“If the Gospel can change that dude, the Gospel can change anyone.” Bart Millard of Mercy Me ends the movie ‘I Can Only Imagine’ with those words talking about the transformation of his father from abusive monster growing up, to becoming his best friend and Godliest man he ever knew before passing away. Glad the girls asked for a movie night! I’ve always liked the song but had no idea about the powerful story behind it and the life of lead singer Bart.
I’m all about the story. Always have been. I love the details that drive a building storyline, twisting plot, and finally snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, or saving the day when all appeared to be lost. The best stories really draw you in. Help you identify with the characters. Make you feel like a part of what is happening. Leave you feeling like your missing something when they are over.
I have this vision for Pathway. Unlike the fictional stories that grab our attention for a short while and then fade. Or sensationalized news that is here today, forgotten tomorrow. The Pathway story has a long-term impact on many. Changing monsters to best friends where they can grow to become Godly men and women. Or introducing Christ to individuals and families because they were invited or wanted to check us out and found a place where they were treated like family. A vision that is founded on a community that not only enjoys worshiping and serving together, but one that actively seeks to fulfill their mission God laid out before them.
All that that has nothing to do with a building. It is fundamental to a Christ-centered church. The story comes to life by those that are part of that family and earnestly seeking others with which to share Christ-like love and ministry. The individual stories come out of “doing church” day-to-day, every day. The stories have impact on lives. Eternal impact.
Could we have this type of story for years to come at Pathway, and the impact on lives through Pathway worshiping at a school or some other rented space? Maybe. Personally, I believe we are severely hindered by not having a permanent home. I also believe we are at risk with a new church beginning to be built across the street from Crown Point Christian School and need a sense of urgency to move ahead. That sense of urgency needs to be backed up through action.
Make no mistake. I am thankful for those that I know take action at Pathway in many forms daily! The action I believe is needed is to move ahead quickly to a permanent space. I hope the green lights keep coming for Northwoods as we proceed through the process.
A particular challenge is fear of the unknown. Like many, I want a good solid plan that is easy to visualize and execute with minimal risk. When the “i’s” are dotted and the “t’s” are crossed, that is when I’m most comfortable moving ahead.
God never seems to work that way! His plan always seems to be so far outside the box, if we actually knew what He was going to do next, we would just consider it nuts and never do anything. Maybe sometimes, it’s just better that we must trust Him, and move ahead step-by-step as the way is cleared to proceed. Many times in my personal life, those times where I had to completely trust Him and had no idea what was coming next, and felt no control, were the times I grew the most in my Christian walk.
Pathway as a church feels like that sometimes. Northwoods as an opportunity absolutely feels like that. Outside of the box. Maybe kind of nuts. Not sure what’s coming next. Best to trust God, and not know everything so we must rely on Him for guidance.
My near-term vision would be that we all would be able to envision that the property has enormous potential to become what we need it to be. Looking past the current state is not always easy. And while some things must be repaired or remodeled to become serviceable and begin ministry, much does not have to happen immediately. Like the path we have been on as a church, we can wait for it to unfold, naturally as more is made clear.
Additionally, I hope the financial message is clear. We are not out saving the year-over-year cost increases at our current pace to achieve building on our current property. Without significant uptick in financial building support or miraculous intervention, we will not be able to build in the next 5 years. The buildings that we currently cannot afford to build on our property would also require additions and are scoped smaller in size than what Northwoods already is.
My longer-term vision would be that it would be made clear what the right ministries and programs are, and we would see the individual stories of healing, transformation, and salvation come to light as He works through us. That we would be encouraged and energized by what is happening within the family of God at Pathway Church and our “story” would be one of true generational impact and community outreach that continues growing instead of like those fictional stories that grab our attention for a while but quickly fade. I want to witness the story where I can say, “If the Gospel can transform that dude (or dudette), the Gospel can transform anyone.” Be drawn in further. And be part of it happening over and over and over.
So, Pathway family, we stand at a crossroads moment in our search for a home. Three years of seemingly closed doors behind us and a decision most of us didn’t see coming in front of us.
Back in November, after the most recent closed door, many of us found ourselves in that “Now what, God?” We were at the end of ourselves and looking to Him. The experiences of our personal lives have us convinced that is right where God wants us – empty and looking to Him.
So, the Leadership Team challenged us to seek God and His will through a discipline foreign to most of us. We fasted. We prayed. We sought God’s face and His will. For us it was a difficult, yet rewarding, experience. Through our self-denial, God pointed out personal shortcomings and encouraged us to change perspectives and priorities. We believe He did just that for many who participated. What a meaningful time on our journey as a church.
We believe it is safe to say most would say that we need a permanent home. That we agree on. The concerns we have is that where that home is has the potential to be and in some ways is beginning to be polarizing and divisive. Why? We’ll answer with a question: Whose will are we seeking?
A little aside here. Our family position with regards to Northwoods was not really for it at the beginning, but as we saw possibilities, we could see this as a viable and unique environment for Pathway. That being said, we are now cautiously and with anticipation curious to see how the due diligence plays out.
Back to the question of whose will we are seeking, no matter what your opinion of Northwoods is, if we begin losing sight of the experience of seeking God in November, we are giving our spiritual enemies a foothold among us.
Good questions and airing concerns are necessary, as is due diligence. Our family is one of those careful calculating decision-making people. We believe this process is full of hurdles and doors that can close at anytime. There is much opportunity here for God to show us this is not for Pathway if that is His will. Seeking God’s will should be what unites us regardless of strong personal opinions either way, for or against. Please don’t take this as “vote yes” if you feel so moved.
After the vote a few weeks ago, we were slightly disappointed that it was so close. But it also got us wondering what God was up to. It’s not a “no,” but it wasn’t a strong “yes” either. We were left wondering how we could proceed if two-thirds of us are for it and one-third is opposed. There’s only one way – God!
Doors are still open but not without hurdles. It brings to mind the Israelites just out of Egypt with Pharaoh’s army in hot pursuit. The Red Sea in front – trapped! Now what? God loves these moments. When the last of His people were clear, God used those walls of water to destroy their enemies. God loves to be our Deliverer, too.
On a very personal note, we love this church. Our college junior misses worshiping at Pathway while at school, because “there isn’t anything like Pathway.” When we consider what brought us together in the first place and all that has happened since, we have much to be grateful for. We have shared joys and deep sorrows with this family. We have been privileged to watch the kids of this church grow in their relationships with Jesus. And who knew that serving together could be not only a blessing, but fun? When we consider all of the people we wouldn’t know were it not for Pathway, it’s a long list of people we are glad to know.
To close, we’re not saying that Northwoods is or is not Pathway’s future home. But let’s return to November as a group of God’s followers seeking His face on our next step, seeking His will, not ours.
Jeremiah 29 :11
Jan and I wanted to make a few points on the possible Northwoods' purchase. We develop our friendships and relationships through working together and committing our time and talents. This even happens during our times of hardship because we need to pick each other up in faith. So, this might be a “pick each other up” moment for Pathway from the Shelton’s.
The longer a church exists in a rental space, the more we believe members will become self-absorbed and less concerned with the reason for being here. Are we self- serving and self-centered? Are we a divided Church or are we one? There is history out there that when a church goes stagnate, it starts with declining membership and then eventually will fail. We do not want to see this happen to Pathway.
Having served on the Building Team, I’m aware of feedback from churches on their growth after moving to their own building and out of a rental space. In many cases, attendance went up by 30-50% within 18 months of moving in.
We want to share our vision should the Northwoods' location come up for a final vote because we believe we should ALL vote yes. Our number one goal as a church is to bring as many people to Christ. The Northwoods' location gives us the visibility to bring more people into our services. This should be OUR church!
Some examples of what we dream of Pathway becoming as a seven-day-a-week facility: Divorce Care, Celebrate Recovery, AA Meetings to name a few. People that come to these programs need to feel comfortable to share openly; this is not going to happen in the school. When uncontrolled events happen to people, they need support and a safe place to come. We would also be able to have weddings and receptions for our own members and would be able to rent this space out for non-member weddings. Another thing that is important for church members is to have a funeral in your own church. More ideas: men’s and women’s small group breakfasts, church dinners. We would have an awesome kitchen! The pond would be great for youth fishing tournaments, and the parking lot for car and boat shows. We all can come up with a lot more ideas for this unique building IF it would become our new home.
We need our own home, so a word about waiting: I see this in my own industry when a customer is waiting to do a lighting upgrade. They decide to wait to do it at a later date and each month they do, they continue to lose the energy savings by not doing it. This is what we are facing if we just want to build on 109th. The costs for raw material and labor are going up 4-5% per year at a minimum, not including the rise in interest rates. If we wait to build, the cost will be way out of our reach. In closing, IF this comes to a final vote, we all have to look into our heart and ask what would Jesus do?
The leadership team has requested articles about how the Northwoods site could be used as a mission outpost.
Here's the first of, we hope, a number of submissions.
I Have a Dream
What are you passionate about?
What do you think about when you're not at work, at church, or dealing with the kids?
What do you read up on? What do you watch on TV? What groups do you hang out with?
What’s your passion?
Mine is biking!
I know most of you, my wife included, won’t be able to understand it but there is something about moving along under your own power, drafting off the guy in front of you and working as a team to achieve a pace, a speed that you wouldn’t be able to achieve by yourself.
As I am sure you have seen, there are a number of fellow bikers in our community and I have a dream to start Bike, Tights and Bibles – similar to F3 but for bike training in the winter.
I would love to use a room early Saturday morning once a week to bike inside. For about 3 months in the winter, throw a video on the big screen, pump in some “bump, bump” music through the sound system and bike.
Currently a group of us meet at a friend’s house for one week of training the March with minimal wear and tear on his carpets as we bring mats to place our rollers on. The idea is to build deeper relationships with the people we are already acquainted with through an event or sport that we are already passionate for.
If we want our church to be a success, we have to have our members use the space, whatever space that is, for stuff they are already passionate about.
Passion = drive
Drive = energy
Energy = no effort
Right now we have people doing things they aren’t passionate for and that’s a lot of work. We need to see what those people are passionate for and provide a space for them to create their own deeper relationships.
We are a sports church, so let’s embrace that. Let’s paint the parking lot and add a couple of hoops for a 3 on 3 tournament. Trick shots. Knock out. Longest shot. Old man vs. Young Bucks “Horse” competition etc.
There are a number of soccer players in our church. Let's put a net up in the grass so they can hang out and see if they want to have a year-end dinner in the space.
Some of our members like to golf. How would they like to use this space?
We have a few musical people in our church. Would they love to use the space for a “jam” session?
A number of ladies and their girls love to craft on Saturdays. Would they love to use the space for that?
We have a few people who have classic cars. Would they like to host a car show or host a stop on a “poker” run?
What are people passionate about and how can we support their passion?
Okay I’m done!
Parents, are you considering having "the talk" with your preteen son or daughter? Here is a recommendation from a Pathway parent who tried and recommends, "Passport to Purity.
Here it is in his own words:
"I would strongly consider looking into a weekend away with your preteen to go through Family Life's Passport2Purity. It is a multiple audio CD, Journal and projects that illustrate the importance of wise decisions as your child enters adolescence. Some of the stories are a little corny and it can definitely be uncomfortable for both of you but it is well worth it. It can be purchased directly from Family Life, Amazon, and Christian Books. It is usually the cheapest at Christianbooks.com."
If we aren't teaching our preteens about the goodness of our God in designing human sexualty, someone else will be teaching them. Make sure they hear it from you!