Monday, November 24, 2014

Adventures in Church Planting: The UPS Experiement


Those 3 letters mark the beginning of a new experiment for our family and church.  Today I start a seasonal job as a "driver helper."  I told Jagen and Rylan I'm basically Santa's helper!  Our attitude about this experiment? Gratitude.  We're so thankful that God has given me the opportunity to do 3 things over the next 5 weeks:

1) Put something fresh and new on my resume in case I need to work another job part-time or full-time in the future.

2) Be proactive in our personal and church finances.  I feel like so many lessons I've learned are a result of the pain and struggle of the planters that have gone before me.  I've seen so many planters struggle financially and have to react to unexpected or unplanned budget shortfalls.  My first week in Washington I helped a planter pack up and go back "home."  I've seen planters search hard for jobs but find themselves unqualified for anything other than pastoral ministry.  I've seen planters lose income, lose their homes and lose the church God called them to plant and pastor because of financial hardships.  I'm thankful for the opportunity to be proactive in our approach to church & personal finances.

3) I'm thankful to be able to relate to the people I pastor in a new and fresh way.  For the most part the people in our church work hard... really hard.  They don't work typical 9-5 jobs.  They balance two jobs.  They make minimum wage.  I can speak to them about the struggle, perseverance, hard work, doing everything for the Lord.  But at the end of the day, being a pastor is not like what they do.  It's harder in some ways.  It's easier in some ways.  But it's completely different.  I'm thankful to have gone out and applied for a job, interviewed for that job, and I get to work that job.  I get to balance 2 jobs, family, my own personal walk with Jesus, my own personal mission field.

At the end of the day, we're grateful for all the ways that God cares for our family.  I'm thankful to be able to work physically and emotionally.

We're calling it an experiment for a reason.  We don't really know what to expect.  Please pray for us as I work long days and Kelli bears and even heavier load than normal with our home and kids.  Pray that God uses this opportunity for his glory and ultimately to grow his kingdom over the long haul.

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Vision Accomplished... but definitely not finished!

I feel like there is a lot of conversation in the world in general and church planting circles in particular regarding vision and mission.

What is vision?

What is mission?

Are they the same?

Are they necessary?

I definitely don't have perfect answers to these questions, but I do of course have opinions and lessons learned.  I read a book by Andy Stanley years ago called Visioneering that I highly recommend.  It impacted me in a huge way as I approached casting and pursuing vision in the context of The Pathway church.

In his book, Stanley defines vision this way... Vision is the belief that something could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be.  

This definition has stuck in my mind over the years and has helped me with vision clarity, vision casting and most importantly it has helped me battle vision drift (not perfectly, but effectively).

In short... for me personally and The Pathway church as a whole... clear vision is helpful and non-negotiable.  Even having a cheesy vision statement has helped us keep our eyes on the ball, work hard going after the same things... unity... and knowing when to adjust and when to celebrate.

The first part of this post is for celebrating.  Specifically for celebrating God, his grace, his power and what he has accomplished in Tacoma, through The Pathway over the past 5 years.  My hope is the second part of the post will help you know where The Pathway's going, how we believe we can get there and how you can pray for us moving forward.

Vision Accomplished.  How can I make that statement?  We're definitely not finished.  Jesus hasn't come back yet.  Our church is not financially self-sustaining.  We haven't seen gospel saturation in Tacoma's 8 neighborhoods.  There's so much more to do so how can I write, with a straight face, vision accomplished.

I think sometimes Christians get used to setting goals and casting lofty vision, assuming that it will never be accomplished.  Well, for me, that's not the point of vision.  Vision is something that we aim for.  It's something that can be accomplished and that needs freshening and recasting over time.  For churches and Christians, mission never changes. Our mission is to make disciples.  We can state that in a million different ways, but that's our mission.  Not because I said so, but because Jesus said so.  He's God so I think we should do what he says!

The Pathway's vision statement over the past 5 years reads like this: We want to be a church with beautiful feet (Romans 10:14-15) committed to walking with our city down The Pathway of life by serving  our communities intentionally, sharing the gospel with those we serve, showing people how to grow in Jesus and sending ordinary missionaries to start new Intentional Communities and new churches in Tacoma and beyond.

That statement has kept us focused for years.  As I tried to seek God for the future of The Pathway, he clearly said, Vision accomplished. 

By his grace we have become a church known for serving people and serving them well.

For God's glory alone we have seen a church birthed by sharing the gospel with people personally, passionately, clearly and regularly.

Although not perfectly, we've seen people learn how to grow in Jesus by living life with an Intentional Community and through one-on-one and small group discipleship relationships.

And, by God's working alone we have been able to send out numerous groups of people to birth new Intentional Communities, we sent our first 3 missionaries on a short term trip to South Africa in February and we were able to launch out Tommy Abbott to start The Way in Seattle's U-district.

Wow!  In all of that there have been successes and failures, victories and defeats, joys and sorrows.  But most importantly, God's kingdom has grown and his glory has been made known!

What now?

New vision... remember, we're not even close to finished!

I've prayed and prayed about the direction of our church.  After talking with our leaders, getting input and feedback and most importantly after hearing from God through an extended time of silence and solitude... the Spirit has crafted a fresh vision.

If you're really interested I'd encourage you to listen to our 4 part vision series at

In short, here's what we believe could be and should be through The Pathway in Tacoma over the coming years.

Vision Statement:
The Pathway exists to reflect God’s glory and make disciples by becoming a reproducing church in 5 specific areas. We are committed to reproducing disciples, reproducing leaders, reproducing Intentional Communities, reproducing worship gatherings and reproducing churches in Tacoma, across the nation and throughout the world.

Reproduction.  That's the word we've been sharing with our church and it's what I hope will capture our hearts and minds over the coming years.  It's what we believe could be and we are literally being fueled by the conviction that it should be. Our ultimate goal is to reflect God's glory and the way we believe we can best do that is to make reproduction our aim.  If it's good and God glorifying we want to reproduce it.

But how?

Mission statement:
We exist to reflect God's glory by reproducing disciples through Intentional Community.

The mission is how we accomplish the vision.  We believe we can accomplish our vision most effectively as we engage in and whole heartedly pursue Intentional Community.

Please pray for us and with us as we go hard after Reproduction as a means to reflecting God's glory to a city and a world who desperately needs Jesus!