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.