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!