Monday, June 23, 2014

Tacoma Orphans

I'm sitting in my office right now listening to a bunch of college students from Ada, OK talking about meatball sandwiches & Pringles as they get ready to head to the YMCA for a shower before going to sleep on small air mattresses on a hard floor... and I love it!  We actually have two mission teams here right now from FBC Charlotte, TX and Trinity Baptist in Ada, OK.  They just wrapped up a day of serving our local Boys and Girls Club, volunteering at a low income apartment complex, prayer walking our neighborhood and having an intentional cook-out at the park where they'll be hosting a block party on Friday.  But through all the hard work, communal showering and bad air mattresses, no one is complaining.  They are all here to serve Jesus and I am excited to see how Jesus responds!

Last night I sat on the floor at the spot during our mission team orientation.  Stacie Hooks has led a solid team from our church in planning and preparing for the mission team and all the ways they'll be serving while they are here.  It was not that long ago that if something was going to get done, led, planned or organized, I had to do it.  I'm so blessed now to be surrounded by so many people who are sharing the load and carrying the mission forward.

As I listened to Stacie talk to the mission team and go over the schedule I was humbled to think of how God brought Stacie to our church.  She was actually a crazy young college student who I hired when I worked at Camp WOW years ago.  She came to serve with us here in Tacoma for a few weeks and she's now been here a few years.  Up next was Kyler Phillips.  She was sharing with the team about some service projects they would be doing this week.  As I listened to Kyler talk I was in awe.  She's a passionate and confident young woman who has lived in Tacoma for two years with her husband Chase.  But I will always remember Kyler as the nervous, passionate, excited summer intern who came to Tacoma full of questions about life, ministry and church planting.

Then came Jason Downing.  Jason was actually an intern with another church plant 5 years ago just south of Tacoma.  I happened to know the planter and he let us "borrow" Jason one day a week as we learned our new city and began to plant the gospel.  Jason stood before the mission teams sharing about all the ways that they would be praying for the people of Tacoma this week.  I was amazed that God called him to plant his life here over a year ago.

And then came Adam Forgety.  Adam is our new Associate Pastor and worship leader.  He stood up to lead us in a time of worship.  One of the churches that is here this week, Trinity, is Adam and his wife Khylee's old church.  Adam was the worship pastor at Trinity for about 5 years and he and Khylee led multiple short term teams to serve with us in Tacoma.  It was this time last year that Adam first began to feel God calling him to Tacoma.  Amazing.

As I sat there on that floor, in awe of all God has done and the ways he has called people out of their comfort zone and into an incredible city that sits in the shadow of Seattle, I began to think of all of our Tacoma orphans.  That's what we have come to call all those who have left the comforts of home, family and southern hospitality to serve Jesus in the city we have come to love and call home.

Tacoma Orphans:
Rebecca Hurst was the first.  She is my wife's best friend and old college roommate.  I still remember chatting with her on the Internet when she told me God was calling her to come from Austin, TX to Tacoma to help us plant The Pathway.  Five years later Becca is still here and still serving.  She came here as a single young missionary and God has brought her a husband and most recently a precious baby boy.

Laura Bravo is one of those people that makes me smile just typing her name.  She came to Camp WOW years ago as a camper.  She then served as a high school intern that led to me hiring her as a college summer staffer.  Laura was going to serve as a missionary in Calgary and got stuck at Seatac due to some customs issues.  She new we lived in the area and ended up staying with us for more than a month.  She fell in love with Tacoma and after serving in Canada for a year, came back to be a part of The Pathway.  She too came as a young, single woman and over the last several years God has brought her an awesome godly husband and she just graduated from the University of Washington, Tacoma.  Amazing.

Jenna Jones planned to serve with us for a couple weeks with Stacie Hooks.  Now a couple years later I can't imagine The Pathway without Jenna.  She took our Kids Ministry from about 6 kids to over 30 today and I believe is ready and equipped by God to lead us to see even more families and kids fall in love with Jesus!

Chase Phillips is Kyler's husband that I mentioned earlier.  Chase came to serve with us on a short term mission trip.  He then decided to marry Kyler (good idea) and they moved to Tacoma a week after getting married.

Khylee Forgety is Adam's partner in crime and in marriage and the mother of their newly adopted baby boy!  Her journey was and is an amazing testimony of faith and obedience.  Although Adam had been wrestling with a call to Tacoma for a year, Khylee had not even considered until about a month before they moved here.  But she didn't come kicking and screaming (at least not too much).  She wrestled with God, prayed, sought wise and trusted counsel and then said "yes" to Jesus.

Marybeth Coker came to serve with us as a semester missionary and decided that there was no reason to leave.  We don't know how long Marybeth will be with us but we are so thankful that she is here.  She has served in our Kids Ministry, pioneered our assimilation process and done just about anything else she's been asked to do (including jumping into the ice cold puget sound!).

I think I can speak for all of us in saying that I love being a Tacoma Orphan.  Although we are far from our families and many things that are comfortable, God has given us a new family that we would have never been a part of had he not called us out.  God is using these orphans, these missionaries, in mighty and powerful ways.  I'm thankful that my family is not alone here in Tacoma. God has provided the right people, at the right time, every step of the way!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Interns Arrive Today!

I'm incredibly excited that our interns are flying in today!  We have 6 college interns serving with our church this summer, the most we have ever had.  I'm in awe of God, as usual, as he takes something small and grows it to be something powerfully effective for his kingdom and glory.

This year we were able to bring in 6 interns thanks to a unique partnership between the North American Mission Board, Fielder Church in Arlington, TX and Oklahoma Baptist University.  In all I think they are deploying around 25 interns to the Seattle area.  It's been so encouraging to see groups of people coming together to help saturate our region with the gospel.

Please be praying for our interns.  Our overall objective for them this summer is to help them learn how to be more effective missionaries when they return home.  We want them to learn how to be compassionate, bold, humble servants of Jesus who love God, love others and speak the gospel with grace and love.  They will be living in a local apartment complex in a pretty rough area.  It will be a stretch for them to learn to live incarnationally on a daily basis.  They will be volunteering at the local boys and girls club, hosting community block parties, loving their neighbors in tangible ways and joining some of our existing Intentional Communities.

This is not designed to be an easy summer for the interns.  It's not designed to be a summer filled with menial behind the scenes tasks.  This internship was created with disciple-making in mind.  It's challenging, exhausting and at times can be lonely.  But it is also exhilarating, stretching, life-changing and our prayer is that it is fruitful.  We're praying that our interns have the opportunity lead many people to Jesus.  We're praying that they have the change to connect new believers to the body of Christ.  We're asking God to give them the chance to sharpen and use their spiritual gifts for the glory of God and courageously depend on the Holy Spirit to empower them to engage the gospel in ways they never thought possible.

Some specific prayers: *As you are able, please pray for our interns by name.  Consider choosing one or two to pray for daily...
Paige Worthington, Gage Johnson, Zack Danyla, Miriam Ingham, Michael Baker, Leena Vappula

1) Please pray for safe and timely arrival.  At least 2 of our interns will be a day late because of bad weather and delayed flights.

2) Pray for quick assimilation into Tacoma life.

3) Pray for a supernatural open doors with their neighbors.  Pray for gospel conversations and gospel opportunities beginning week 1.

4) Please pray against the attack of Satan.  We've learned a lot and experienced a lot in our four plus years in Tacoma.  One of the most difficult and sobering lessons we've learned is the reality of spiritual warfare.  However, we've also learned in new and fresh ways the victory found in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Please pray against discouragement and pray for faith to overcome all obstacles of the evil one.

5) Pray for life change.  Our number one priority is kingdom growth.  Not just in Tacoma but all over this world.  We believe if our interns experience true life change and begin to live more passionately and more missionally when they return home, the kingdom will grow and the internship will have been a success!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Inside the mind of a pastor/church planter

I never stop thinking.  I don't know what it is, but I just can't shut my mind off.  I wanted to share with you some things that have been going on in my mind.  This particular post isn't to share any answers, insights or to give you the end result of my journey through some tough questions.  This is just to say, Hey, I'm a pastor in Tacoma and these are some of the questions I'm having to wrestle with.  Please pray for me.

-I'm wrestling with how to gauge people's commitment to community.  If it's simply based on average attendance at a weekday gathering, we're missing the point.  But if we don't examine it, we're neglecting a core piece of biblical Christianity.  As we grow, how do I know if our people are truly engaging Intentional Community?

-I'm wrestling with gay marriage.  Now before you get all up in arms and think I don't believe in marriage being between one man and one woman, I will refer you to my Re-defining Marriage series (  I absolutely hold a biblical view of marriage.  But my state and my city have embraced same-sex marriage and I genuinely love people who are a part of the GLBT community.  I've had same-sex couples ask me to marry them.  I've had same-sex couples share with me the joy they feel for being allowed to marry.  We have friends who are in same-sex relationships that have children together.  I'm praying that those friends will come to Christ.  And when they do, they will ask me if they should get a divorce and break up the only family their kids have ever known.  They'll probably ask me a million other questions I haven't even thought of.  And when they do, how will I respond?  How would Jesus respond?

-I'm wrestling with marijuana.  I've had someone smoke it during a worship gathering.  I know that sounds crazy but I think I was one of the few people who even noticed.  Smoking pot is legal in my state.  You've heard all the arguments, but for Christians it has always been easy to just say, "Well, it's against the law so...".  Well, it's not against the law anymore.  When people ask me how to approach it, I'm wrestling with how to respond.

-I'm wrestling with what makes a heterosexual couple truly married in the eyes of God?  If you grew up in a solid family like I did, you may value marriage, even the marriage license, a great deal.  But what if you come from a situation where divorce is rampant?  That certificate can be signed and then torn up in the blink of an eye.  Where's the value in that?  So when a couple tells me they want to get married in the eyes of God, but they don't want to make it legal in the eyes of the state of Washington, I wrestle with how to respond.  The state of Washington doesn't care if they're legally married or not.  Everything in me can't comprehend why they would not want to get legally married.  But I don't have their history and their wounds.  I'm wrestling with it.

I'll stop there.  Wherever you are, your pastor is wrestling with the same things, similar things, or will be wrestling with all of these things and more in the near future.  I'm not really looking for advice... your pastor probably isn't either.  I'm just looking for genuine prayer that the Holy Spirit would guide me as I wrestle with these questions.  Thank you for praying for me and my church.  Don't forget to pray for your pastor and your church!