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.