TURF WAR

music • comedy • magic poetry • dance

There are many ideas as to what the “correct” priority list in life should be. We are constantly searching for and evaluating what deserves our attention from moment to moment (Even if we don’t do this intentionally, our priorities are easily seen by those closest to us).  As the values of society seen to evolve by the minute, so can our affections. We can put valuable time and focus on things that offer us a fruitless return. There’s a daily turf war on the battlefield of our hearts…and unfortunately the values of this world are fighting for residence in the hearts of God’s people. 

I love goals. And as a church, we set goals. However, with numerical, financial, and baptism goals, we may be complicating what God intended to be so simple. I can be so focused on achieving my goal, I’ll do whatever it takes to accomplish it. In the process, I find it easy to  give my time, energy, and love to a multitude of “good goals” that aren’t always rooted in simply loving God and the people around me.

When asked about the most important commandment in all of Scripture, Jesus responded, 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). 

Our entire life is reduced down to this one (or two) pursuit(s). In other words, everything we do is meant to be marked by the simplicity of loving God. In this daily turf war, our actions don’t always communicate that our love for God matters more than any achievement or success. But in reality, our love for God matters more than any possession, status, or relationship on earth. When we align our lives with the first and greatest commandment, everything else comes becomes clear. Jesus continues with his next statement to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) It plays out like faith and works; if we truly have the first (a love for God), the second will naturally follow (a love for people). John Bloom wrote,

“The most loving thing we can do for others is love God more than we love them. For if we love God most, we will love others best.”

In the early days of church planting we are challenged to spend much time strategizing and developing ministry plans, marketing campaigns, and attendance-building events to draw people to our church. These “multitude of good things” are well intentioned means to get the gospel farther, faster. Nonetheless, Relationships are the context in which life is lived…and ministry takes place in the context of those relationships. We must make people our priority in living, leading, and loving. Relationships require great time-consuming investments that are sure to be filled with vulnerabilities, hurts, smiles, and joy.

Even in the most well-intended ministries, we can create our own success metrics and ask them to give us what only God can. If our eyes drift from Jesus, we tend to look around us to find the approval, acceptance, and love from those around us. But our heavenly Father is the source of the greatest love and affection for us.

May we come to realize the success metric which Jesus has called us…to faithfully and whole-heartedly love Him and those around us. True fulfillment is received in a life lived in pursuit of God as we surrender to Him each and every day.

  • Please pray for Awakening Church. With our eyes fixed on Jesus, pray as we develop new and existing relationships for His kingdom expansion. 
  • This past month we started a new Bible study with several ESL students (none of which are yet believers). Please join us in praying for the softening of their hearts and and openness to the gospel.
  • This week we are beginning a focus in our city groups on sharing Jesus. Please pray for boldness as we live on mission each day across Seattle.
  • PRAISE- God has met a great need with His provision of a Sunday childcare worker for our daughter. This will open greater doors for my wife, Kathy, to have greater involvement with Awakening Church.
  • PRAISE- I had an encouraging time at the Send Network Gathering in Las Vegas, NV this month. I’m so thankful for a network that prioritizes planting churches. But just as important, a network that invests in the spiritual and emotional health of it’s planters so the planting continues! #sendnetwork

Incapable of the Task

copy of copy of daily habit with love

This is hard! 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 reminds us that weak, low, and despised are qualities God looks for, and he chooses these qualities on purpose…for a purpose.

After reading this passage we might know, in a sense, that God loves to use the weak and broken. We may find encouragement when we read about underdog victories in a Bible story or missionary biography. As a pastor, I often teach others about it. But when this becomes personal, it’s almost always unpleasant and uncomfortable when God wants to highlight our weaknesses. Which is why I have occasionally wished that God would have chosen someone else for this assignment. I’m just incapable of the task.

However, in growing dependance on Him, I fully trust that He has a strategic purpose for this assignment of planting and pastoring Awakening Church. One that, if embraced, will transform my weaknesses into a source of joy, instead of shame.

As I reflect on my past assignments, I’m reminded that the greatest thing that God is continually teaching me is to trust Him more. Which means that God would never call me (or you) to any kingdom duty I am capable of pulling off on my own. When it comes to doing anything that is intended to display God’s glory, declare his word to a resistant culture, deploy on mission to see others discover Jesus, “Who [in the world] is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16).

Weaknesses are necessary qualifications for God’s servants to reiterate the fact that we are not sufficient. Our weaknesses…the very things we struggle with and are embarrassed about…are a critical part of the mission He gave us. They are part of God’s strategy to reveal himself to the world. It’s through our weaknesses (more than our strengths) that God demonstrates that he exists and rewards those who trust and seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

My weaknesses urge me to press deeper in my faith. The times in my life when I’ve asked the hardest questions, when I struggled the most, and doubted God’s presence and abilities was when my faith grew the most. 

The depths of God’s love can often be known best in the depths of despair.

Our weaknesses are a significant way in which God’s strength is continually revealed to the world. Because in our weaknesses, people can see that the only strength we have comes from God.

As God teaches me to depend on Him, nothing helps me grow in dependence like the desperation that comes from an assignment that can’t be done without Him. The faith of Awakening Church is being strengthened as we grow closer to Jesus and live deployed on mission in Seattle. 

2019 is off to a great start as we engage our community with The Good News of Jesus. The relationships that are developing and the opportunities for serving, teaching, and expanding our reach are encouraging. We have engaged more through volunteering in ESL classes, starting a new women’s bible study, expanding our existing City Groups, and serving the homeless community.

This past week my Chinese friend, Jin Lin, stopped me after an ESL bible class that I was teaching. Jin Lin is not a believer, but about a year ago I encouraged him to begin reading a chapter of the bible each day and to pray for God to reveal himself to him. Much to my surprise, he had been reading and asking God to reveal himself! He mentioned that he often has a difficult time understanding parts of the bible and wondered if he could come by my office each week after class to talk about what he had read. “YES!,” I replied, “of course you can.” He was hesitant to ask because he knows I have a busy schedule. But I explained to him that I would cancel just about anything on my calendar to spend that time with him. 

organic festival

My favorite day of the week is Sunday…but not for the obvious pastoral reasons (and not football). Each week we have a core team prayer/praise time 30 minutes before our worship service. During this time I share what God has been up to in and through my life over the past week. We go around the room and others share about the activity of God in their lives and ways we can pray for one another. It’s the most encouraging and motivating time of the week to see how God is using Awakening Church in our city. Each one of us is incapable of the task that God has given us as ambassadors for Christ. We all have weaknesses that are driving us to a greater dependence on Jesus. It’s through these weaknesses that God is demonstrating that he exists and rewards those who trust and seek him!

Thank you for your partnership with Awakening Church. The gospel breakthroughs and transformed lives are a direct result of your faithfulness in praying and financial giving. We are reminded often as we pray for our partners that we are here because of the call of God on our lives and the faithfulness of His people.

Please continue to pray for these specific things…

  • Our family as we search for a Sunday morning helper for our daughter that would allow Kathy to engage in greater ways.
  • Feb. 3-13 we have a team headed to India to teach at a pastors retreat, preach in several Indian churches, and host multiple prayer meetings in 3 difference cities with our ministry partners.
  • Faithfulness in equipping people for ministry and growing Awakening Church in a healthy & God-honoring way.

Highlights of 2018 – Awakening Church

Copy of Daily habit with love
I’m so thankful for the Awakening Family that God is building for His mission in Bellevue! People are coming to Jesus, disciples are being made, and we are deploying ON MISSION. God has done more than we could ask, think, or imagine through the generosity of of partners! Because of these partnership, we were able to move to a challenging culture to make disciples among people far from God. This impossible task is made possible through the power and grace of Jesus. He is making a way.
Some 2018 highlights include…
  • Launched Awakening Church in Bellevue, WA, Sept. 30.
  • Launched 3 small groups.
  • First International Mission Trip – SE Asia, Conference for missionaries and families on Restoration.
  • Developing trusting friendships with people from multiple cultural backgrounds through ESL.
  • Community partnerships with local schools & businesses.
  • Thanksgiving Serve Day – Served over 1,000 families in need while pointing people to Jesus.
  • Community Christmas Party – New relationships & gospel conversations.
  • Homeless Ministry – With over 11,000 homeless in our county, the need is great. We have helped get people off the streets, get much needed help, and led many to Jesus.
  • Our first World Mission Offering – This sacrificial offering went to support Lottie Moon, National, & Local missions partnerships.
There are so many conversations and relationships that can’t be expressed with a numbers report or list of highlights. Know that God is working in and through the lives of Awakening Church. I remain encouraged and consider it pure joy to serve Jesus as pastor. Thank you for helping to make that a reality by your prayer and financial support. May Jesus be lifted up!
Please continue to pray for us in the days to come. We face great challenges that can lead to discouragement and/or frustration. However, our God is ever present…daily guiding and working in all things. For there is not one square inch of this entire universe over which God does not have complete control.
Let us be still…and know that He is God…and He will be exalted among the nations.

THINGS THAT GO TOGETHER

things that go together

Some things just naturally go together, like peanut butter & jelly, thunder & lightning, fish & chips, or pork & beans. Trying to imagine the one without the other would be like losing part of the identity. Making disciples & building community go together as well—in fact, they are inseparably linked. Without other believers to grow with, the process of multiplying disciples and churches is impossible.

As we live under God’s direction, our faith will be affected by how we relate to the people around us. And because we are family with other believers, we are seeking out others we can learn with. Being a Christian involves a relationship with God, yes, but it also involves a relationship with others. The goal of Christ-centered community is to develop the ultimate atmosphere by which the Church can speed toward its destination—multiplying disciples.

This past weekend we wrapped up our first month as Awakening Church in Bellevue, Washington. Building community and deeper relationships are some of the key building blocks we are using to introduce the gospel to our city.

Through our gathering, praying, serving, and studying, we are growing in strength and number each week. We are committed to this journey of faith, courage, and sacrifice that is creating a multi-ethnic and economically diverse church. In response the the prayer of Jesus for unity and our desire to pattern ourselves after the New Testament Church at Antioch (Acts 11)—we are a church or others, for all people, we are Awakening Church.

Acts 2:42–47 gives us a snapshot of community in the early church. It is a great passage, full of people spending time together…praying, talking, eating and worshipping. This passage shows a group of people wanting to be faithful to Christ and a desire to grow in their faith together.

Zach &Sarah Melvin

It’s with great joy that I get to announce that God has blessed us with new worship leaders! Zach and Sarah Melvin transitioned from Lynchburg, VA this past week. Please join us as we pray for their transition to their new home and life in Seattle. We celebrate their obedience and rejoice that God has opened the door for them to join the Awakening Church family!

2018 worldmission offering

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8

Over 2.8 Billion people have little to no access to the gospel. Together, we’re changing that. This December we will have our first World Mission Offering in which 100% of our gifts support missionaries who are making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached people and places around the world. Click the link to see in detail how we will disperse our 2018 World Mission Offering. At Awakening Church, missions is the mission. We are committed to being on mission in our city and around the world to make, grow, and send disciples so that our neighborhoods and nations are transformed.

Check out this video below to see how our approach to our calling can transform our world.

Limitless from IMB on Vimeo.

For continuous updates on what is happening in the life of Awakening Church, I encourage you to follow us on social media.

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Thank you for your continued support and prayers! God is at work!

 

Solid Foundations [AWAKENING CHURCH UPDATE]

solid

In our preparation for the opening of Awakening Church, we’ve had to wrestle with some real questions like, “Does the world really need more churches?” The answer is yes, but the world doesn’t need more mediocre churches. The world needs healthy and vibrant churches that are genuinely fulfilling the Great Commission in their cities, towns, and nations. Life-filled churches with genuine worship, biblical teaching and healthy, accepting community – churches that point people to JESUS.

the family that

By God’s grace we began services this past weekend at our new location in Bellevue. Even though services have officially begun, God is (and will continually be) shaping who we are and our vision. Honestly, it’s pretty easy for me to write out a Bible-based Christ-centered vision. But I’m learning to hold my vision very loosely. As I sit across the table from inquiring individuals, the most commonly asked question is, “What’s your vision?” In responding to that question, I resist the urge to give set-in-stone answers. In these early days, we know that we can’t fully see the full scope of that vision until God begins to bring people that will help to shape it. While we are focused on being multi-cultural, I don’t know who God is going to flood our church with. And I don’t know the gifting of those people. I’m practicing patience in the full-scope vision too quickly at the risk of quenching the Spirit.

Another one of the questions that we’ve had to ask ourselves is, “What is absolutely necessary to plant a church?”

The number one thing that we need in order to plant a church is unchurched people.

This means that we need to be around unchurched people. We’ve been intentional and opportunistic with the relationships that God has brought our way over the past year. Because of those relationships, we had at least 4 different faiths and culture backgrounds represented at our first service. What an incredible opportunity to share the good news of JESUS with them. 

In this kick-off season, we are thinking about building Awakening Church just like you would build a house. When you build a house, you’re not already thinking about the additions, renovations, or expansions. When you start building a house, you’re thinking about the foundation. We want to make sure we lay a solid foundation…and it takes a lot of time, effort, and dollars to do that. But once that solid foundation is laid, then we can start building out. This is our foundation building season.

Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and financial support that have all enabled us to be on this journey. Please continue praying for us for the following requests.

  • The launch of our second City Group meeting in Bellevue.
  • Developing relationships with 300+ international families connected to Jubilee Reach (where we meet).
  • Developing leadership teams and City Group leaders.
  • Staffing needs: On Oct 14 we will have a potential worship leader with us. Additionally, we are praying that God would bring us a discipleship pastor.
  • Praise: This past week our new Awakening Kids Director, Louise Rider, and her husband Gary moved to Bellevue. Please pray for them as they get settled in their new home and life. 

Milestone: NEW LOCATION [AWAKENING CHURCH UPDATE]

Awakening

On September 30th, our church will begin meeting in our new location in Bellevue, Washington. God has clearly opened this incredible door and shown great favor on our relationships in Bellevue.  As we launch into this new season of ministry, I pray that we can establish deep roots, grow as a Christ-centered international body, and extend our reach deep and wide. Please pray for us as we make this transition and officially kick off Awakening Church in Bellevue.

Your financial, emotional, physical, and prayer support continue to serve as the propellant for this God-sized vision of Awakening Church. We are forever grateful.

Pastor Jonah

Our Calling to God’s Mission

Brands & Trends

Our mission team recently arrived home from a couple weeks in Southeast Asia. We led and hosted the first Awakening Conference for nearly 50 Chinese believers, pastors, and missionaries. Our team of 13 people worked as a unified body and were truly blessed as a result. At Awakening Church, missions is our mission. We are focused on reaching the nations, including those in our backyard, with the good news of the gospel.

We are working these days in preparation for the launch of Awakening Church in Bellevue, Washington. With our sights set on November, we are praying for our core team as we make significant decisions over the next couple months. Please pray with us during this season of new beginnings and the launch of a city impacting ministry for the years to come.

This summer has been a unifying and team building season for our core team. For the past eight weeks, we have been on a journey through the Emotionally Healthy Discipleship Course. We have been digging below the surface to discovering who God has designed and created us to be. This hard work of discipleship has been a great tool for God to do the work of restoration within our hearts as a solid foundation for our future.

Check out this video about our calling to God’s mission. We thank you for your partnership and prayers as we reach the Seattle area and the world with the gospel.

REFLECT HIS NATURE

reflecting

 

This past month, as with most, had a lot going on at Awakening Church. We’ve had three mission teams come from partner churches to serve along side us. With their help we were able to spend countless hours serving with our community partners. This past week, a team from Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee, constructed a playground for neighborhood kids.img_0440.jpg This back-breaking work will be a blessing for years to come. Our teams have also served a local homeless camp where we have an ongoing ministry. Providing food, laundry service, and meeting other felt needs. On July 4th, we had a team of volunteers help with the Kenmore Fourth of July festivities. These service opportunities open great doors for building relationships, reflecting the nature of God, and sharing the truth of the gospel.

We are moving full steam ahead in our transition and launch of Awakening Church within the next couple months. Our core team meets weekly for prayer meetings and Bible studies to seek God’s guidance in how best to reach those around us. Over the next couple weeks we will be solidifying plans for our official launch as Awakening Church. As a team, we have been going through the Emotionally Healthy Discipleship course. This course is deeply impacting our community of faith. Our relationships with God and one another are becoming more authentic and life giving. We are striving more toward reflecting the nature of God and to join in leading others to do the same.

God has entrusted us to…

  • Reflect God’s Glory as we embody the character and nature of God in our own lives. As His ambassadors, we represent His character to the world around us. 
  • God has also entrusted us to replicate ourselves. Our aim is to fill the whole earth with other renewed image bearers by spreading the life-changing Gospel and multiplying children of God. By His design, we are not called to simply be His disciples, but also to make disciples.
  • And lastly, we are called to cultivate an environment where others will flourish in light of the glory of God. With the posture of a servant, we aim to cultivate our community so others can flourish according to God’s design. The people of God, whether at work in the marketplace, leading at church, or caring for family, are to cultivate the surrounding soil.

God empower us to accurately reflect the image of God…for the Kingdom of God!

Please join us in praying for:

  • A unified vision for Awakening Church
  • A new meeting location for Sunday morning worship
  • Upcoming outreach opportunities
  • The mission team coming at the end of this week
  • Our members to be continually outward focused as we share the Gospel with those around us

[AWAKENING CHURCH UPDATE] Build Bridges

BUILD BRIDGES

Bridge building is a spiritual mandate that followers of Jesus are called to pursue. Hezekiah, in 2 Chronicles 28-30, with his great faith and radical ”all-in” obedience, and his people were preserved and experienced a great revival in his generation. At this key time, we are called to be the human bridge that connects the power of God to people that don’t yet know Him.

“The destinies of societies are shaped by great men and women who act boldly at key times.” -Thomas Carlyle

This past week my parents and brother’s family were able to spend a few days with us in Seattle. While here, I showed them around our city and opened their eyes to the realities in which we live. For lunch one day, I took them to eat at a Hong Kong style Dim-sum restaurant in Chinatown. It’s one of our favorite places to eat and was sure to be a cultural experience for them. This was as close to China as I’ve ever been able to get my brother. As he fumbled his chop sticks in the middle of this bustling authentic Chinese experience, he asked me, “How are you going to reach all these people?” It was a great question that I’ve wrestled with for the better part of 10 years. I told him that we have to build bridges into their lives. For me personally, this specific bridge is knowing their culture and language. In just a sentence or two, I can step into the Chinese world and make a new friend. We don’t always have that obvious or clear bridge, but we are called to find one and stand in the gap. Standing in awe of how God saved us from destruction. Interceding for the lost souls around us. A missionary in China once said,

“I used to think that prayer should have the first place and teaching the second. I now feel it would be truer to give prayer the first, second, and third places and teaching the fourth.”

Please pray for bridges in your own life and in the lives of missionaries around the world.

This past month, Kathy’s 44 year old brother passed away. In the thickness of shock and grief, we are still processing this great loss. In some ways, it’s as if our family table is now without one of it’s legs. The remaining legs wobble and teeter as we learn how to imagine life without him. I’m thankful that Kathy could spend a week in Georgia with her family during this time. In the strength of Jesus, she spoke at the funeral and reflected on her relationship with Danny and the joy he created around him. We ask for continued prayer for our family as we grieve his loss.

As our vision expands for The Landing Church and Awakening Church, I invested several days visiting some of The Landing Church partnering churches in Tennessee and Arkansas. Each pastor I met gave me such encouragement and support for our God-given vision and their future support. Planting churches continues to expand our hearts and deepen our faith to complete dependence of Jesus. We know that nothing on earth is more powerful than the Holy Spirit flowing through the faith of a devoted disciple of Jesus. 

The church planter/pastor assignment is a key role, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Under the surface of the water we find the most significant 90+% which certainly includes partners that prop us up, encourage, fund, serve, and pray for the work of God. Without the underlying support, planters tend to isolate and burn out. We are beyond grateful for our partners (you) that stand with us for the sake of the gospel. We pray that your care for our emotional and spiritual health will result in a long and faithful ministry.

God’s will done God’s way and in God’s time will never lack God’s favor. 

Missions teams also play a strategic part of starting a church. They break ground through prayer walking. They provide the needed hands and help for outreach events that reach greater numbers in a community. They encourage us by their helping hands and hearts. This past week a team of 17 from a partnering church in Arkansas came to serve along side of us. They came with servant hearts and helped us further develop relationships in our community by serving an elementary school, assisting with our homeless ministry, after school programs and multiple other projects. It’s amazing how doors open as we love and serve our community. Thank you CBC Jonesboro, for your surrendered hearts willing to serve tirelessly for the advancement of the gospel. We certainly welcome other partners to prayerfully consider similar short-term mission trips to help us “bridge the gap” in Seattle.

We thank God for your continual support

The Daily Habit of Every Missionary

Daily habit with love

For church planters like us, we face what seems to be a sea of endless challenges. As we approach our 9th month on the field, on a weekly basis, we face challenges that could easily deter our faith. These aren’t the challenges of physical suffering, persecution, or even the cultural challenges we faced in China. In some way, those challenges almost seem as if they would be more acceptable. No, these are the small sufferings of every church planter or missionary…the challenges of unmet expectations, frustrating new processes to learn, the absence of deep friendships and support systems, and other complications that seemed to be simple tasks in our last season.

Church planter training is both helpful and necessary, but nothing could completely prepare us for all of the details involved in planting a church in a new culture. Without Christ, we could easily become overwhelmed by our transition and be consumed by trivial tasks. Some days it seems like it would be easier to sacrifice our time with God and spend more time figuring it out ourselves. But in the midst of these difficulties, we seek refuge in God’s Word and find hope in Him alone…even if we sometimes enter His presence with more complaints than thanksgiving.

We are continually convinced that abiding in Christ is the only way we can survive. When we venture outside of our comfort zone into a life of obedience and faith, we begin to realize how our daily time with Jesus is critical for our spiritual health.

Even though Kathy and I share the same transitional experience to Seattle, we have processed it uniquely. We are two people living in the same house and walking through this together (with three little people), yet leaning into Christ with unique personal needs and desires.

Kathy is an amazing wife and mother with a seemingly endless job. From packing lunches, getting kids ready, driving to and from schools and appointments, leading a weekly ESL Bible study, teaching fitness classes, building relationships in the community, serving in and through our church(s), and putting up with me…I don’t know how she does it all.

Meanwhile, I am in my element in some ways, but trying to “figure it out” in so many others. No office to administrate, no late-night calls to the hospital, and no staff to lead…I find myself in some ways robbed of an identity (…an unhealthy identity I might add). The expectations I had in place were (and are being) quickly replaced by the reality of planting a church in the Pacific North West. 

We have no way of knowing what doors God is going to open for us. However, when He opens them, He expects us to walk through them…trusting Him throughout the journey. Over the past couple months, God has opened a door for us to step into The Landing Church, a five-year old church plant in need of an interim pastor. Each week, we see the positive results of that obedient step.  We are praying that God would give us clarity for the long-term vision and direction for The Landing Church as we work to plant Awakening Church later this year.

Never has our daily time with Jesus been more critical for our spiritual well-being.

In this season, we are rediscovering what we already knew as truth. We cannot live without feasting daily on God’s Word, abiding in Jesus, and spending focused time in prayer. Attending a gospel-centered church does not adequately strengthen us for everyday challenges. Simply being part of a team of Great Commission focused people is not enough to calm our anxious hearts. Instead, the assurance of the presence of God and the God-breathed wisdom of Scripture protect us from being immobilized by the challenges of the mission field. One day at a time, one relationship at a time, one gospel conversation at a time…God’s plan is unfolding for us. We rest and abide in him.

Thank you for partnering with us for the sake of the gospel. God is at work! 

Please join us in praying for the following things:

  1. Our family and the daily challenges of living on the mission field.
  2. The time-line and relationships as we move toward planting Awakening Church later this year.
  3. The long-term vision and direction for The Landing Church.