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!