathway missionaries to go global on a short term trip to South Africa.  It was amazing to see the fear in her eyes almost immediately overcome by faith.  And then to read the text she sent Kelli this morning letting us know that she wanted to pursue this opportunity that God had obviously put in front of her.  Life Change.  Glory to God.

Then there's a young man who came to faith in Christ very recently.  He too wrestled with his catholic background and particularly the strong religious ties of his family.  He finally professed faith in Jesus but when it came time to be baptized he showed up at the service still not sure that he could go through with it.  Even though we know baptism doesn't save, you could see the beauty of this ordinance as he wrestled with this tangible demonstration of faith that would be a solidifying moment in his walk with Jesus.  When he finally chose to publicly proclaim his faith in Jesus, it was one of the most beautiful moments I have ever been a part of.  As he came up from the water he threw his hands in the air.  He was balling.  The congregation was cheering.  The kingdom is growing.  Life Change.  Glory to God.

As we approach Kid-City Kick-off, please join us in praying for life change.  Church growth is great.  But without changed lives it's only an earthly accomplishment.  We are praying for the kingdom of God to grow & that happens through the radical transformation of lives by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit!  Glory to God!!!

Monday, July 15, 2013

KidCity Kick-off

We're excited to announce The Pathway's next major outreach and serving opportunity.  August 4th will be the start of a highly intensive week that we're calling KidCity Kick-off.  We are incredibly excited about what God has in store for our community that week.  We are prayerfully approaching the week of August 4th and we want to ask you to join us in prayer.  

What is KidCity Kick-off? Up to now our kids ministry has been called Kids Ave. However, as we have been growing and God has been bringing us more families and children and plating in us a vision to see families in Tacoma transformed by the gospel, he was also laying on our Kids Ministry Director a new vision.  To sum it up, we desperately want to be a church that equips parents to disciple their children and we believe that involves so much more than Sunday morning.  We are trying to partner with parents to teach their kids about God's love.  With this in mind, we decided to make some needed changes to our current Sunday theme and approach and we figured when we were finished we might as well make a BIG DEAL about launching the new and improved KidCity!

Well, as we were talking about this we were also planning a major outreach push for the month of September.  Long story short, God began closing the doors for our intensive September outreach (although we will still be doing a lot with some mission teams) and rapidly opening doors to serve, spend time with and show God's love to the families in our community in August.  We've never done anything quite like this but we are praying that God would open the flood gates of life change in the lost and unchurched families in Tacoma.

How can you pray?  First and foremost please pray that God would be glorified through this outreach.  Second, please make note of the calendar below and pray for all the events going on.  We already have upwards of 30 kids signed up for our Kids Club and we are hoping to gain a huge amount of community sign-ups at our August 4th block party!  Please pray for the mailers we will be sending out to central Tacoma inviting them to the block party.  Please pray that logistics would fall into place and that central Tacoma, including Hilltop, would feel the love of God through our church.

Please pray for our church.  Pray that the families in our church would be bold in inviting friends and neighbors to the block party and to the kids club.  Finally, pray for a HUGE kingdom harvest that we are asking God to bring on Sunday August 11th.  The entire week we are going to be pushing our KidCity Launch on Sunday August 11th.  We averaged about 21 kids on Sunday mornings in the month of June.  We are asking God to bring 60 kids Sunday August 11th!  I hope this is not a foolish prayer.  I really believe God can do this.  That Sunday we will be letting the kids show off what they learned in Kids Club, passing out KidCity back-packs stuffed with school supplies and most importantly presenting the gospel in a very clear way.

God knows what he wants to do through KidCity Kick-off.  We trust that.  Lets pray together for his will to be done, the name of his son Jesus to be lifted high and his glory to be made known.  Thanks!

Monday, July 1, 2013

A new neighborhood... an old approach!

Thank you so much for praying for the mission team from Oklahoma that served with us last week.  It was an intense week of funky weather, spiritual warfare and the Holy Spirit in action.  I believe with all my heart that your prayers were powerful and effective as God used the team to accomplish the mission laid out for them.

Most of you know that we recently moved our worship gathering to Franklin Elementary in central Tacoma.  For logistical reasons alone we have love the change!  The school staff have been so good to us & we have room to spread out & grow.  But we love the move for another reason too.  Since the end of last summer we have been praying about what neighborhood we would strategically target to saturate with the gospel next.  While this may seem to be a simple choice, it was no small decision.  For 3 years we have been pouring our heart and soul into the Hilltop.  We've served, loved, met needs, prayer walked, thrown events and parties... all for the Hilltop neighborhood in Tacoma.  In the process, we have seen God bring salvation!  By God's grace alone, in these first 3 years, we have seen 37 professions of faith & 31 baptisms!!!  All as we focused on being intentional and saturating Hilltop with the gospel.  

But what I found over the last year is that people were either forgetting that God didn't call us to plant a church on the Hilltop alone.  He called us to start in the Hilltop, but he called us to plant the gospel in Tacoma!  With that in mind we felt God leading us to continue serving and sharing the gospel with the Hilltop, but to strategically use our mission teams this summer to start seeing where doors are open in Central Tacoma.  While we've done a small thing or two since we moved to Franklin, this last week was the first time we intentionally infiltrated central Tacoma with the gospel. 

What we found was another neighborhood ripe for the harvest!  Central Tacoma is a big area but it is a neighbor to the hilltop.  All week long the mission team intentionally went out and met our central Tacoma neighbors.  They walked around and handed out Starbucks coffee one morning.  Another day they baked cookies and delivered them to local businesses.  They prayer walked and passed out fliers inviting the community to a block party at Franklin.  All-in-all the team was so faithful to get out of their comfort zones and try to make gospel connections in central Tacoma.  Our prayer was that many of these connections would come to Thursday's block party so the people of The Pathway could meet them.

Well, Thursday came and so did the rain.  The party was supposed to begin at 6:00pm but the rain was coming... along with the health inspector!  We've never had to work with the health department because we've always done block parties at The Spot.  I tell you what, she kept coming up with things that were done wrong.  It was so awesome to see the church come together to get the job done!  Finally, about 6:30pm the rain moved out.  About 6:45 the health inspector said we could start cooking hot dogs.  Then at 7:00pm the neighbors came!  God knew what he was doing and literally people started pouring in as soon as we were ready to start serving food.  

Conversations were had, the foundations of new potential friendships were laid, the Spirit of God was obviously working.  This past Sunday we had more new faces at our worship gathering than I could count.  I recognized people from the block party and it was amazing to see our church welcome so many new faces.  Please don't stop praying though.  In order for us to reach central Tacoma we have to begin planting Intentional Communities.  In order for that to happen we need leaders and commitments from folks who are seeking Jesus.

Hilltop.  Central Tacoma.  I don't know what God has in store but I believe he wants to radically change the people of these neighborhoods with the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer has arrived!

Summer is finally here!  It's hard to believe that this is our 5th summer in Tacoma.  God has done so much but I am confident that he is not even close to finished.  So how can you be praying?

1) Please be praying for our summer interns Kevin & Paige.  Kevin is living with a young man named Jason who actually interned with us during our first summer.  Jason just moved to Tacoma a couple months ago and intentionally moved into the apartment complex where he is living so that he could work with the interns to saturate that apartment complex with the gospel.  Paige is living with Brittany, another fairly new member of The Pathway who also responded to our request to move into that apartment complex with missional intentionality to help the interns bring the hope of the gospel.  Well, God is already moving.  The interns spent all last week doing small things to bless their neighbors.  They knocked on doors passing out cookies and baked muffins to give away one morning.  All this culminated in a bbq they had been inviting people to that took place Saturday evening.  The bbq was a success and they got to meet a lot of new people.  One young man even came to our worship gathering on Sunday.  God is at work but Kevin and Paige will be serving diligently through August 10th so please lift them and their apartment complex up in prayer!

2) Please be praying for our first mission team.  Trinity Baptist church in Ada, OK has been sending teams to work with us since our days in Snoqualmie.  Their teams are usually full of young (youth, college, young adults), passionate and prepared people who are willing to be stretched.  This year seems to be no different as the team arrived on Saturday and is already hard at work.  They prayer walked the community where they will be working yesterday and they are actually walking the streets as I'm writing this blog praying, looking for people and giving out free coffee in the name of Jesus.  They will be hosting intentional lunches every day at two different parks... People's Park in the Hilltop and Franklin Park in central Tacoma.  The two prayers for this team is that they would have opportunities to share the gospel and that they would have opportunities to invite folks to the block party they are hosting at Franklin elementary Thursday evening.  Please keep this team in your prayers and pray for salvation and an awesome block party Thursday where our church can connect with the people they've been meeting!

3) Please be praying for the family considering a move to Tacoma.  God opened a door quite a while back for us to begin talking and praying with a young family who is considering coming to Tacoma to help fill a pretty specific need we have.  They came for a visit a couple weeks ago and we could visibly see them wrestling with the magnitude of the possibility and the depth of the calling.  Please pray for this couple.  Pray that God would give them wisdom, discernment, clarity and passion for where God wants them to be.

4) Finally, please be praying for our Intentional Communities.  I feel like a broken record at times, but we are still struggling to develop the leaders that we need as fast as we need them.  We launched 4 Intentional Communities just after Easter and 2 of them are already busting at the seams, desperately needing to multiply!  The other 2 are not far behind numerically and will need to multiply soon.  The hard part is leadership and geography.  We take a geographic approach to starting IC's and we are trying hard to target Hilltop and Central Tacoma right now.  However, many of our prepared leaders live in other communities.  Please pray for wisdom and discernment as we seek to multiply.

Thank you for your continued prayers.  God is moving, the kingdom is growing and we are excited to see what the summer holds!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Answered prayers...

Time sure does fly doesn't it?  I just don't know where the time is going.  I'm sitting in one of my favorite places right now  spending time with Jesus and praying through the direction of my own life, how I can be more effective at touching people with the gospel and the direction of our church.  Where we are and where we're headed.  In doing so, I've been thinking about all that is going on in Tacoma through The Pathway right now that I oversee, but I'm not directly in charge of.  That led me to a moment of thankfulness for the way God answers prayer.

About a year and a half ago God gave me a clear picture of a new approach to accomplish our vision for Tacoma.  There was a lot to it but one of the things it required was developing a staff to work with who could give significant time to their areas of ministry oversight.  There were 5 positions that needed to be filled and God has filled 4 of them.  I'm not sure what his plan is for the fifth, but based on how perfectly he filled the other four, I trust that his answer will come in the right way and at the right time.

I just wanted to take a moment to give some thanks to God for these 4 answered prayers.

1) Donna Christian-- Anyone who came to worship with The Pathway before Easter 2012 knows that our gatherings were pretty interesting.  I love worship.  Often you would find me playing the guitar and singing (not pleasant for those listening) and then preaching.  It felt like the "Bobby" show at times and I did not like it.  We would often not sing at all and God used those moments to teach us the heart of worship.  But shortly after God laid these part-time staff positions on my heart, he brought Donna and her husband Josh to our staff.  Donna has been an answer to prayer.  She has taken our worship team from nothing to a 5 member team.  They are growing in their leadership and have done such an amazing job of allowing our church to sing praises to Jesus!  It has been amazing to see God stretch Donna out of her comfort zone and to see him build in her a humble confidence that he has equipped her to lead.  God has blessed & I am so thankful.

2) Stacie Hooks-- One of the positions I felt compelled to fill was a director of Intentional Communities.  I needed someone who could passionately lead in recruiting and training Intentional Community Leaders.  Someone who shared my Church. Different. heart that church is not a place we go, it's who we are.  Someone who was not afraid to ask for my guidance and help but who didn't need me to hold their hand every step of the way.  Stacie has filled that role and then some.  I think her heart and desire to see Intentional Communities birthed and effectively infiltrate Tacoma matches my heart in every way.  She has trained up leaders, written material, made hard decisions and has done a fantastic job.  She has also taken on the oversight of our mission teams and interns which is a full-time job itself in the summer.  The load that Stacie has lifted off of my shoulders is indescribable and has made it possible for us not simply to reach more lost people, but to effectively train them up in the gospel.  I'm so thankful.

3) Jenna Jones-- One of the positions I was most burdened to fill was that of Kids Ministry Director.  Our church at the time was mainly young single folks so there was no obvious person to fill this position.  Despite the make-up of our congregation, I was under a deep conviction that if we were going to reach our community and our city we had to be able to reach and connect with children and their families.  That's when Jenna came to me and said, "I don't know if you want me to do this, I have no experience, but I think God has called me to fill this position."  She told me that she had recently been prayed over and the person had shared that he felt God leading her to work with children.  She was skeptical but then heard of The Pathway's need.  Jenna's leadership is a testimony to her faithfulness to God and the power of how God take "untrained" folks and use them in supernatural ways.  Under Jenna's leadership we have seen our kids ministry grow from 6-25+ kids.  More amazingly we've seen her disciple parents by placing them in roles that stretch them.  We've seen parents disciple their kids simply by reading the Jesus story book Bible to them every night.  God answered a prayer and I am so thankful.

4) Kyler Phillips-- I also knew I needed someone to fill a ministry assistant role.  Someone who had a passion for people but a skill to handle tasks that were taking far too much time for me to accomplish.  Collecting offering and partnership contributions, making deposits, handling reimbursements, answering phones, and much much more.  Kyler, on top of her full-time job, has answered that call.  No credit, no glory... no pay!  She simply does things that need to be done and does them well.  Kyler's first major project was to implement, train and make effective our on-line ministry network that connects and communicates with our entire church.  She has done a phenomenal job and the use of this tool is increasing every day it seems.  God answered.  I am thankful.

I, like so many I'm sure, get caught up in the craziness of every day life and forget to reflect on and be thankful for how far God has brought us.  It's not just that my load has been lifted by these faithful women.  It's that our capacity to see kingdom growth and make disciples has increased and as a result disciples have been/are being made in greater numbers and the kingdom of God is growing!  God answers prayers and I am so thankful!

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's time for the MEN to OBEY!

Paul writes in Ephesians 6:4... Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, ubut bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.  This verse stuck with me when I read it in my devotional time with Jesus last week.

It led me to the conclusion that It's time for the MEN to OBEY!

Fathers... it doesn't get any more manly than that.  Not all men are fathers, but all fathers are men.  Paul is speaking directly to men in this passage.  He's speaking to men with responsibilities, with a family, with a wife and children.  He is speaking to the men of the church in Ephesus.

Bring them up in the discipline & instruction of the Lord... When I read this I started to think about it deeply.  I began asking myself how I'm doing at this task, this charge, this calling.  I have two 3 year olds.  Am I bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord?  If this is my calling, how can I do it?  If it's my responsibility, how can I be ready, equipped & prepared?

Then I began thinking about the men in my city?  The word father evokes so many different emotions.  Many have no father.  Many don't know who their father is.  So many in our city have been abused, neglected or flat out ignored by their father.  Some have been brought up by their father, but in the ways of the world rather than the ways of the Lord.

When I think of the word father I think of men who should be the rock that holds and leads a family together by faithfully following and pursuing Jesus.  Instead I too often see men who leave, run from and shirk the responsibilities of family.  Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord? So many fathers don't bring their children up at all.  Mother's are too often left with the full responsibility of raising their children.  Why?  For no other reason than God created them to bear children therefore it's much easier for men to run away, ignore or completely abandon what they see as a "problem."  

What if?  What if the Fathers in your church decided to Bring them [their children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord?  What implications would that have on your family, your church, your community, our nation, our world and most importantly the Kingdom of God?  As I think, as I pray and as I dream of a church full of men who passionately pursue obedience to this instruction from the Apostle Paul, I think of quite a few amazing, life altering, God-glorifiy implications.  

     1) More children than ever would have a father.  Not just a "baby daddy" as so many in our culture describe the man who "simply" impregnated the mother.  Children would actually have a man in their life, married to their mom, who is actively engaged in their up-bringing.  Children would have a daddy who loves and pursues them the way our heavenly Father loves and pursues all of us.

     2) Father's would have an active relationship with Jesus.  In order to bring children up in the ways of the Lord, you have to know the ways of the Lord.  In order to learn the ways of the Lord, Father's would find themselves engaged with the church... the body of Christ.  They would find themselves reading God's word... the Bible.  They would find themselves praying... because that's what the Bible tells them to do.  They would find themselves filled with, led by and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God!  How amazing this would be.

     3) The horrific cycle of shattered homes, absentee fathers and aimless, godless, directionless children would be broken.  Son's would grow up to be godly men.  Daughters would be raised up to marry men of character, men of integrity... men of God.

     4) The Kingdom of God would expand... rapidly!  If only men would listen to this simple instruction from Paul, God's Kingdom would multiply.  When we bring our kids up in the ways of the Lord, we're making them into disciples of Jesus.  We're fulfilling the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).  What do all fully developed disciples do?  They make more disciples.  

From the simple decision to obey God's command... Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, ubut bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord...  we could see an entire city, an entire nation, a whole world flipped upside down by men, husbands and fathers, making the choice to stand up and be what God has called and equipped them to be.

I believe It's time for the MEN to OBEY. By the grace of God... I'm in.  

Will you join me?