Monday, May 19, 2014

Momentum, Challenges, Excitement, Opportunity

Momentum: I blogged about momentum a while back.  It's a tricky thing you know?  Its very essence demands that there be seasons of experiencing the opposite of momentum.  I guess that would be stagnation and/or struggle.  By the grace of God I believe we are experiencing momentum right now.  Thank you for all of your prayers.  I truly believe prayer is the crucial ingredient.  Most of you know that congregational prayer is THE emphasis for The Pathway this year.  We've been gathering monthly for concerts of prayer and asking God to bring spiritual healing to our city.  

As always, God has been gracious.  Easter and everything that went with it (Sponsoring a 5k, Murder Mystery, Good Friday Gathering, pancake breakfast, baptisms and more) has sparked new momentum for our church.  The arrival of our new Associate Pastor and his family coupled with the grace with which our former worship leader has teamed with him has brought momentum.  I shared several blogs ago that I have been asking God to help us eclipse the 100 people barrier in our worship gatherings and this month we averaged 97... he knows what he is doing.  We've launched 3 new groups and one more launches this week.  God is good.

Challenges:  Of course when the Spirit brings momentum challenges ALWAYS arise.  In recent days we have learned that 2 couples who are key leaders in our church are moving on.  They both lead Intentional Communities, they have both been with our church for extended periods of time... they are both incredible.  My first reaction to the news was fear.  After all, I'm always blogging about how we need more leaders.  But God has reminded me, in a very clear and loving way, that when Jesus is your leader, you need not be afraid.  He is going to provide new leaders and even greater opportunities for our church and more importantly for his Kingdom going forward.

Excitement: This perspective has moved me from fear to excitement.  After all, these couples are missionaries.  They truly are.  Now they are going to new cities in different states to saturate their new communities with the gospel.  This is what we prayed for from the beginning of The Pathway.  It's in our vision statement... We want to be a church with beautiful feet... sending missionaries.  We want to pray for them, celebrate what God is doing in them and support them as they go.  There are not many things more exciting than sending missionaries!

Opportunity: With every wave of momentum, with every challenge and with every exciting new venture comes a swell of opportunity.  I would ask you all to pray for new leaders to rise up, new leaders to embrace God's call on their lives and new disciples to lead new Intentional Communities.  There is tremendous spiritual opportunity in Tacoma.  God has been working, is working and will continue to work.  Please join us in praying for the spiritual healing of the people in Tacoma.  We are desperate for it.  We are broken for these people.  We believe the opportunity is endless and we are asking God to continue to provide workers for this incredible mission field!

[14] if my people who are called by my name humble 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 ESV

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Heart of Jesus

Marybeth Coker was a semester intern with The Pathway and decided to stay on as a volunteer staff member.  During staff meeting yesterday she told a powerful story of love demonstrated to her on Mother's Day.  I asked her to share the full story so you could get a glimpse into what I believe is the heart of Jesus displayed through Marybeth and The Pathway church.

His name is Jack.

Here I was, a 20 year old girl in Tacoma Washington standing in line waiting to order at McDonald's. I had nothing but food on my mind when an older homeless man asked me if I had any cash. I had been to this McDonald's a lot, and one thing I had noticed was the amount of homeless people always hanging out right by the front doors. “I only have my card, but I’ll buy you dinner if you sit with me.” I said.

He seemed hesitant at first, but then he agreed.

Now I have never really had the best memory but this man's style won’t let you easily forget him. I had seen him before at this very McDonald's. He is in his early 60’s with the skinniest legs you ever did see. He had on skinny jeans with a white jacket that was lined with fur, three or more hats tied around his neck and curly peppered hair.

“One double quarter pounder, a large fry, and one large Coke.” he went on to order.
 We got our food then went to sit down at a table. “What’s your name?” I asked. “Jack” He answered “My name is Jack, I’m from Nebraska. I played football all through high school and college.” He kept talking and I kept listening. He told me he had been in the military, and that he hadn’t seen his wife and kids in many years. He told me he was addicted to cocaine and that he wasn’t going to give it up for anything.   But one thing I will always remember from that day is. I have never seen someone put as much salt on their fries as he did. HA!  

I went on to tell him that I was from Texas, and I told him about my family, about how I missed them and how much they mean to me. Our meal had finished and I was getting up to leave. He put his hand out for me to shake and I pulled him in for a hug. He kissed me on my cheek before we left and said “Thank you for talking to me”.  I don’t know if he knew I needed someone to talk to just as much as he needed to talk to someone. 

A few weeks had gone by and I hadn’t seen Jack anywhere. I went to the McDonald's every few day to see if he was there, but no luck. Then one Saturday night as I was getting food I heard someone call my name, and there sitting in a booth by himself was Jack. I was so excited! I had been looking for him and there he was! AND he remembered my name! I went up to him and said hello. He started by asking if I had any money. I dug into my wallet and pulled out a 5 dollar bill. “5 dollars?” he laughed. “What am I going to do with 5 dollars?”  

The whole time I was sitting with him he kept looking off talking to something. I knew that whatever he was battling had gotten a hold of him this night. He then told me more stories, but this time they were darker than the one he had told me before. This time I didn’t leave with a happy feeling, I left with a grieving heart. Why was I so sad? This is the second time I had every talked to him.  Why did I feel this way already? As I was getting ready to leave he asked what I was doing the next day. I told him I would be with my church and that he should stop by if he could make it. 

Now I knew this was a long shot but he gave me his word that he would come.
The next morning I got to Franklin Elementary where The Pathway gathers for worship around the same time I always do and started setting up. Once things were all ready to go we sat down to pray before everyone else arrived. Someone asked if we had any prayer requests and I asked if they would pray for my friend Jack, that he would come to our gathering and just for his life in general.

We prayed and went on with our Sunday morning routine. The gathering had already started and I was leading the middle school class back to where we normally meet when grumpy old Jack came walking in the building. I won’t lie, I didn’t think he would come the first time I asked him to come.  I didn’t even know the next time I would see him so seeing that old man's face that morning brought joy to my heart.

Jack has been coming to our worship gathering for 6 months now.
He walks right in, every week, with a bag of chips, and a 2 liter of Dr.Pepper.
He’s here every Sunday, almost as early as the set-up crew.

I love this old man.

I love that he brings me my things when I leave them lying around.
I love how he acts like a grumpy old fart but truly has the sweetest heart.
I love when I see him talking with other people in the church.
But most of all, I love that my church love’s my friend.

This past Sunday was Mother’s day. I felt it again, I missed my family. It’s funny how God works, he always seems to send me a little gift of joy when I need it.
I was sitting down, waiting for the service to start when Jack came up to me. “Here” he said, handing me something. It was a plastic grocery bag. Inside were two bags of chocolate and a card.  I laughed when I read “Happy Mother’s day to you!” on the front of the card (seeing that I’m not a mother I thought it was funny). As I opened the card to read the inside, 4 crinkled up dollar bills fell out. 

Sometimes I feel like the little things in life don’t matter. That if I don't stop and say hello to the checker at the store it won't make a difference. If I don’t hold a door open for someone they’ll live. But these things do matter. If I would have told Jack that day at McDonald's that I didn’t have any money that would have been it. I would have never sat and talked to him, never been so frustrated with him because he was being rude to other people, and never seen the love of a Mother’s day card with 4 dollars in it. 

I loved that gift so much, but the thing I love most is I don’t just see jack as my friend, but Jack sees me as his friend too.  
Like I said before, I find it funny how God works.  On this particular day he gave me joy.  God gave me a gift.

His name is Jack.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Easter Update

I want to thank you all for praying for our church and all the ways we have been trying to bring the gospel to our community before, during and after Easter.  As usual, God has been leaving us amazed... absolutely amazed!  Easter Sunday was incredible.  We had 117 people Easter morning which was exciting and fun beyond description.  What an honor to get to share the story of the resurrection with people who understand its power as well as those who do not... yet.  I was worshiping Jesus simply for his grace to empower so many of our people to invite their lost and unchurched friends and family members.  The people of The Pathway stepped up boldly and invited folks in their circles of influence and I could not be more thankful!

Most of you know we were praying that Easter would not just be one high attendance Sunday.  We have been praying that God would maximize the season for his glory.  This past Sunday we had 85 people gather.  My heart is a bit torn.  The months leading up to Easter we have been averaging around 70... so to have 85 is tremendous growth.  But I want you all to know that I've been asking God to move our worship gathering beyond 100 people this year.  I still believe he can do that and I would ask that you pray that this Easter spark turns into a flame of worship & kingdom growth.

We also launched 3 new groups Easter week.  One new Intentional Community and 2 new connect groups... groups that will hopefully be a first step into Intentional Community.  Again, mixed emotions.  We've had people embrace all 3 groups, but not as many new people as we had hoped... yet!  That being said, we've already seen new people join groups this week.  Sometimes I think it just takes time and schedule adjustments for people to get involved.  Please pray that these groups lead people into authentic, messy, beautiful, missional and effective Intentional Community.  That's where disciples are made.  That's where the church gathers and scatters.  There is so much potential right now I am just asking God to help me stay out of his way!

117 people on Easter Sunday.  From 5 Intentional Communities to 6.  From 0 connect groups to 2.  We baptized 3 on Sunday evening... what a party!!!  There are changes for us on the horizon.  We need more leaders... please pray for more leaders.  Kelli and I went on a walk last night and just talked about how much we love where God has placed us.  Is it hard at times?  Absolutely.  But we love what God is doing in Tacoma.  We can't wait to see what the future holds!