[AWAKENING CHURCH UPDATE] The Year for Awakening

On this first week of the year, we want to celebrate all God did this past year with a heart of gratitude over his faithfulness. And as we enter a new year, may we submit ourselves to God’s priorities and pursue people with a renewed sense of urgency.

As a farmer invests in seasons of plowing and sowing, what joy he experiences when sees the first fruits. This past month we experienced a first fruit as one of our ESL students placed her faith in Jesus! We are reminded daily that we don’t have to board international flights to reach people from other religions and cultures. We just need to open our eyes and engage the nations surrounding us in our own city. Helping people learn English has been a great way to serve and love our community. We look forward to seeing many more people discover Jesus through these open doors.

On Christmas Eve, I had the opportunity to preach at the Chinese Southern Baptist Church in downtown Seattle.  For this special service, the Chinese and English congregations came together for one combined service.  We sang Christmas songs in Cantonese and English and I preached a message about Immanuel, who promises to always be with us. And knowing that God is with us gives us power to bring light into this dark world. It was a time of celebration.

As we continue to pray for a strong core team to launch Awakening Church, we can see the team beginning to develop.  There are 2 young men currently living in the Seattle area that God has brought into our lives.  I have been meeting and discipling them as we prepare to launch.  During the Thanksgiving holiday, I met a special couple from my uncle’s church in Kansas.  They were in Bellevue visiting extended family and we met for coffee one morning.  We spent a couple hours sharing stories of Gods calling, vision, and how he had been preparing them for a new season of ministry. As conversations have continued, they feel God drawing them to Bellevue to join our core team.  Please join me in praying for them as they answer the call of God and take bold steps of faith in the days ahead.

In early December, we enjoyed having Kathy’s parents come visit us for a week. And on Christmas day, some dear friends from San Antonio came to visit as well. We were so blessed and encouraged by the time with all of them.

May God give us boldness, wisdom, and creativity to think of ways to respond to his grace, so that through us, even the distant islands can sing for joy (Isaiah 42).

Celebration / Gratitude

  • Praise for his faithfulness in all things!
  • Gratitude for relationships and partnership supporting our church planting.
  • Thanks for God’s gifts to us, for his strength and for his calling on our lives.
  • Awakening in the body of Christ to His work around the globe.
  • Thank God for preparing the soil of the past, and for what God is going to do this new year.

Prayer Requests

  • Bold Faith
  • Deepened intimacy with Christ. Everything else in is a result of that.
  • Core team development as we begin vision meetings within the next couple months.
  • Partnering churches and individuals to sustain long-term work in our city.

[AWAKENING CHURCH UPDATE] Come Sail Away

I’m not a big hiker and I’ve never sailed before. But there are principles of hiking and sailing that directly apply to the way we live our lives.  In my church planting orientation, trainings, books, and cohorts there has been a great deal of emphasis put on planning and strategizing. While planning has helped us develop and clarify our vision, we’ve learned to plan in pencil recalling, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

We do like to make plans…but planning assumes predictable and unchanging pathways similar to a hikers dependance on a map to navigate. In the planning process, there are fixed points that can be anticipated because the paths and landmarks don’t change much over time. Their presence is predictable.

But imagine the context of a sailor on the open water. There are few landmarks or fixed points that provide an ever-present constant. Storms, shifting winds, and changing currents require an entirely different set of skills to navigate. Similar to navigating the seas, observing and adapting to our ever-changing environment is essential.

We are reminded everyday that North America is the largest English-speaking mission field in the world (although 40+% of Bellevue, WA speaks another language at home). As Will Mancini urges…

The Church can no longer think and act like club members; we must think and act like missionaries.”

As we live as missionaries on the east side of Seattle, God continues to open new relational doors.  In my regular routine of hair cuts, I’ve developed good relationships at a local barber shop.  Most of the workers in the shop are from the middle-east and they refer to me as “Preacher man.”  My regular barber, Michael, and I have had some great gospel conversations over the past few months.  The door opens a little more each time I’m there. When I first met Michael, I added him to a prayer list of people I regularly pray for.  A couple weeks ago I mentioned to Michael that I prayed for him each week and asked him how I could pray for him specifically.  With tear filled eyes, he shared how grateful he was and how I could pray.  I let him know that I’d be preaching at three different churches in November and I invited him to come when he could.  This past Sunday, after a 20+ year hiatus from any church, he showed up to hear me preach. After the service, he sent me a text message that read…

Jonah, I really enjoyed the service. Felt like Jesus was talking to me face-to-face. Thanks for the invite and the prayers. I’m excited because I know that He who began a good work in me is faithful to see it through.

I’m so thankful that God brought us together and how He is working in Michael’s life.  I look forward to my next haircut!

For Thanksgiving, we invited 7 new friends to our house for dinner.  Most of those that came had never had a traditional Thanksgiving meal before. We got to express our gratitude to God for his son, Jesus, and for bringing us new friendships. We then prayed together and had a great time teaching them about Thanksgiving traditions and what we are thankful for.

Holidays provide such great opportunities to share the good news with people all around us. This week we began Christmas conversations in our ESL class.  We read and explained the Christmas story in the book of Luke, sang Christmas songs, and talked about Christmas traditions.  Our ESL class turned into a special time of discovering Jesus. I could see faces light up as we read the Word of God. Jesus showed up to Talk Time!

I hope these few stories help paint the picture of what God is doing in, around, and through us.  We have a great focus these days on our preparation. While planning relies on predictability, our preparation helps us stay focused during times of uncertainty and seize the opportunities God gives us. We continue looking for ways to bless and serve our community.

As sailors on the open seas, we are continually praying, learning, and discerning what God is doing. As each day unfolds, we are beginning to discover God’s unique vision for us and the planting of Awakening Church.

I am continually reminded that my Kingdom vision really isn’t about me at all. And “It’s actually not really about [Awakening Church]. It is about the Kingdom assignment of unleashing a wave of God’s reign across [the east side of Seattle]— and way beyond.” -Jeff Christopherson, Kingdom First

Please join us in praying specifically this month for:

1. The development of our core team.

2. Partnering churches and individuals to help support the launch of Awakening Church.

3. Our ESL classes and the developing relationships God is beginning.

When God Calls – Kathy Easley

This past month my wife, Kathy, was asked to write a blog post for By Faith She.  I’m honored to share life with this amazing woman/wife/mother who lives in daily pursuit of God. Whatever God is calling you to today, I hope her story inspires you to say YES Lord!

One of my favorite things is to hear a testimony from someone who said “Yes!” to God’s calling on their life. In elementary school, I was in a group called GA’s (Girls in Action), a church program for girls to learn about, pray for, give to, and get involved in missions. It was exciting for me anytime a missionary would come and speak to us about what their life was like on their mission field. Little did I know that one day God would call me to a foreign mission field.

I distinctly remember the day I knew that my husband and I would be moving overseas. My husband was a high school pastor and had recently returned from leading his second mission trip to China. I came home from work one Monday and it was clear he had been deeply burdened about China and sensed God leading us there. Through much prayer and fasting, we felt certain God was calling us to China. And to the shock of my husband, without hesitation, I said yes! I had traveled abroad to seven different countries, but had never been to China. The Lord had been preparing my heart and mind for this well before this day. God has a way of confirming His will through other people, through His Word, and through the alignment of circumstances that cannot be coincidence. I couldn’t see what the whole picture looked like, but He showed me what step to take at that time. That was my role in all of this – to take that step. It required faith and trust in a God who knows what He’s doing and who has it all figured out even when I don’t. This is how I can partner with Him in making an impact for His kingdom! He leads and I follow with complete trust in the God who sees the end from the beginning. Beautiful submission!

As excited as I was to get to China, it was quite a daunting task to prepare to move our entire lives to a foreign country. There were less than five months from the time we were sure of God’s calling to China until we actually landed there. God had opened a door for us to teach English, but we didn’t know what ministry would look like. Even though God didn’t show us a blueprint of His plans before we got there, He went before us each step of the way. Moving to China was a big step of obedience, but it was only the first step. Being submersed into a new culture drove us to complete dependence and obedience for every part of our journey. We’ve been back in America for a few years now, and I love reflecting on our four years in China. I could never have imagined all God had planned for us there. When we arrived, we felt unqualified and unprepared in many ways. However, looking back, I can see how God had prepared us for ministry in China well before we moved there. And while in China, God was preparing us for church planting in the Chinese populated city of Bellevue, Washington, where we currently serve.

M. David Sills, in his book The Missionary Call, shares one of the best quotes I’ve heard about God’s calling. He writes, “His call is for life, but the ways and places where we fulfill it and live it out will change throughout our lives as He guides.” It is vital that we understand that as believers and followers of Jesus, we are all called to live our lives on mission. Sharing Jesus with the world is not reserved only for those with seminary degrees or years of ministry training. The Great Commission Matthew 28:19-20 is for all believers. While God did call us specifically to a foreign mission field for a season, we are called to live our lives on mission wherever we are. Every believer is called to leverage their life for the spread of the Gospel. This means that your home, school, work, social media, with your friends, at a coffee shop, are your mission field. God may never call you to a foreign land, but know that He has called you, as follower of Christ, to join Him in His mission every day of your life.

Obeying God’s call on your life is the best and wisest decision you can make. It brings blessing because God honors those who honor Him. Obedience to God’s calling also involves submission to His authority and plans over your own. Remember that when you submit to God, you are submitting to One who is good, loving, and never changing. He is all-powerful. He makes possible the impossible. Obeying God demonstrates trust in His goodness and control over all things.

Is there something you have sensed the Lord calling you to do? Whatever that looks like for you, becourageous! You don’t have to see the entire picture to be obedient. Be obedient in taking the first step. It can happen right now. He who called you is faithful.

[AWAKENING CHURCH UPDATE] Movement

We desire a movement of God. Period. We came to the Northwest with this desire but didn’t assume that we would be the catalyst for such movement. A movement of God  is the work of God. Therefore it cannot be planned, but it can be prepared for.

With that understanding, we stay on our face before God pleading with Him to draw the hearts of our city to Him.  In our context, we feel certain that constructing a building and opening the doors with the expectation of people showing up will make little to no impact on the Kingdom of God. The work that God has called us to is purely relational. One relationship at a time. One disciple of Jesus…making another disciple of Jesus… that makes other disciples of Jesus…and so on. This means that we must be willing to meet people where they are, invest in and develop healthy relationships, and be willing to walk alongside them as they discover who Jesus is.

I’ve discovered something that you probably already know. It’s easy for me to meet people when I spend time out and about in my city…looking for people! But it’s easier for me to live my life for myself and my family with no concern or care for those around me. God continues to open my eyes to see more of how he sees the world…with a genuine love and concern for the hearts of all people.

A few weeks ago, we began an ESL ministry with a group of Chinese adults looking for
community and conversational English practice.  In our opening remarks, I shared about our love for China and Chinese people which sparked some credibility and curiosity. When it came time for questions, we were asked, “Why would you leave America to move to China?” This question coming from a group that worked as hard as they could to get to America. “Thanks for the softball,” I thought to myself! This opened the door for me to share about my relationship with Jesus and my desire to share the life-changing gospel with the people of China.  As I finished with my response, many were smiling and they began clapping. What a response! Most of them are not believers, but were moved by our sacrifice, willingness, and our love for their people and nation.  Relationships have begun to grow with several of the participants over the past few weeks since the beginning of our Talk Time class.

In my last post, I mentioned meeting a woman named Coco. In our third conversation, she mentioned that someone had given her a Bible.  She opened it for the first time and closed it almost immediately feeling overwhelmed.  I asked her if she would like to read it together.  Her eyes lit up as she responded, “I’ve been waiting for you to ask me that.” Two weeks ago we began reading the book of John together. Please join me in praying for Coco, her husband Jack, and her 2 children as we help them discover Jesus.

Each week we are meeting new people and deepening relationships with the people that we have already met (I keep a running spreadsheet to keep them organized and pray for on a regular basis).  Additionally, God continues to open new doors for us in our city.  Serving in Evan’s elementary school, multiple opportunities for conversational English classes, YMCA partnerships, and other opportunities are bringing new people into our lives. We need your prayers as we continue tilling the ground and sowing seeds. Another current need is for 40 Chinese English Bibles ESV/Union 中英对照圣经. We would like to give them as gifts to our Talk Time students for Christmas this year.  If you are able, please help us bless our new friends with their first Bible. They can be sent directly to:

Awakening Church, 15225 SE 49th St, Bellevue, WA 98006

This past week I attended the North American Mission Board Church Planter Basic Training. It was a great and challenging week as we unpacked many thought provoking topics that helped to both confirm and refine the vision that God has given us. Additionally, beginning this week, I will be a part of a NAMB church planting cohort with four other planters.  We will meet monthly for the next five months as we discuss leadership competencies including calling & character, vision, missional engagement, and multiplication.  I’m thankful for this great opportunity.

Even with our desire for a movement of God, ONLY God can create one. It requires His divine and sovereign work.  But, based on observations of history and things taking place around the world, there are patterns relating to movements (Lifeway research). Here are 3 of them…

Unreasonable people. The comfortable do not create movements. Instead, they originate with those who are desperate, demanding something different.  When people allow their faith to be tamed by the world, they end up with a “nice religion” uninterested in the big issues like global evangelization, world poverty, and injustice. Christianity needs unreasonable people who are uncomfortable with the status quo and unwilling to be content with the current mode of life and church.

Churches that are willing to sacrifice. Seeing the Kingdom as more important than an individual church will take sacrifice, but that’s what a movement is about. For so many churches that are simply trying to survive. A movement takes churches that so believe in their mission and cause that they are willing to sacrifice for it— financially, individually, and corporately. They are willing to give and go.  Everyone loves a movement, as long as it looks great but costs them little. A true movement will have a steep price, but those who are a part of it will recognize the immeasurable value.

Multiplying disciples. That’s so basic it is easy to miss, but it cannot be more essential. The fact is, no one will be willing to be unreasonable and no churches are willing to sacrifice unless deeply committed disciples are involved. Making disciple-making disciples is the basic building block of anything Jesus calls us to do, which is why it is central to the mission of God.  In the Great Commission, Jesus indicated you are not making real disciples if they are not disciple makers.

As you journey with us in this endeavor, we urge you to be unreasonable…willing to sacrifice…and be personally challenged to multiply disciples in your context. I pray that our passion for the lost will create a sense of urgency and relentless pursuit of storing up our treasures in heaven. Glory to God.

Please join us in praying for:

  1. Partnering churches and individuals to help support this work.
  2. Developing relationships that open doors to gospel conversations.
  3. Our planning and mentee opportunities in the coming months.

[AWAKENING CHURCH UPDATE] Living out the DNA


Since our arrival in Seattle, God has continued to show us that we are exactly where He wants us to be. On a weekly basis, we are meeting new people and making new connections in the community.  Visiting parks seems to be a prime place to meet new people in spite of the reputation of the Seattle freeze.  This refers to a belief that it is especially difficult to make new friends (particularly for transplants from other cities) in Seattle.  While I can see the realities of the freeze, our experience has been a little different so far.

 

I met Coco and her 5 year-old son at Downtown Park in Bellevue two weeks ago.  She moved here from Beijing the same week we did.  Her husband works and spends most of his time in China while she is here with her two kids. We have continued dialogue and they plan to come to our house for dinner this week.  While our conversations have been brief up until this point, she has shown an openness and excitement about our new friendship.

When we met Amy, a real estate agent in Bellevue, she shared her story of how she was introduced to Jesus.  In an effort to improve her English, she began meeting with a small group of people for an “English Corner.” Through that experience, she was exposed to the gospel and followed Christ as a result. Because of that experience, she has a passion for reaching people in similar ways.  Having done that type of ministry in China, we share a similar passion with Amy.  We have teamed up with her and will begin teaching an ESL class for 37 professional Chinese women on October 13!

This past Saturday we spent some quality family time in downtown Seattle. We took the kids for a ride on the Seattle Center Monorail and played at a nearby playground. After dinner, we took a walk through the marina on Lake Union. The kids really enjoyed looking at the seaplanes, floating homes, and yachts. While walking along, we passed by a sign for boat rentals. I grabbed a brochure and we kept walking.  Within 10 minutes, Kathy had convinced me that we should go back and rent a boat for an hour. So in an adventurous spirit of spontaneity, we did.  As I was filling out the waivers, the employee asked, “This might seem random, but did you used to live in Virginia?” I told him I had lived there for a couple years. He then asked, “Did you live in Newport News?” “Yes,” I replied…getting a little wierded out. He continued, “Were you the student pastor at Tabernacle Baptist Church?” In fact I was! He let out a big sigh and said, “I knew it was you the moment I heard your voice! I was in your youth group!” Are you kidding me right now? My jaw was on the ground.  He said, “It’s so weird that you are here right now. I think about you guys all the time and wonder where you are. I just want you to know how big of an impact you made on my life and wanted to say thank you.” I’m excited to see God work through this relationship. We are meeting him for coffee this week!

As we move toward our calling to plant a church in Seattle, we daily live out the DNA of the church we desire to be.  Our vision is to see people transformed and be obedient to the Great Commission for God’s glory. Our uniqueness revolves around who God called us to be as His children and our genuine heart for the nations.

MISSIONS IS THE MISSION  With the gospel of Jesus at our core, we are committed to being on mission in our city to make, grow, and send disciples.  What happens inside the walls is designed to prepare people to go outside the walls.

FOCUSED OUTWARD  A healthy question to ask is, “What do my time and money say about my priorities?” Jesus spent the majority of his time with sinners, even to the point that the disciples became concerned. He calls us to join Him in the effort of reaching the lost.

BUILD UP TO SEND OUT  Becoming a disciple of Jesus involves much more than the transformation of our character.  It’s also about carrying out His mission. He wants us to follow Him to make us fishers of men!

All of this is a means to one end…the glory of God.  Apart from Christ, we once lived to glorify lesser things.  But in Christ, correct worship of God is restored and we are empowered by His Spirit to glorify Him and join Him where He is at work.

Please continue praying specifically for…

– Our transition as we settle into our new routines and schedules

– Our new relationships to develop and lead to gospel conversations.

– The development of our core team – That God would call people (and that they would be obedient) to join us in Seattle.

– Partnerships with churches and individuals that would join us in prayer, financially, and on the field.

[AWAKENING CHURCH UPDATE] 5 Essentials to Accomplish the Impossible

It’s been two weeks since we arrived in Seattle.  Moving cross country to an unfamiliar place where all things are new has it’s challenges and plenty of opportunity. Isaiah 43:19 seems to echo daily through my mind saying, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” We can’t help but perceive it! It’s been challenging, stressful, exhausting, and exciting as we’ve been unpacking our house, getting kids registered for school, attending school tours and open houses, and finding our new rhythms. But in the midst of the chaos, God keeps giving us reminders of why here, why us, and why now.

It was great to have my mom here for a week to help us get situated…and take us to the zoo!

Unlike our loved ones in South Texas, the weather over the past couple weeks has been beautiful in Seattle. We have been making an intentional effort to take walks though the nearby hiking trails, parks, and playgrounds to help break up the day. The kids have done great considering the complete overhaul on their “normal” life. One afternoon this past week, Evan and I walked to a nearby park where we spotted a Chinese woman doing tai-chi.  She saw us out of the corner of her eye and turned to us.  As she did, I said hello to her in Chinese… “你好.”  Her eyes lit up and we began a 20 minute conversation in her native language while Evan played on the playground.  As we visited, I got to tell her about my life in China and she told me about her life in America.  She has been teaching Chinese in a local elementary school for the past 20 years.  When she asked why we moved here, I told her about our vision to start a church and reach Seattle for Jesus.  Her eyes lit up again! She went on to tell me that she was a believer but had struggled finding a church and wanted to join us! We exchanged information and have been in contact since that introduction.  As we find our new rhythms, such as visiting parks, God reminded me that He can and will work through the everyday stuff of life.

As God has led us to Seattle to plant a church, people have often asked me about a building as if the church was a program housed at a specific location. Unfortunately, that’s what the culture has created in so many ways.  Over the next year, our goals revolve around living our lives on mission in the everyday stuff of life.  I will be working with a local church that will help us get acclimated and prepared to launch next year.  However, we are missionaries before we are church planters.  In the northwest, there isn’t an “if you build it, they will come” ministry approach that is effective or successful. The seemingly most effective approach is relational investment in peoples lives as we help them discover who Jesus really is and what He desires for them.  In many ways, this approach takes more time and effort. God has been teaching and showing us that this plan to do the impossible is only possible through Him. Our brokenness and dependence on Him is paramount. As He uses us as His instruments in this endeavor, He has shown me 5 essentials that are involved to accomplish the impossible…

  1. VISION – God’s vision is for us to share His message of hope with Seattle and the world (Luke 24:47). The Lord said what would be impossible with man is possible with God (Luke 18:27). Once we obey in the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we’ll be amazed at what God will do through us.
  1. PEOPLE WHO INVEST & BELIEVE IN US – Being missionaries and church planters is impossible without the calling of God and the partnerships and support from the body of Christ. The prayers, financial support, and partnerships are critical to accomplishing the vision.
  1. WILLINGNESS TO FAIL – Yes, it’s risky…but we are willing to follow God’s path with an understanding of the reality of challenges church planting in Seattle.  We remain obedient and we trust God with the results.
  1. UNYIELDING COMMITMENT TO THE VISION – Our commitment to the vision is rooted in the urgency of the gospel, our passion for the lost, and our relentless pursuit to live surrendered and obedient lives to Christ.
  1. FAITH TO TAKE MASSIVE RISKS – The size of the dream = The size of our faith. Our God has the ability to fulfill His vision through us as we surrender to Him. He is increasingly growing our faith.

Please continue to pray for us as we get acclimated to our new life in Seattle.  We are excited about the days and years ahead as we launch AWAKENING CHURCH to reach people with the gospel.  Your love, support, and prayer means the world to us!

Jonah, Kathy, Evan, Adele, and Elijah Easley