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!