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.