Monday, March 31, 2014

The stars at night are big and bright...

The alarm clock in the Higg house is set for 3:30am as we begin our journey south... deep in the heart of Texas!  I was honored to be asked by one of our long-time partner churches, FBC Charlotte, to preach their upcoming revival services.  They were also incredibly gracious to invite my beautiful bride and kiddos along and allow us to come 5 days early so we could get some much needed R&R before the revival services kick off on Sunday.  We're thankful to be spending 4 nights and 5 days at Alto Frio Baptist encampment.  This is a place near and dear to my heart as I grew up going to camp there as a pre-teen and teenager.  I'm sure I'll get in a lot less trouble on this trip than I did back in those days.

Rest is something I must confess I tend to sin in.  I know some of us tend to wear our exhaustion as a badge of honor.  We proudly proclaim how many hours a week we work and how many extra-curricular activities we are able to juggle.  But for me, a lack of rest is nothing to brag about.  It's a direct result of my lack of faith in the God of the universe to handle things in my world while I take a breather.  It's really ridiculous when you say it out loud.  Resting is something God modeled for us in the creation account.  Resting is something God commanded when he gave the law to Moses.  Resting is something Jesus modeled unapologetically.

So why is it so hard for so many of us?

Again, I know that for me it's simply a lack of faith.  It's something I have to be on my guard against and it's something I have to repent from when I fall short.  All that to say, I'm so thankful for our upcoming rest and I am asking God to grant us a peaceful vacation.

Preaching these revival services is a new for me too.  I told Pastor Duane at FBC Charlotte that the "old guys" are a lot more intense than us younger dudes.  They consistently prepare 2-3 messages a week while I pour my heart and soul into preparing one... and find myself spent every time.  Now that I've been called on to preach 5 messages in 4 days I know that it is something that can only be done through the supernatural indwelling and outpouring of the Holy Spirit!  I'm excited to see what God does.  I don't want this to be another week.  I'm praying that God would do something in Charlotte Texas that none of us could ever imagine!

I was also reminded in an email from my mom this morning of the awesome, life changing power that can come from revival services.  It was on the final night of a 6 day revival service back in 1990 that an 8 year old little red-head gave his life to Jesus!  Thank God for any and every opportunity for the gospel to be preached and the Holy Spirit to move in people's lives.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Humbled & South Africa

My last post was entitled discouraged.  It has been a pretty tough season of life and ministry and I really just wanted to do what I've always done with this blog... paint a real picture for you of life and church planting.  Well, the result of the post 2 weeks ago was incredibly humbling and all I can do is say thank you.  Thank you for reading this blog.  Thank you for caring about me, my family, The Pathway and the city of Tacoma.  Thank you for all the kind and encouraging words, texts, Facebook messages, e-mails and even snail mail cards you have lavished on me the last couple of weeks.  I'm humbled by your care.  I'm humbled by your encouragement.  I'm humbled by your love.

I'm also encouraged.  I know that God has called me and my family to love this city.  We don't ever plan on leaving this city.  We hope to see our kids graduate high school in this city.  We hope and pray that God's Spirit will transform and awaken out city in a unique and powerful way.  God has given so much encouragement to me, by his grace, since last week.  My son Jagen was sick with a pretty high temperature on the night that my Intentional Community gathers.  I texted our IC to cancel and one of our ladies texted back and said, "Why don't we just meet at my house and I'll lead?"  So encouraged that while we were at home with our kids, our IC still gathered and grew together with Jesus.

I'm encouraged by lives moving toward Jesus.  A friend that I've been meeting with who had not yet confessed Jesus as Lord had a break through last week.  Glory to God!  Another friend I've been spending time with texted me and asked if he could gather with my IC.  What?  Awesome!  God has just been lavishing his love on me, my family and my church the last couple weeks and for that I am incredibly thankful.  I know it is a result of your prayers.  I'm encouraged.

I'm also in awe of what God is doing in our midst.  Many of you were praying for our first ever global mission team.  We got to see the beauty of the body of Christ working together as another local church invited us to go with them to serve Jesus in South Africa.  While there, our three missionaries worked with a pastor and his church to serve people for over a week in a small, struggling township in South Africa.  Below is a video that paints a picture of all that the team did, the people they were able to love on and minister to, and the glory that was given to God in the process.

I love you all.  Just as Paul said, I thank God every time I remember you!


video

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Discouraged.

When Kelli and I felt called to help plant churches in the Seattle area we had no idea what to expect.  We had dreams, we had hopes, we had lots of questions, but in reality we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.  I could literally write a book on all the ups, downs and in between feelings that we have felt and experienced over the last 6 years both in Snoqualmie and Tacoma.  Church planting, like many things in life, is a spiritual and emotional roller coaster.  The best approach is to avoid letting the good times get you too high or the bad times get you too low.  But come on, we're human right?  That's way easier said than done.

I remember the first thing Kelli and I tried to do as a part of the church plant in Snoqualmie was a Bible study for new and not-yet believers.  We were hosting it in the club house of our apartment complex and we had invited quite a few people.  Our hopes were high but again, in reality, we didn't really know what to expect.  We showed up, set-up and waited.  We waited.  And waited and waited some more.  Finally, after a lot of waiting... we accepted the reality that no one was going to show up!  It was hard, frustrating and discouraging.

Over the last 4+ years we have experienced many of the same emotions.  I remember when we first started a Community Group in our home.  I would literally have to call and remind people up until the last minute and then I would have to go and pick them up just to ensure that they would come.  There were many days when almost no one came.  It was awkward, hard and discouraging.

Then The Pathway began having weekly worship gatherings.  I remember spending Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings on the phone and on Facebook trying to keep fresh in people's minds that we were in fact gathering for worship.  I knew that if they didn't come... it might be family worship time... as in, just my family!  These days were hard, exhausting, uncertain and often discouraging.

But through it all, God gave us the strength and courage to persevere.  We kept going and I remember reaching a point where I was no longer afraid that no one would show up at our house for our Intentional Community gathering.  I remember getting to a point where I knew that we would have people at our gathering every week.  It was a drastic change for me.  It actually left me with a feeling of relief instead of satisfaction.  I was relieved that we were no longer alone, but I was not satisfied because I knew, as I still know today, that God has not called us to simply gather.  He's called us to scatter and multiply.  He's called us to keep growing!

As time goes by and momentum begins to wane, memories of those discouraging times are still very fresh and real in my mind.  I do not want to go backward.  I do not want to stop reaching people for Jesus.  I do not want to stop seeing lives changed by the gospel, watching people gain a hunger for worshiping Jesus come on Sunday and celebrate what God has done.  I don't want to stop seeing community birthed, grown and multiplied intentionally.

Here's where I am today.  I'm a little more than a little discouraged.  But I'm definitely not ready to jump off the Tacoma Narrows Bridge =-)!  September, October and November were great months for The Pathway.  We saw numbers go up on Sundays and most importantly in our Intentional Community (IC) gatherings!  We baptized 5 people in November and you could feel the excitement growing in our congregation.  Then December hit and it felt like we slammed into a brick wall.  Our worship numbers went way down but I was still encouraged because our IC numbers remained consistent.  For a newer church, in the holiday season, that's a big deal!  It showed me that our people still understood the importance of community, even if they weren't able to make it on Sunday morning.

January was honestly confusing for me.  Our worship attendance was back up but our IC attendance was back down.  I don't really know why.  It's the exact opposite of what happened in December.  Then came February, our worship numbers plummeted to the point of awkward on some Sundays.  I haven't seen our IC numbers but it appears they too have declined.  Again, I'm not sure why.

So what's the point in saying all this?  Is The Pathway becoming more concerned with numbers than spiritual growth?  I hope not.  I would say absolutely not.  But I can't help but notice in the midst of all the numbers, in the midst of the inconsistency, that we haven't seen anyone place their faith in Jesus.  We have one person awaiting baptism (praise Jesus for that!!!), but we've been praying big prayers.  We've been asking God to multiply us, to use us to reach our friends, family, co-workers and neighbors for Jesus.  But that doesn't happen by accident.  That only happens through commitment, demonstrated by consistency which always takes sacrifice.  It will only happen if we make the choice to re-arrange our lives around the gospel.

We MUST be praying for life change.  We desperately need you to be praying with us.  And we must remember the most foundational passage of Scripture for The Pathway found in Romans 10:13-15... Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  How will they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  And how will they hear without a preacher?  How will they preach unless they are sent?  How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news?

I'm a little discouraged.  But by the grace of God I have a lot of hope.  I believe that the people of The Pathway who have a relationship with Jesus desire others to know Jesus too.  I believe that the Holy Spirit is uber powerful (that's right... I said uber), and I believe he has not stopped working in the hearts and lives of people all around us.  I'm praying that I will daily remember that people are not going to hear the gospel if I don't share it with them.  Preaching a sermon on Sunday is not enough.  I must go and engage the lost in my neighborhood and share with them the hope I have in Christ.

Then, I pray, by God's grace, we will see the waters of baptism full to overflowing.  We will see lives being radically changed.  We will see not only consistency, but growth in community and in our worship gathering.  But most importantly, God will be glorified by the obedience of his people and the growth of his kingdom!

In this moment I am truly ENCOURAGED!