Monday, December 14, 2015

Discouragement & Purpose

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of YOUR salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.

     Psalm 51:10-13

This Psalm has meant so much to me in so many different ways, at so many different seasons of life, for so many years.  I was in high school back in the late 90's when my youth pastor, Garfield Green, challenged our youth group to memorize part of this Psalm (thanks Gar!).  It always struck me that David asked God to restore to me the joy of YOUR salvation.  It's such a sweet and necessary reminder that there is a Savior and I'm not him!  In the good times and the hard I so often think about me, pray about me, and focus on me.  In reality, all hope, joy, life and peace is not, thankfully, found in me.  Such a humbling and powerful truth.

This week I'm leaning into this passage for 2 specific reasons: discouragement & purpose.

Discouragement:  Those of you who know me best know that it has been a hard 6 months... spiritually & emotionally.  Just hard.  While some of the hard has been a result of frustrating and messy situations, circumstances, and relationships, some of it has just been the result of that scary, intimidating, 4-letter word... life.  In the last 6 months (and I'm estimating here), we've seen more people leave our church due to sin, relational issues, and other disagreements, than ever before. I know this is a part of life and ministry, but I refuse to accept it.  God has hard wired me to care about people and to want for them what they often don't even want for themselves.  Reconciliation, spiritual growth, humility, repentance, and more... much more.

My heart aches for those who were unable to find those things as a part of The Pathway church.  I trust Jesus with each and everyone of these situations, but I'd be lying if I said they didn't affect me personally.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a strong sense of personal responsibility and pastoral failure every time someone walks away from our church.  This along with many changes in my world... going from a 4 person staff to a 2 person staff, having a brand new baby enter our world, seeing many of our long-term partnerships begin (necessarily so) to come to an end, and on and on the list could go... I've just been experiencing some significant discouragement.  Thankfully not depression... but discouragement none-the-less.

But there's hope!  I'm so thankful for the hope of the gospel.  That's where David's Psalm comes into play.  David had screwed up royally (the whole Bathsheba incident) and had every reason to be discouraged.  But his prayer was this ...renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation...  Those are the words, that is the prayer, I'm leaning into during this hopefully short-time of discouragement. Why?  Because God was faithful to David and because God has always been faithful to me.  When I am weak, he makes me strong (2 Corinthians 12:10)!  Truer words have never been written!

Purpose.  This passage of Scripture has also been helping me remember my purpose and the process that often precedes the accomplishment of the purpose.  My entire existence is wrapped up in my relationship with Christ.  I exist by him, through him, and for him.  I believe that with everything I am and I am incredibly thankful for that reality.

Our church's mission statement reflects my own... We exist to reflect God's glory by reproducing disciples.  That's what I want to do more than anything else in the world.  I want to reflect the glory of my creator and reproduce followers of Jesus.  That's it.  Everything in my life is wrapped up in those 2 purposes.  Our family is on mission for the glory of God.  Kelli and I are discipling our kids for the glory of God.  We spend time in christian community and in our local community for the glory of God and the purpose of making disciples.  So when that doesn't happen, it's incredibly difficult.

This year The Pathway has baptized 6 people and you better believe I praise God for each and everyone of the six.  But 6 is not enough.  If my purpose as a disciple is to make more disciples.  If our purpose as a church is to make more disciples.  If I really believe making more disciples is what reflects God's glory in the greatest possible way, then 6 isn't enough!  We can't be satisfied with six.  We just can't.  I just can't.

And that's when I have to preach to myself the truth of Psalm 51.  After David cries out to the Lord to restore to me the joy of your salvation...  he then proclaims the inevitable result of that restoration of joy.  Then I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will return to you.

God doesn't operate off of a formula.  It's not as simple as a+b=c.  If it was, I'd have it mastered.  But David was a man after God's heart according to the Scriptures and David's prayer indicates that a restoration of joy from God's salvation can lead to effective disciple-making.  When joy is restored, sinner's are converted.

That's my prayer this week.  Lord Jesus, restore to me the joy of YOUR salvation... Then I will teach transgressors YOUR ways, and sinners will be converted to YOU.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Please pray for me

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account...  -Hebrews 13:16

To lead a local church is an incredible, intimidating, exhilarating, terrifying, and humbling calling and responsibility.  It's a role that for a long time I did not feel like I was called to play.  But by grace alone, the Good Shepherd lovingly and clearly led me to not only plant, but pastor The Pathway church.  That Jesus would allow me to do what I do still leaves me very much in awe and when I take the time to stop and reflect, I'm so very grateful for the role God has called me to play.

The Pathway church is a blessing to me.  The people exhaust me, frustrate me, intimidate me, cause me to stay up at night worrying, praying, crying, and praying some more.  But they also give me so much hope.  Hope in the power of life change.  Hope in the church as gospel proclaimers and disciple-makers.  Hope that an Acts 2 type of church is still possible.  Hope that authentic, transparent, biblical community is real and can still not only happen, but flourish in 21st century America.  I'm so blessed by and thankful for The Pathway.

By God's grace, from the beginning of this church, I had more leaders than I can remember instill in me the importance of retreating annually for the purpose of prayer, allowing Jesus to refresh my own soul, more prayer, and planning.  It's something that is only possibly by the grace of God and through the generosity of The Pathway partners that I can do this.  But I believe it has been crucial to my own spiritual health (I know this because around September or October every year my wife starts asking me if I have my retreat planned yet... as if I'm getting a little on edge or even grumpy! =-) and by extension the health of our church.

I share all this for the purpose of asking you, if you are able, to stop and pray for me over the next couple of days.  Here are some specific things you can pray for...
     -Pray for my beautiful and loving wife as she is at home with Jagen, Rylan, & Hazel.
     -Pray that I would be able to not only slow down physically, but slow down mentally and  
      emotionally enough to really just sit at the feet of Jesus.
     -Pray that God would give me clear direction for preaching in 2016
     -Pray that God would give me clear direction on how to use mission teams from our partner
      churches in Texas and Oklahoma
     -Pray for God to really give me clear direction on how to invest more deeply and effectively in the
      men in our church.  We've got some incredible men and I strongly desire to lead and shepherd
      them well.
     -Pray for God's will to be done in and through me on this retreat.

Thank you all!

Monday, November 2, 2015

6 years

I am sitting at a coffee shop.  It's something I've done quite a bit of over the last 6 years.  When I moved to Washington I didn't even like coffee!  Now I love it!  Some might even use the word addiction!  But as I sit here, with my cup of coffee and my computer, I am so thankful to God for all that he has done over the last 6 years.  I thought I would just share a few things I'm thankful for with you...

1. God gave us a home.  Many of you can probably relate to this, but I've always been nomadic.  I'm an Air Force brat.  We were constantly moving... and I really do look back on that with fond memories.  Home was family and family was home.  That is important and I'm so glad I learned that at an early age.  But there's something unique and special about being able to call a specific city... home.  Kelli and I lived in Oklahoma for a time, but we knew it was temporary.  We lived in Snoqualmie for a time, but again, we knew it was an apprenticeship.  It was temporary.  We even got a little nervous about finding where God was calling us to plant our lives.  We just didn't know how on earth we would be able to find a city and make it home.  But then God showed us Tacoma.  And we learned quickly that we don't make a city our home... God does that.  He put us in Tacoma and he put Tacoma in us.  In 6 years we've fallen in love with a place and people.  We've purchased a house.  We've birthed... excuse me... Kelli has birthed 3 beautiful Tacomans.  God gave us a home and for that I am so thankful.

2. God saved my children.  I know this sounds a little extreme and I don't want to be over-dramatic.  But as I look back on the birth of my first 2 children, I realize how naive we were to the health issues they faced.  They were born at 2lbs 14 oz. and 3lbs 14oz.  They were NICU babies for 6 weeks!  They would literally forget to breathe and alarms would go off in the hospital and we learned, with the help of the nurses, how to "remind" them to breathe.  We spent our first Christmas as a family of 4 in Tacoma General hospital.  Over the first 2 years of their lives they battled more health issues than I can even remember... MRSA, Scarlet Fever, severe ulcers, a hernia, and for Jagen what was eventually diagnosed as Fructose Intolerance.  There was a day when they would not have survived all this.  But God has allowed humanity to progress to the point where they could not only survive, but thrive.  Today they are perfect.  Well, not perfect, but perfectly healthy.  You would never know they had any issues.  You would never know they were preemies.  God saved my children and for that I am so thankful.

3. Living on the corner of 19th and L.  It has become a joke in my family that Kelli should write a book entitled "Living on the corner of 19th and L."  We had no idea what we were doing when we moved into that house.  It was in the heart of the Hilltop, a neighborhood whose reputation is much worse than its reality, but is still far different than the suburban life to which we were accustomed.  19th St was on one of the busiest in town.  It was kitty-corner (that's right... it's not catty-corner... 6 years has converted me) to the "scary" corner store where lots of "stuff" happens.  We learned quickly that we didn't need cable, we could just look out the window!  We learned what to do when there's a shooting and the police tie the caution tape to your fence (What did we learn?  Call your husband and let him know you're ok!).  We learned that when you hear a gun shot, you don't just ignore it, you look and you help.  We learned that if a drug dealer sets up shop on your corner, you just ask him to move and he will... crazy!  We learned to love our neighbors in that house.  We learned that on one block you will find recovering addicts, "normal neighbors," gossips, biker gangs, homosexual couples, hurting people, renters, home-owners, and they all have one thing in common.  They need the gospel.  Some know it.  Some don't.  But they all need it.  God, in his sovereignty, placed us on the corner of 19th and L and for that I am so thankful.

4. God birthed a church.  Some friends of ours from college are planting a church just south of us in Olympia and they had their first worship gathering yesterday.  My heart was full of emotions as they posted prayer requests and updates, fears and excitements, plans and pictures.  I remember those days.  I remember the pressure.  I remember the anxiety.  I remember the hope.  I remember the failures.  I remember the successes.  But what I'm most thankful for is that in the midst of it all, God birthed a church.  Not just a bible study.  Not just a worship gathering... a church.  We're messy. We're ridiculous. We're hilarious.  We're broken.  We're selfish.  We're healing.  We're maturing.  We're learning.  We're growing.  We stumble.  We fall.  We get up.  We help each other up.  We celebrate.  We cry.  We party.  We pray.  We evangelize.  We worship.  We disciple.  We mourn.  We love.  We hate.  We are a church.  And God birthed us.  We came to Tacoma and this particular church did not exist.  And now, by God's grace, it does.  God birthed a church and for that I am so thankful.

6 years.  Wow.  I just can't believe it.  What will the next 6 years bring?  I don't even want to know!  I don't think I could handle it.  But my plan and my prayer is to continue to walk in faith with my family, trusting that God will show up and do what he always does... immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine according to the power that is at work within us!

Thanks for journeying with us.  We love you.  Please keep praying.  God's not through with us yet!

Monday, October 19, 2015

It's time to stop crawling and start walking!

I love my church.  It's that simple.  Just like anything a person loves, the church can drive me crazy, annoy me, frustrate me, and even make me mad!  But I love her.  I love the people that make up The Pathway church.  I love how far God has brought us, how we've grown, how we've matured, how we've changed and adapted, how we've stumbled, how we've fallen on our faces, and how God has pulled us back up every time.  I love my church.

One of the things I've been anticipating for a long time now is the year or season in the life of our church when we really have to own this thing.  Does that make sense?  Being a church plant, supported by over a dozen other churches, and even more individuals and families (primarily form the south), we've been able to focus on outreach, evangelism, discipleship, and over all gospel saturation for almost 6 years now.  During that time we've consistently been prayed for and funded by our partner churches.  Not to mention all the ground breaking and seed sowing that has been done by short term mission teams.

Thankfully those partnership are not finished, but they are changing.  For years now I've been telling Kelli, this may be the year that our funding slows down.  But for years, it hasn't happened.  Well, this is the year.  I began getting calls around the time churches are working on their budgets, and they came in bunches.  One of the reasons I love our partners is that these calls did not come with out warning and every call was filled with compassion and care.  Not wanting to cripple us, but knowing it is time for our supporters to begin pulling back.  They are full of wisdom and they know it's time, slowly but surely, for this toddler church to begin taking steps on her own.

It's scary.  It's exciting.  It's time.

And it's more than just outside support.  Over 3 years ago we hit a wall of growth at about 20 people. We just couldn't grow past that.  By God's grace, we were able to bring on several staff people to put time and energy into developing aspects of our church... Kids Ministry, Leadership development, etc.... that would never have developed as quickly without their undivided time and attention.  But those staff had very specific goals in mind and they knew, from the beginning, that they would eventually step out of paid staff positions and the church would have to be the church.

Well, I would be lying if I didn't say I was nervous.  But I believe God has birthed this church.  I believe the Holy Spirit fills this church.  And I believe we are ready to own the vision God has called us to.  We're ready to become a self-sustaining, autonomous, reproducing church.

Pray for us.
It's time... spiritually, financially... it's time.
For God's glory!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Writer's Block

I haven't been sure what to write lately on the blog.  There's so much in my heart and my mind but as the church grows and time passes, I feel like more and more of what I want to share involves real stories of really people who deserve and desire real privacy!  That means a lot of what is on my heart and my mind has to stay there.  With that being said, I'm going to share a few words that are pressing in my soul right now and hope that by expounding a little bit on those words the Lord might show you how to pray for our family, our church, and our incredible city.
Rylan & Hazel #sisters

LIFE: Where to begin with this word.  More than just life... new life... is something that we have experienced lately.  Hazel Joy Higginbotham, my absolutely beautiful (in that small, scrunchy, alien baby sort of way) daughter was born healthy and relatively happy on August 31st 2015 at about 2:00am.  Kelli was a champ.  An absolute rock star.  She was strong, brave, and she persevered through a really, really, long 24 hours.  Seeing new life is too much for words.  It was breath-taking and all the praise goes to Jesus.

PAIN:  We've been through some hard times in our church family.  We've got people who are hurting.  Sin has been rearing it's ugly head and wreaking havoc the way only sin can do.  Marriages are feeling the tug and tear of Satan.  We've had people decide to move on from The Pathway for a variety of reasons and of course that causes me to doubt my own leadership in more ways than I thought possible.  Although I know more often than not it's for the best, it doesn't make it any easier.  We don't just say "church family."  We mean it.  Every person that is connected to our church and especially those I'm currently in or have previously been in close community with, is like a brother or a sister, a son or a daughter (that makes me feel old).  To see anyone leave our local expression of God's family is just hard.  I'm thankful though that the Kingdom family is bigger than the local family.  God has a way of bringing hope and healing through that reality.

SALVATION: Last year we did not see very many people come to faith in Jesus.  We did not see very many baptisms.  While I know God is sovereign... I really do believe that... I also know that good trees bear good fruit.  Our vision is reproduction and we did not see much reproduction last year.  This year has been tough as well and we have felt Satan attacking.  But finally... recently... it seems that salvation is beginning to spring up from the ground once again.  People are being saved.  People we have been praying about for months and even years.  God is at work.  There are still specific people who I believe are on the verge of trusting Jesus.  Please pray for a Holy Spirit break through.

MEN: I know "laziness" and "men" are synonymous in the minds of many people.  For so long in our church we were filled with men but laziness embodied those men and our women were driving the ship.  We still have a long way to go, but slowly and surely we are seeing men grow in their relationships with Jesus, step up to the plate in the realm of leadership and discipleship.  Somehow I believe God wants me to do a better job of investing in our men.  Please pray for our men.  Pray that they would love Jesus a lot and want to know him more.  Pray that I would effectively show our men that I care about them and that I want to help them grow in Jesus.  Pray that I would find effective ways to connect with our men and that together we would be able to reach more men in our city with the gospel.

Leaders:  It seems like I'm always talking about leaders, a lack of leaders, a desire for more leaders, etc.  Well, I've come to realize that as long as were growing and making disciples, pursing growth and pursuing making disciples, we're going to crave more leaders.  With that being said, we have seen God provide leaders, grow leaders, mature leaders, and reproduce leaders over the last several years.  In fact, our Leadership Retreat is next weekend (please pray for that time) and all of our Intentional Community Leaders will be in attendance!  No one has plans, vacations, work, etc. keeping them from attending.  14 Leaders, 9 children and 2 very gracious childcare workers gathering together for rest, worship, praying, planning and training!  It's going to be great!

Growth:  That's what I desire.  Personal growth.  Corporate growth.  And most of all, Kingdom growth.  Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  That's my prayer.  Thank you for your love, support, encouragement and belief in the God who has called us to make disciples in Tacoma!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Wow! God does pretty cool stuff.

I absolutely love Pathway baptisms!  By God's grace they seem to always be personal, powerful and full of life.  They are a celebration of new life in Christ and there is nothing worthy of greater celebration than the Holy Spirit regenerating the heart of a person.  God is so good and so gracious and I pray that we get to celebrate baptism more and more and more over the coming days, weeks, months and years.  I pray that baptism becomes contagious.  I pray that people are motivated by the picture of baptism to go out and make disciples of their family, friends, co-workers and neighbors so that we can worship Jesus through baptism more and more.  It's beautiful.  It's powerful.

Yesterday we saw two amazing things happen in our Sunday gathering.  First, we baptized a friend of mine that I honestly never thought we would see come to trust in and follow Jesus including making the bold statement to be baptized.  My friends name is Mat and I'm pretty sure I met him around 4 years ago.  He has some extremely close friends, family for all intents and purposes, that we got to know through a series of circumstances.  Over the years we baptized quite a few people that Mat was extremely close to and he always came in support of them, but never really seemed open to coming into the life of the church himself.

Most recently his nephew Devon gave his life to Jesus and was baptized.  Mat and his girlfriend Antigony came to Devon's baptism just to support him in this major life event.  I'm pretty sure it was one of the first times Antigony had ever been to a church service.  Well, the Holy Spirit did what the Holy Spirit so often does, he fell on our congregation in a powerful way and specifically on Mat and Antigony.  He spoke to them through the faithful testimony of their middle school aged nephew and their lives have not been the same since!

Antigony was baptized in June and they have stepped deeply into the life of our church through Intentional Community.  To be quite honest, it's difficult now to picture the church without them.  Mat has been being discipled in a variety of ways and has wanted to make sure of his commitment to Christ before following in baptism.  This Sunday was finally the day.  He invited friends and family, we shared his testimony and he confessed with his mouth, "Jesus is Lord!"  It was incredibly worshipful and I'm still in awe of the life change God brings through death and resurrection of his Son Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.  All glory is due to our God who loves to save!

The second incredible thing that happened yesterday was a spontaneous baptism.  We usually don't open up baptism to people on the spot because we've learned that it doesn't usually lead to disciples for us.  That's not at all to say that it doesn't for others, but for us it just hasn't been fruitful for the Kingdom.  But after I got done preaching this Sunday I went to sit down in my sweet and a young man named Corey grabbed me.  He's probably in his mid-twenties.  He said, "Will you baptize me today?"  He's a close friend of a gal in our church and has been throughs me incredibly difficult times.  We talked, we prayed, and he confidently professed Jesus as Lord!  We got to baptize Corey... in his regular clothes... freezing and dripping afterward... and it was a powerful, bold, and beautiful testimony of the life change that only comes through Christ.  We didn't have to invite Corey to be baptized, just as the Ethiopian declared to Philip after trusting the gospel, “See, here is water! yWhat prevents me from being baptized?” Corey's response to the gospel was to seek out obedience to Jesus.  I stand amazed and pray for more and more people to come to Christ and be baptized.

Please pray for Mat, Antigony and Corey as they learn what it is to be a disciple of Jesus.  As they feel the weight and the burden along with the joy and surrender of taking up their cross daily and following Jesus.  And in all things, to God be the glory, the praise and the honor forever and ever.  Amen!

Monday, August 3, 2015

An Insider Perspective

We have reached the end of what I like to call our "church summer."  We've seen 8 mission teams come and go, we've hosted 4 block parties, launched what we hope to be our first annual soccer camp, and worked alongside 7 PHENOMENAL interns!  I'm now, thanks to the generosity of one of our partner churches, sitting in the kitchen of a rented house in Nashville, TN preparing to attend the SEND North America conference.  A few days before leaving I asked one of our interns, Paige Edwards, to write about her summer with The Pathway so I could share it with you.  I hope her perspective is an encouragement to you...

Intern Paige
I’ve been back in the Midwest for approximately 32 hours, and I can think of nothing else but my summer being a student missionary in the Pacific Northwest. I think of Tacoma, from the Hilltop to North End. I think of The Pathway Church, and the family I didn’t know I had there until I arrived. I think of the Interns, the best team I could have ever asked for. And I think of Jesus and the way he used this city to stir up my heart. 

I think of things I Learned
I learned that the Acts 2 church does exist, and it looks very different than what I could of ever imagined. I saw the church together, but it wasn’t necessarily in the church building. It was at the park, by the water, on the streets, in the houses, and it was together on Sunday mornings at a building that they gathered in to worship. I saw the church meeting together, loving together, and giving together. Meeting together in Intentional Communities at least one time a week and sometimes more. I saw them loving together, on each other during tough days and on their community every day. I saw them giving together. Giving their time, money, food, and cars. To each other, to us interns, and to people they barely knew. 

I learned more about grace than I ever could explain. As hard as this summer was, my head was that much harder. I was determined week one that I could do my job on my own, without help so that I wouldn’t be a hindrance to anyone. It was in that weakness and stubbornness the Lord showed me his grace yet again. It was in those holes, that he showed me that even after all these years I am still in great need of his grace. And after seeing my continual need of grace, I saw his great love in giving it to us.

I think of Love.

At the Nativity House. (The Nativity House is a day shelter for the homeless and also has emergency overnight housing)
Day after day we were enamored  by people that walked through that building. From 89 to 23, I saw people in all areas of life.  And every single one of them solidified the love of our Father.  I saw the way Mara, the director of the Nativity House poured his love out over them. I saw the way Johnny the chef acted in the Lords love through his words, prayers and exhortation of all the guests that came into his contact.  And I saw the way that love gave light to the eyes of the hopeless, and I saw the way that love gave the next step to those who are stigmatized to be at the end of their means. 

I think of The Pathway. 
They lifted us interns back to God consistently. They guided us, they nurtured us, and they loved us in a way that I can scarcely explain. They treated us as family, taking us in for meals, laundry and so much more. They showed us community in a way not seen by many. They made a summer internship, a lifelong friendship.

I think of the Interns
I have never ever worked with a group that has loved so well. And from the very beginning Adam (The Pathway's Associate Pastor and overseer of the summer interns) told us that he didn’t choose one member of this group, but that God chose us all. This I believe because of the way our dynamic was so beautifully organized. From our desires and gifts to our very working styles it all just fit. I saw them express their love in music, service, leadership and action. They loved selflessly and they loved endlessly. They loved through weakness, stubbornness, and they loved in times when it was hard to love at all. 

And I think of Humility and Redemption
When I first came to the Pacific Northwest I guess I internally believed that I was going to a place where Jesus wasn’t found. That I was going into the dark. And that it was up to me to save them. That completely changed the day I stepped of
f that plane. I came to a city alight with the redeeming love of Christ. A city that like all of us, that is just a work in progress. God humbled me, and he encouraged me. I saw that he chose me to help serve a city that he has already saved. A city that he is already doing the work for and a city that is growing brighter as the days pass by. He showed me that just as he has chosen me, that he has chosen them. He has chosen them and he will continue to seek after them waiting for them to come home.

Tacoma was nothing like what I expected it to be. And for that I am so thankful. Thankful for God to use the unexpected of this lovely northwest city to teach me, love me, humble me, redeem me, and change me. I will never know to what extent God used me to bring change to Tacoma, but I can see for certain the way God used Tacoma to bring change to me.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


I can hardly believe we're more than halfway through the month of July.  That means that in just a couple of weeks we will have said good-bye to our last mission teams of the summer and sent out wonderful interns back to their home towns and universities to continue living as missionaries in their worlds.  In the midst of that and beyond that we are left with a great opportunity!

What is that OPPORTUNITY?

We have the opportunity to plunge head first into a HUGE field of new relationships and begin to make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples.  We've been telling our mission teams as they come to serve with us that our goal for them is not to make converts.  Our goal for them is to make connections so that our church, who is here for the long haul, can make disciples.

This past week we had 2 groups come to Tacoma.  One was from Walnut Ridge in Mansfield, TX and the other Immanuel Baptist from Temple, TX.  They hosted our first ever, and hopefully first annual, KiDCity Soccer Camp.  When you do something for the first time you have no idea what to expect.  Absolutely no idea!  Then you add another x-factor so to speak when you invite groups to come and lead the soccer camp knowing full well that they have never put on a soccer camp before.  This is a scary thing and I'm not sure if it is motivated more by faith or desperation!  Whatever it is that caused it to happen, I'm sure glad it did.

I have yet to see the exact numbers but I know for the week we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 120+ different kids come through the camp.  I think our high day was in the 70's and most days we had around 60+ kids.  Then on Saturday we had an incredible block party where we got to see so many families and meet so many parents.  We connected with people that we have been connecting with for years now.  We met so many for the first time and we got to meet some that we had met as a result of previous mission teams.

The result was one of the largest Sunday gatherings we've ever had as a church!  I pray that our church saw the opportunity in the gathering.  I pray that they recognized how many new faces there were.  I pray that they recognized the beauty of more and more and more voices worshipping God and lifting high the name of Jesus.  I pray that they seized the opportunity to meet new people and invite them into community.

I pray that I lead our church well through the next several days, weeks and months as we have the chance not to just have a successful block party, soccer camp or Sunday gathering.  But as we have the chance to be faithful to Jesus by making disciples who make disciples who make disciples.  I pray, and hope you will pray with me, that we will see our Intentional Communities not just grow, but REPRODUCE for God's glory.  I pray that more people than we can imagine will profess faith in Jesus and be baptized.  I pray that people will start to saturate their hearts and minds with the Word of God and will decide to be sharpened and challenged in and through Intentional Community.

We have an opportunity.  We covet your prayers.  We serve a really awesome, powerful, graceful God.  I can't wait to see what he does next!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Catching up...

It's been far too long since my last post.  I have started to write multiple times but sometimes the words just aren't there.  God has been doing much in my life personally.  He's far from finished and I'm thankful for that.

The church is moving a long at what seems from one angle to be 100mph and from another angle to be a snail's pace.  The 100mph angle includes the following...

Summer interns-- Our interns arrived at the beginning of June and they are absolutely incredible.  God gave us a gift by hand picking 7 interns whose lives, personalities, spiritual gifts, passion for Jesus, commitment to mission and openness to being stretched seem to fit together like a perfect puzzle.  They are fun, energetic, kind, unified and are willing to work hard... really hard.  Our Associate Pastor Adam and his wife Khylee are leading them well and our Intentional Community Director Stacie Hooks has empowered them to help lead our mission teams in an incredible way.  Sometimes I sit back and wonder what they need me for!  It's a beautiful picture of what we desire this church to be built on.  Not a person or a program.  On Jesus Christ flexing his muscles through the unity and diversity found in his body.  Glory to God!

Mission teams-- We've already seen our first 2 mission teams come and go and we just welcomed teams 3 & 4 to Tacoma today!  The summer mission team blitz started strong with FBC Charlotte and Trinity Baptist from Ada, OK.  These churches have been with us for a long time now and it seems that every time they come back they just pick up where they left off.  They are united with us in our heart and our vision for The Pathway in Tacoma and they have a clear understanding of the role God has called them to play.  They are truly a beautiful picture of partnership when it comes to sending mission teams.  Fielder Church from Arlington, TX and FBC Universal City, TX have started strong today.  It's exciting to see them back together for a second year in a row and focusing on one of our newer neighborhoods of focus.  It's a challenge and they're truly engaging in missionary work.  Please pray for them and our next 4 teams as they seek to find persons of peace and saturate Tacoma with the gospel of Jesus!  We have a block party the next 2 Saturdays and the following Friday.  Please pray for lots of connections!

Mission trip--  It seems like an eternity ago that we took our first North American Mission Trip to Santa Clara, CA.  It was an exciting opportunity led by one of our long-time, amazing leaders Donna Christian.  We went to serve a small church in Santa Clara that is the home church of one of our college students, Stephen Abishema.  The church is small but has an incredible outreach to the community through their annual Vacation Bible School.  They are going through a lot of transition right now and needed more bodies on the ground so we were able to come and be just that.  It was challenging, rewarding, stretching, humbling and most ultimately God-glorifying.  It was incredible to be on the sending side of missions rather than the receiving side of things.

Now for the snails pace angle...

Summer--  We are struggling... for the first time really... with what so many churches struggle with.  The summer disappearing act!  It's so frustrating but so understandable that it's hard to know what to do with it.  As a new church we rely heavily on the consistency of our people.  With summer comes weddings, vacations, routines flipped upside down with kids home from school and the list goes on.  People literally will work like crazy all week long and then leave town on the weekends.  As a pastor, I get so frustrated and discouraged because I don't feel like the new people we're connecting with get a true picture of who we are.  But as a husband and father I know the importance of recreation, rest, vacation, family visits and more!  I have to constantly remind myself that church isn't just a place we go, it's who we are.  And that if we're really committed to being the church, that isn't affected by travel plans, sports and more.  Being the church happens in day to day life, phone calls, Intentional Community gatherings and the like.  I get the summer blues like any other pastor but I believe we are going to emerge stronger, fresher and healthier as a result of the challenge summer brings.

Salvation-- There is a reality that we're not seeing a lot of salvation over the last year and a half.  This breaks my heart.  This disturbs me.  This causes me to ask God a lot of questions.  Our people truly seem to be growing spiritually.  I honestly believe more of our people are reading their Bibles with more consistency than ever before.  I believe more of our people are engaging the lost and being intentional with their lives.  But we're just not seeing a lot of people saved.  Why?  I have no idea.  But I'm praying for patience and for the Holy Spirit to fall in a powerful way.  I pray that God will bring so much life change that it would be impossible for anyone but him to get the credit.  We're currently moving at a snails pace but I'm praying that we would continue to faithfully engage the lost and share the gospel and I trust that God will respond!

I think I'll stop here.  I want everyone to know that your prayers are working.  I believe God is doing things in Tacoma that we can't even begin to fathom.  I believe he wants to bring salvation and that if we continue to engage the lost that salvation will come.  I believe he wants our church to grow and reproduce and that if we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus that's exactly what will happen.  Please continue to pray for Kingdom growth and for God to get the glory.  However he decides to allow those two things to play out I trust HIM completely!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Reproducing Leaders

I'm sitting in my office right now listening to Adam Forgety (Associate Pastor & our summer intern supervisor), Stacie Hooks (Intentional Communities Director & mission team extraordinaire), having a brainstorming, planning, dreaming, and calendaring meeting with our 7 summer interns.  I know it sounds like such a simple thing, but for me it's a really sweet sound.  It's a sound we've prayed for.  It's the sound of God answering our prayers.

You see, we have a vision as a church.  It centers around REPRODUCTION.  We want to be a church that REPRODUCES in 5 specific areas: disciples, leaders, Intentional Communities, worship gatherings, & churches.  Did you catch the second one?  Leaders.  We want to reproduce leaders.  Over the last 3 years, by the grace of God, I've been investing a big chunk of my life and whatever leadership ability I have into Stacie.  It's been amazing to watch her grow.  And now to hear her delegating, training, equipping and empowering our 7 interns to lead in ways I'm sure most of them never even considered?  Beautiful.

Over the last year or so I've been investing myself into Adam.  He came to Tacoma a worship leader but his hearts desire is to become a pastor and a leader.  He's incredibly teachable and he's taken on the task of overseeing our summer interns.  It's so fun to not just hear Adam teaching and training our interns, but empowering them to lead.  He's casting vision for the interns and giving them space to lead.  Incredible.

Our hope and our prayer is not just to have a "successful" summer here in Tacoma.  Our hope and our prayer is to equip 7 missionary leaders over a 2 month period here in Tacoma and SEND them back to their home towns, their universities, their neighborhoods and their churches ready to lead, ready to equip, ready to train and ready to empower the people in their sphere's of influence to be missionaries for the gospel.  And maybe just maybe, a few of these 7 will end up planting churches and being on church planting teams.  Most importantly, we hope all of them will gain and maintain the humble confidence to be REPRODUCING disciples and REPRODUCING leaders everywhere they go for the rest of their lives.

Listening to a meeting can be worship.  Our God is so cool.

Monday, May 25, 2015


John 3:30 is a Scripture I've quoted many times.  He must increase, but I must decrease.  But I have to be honest, I'm not sure that I've ever really taken that one sentence and meditated on it in the full context in which it was spoken.  Let me explain.

Last week my family was blessed to attend what will probably be our final church planting retreat with the Northwest Baptist Convention.  It is the only required event for church plants that receive Convention funding but they don't have to twist my arm to attend.  By the grace of God we get to gather with a bunch of church planters and their families from all over the Northwest to be challenged, equipped and hopefully encouraged that we are not alone in the craziness of what God has called us to do.  The location doesn't hurt either... Cannon Beach, OR!

For the sake of full disclosure, although I was looking forward to the idea of this final retreat (we will no longer receive NWBC funding after this year), I was going into it feeling pretty embarrassed, very discouraged and in large part like a failure.  I don't say this to get you to feel sorry for me.  I'm guessing these feelings are things that you all battle in various ways and at various points in your life.   I was listening to a sermon by Matt Chandler this morning and he quoted Augustine of Hippo, and I'm paraphrasing, that because we are finite, we look at life as if our faces are squished up against a stained glass window.  All we can see is the jagged mess of glass right in front of our eyes.  It seems to make no sense.  It appears to be just a mess.  But God, who is infinite, sees the big picture of how all those jagged pieces of glass come together to make a beautiful masterpiece of stained glass.  Perfect.  Majestic even.  My feelings of failure correlate directly to my lack of perspective and my finite view of the world.

When I'm able to step back and look at the big picture of what God is doing in Tacoma and through The Pathway, I'm genuinely amazed.  To see all that he has done in my life and the life of my family is pretty incredible.  Then to think of all the lives he's changed, disciples he's made, hope he's provided, it's absolutely awesome.  But most of the time I have my face smashed up against the stained glass.  That means I just see the reality that we have been funded by the NWBC (if you include our time as apprentices in Snoqualmie, WA) for over 7 years now.  7 years!  We've been USC-2 missionaries, Nehemiah Church Planting Missionaries and... for lack of a cool title... regular old Northwest Baptist Convention Church planters.

The fact that we still rely so heavily on funding from outside sources makes me feel like a failure.  The fact that we have hit a wall in salvations and baptisms over the last year (please pray for that wall to be broken by the way) makes me feel like a failure.  The fact that I envisioned us having planted multiple churches by now when in reality we haven't even "successfully" planted this one makes me feel like a failure.  The fact that I envisioned us having 10 strong Intentional Communities before we ever even launched a worship gathering and we have currently been gathering for worship for 5 years and we have 7 Intentional Communities makes me feel like a failure.  The fact that we had dreams of being elder led (and still do) but we've struggled to raise up strong male leadership makes me feel like a failure.  And on and on the pity party could go.

But here's the point.  All of that... every bit of it... is about me.  It's about my skill.  My ability.  My success and my failure.

Yet, I constantly pray and speak John 3:30... He must increase, but I must decrease.

I have to admit, in the midst of my pity party going into the retreat last week, I began to tune out the speaker pretty quickly.  He was introduced as "one of us."  A church planter just like us.  But then they went on to say that in 7 years (the amount of time I've been going at this) he has planted a church that has 4 congregations meeting in 4 locations with an average weekly attendance of over 1200 people!  Ha!  One of us.  I tell you what, I was praising Jesus last month when we finally were averaging over 100 people (and then this month we're back down in the 80's).  I was praising Jesus when we finally launched our 6th and 7th Intentional Communities without seeing 1 die at the same time (because over the years we've launched many while seeing others not make it).  These are my praises and this guy planted a church that was averaging hundreds within a year.  He's not one of us!  Or so my sinful, self-consumed mind and heart was telling me.

And then God finally woke me up to my selfishness and hypocrisy during the last session of the retreat.  He preached on John the Baptist and it culminated with John 3:30... He must increase, but I must decrease.  I realized that I have been increasing in this process for a long time.  Motivated by the ticking time bomb every church planter feels with their partners (despite our partners being so faithful for 5 years).  We live with constant fear of them saying enough is enough... fail... and moving on to the next potential success.  I realized I've been increasing ever time I feel jealousy in my heart that another planter's church is growing faster than mine (mine?  ha!  It's not my church.  It's not their church.  It's Jesus' church.)  I realized I've been increasing every time my fear of failure and my lack of faith causes me to live defeated when Jesus Christ has already won the victory.

John the Baptist played a prominent role in the Kingdom of God breaking into the world.  But he didn't choose his role... and he knew it.  He also didn't determine how he would be used or how long he would be used... and he was more than ok with that.  John the Baptist wanted more than anything for people to know Jesus and for the Kingdom of God to burst into the world and grow.  But in the midst of that desire, he was incredibly comfortable with his role.  In John 3:27 John the Baptist said this... A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.

This one sentence really shook me awake and I realized... I've been saying this is not about me, but I haven't been living it.  I've been finding my worth and my value in how quickly and how large MY church grows instead of finding my worth and my value in Christ and being excited and thankful for whatever role I get to play in HIS church growing.

Let me be clear.  Everything I've been writing is mostly about my heart.  My actions will probably not change too much.  I will continue to go hard after the gospel, hard after seeing the lost found in Tacoma, and hard after disciple-making and church planting.  What will change however, by the grace of God, is my JOY.  I will find my JOY in the role Christ has called me to play, whatever that may be.  I will find my JOY in Jesus increasing in fame, in stature and in prominence in this world.  I will find my JOY in God's glory rather than my success or failure.

He must increase, but I must decrease.

I am not the source of success.  I am not defined by my failure.
By God's grace I am in Christ... and that is enough.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Giving up

*This post is dedicated to a good friend of mine, probably the most faithful missionary I know, who's been feeling a bit discouraged.

In Luke 18:25 Jesus says... it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

In Jesus' sermon on the mount (Matthew 7:13-14) he says... For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Jesus goes on to say in Matthew 7:22-23...  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

We are a sinful and rebellious people.  There is good in us because we were created in the image of God.  But ever since the fall, there is so much self-centeredness, so much greed, so much pride and so much sin that it is incredibly difficult for anyone to actually choose the gospel.

In light of this, how on earth do we keep ourselves from giving up on people?  How do we avoid becoming jaded and cynical?  How do we keep from looking at a person who is lost and broken and thinking, "Why waste my time, they're just going to reject Jesus?  They won't believe.  It's not even worth it."

If I'm honest, I feel like giving up on this whole mission of God thing a lot.  I've invested so much of myself into so many people.  I've poured out my heart and my life and seen so little return on investment.  It often makes me question why I'm even doing it.  Or if it's even worth it.

For example, there's a young man who recently contacted me for help.  I don't know him very well at all yet, but from everything I can tell he is lazy, unmotivated and selfish.  He asked for help and a big part of me is thinking, no way am I going to spend time on this guy.  He's not worth it.  He won't change.  But he is also lost.  He has not trusted the gospel.  He is not following Jesus.

But here's the key.  This is what keeps me sane.  This is what keeps me hopeful.  Are you ready for this???


Yeah... he really did.  And if Jesus can rise from the dead, he can do anything.  Not almost anything.  Not most things.  Anything.  He can save any person.  He can change any heart.  And he can do it whenever he chooses.  His perfect will may make the process of life change a quick one, or he may intend for it to be long.  Some will choose Jesus and some will not.  But my hope comes from the Lord.  It's not about my ability to change people.  It's about my faithfulness to Jesus and all that he has called me to do and be in him.  He will take care of changing people.

When I get burned out and discouraged, I MUST preach the gospel to myself.  I have to constantly tell myself that life isn't about how "successful" I am at leading people to conversion.  It's about how faithful I am to pursuing the mission of God no matter the outcome.  It's not about trying to gauge potential wasted time vs. potential return on investment.  It's about following the Holy Spirit wherever he leads for as long as he leads.

I know many of you out there have mustered up as much courage as you could find and engaged the lost with the gospel only to be rejected.  Many of you have opened your home, your wallet and many other facets of your life, only to be rejected, abused and burned in countless ways.  I know many of you have given up.  You've decided it's just not worth it.

But let me remind you that you too were once dead in your sins but you've been made alive in Christ because GOD DID NOT GIVE UP ON YOU!  God is in the business of bringing dead things to life.  But it starts with you.  If you're feeling angry, frustrated, burned out or jaded, please hear me.  The first resurrection that needs to happen is in your life.

This isn't simply about conversions.  It's about the glory of God being made known!  If your exhausted, tired, frustrated or have just given up.  Be encouraged.  You're serving a resurrection God who wants to resurrected your hope and faith so you can believe again, no matter how many times your burned or rejected, that God is getting glory and his mission is being accomplished.  Not because of you... but through you.

Don't give up.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Fruit of Longevity

This morning I want to share some of the fruit we are seeing that is a direct result of our longevity as a church in Tacoma.  I also need you to know that our longevity is a direct result of the faithful partners... both locally and nationally... who support our church, pray for our church and serve with our church consistently and have done it for the long haul.

Let me give you two examples of what I'm talking about.

Quite a few years ago... maybe 4 years... we had a family connect to our church.  This family was pumped up to reach their extended family for Jesus.  They began inviting all their friends and family to everything The Pathway did.  To make a long story short, one family connected to the church as a result of all the inviting.  The husband and wife both made professions of faith and were baptized and then over time, as life through them a lot of difficulties, they faded away.  As a pastor, church planter, and a disciple of Jesus, every time someone makes a public profession of faith through our church and then fades away, it breaks my heart.  I feel like a failure.  I feel like the mission God has called us to... the mission of making disciples... has been left incomplete.

There was also a young lady we met during our days at Wright Park.  We call those the early days.  During that time we were doing nothing but sowing seeds of the gospel.  There was very little discipleship because no one was interested in being a disciple yet.  There was very little leadership development at that point because we had no potential leaders and honestly had very few people to lead.  During that time we met a lot of young kids... teenagers... who were on the streets.  Most of them had dropped out of high school, were homeless and were into a lot of things that set them on track for disaster.  One of these young ladies had dated a guy we had also been investing in.  She got pregnant, and fell off the radar.  She made a lot of mistakes and has had a harder couple of years than I can probably even fathom.  Again... heart breaking when we invest and share the gospel and then someone just disappears.

Fast forward to the last couple of weeks.

Easter Sunday brought the family I mentioned back to our worship gathering.  That was exciting but has been a pattern the last couple of years.  But this time, their oldest son made a profession of faith in Jesus!  We got to sit with him and his parents and talk about the commitment it takes to become a disciple of Jesus.  They came back the following week and he was baptized!  They brought a lot of family and friends with them, including another guy we haven't seen in years.  This guy is pretty hardcore, has never made a profession of faith, and only ever came to a worship gathering if one of his loved ones was being baptized.  But this time, his girlfriend expressed a desire to become a Christian.  

And then came the true test... for me anyway... the first "normal" week after Easter.

No baptisms.  No special gatherings or expectations.  Just the church of God gathering to worship Jesus.  And that's when the fruit of longevity started to show itself.  I was walking up to the school and I saw the hardcore guy and his girlfriend.  To my knowledge, this was the first time he had ever come to a gathering when one of his loved ones wasn't being baptized.  The mom and kids of the family who had fallen away were there too!

After seeing that incredible sight, the door to the school opened and in walked the girl I mentioned above.  Talk about the last person I expected to see.  I later found out that she was invited by another gal in our church who didn't even know this girl had ever been connected with The Pathway.  We learned that she is now living at a transitional home that our church supports and to be honest, she looked better and more stable than I've ever seen her before.

Are these the sparks that will ignite the flame for a movement of God that we have been praying for?  Maybe.  I don't know.  God does and that gives me peace.

But it is definitely the fruit of longevity.  If our faithful partners, both nationally and now those who have covenanted with us locally, had given up on The Pathway after 2 or even 3 years, we would not be here to re-connect with people we were able to sow seeds of the gospel into years ago.  But because of your faithfulness, we are getting to water seeds that were planted 3, 4, even 5 years ago and we're even seeing salvation spring up in others as a result!  

God is faithful.  Longevity matters.  Please pray for this family, this young lady, the other couple and many others like them who God is allowing us to re-engage, re-share the gospel with and demonstrate unconditional love and grace to after years away from Jesus and his church.

Monday, March 30, 2015

It starts TONIGHT!

About a month ago we introduced our church to something we're calling the Best Day Challenge!  In short, we built an Intentional outreach all around what we believe to be the Best Day in history... the day Jesus' rose from the dead... and Challenged every person in our church to pray for, engage and invite 2 people to attend a dinner the week before Easter.

These dinners are hosted by each of our Intentional Communities and were paid for by the generosity of one of our partner churches.  There are 2 goals.  The first is to show love to our friends, family, neighbors and co-workers in an extravagant and tangible way.  How often does a church offer to buy dinner at a delicious restaurant for 40 people a night?  That leads to the second goal.  We want our friends, neighbors, family and co-workers who have been invited to ask us why?  Why is your church doing this?  What's the catch?

And that's when we have the opportunity to share with them.  God has loved us so extravagantly, by sending his son Jesus to die for us, that our church tries to come up with any creative way possible to love the people around us in an extravagant way.  Through these conversations and explanations, our prayer is that our church would have countless opportunities to share the gospel.  We want to specifically share with those we invite how we came to know Jesus and that what Jesus did for us (the church) he also did for them (his creation).

It will never flow completely seamlessly and smoothly.  Gospel conversations are often messy and awkward.  But the point of the Best Day Challenge and specifically our Intentional Community Dinners is to provide opportunities for the people of our church to engage, and love, and share the gospel with the people they are around day in and day out.

But the Best Day Challenge doesn't end there.  Through the dinners we are praying that folks in our church will find out that their friends, neighbors, co-workers and family are intrigued by this extravagant expression of love.  We are praying that our church will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and when he leads, that we would invite some our loved ones to our Easter gathering this coming Sunday where we will be celebrating and talking about the Best Day in History... the day Jesus rose from the dead!  We are strategically and prayerfully launching a new 6 week connection group the week after Easter for people to get a short-term taste of community.  We have asked all of our existing Intentional Communities to throw parties the week after Easter so that we can have easy invites for our 2 people to be around and have fun with the people of God.

Most ultimately... we are praying and challenging our church to seek opportunities, sometime over the next 2 weeks, to share their story and Jesus' story with their 2 loved ones and then invite them to start following Jesus too!  We are praying, we are crying out to God, that as a result of the Best Day Challenge we would see more people baptized on April 19th (our next baptism gathering) than we ever have before and most importantly, that we would see disciples made and lives changed by the hope of the gospel!

Will you commit to pray Monday 3/30, Tuesday 3/31, Wednesday 4/1 (2 dinners) and Thursday 4/2 as dinners are being hosted each evening.  Please pray for the Holy Spirit to do something only the Holy Spirit can do.

Thank you!

Monday, March 9, 2015

BEST DAY challenge

We're entering an exciting season in the life of the church.  Resurrection Sunday is rapidly approaching!  We have a tradition in our Sunday gathering that whenever the resurrection is mentioned we scream and cheer (well... maybe I'm trying to make it a tradition by telling everyone to yell and scream when I mention the resurrection)!

Either way, as followers of Jesus, the resurrection should evoke in us emotions of awe, joy and gratitude.  It was literally the BEST DAY in history and when we put our faith in Jesus, the one who died and rose again, we will experience the BEST DAY of our lives.  We also know that all of us who have trusted Jesus will one day experience the most ultimate BEST DAY when we see Jesus face to face.

Thanks to the generosity of our partners, we launched what we're calling the BEST DAY challenge a little over a week ago.  Our goal is to give our people the opportunity to love their friends, neighbors, family and co-workers extravagantly.  We're trying to give them a chance to provide multiple "great days" for those they love with the hope and prayer of doors opening for gospel conversations.

We're challenging, encouraging, and praying that through these "great days" our people would have multiple opportunities to share about the BEST DAY in history... to share the good news that Jesus died and rose again to provide forgiveness of sins and restored relationship to God.  Ultimately, we're praying that on our next baptism Sunday we would see more people than we ever have before celebrating new life in Christ!

How can you pray?
1) We challenged everyone in our church to pray for 2 people that they want to pursue with the gospel and to pray for the Holy Spirit to draw them to salvation.  Please pray that our folks would accept this challenge and that God would be working in the hearts of all the "two's" that are being pursued.

2) The first "great day" we want to provide is dinner at a nice restaurant in Central Tacoma called Engine House 9 (E9).  Each of our Intentional Communities have been given a night to take over the party room of E9 and fill it (up to 40 people) for the purpose of showing love and sparking gospel conversations.  Please pray that our people would invite.  Please pray that their 2 would come to dinner.  Pray for gospel conversations.

3) The second "great day" is Easter Sunday.  We're challenging people to invite their 2 to our Easter gathering April 5th.  We have several photographers in our church and one of them will be taking FREE family portraits and we'll be providing one free print per family.  Just another way to show God's love.  Pray that people would come on Easter, that they would hear the gospel, feel the gospel and trust the gospel.  Pray that they would connect to one of our Intentional Communities or to one of 3 new groups (pray that these all materialize) that should be launching after Easter.  Most of all, pray that our people would use our Easter gathering as a catalyst for sharing their faith and inviting their 2 to follow Jesus.

4) The third "great day" is the week following Easter.  All of our Intentional Communities will be throwing parties so that people can come and connect on a relational level with the community of believers.  Some will be having dinners, others might have game nights or go do something fun in the community.  Please pray for people to find themselves immersed in the body of Christ and that they would be radically changed by the gospel.

5) The fourth "great day" will hopefully come after the BEST DAY... the day many of these people put their trust in Jesus.  We will be celebrating baptism April 19th and are praying that more people will be baptized than we could ever imagine!

Thank you for your prayers.  We'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Together: Women

For years and years when someone asked me how they could pray for The Pathway, my response was the same.  "We need leaders."  Specifically, I meant we needed people willing to step up and take initiative.  People willing to see a need and meet a need.  People willing to get outside their comfort zone and take the lead for the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom.
Having some fun TOGETHER!

If you asked me the same question today... my answer would probably be the same!  I'm not sure we can ever have enough leaders.  But my perspective would be different because we are seeing those leaders raised up.  And it's exciting!

Becca Hurst came with us to Tacoma over 5 years ago to help plant The Pathway.  So much has happened over the last 5 years that she's not even Becca Hurst anymore, she's Becca Smithwick.  She's got a great husband, a precious baby boy named Ethan and another one on the way.  Becca has always been a leader.  But leaders never stop finding new ways to lead and Becca is living proof of that.

Several months ago Becca came to me and said that after some significant life changes including some major trials, she saw the need for the women of The Pathway to be sharpened together.  To grow in spiritual maturity and unity.  And best of all, she said she felt like she was being called out by God to lead the charge.  And from that the idea for Together:Women was born.  A day of training where the women of all our Intentional Communities come together to fellowship, worship and be trained and encouraged.

Because I'm a man, I wasn't there.  But my wife was and I wanted to share her thoughts on the day.  Glory to God and thank you for your continued prayers.

From Kelli... For the first time ever all the women of The Pathway gathered together and had a day of training & worship led and attended by the women of our church. It was wonderful!  God called Becca Smithwick to do something for the women of our church and she obeyed.  She gathered a team of women to organize this event and together they put on a gathering that was encouraging, refreshing and challenging. 

Becca shared her heart and motivation for putting planning the event. We played games together, ate together, listened to the incredible testimony of one of our own...  a testimony of grace and life change.  We worshiped Jesus together and went to several break out sessions led by women of The Pathway where we were challenged by the Scriptures. Women had the opportunity to learn more about prayer, studying the Bible and learning to love the woman God made us all to be. 

It was amazing to sit in that room of around 30 women, some of whom I haven not yet gotten to know, and all grow and be challenged together in our walks with Christ. It was amazing to see how God has worked in the lives of so many women in our church. There are times in church planting when it feels like we are not growing and we are not impacting this city for Jesus at all.  Legitimate times of discouragement.

But there was no mistaking all that God has done and is doing in the lives of the women of the pathway Saturday at Together:Women.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Big things coming...

This is not going to be a very long post.  I simply want to ask you to be praying.  Be praying for something BIG to happen in Tacoma.

I think every mission driven pastor and church planter is always expecting God to do something BIG.  We are constantly crying out to Jesus and for the most part honestly anticipating the next great awakening to break out in our city.  It has been beyond incredible to experience, over the last 5 years, a church being born.  To literally walk into a city with 4 adults and see a church born is incredible.  And over the course of the last several weeks Kelli and I have met with many of our partners and shared story after story of life change right alongside countless stories of heart break.  It has been a worshipful experience to reflect and recount all that God has done.

But time and again and I come back to the reality that while God has done amazing things, and most importantly his glory has been reflected in our lives and in our church, the growth that we have seen has been incremental.  It has been small spurts of growth both spiritually and numerically.

Don't get me wrong.  I wouldn't trade that growth for anything in the world.  But I still believe God is for us.  He's for our church.  He's for our world.  And he is for the city of Tacoma.  I believe he wants life change way more than I do.  I believe he wants the gospel to take root in our city with a greater passion than I'll ever be able to fully comprehend.  I believe he wants spiritual awakening and revival to break out.  And I still believe he can do that in the city of Tacoma.

So as we approach the season celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, I want you to pray a specific prayer if you feel so led.  Please pray that God would use The Pathway and other Jesus loving churches to see the gospel take root and bring explosive spiritual and numerical growth for the kingdom of God in the city of Tacoma. 

We know we serve a resurrection God because our lives have been changed by a resurrected Savior.  Please join me in praying for spiritual resurrection in our city in a BIG way!  And while you're at it... I'd encourage you to pray the same prayer for your community... for your city.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Power of Partnership

If you're familiar with The Pathway or follow this blog at all you know that partner churches play a huge role in what God has done and is doing in Tacoma through The Pathway.  Seven years ago Kelli and I were prayed over and sent out by our home church, Trinity Baptist in Ada, OK.  Seven years ago!  And they are more engaged in partnership than ever before.

Now, the focus of this blog will be Trinity Baptist.  But let me tell you the truth, we have 12 partner churches and even more individuals, couples and families that pray for, give to and engage with our family and our church.  But you have to know, unfortunately, this is not a common tale.  Somewhere along the church planting trail of tears, churches got the idea that they should partner with plants for 2-3 years and then move on.  Of course I cannot speak for all plants, all partners and all situations, but for us, that would have meant the death of The Pathway.

But by God's grace alone, and for God's glory alone, our partners have been so faithful, so engaged and so generous to us.  And by God's grace alone and for God's glory alone, I believe The Pathway will become a generous, engaged, reproducing church planting church.  That is thanks, in large part, to the kingdom minded example set for us by all of our partners.
Trinity Baptist, Lifepointe Community & The Pathway

Seven years ago Kelli and I were sent out by Trinity to help plant Lifepointe Community Church in Snoqualmie, WA.  The plan was to spend 2 years helping plant, learning the Northwest culture, and finding the city where God had called us to plant our lives and the gospel.  During that time so many families from Trinity prayed for us, supported us financially and encouraged us as we struggled with this new calling on our lives.  Trinity sent a short term mission team to serve with us and Lifepointe in the summer of 2009.

Then God called us to Tacoma.  And let me show you the power of partnership.  Trinity could have easily said good-bye to us after walking with us for almost 2 years.  They could have easily said good-bye to Lifepointe because they had committed to supporting us as a couple and not Lifepointe as a church.  They could have done a lot of things.

What did they do?  They stuck with Lifepointe & The Pathway!

Over the years Trinity has sent Lifepointe and The Pathway more mission teams than I can count.  Trinity has sent both churches summer interns.  Over the course of the years Trinity has sent us young, fired-up young couples and singles who felt compelled by the gospel and supported by their home church to move to an unchurched part of the country and use their gifts for God's glory and mission.  Incredible.

Then in 2014 God called Trinity's own worship pastor, Adam Forgety, and family to come and serve with The Pathway.  Again, the people of Trinity embraced them, encouraged them, prayed for them, and sent them out.  There are individuals and families at Trinity who have been financially supporting The Pathway for 5 years.  They could have easily said they were done.  They could have stopped supporting The Pathway and started supporting Adam and Khylee Forgety.  Instead, so many have continued their generous support of The Pathway and have decided to generously support The Forgety's as well.  WOW!

But why?

I don't think I have an exact answer for that.  But I do believe part of the reason is that Trinity understands and believes in partnership.  Specifically partnership in the gospel.  I believe they love Jesus and the gospel so much that they are committed to seeing lives changed all over the world... Tacoma included.  I believe it's because that church is filled with families, leaders and pastors who passionately love God, believe the gospel whole-heartedly, and are committed to the Great Commission.

Then this weekend, in an attempted "surprise," (thank you Chris & Courtney!) Trinity sent a 10 member team (5 to Snoqualmie and 5 to Tacoma) to bless our churches and our leaders.  They came simply to encourage our family, the Forgety's and the pastors and staff in Snoqualmie.  That's it.  No agenda other than to bless and encourage us.  And they sent our friends... really, they sent the spiritual family we left behind in Ada, OK.

They sent Irby and Cheryl Clary.  They Clary's stayed with our family for 4 days and we were blessed beyond measure.  Irby and Cheryl were our Bible Fellowship teachers at Trinity.  They were the first people we asked to pray for us about our decision to move to the Northwest.  They came to serve on the first mission team to Trinity sent to Tacoma.  They allow us to stay in their home when we come to Oklahoma.  They genuinely love us, they faithfully support us in multiple ways, and they encourage us all the time.

And not surprising, Irby and Cheryl were also Adam and Khylee's Bible Fellowship teachers.  They love them, support them, and have encouraged them through this entire life transition.  One of Khylee's closest friends, Courtney Folsom, came to love on her.  She came to bless all of the women who lead in our church.  She came and encouraged us.  Brett Wiseman, a close personal friend of both Adam and myself, came to the west coast for the first time to minister to us.  He left his family (thank you Rachel) and all the things in life I'm sure he is falling behind on, simple to bless us.

Partnership.  It's a beautiful thing when embraced fully.  And by God's grace alone we have been blessed with "all-in" partners.  And it's those partners... God working through those partners... that keeps me believing that someday soon, our church will mature to become a generous, reproducing, church planting church.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Breaking the silence

Together: Christmas 2015
Happy New year!

I apologize for the extended silence on the blog.  We've had a fantastic holiday season and I wanted to update you.  The church did great things over the Christmas season.  Attendance in our Intentional Community gatherings was steady and our Sunday gathering numbers were up significantly from last December.  Praise Jesus for that!  This past Sunday we had a slim turn-out for the kick-off of our Luke series, but hopefully now that school is starting we'll see consistency rise and growth continue.  That is our prayer and what I'd love for you to be praying as well.

The picture above is of our first ever Together: Christmas gathering.  It was a blast!  As leaders of the church, we try our best to listen to the church as a whole about what's working, what's not and what we should change.  In recent days we continued to hear a cry to do more things Together.  Everything we do flows through our Intentional Communities and we do not want to lose that.  We believe that approach allows fewer people to get "lost" in the busyness of life and ministry and that it provides the most effective pathway for being the church.  But we LOVE that people want to be with their church so we've started a Together initiative.  These are opportunities for all of our IC's to unite together for a gathering, celebration, training, etc.  Together: Christmas was the first such gathering and it was so much fun!

We had a big family style pot-luck dinner on Christmas Eve.  We had an interactive telling of the Christmas story with all of the kids in the church and then we went caroling in the neighborhood around the school where we gather.  It was crazy, informal, fun and worshipful.  And best of all it was Together!  It was family time and we are learning how valuable that can be.

I also finished up my UPS experiment on Christmas Eve.  It meant I arrived at Together: Christmas a bit late but I didn't miss it all.  Overall the UPS experiment was a success.  It was not nearly as draining on my family as we feared it might be.  It gave me a foot in the door with a good company in case I ever need to go back to work seasonal, part-time or full-time.  It also gave me a great refresher course in what the missionaries in our church face every day in their jobs, on their campuses and in the "real world."  I thought I remembered... I didn't.

The culture was just spiritually dead.  That's the best way to put it.  It was lost.  It was broken.  It was self-serving and cut-throat.  It was sad and it was in need of joy.  It was hopeless and in need of hope.  It was dark and in need of light.  I'm so thankful that we have a church pursuing the calling of being missionaries to their worlds and I pray that God would use my time and UPS to make me a more relevant teacher, encourager and disciple-maker so that our people are better equipped to be more effective as they go into the world and preach the gospel.

Thank you as always for your support and if there's one phrase I would ask you to repeat over and over in your prayers for our church and the people of Tacoma, it would be life change.  Pray that God brings massive, undeniable and supernatural life change this week, this month and this year for his glory and fame alone!

We are also anxiously awaiting the arrival of our first mission team of 2015 tonight.  Please pray for God to use a group from The Austin Stone to reach people for Jesus over the next several days.  Pray specifically for a concert we are sponsoring at a local spot in downtown Tacoma on Saturday night.  Thank you!