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

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!