Archive for the ‘Seattle Church Plant’ Category

Monday

Posted: September 26, 2017 in Moments of God, Seattle Church Plant
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CaptureMonday – I love Mondays. It gives us a great opportunity to walk into the lives of people around us and bring blessing and encouragement to the beginning of their week. Mondays around the offices of Epic Life Church are a bit busy and full of conversation and…let’s just say, “other things.”

This past Monday went something like this. It’s good to reflect on these Mondays.

    1. I got to drink coffee at Victrola Coffee with a great friend of mine, Jared Burwell, who is a pastor of a new church in SkyWay and is reaching the neighborhood in really awe-inspiring ways. He is a great leader and disciple-maker and friend.  New Story
    2. Then I had to run back north and swing into the Wendals Licencing center on 130th to get a new license plate for my new 1984 Honda Prelude. Nice little car with only 50k miles on it. d1b5409086c27a37a1c8c2391e81f797--honda-prelude-It should last another 200k. While there I got to encourage the lady behind the desk who was clearly downcast in her soul.
    3. I stopped through RiteAid to get some vitamin C – a cold is going around my home. For some reason decided to pull out $40 cash from my debit card when I paid for the V-C.
    4. After receiving my new plates with a “What the…” price tag, I received a text from a friend who asked what was happening at the church building. because he was turned away from entering the parking lot by a dozen armed police officers.  ?
    5. Driving down the street the mile back to the office wondering what happened in the Giving Room, I turned up Stone Ave. and saw the aforementioned text in 3D. Yes indeed, there were several officers walking down the street with heavy gear and weapons. But the action was over and upon talking with an officer I learned a man from the streets pulled a very real looking pellet gun, but didn’t threaten anyone with it, and was sent on his way.
    6. I did get to then spend a half hour with officer Jeff Dotson who told me that earlier that month Hector
      Hector

      Hector

      had prayed over him while he was on duty on Aurora Ave. N. He also said he really likes what Epic Life is doing on Aurora Ave. and what we bring to the city that the city just doesn’t get. “They throw money at the problems hoping to fix them, you find problems fix them.”

    7. There is a prayer meeting happening this morning, praying for the neighborhood.
    8. The Giving Room was in full swing with dozens of guests taking advantage of
      Grace

      Grace

      receiving bags of groceries to help their meal planning throughout the week. Grace is busy, leading her team, praying for people, sorting shelves, carrying boxes of food, organizing, and smiling.

    9. Also in the Giving Room are several Brothers and Sisters sharing, helping, caring, disciplining and reading the Word with our friends who spend hours sitting in a community, which they long for, as most live in solitude. Many in a government housing project for the mentally, physically and addicted ill. They smile here.
    10. After the giving room shuts down for the day, a prayer meeting starts back up, clean-up occurs, and then a Bible Study. The people who are caring for our less fortunate neighbors, actually care for them so much they pray for them by name.
    11. Laura has been here most of the morning – counseling. She is a professional and points people to Jesus while counseling through life.
    12. The Preschool has been running throughout this morning – ten kids, several from the Epic Life family and several from the neighborhood. Katy does
      Katy

      Katy

      such a great job teaching, encouraging, caring and loving these kids. It’s a beautiful multi-cultural class. The parents will come in and drop off the kids and come back to get them, sometimes hanging around the office drinking coffee.

    13. One man came in asking for work. Not to be paid, but so he will be able to stop drinking. He wants structure. I showed him some gardening and clean up things he could do. We made a clipboard for him and time schedule. He smiles.
    14. A man, who attended the service on Sunday came back today- looking for some money to help him get back to Colorado. He just had throat surgery and can barely speak. I had just gotten $40 from my debit card at the RiteAid, he needed it.
    15. One man found himself on the yellow couch in the office. Drunk. Ashamed. Hector, Alyssa
      Alyssa

      Alyssa

      and I prayed over him. Encouraged him to allow the grace of the King to wash over him.

    16. Justin
      Justin

      Justin

      spent the afternoon working on the stage upstairs. Tearing an old drum cage apart, making more room, listening to music, preparing for Sunday.

    17. Aaron showed up later, after teaching all day and commuting for more of it, to sand, sweep and paint the stage, because he saw it
      Aaron

      Aaron

      needed to be done and he knew how to do it. He’s our soundman, electric guitar player, and elder.

    18. This morning two neighbors emailed us to let us know an extension cord was plugged into an outlet on our building and strung three houses down the alley. They are the same outlets the men and women of the street gather around to charge their phones, smoke, sleep, shootup, and commit other nefarious acts. We will be taking these outlets out.
    19. I opened the front doors only to run into a man sleeping on the steps next to a little girl’s bicycle. He got up, staggered, mumbled, clearly high on substance. He asked for food, he got some, he stumbled away.
    20. Tonight a dozen or so ladies from the neighborhood will show up for an hour to Zumba.
    21. Some kids and their parents will play in the playground after school lets out, maybe after dinner.
    22. There will be a couple of little girls digging in the sand volleyball court.
    23. Later tonight, someone will sleep in one or more of our doorways, smoke some cigarettes, weed, or vapor, someone else will shoot heroin into his or her veins, a young woman will be left on the cold concrete.

This Monday will end and another will come – have we shared the miraculous love of the miraculous King. Our hands, our feet, our voice, our eyes, all convey love. Share it.

Oh…and there was no race or political bent in this post, yet it was full of many different people from many different family groups, no fingers were pointed, only love given.

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Jon Bon Jovi sang it well, “Living on a Prayer,” although probably not realizing the beautiful declaration it truly is. Living on a Prayer is exactly where Kristine and I have been finding ourselves over the past two years and especially within the past ten months.

I have been cautious about blogging on my own personal finances but have arrived at a place now that I believe what I am about to share can be huge encouragement to many who may find themselves in the same place.

We are a people who feel a false security in lives that are financially secure. We seek, pursue and wage war to have financial stability…but have no idea what that really means. Having a “little change in my pocket going jingalangalang” creates a facade of safety in our lives. It is fleeting and will soon be consumed and will demand a higher pursuit of gathering more to feed the proverbial monster, which causes our focus to be moved from sharing Christ with others to keeping the change “jingling.”

And the cyclone continues.

In this church starting journey God has us traveling on he has constantly pushed us, encouraged us, and strengthened us. It has, from day one, been the biggest financial stretch God has ever placed us in. We left a city where we had financial security and a long standing job in ministry that was growing and wouldn’t go away and arrived in a city with zero financial security and job that wasn’t.

From month to month we watched as many faithful partners helped fund the ministry here in Seattle; as God gave us property and increased our vision for this city; and we watched as last January came and the money disappear and our pay checks cut in half and then vanish all together.

The reality of having no paycheck is, the bills continue. So God placed our family in the epicenter of a renewed shocking realization that we are living on his security not financial security. Literally we have gone months without any money coming into the Carpenter family household. The money our partners and tithing Body of believers here at Epic Life is going to continue ministry, starting the church and taking care of bills we are responsible for as a church.

But…God is still taking care of us. We are stretched to the point of breaking, but not breaking, because he doesn’t give us more than we can handle and at the same time we literally have no income. Its so crazy.

Three years ago I had many people who asked me about  the wisdom of leaving Winona, MN and the security that it represented and moving to something like starting a church and the intense insecurity it represents. One person said to me. “What are you going to do when you are in Seattle and you don’t have a church around you to ‘bail’ you out?”  And, there were many who said that it just wouldn’t work. Others who tried to stop it all together. Were they right?

No.

Yes.

The fact is…God called us to start a church, a movement, a visionary journey of creative discipleship and reconciliation that will change a city. So in the long run it really doesn’t matter if there is money available to live on or not, we will do what he has called us to do. Period.

Please don’t feel sorry for us. Feel sorry for yourself if you have never been taken to brink of disaster and taught to lean on Jesus in greater ways. Sure our family doesn’t have the money to keep up with our bills, we don’t have the money to take a family vacation or set up a retirement and savings program or buy the latest flat screen TV or go to a movie or buy gas for our cars. But we do have Jesus and he tells us not to worry about our clothing and food…He will take care of us.

Honestly, I don’t see it yet.  I just told a gentleman here in the Green Bean coffee shop that I feel like a cliff jumper and I am falling through the air and my hand is on the rip cord but God is saying, “wait for it,wait for it,” and I am waiting for his signal as the ground approaches at a wild speed.

Many of you who read this blog have been God’s answer to prayer. Two of you have sent us huge gifts, taking care of our mortgage. Many of you sacrificially give on a monthly basis allowing God to stretch you. Most of you spend time praying for my family, Epic Life Church and the massive influence God is giving us here on Aurora in North Seattle as we encourage life transformation by finding an epic life in Jesus Christ.

I am confident in these points.

  1. We are in exactly the right place at the right time in the History of Seattle.
  2. God will provide in miraculous ways. He is Faithful!
  3. Epic Life Church will continue to grow and thrive on Aurora.
  4. God has provided the perfect leadership for Epic Life.
  5. Our Faith in Christ is solid.
  6. My wife is confidently by my side.

Now I believe it is time to write the book about the success of God’s church in Seattle before it is. We are doing more than living on a prayer we are living on a calling.

This past Sunday we, the leadership of Epic Life Church, had a meeting that should be told in the annals of time in the history of Epic Life. I got the opportunity to sit around the room with young men and women, mostly in their 20s, and discuss passionately the future of Epic Life Church, the church God is establishing here on Aurora Ave. in North Seattle.

I have been in many “church” meeting in my life and am continually amazed at the level of maturity in the leadership at Epic Life. We are seriously in the trenches right now because of our lack of financial bounty. We have to make some serious choices to decrease spending, none of which seem good, especially since we don’t spend.  Without going into the nitty-gritty of the choices we have to make I want to describe what’s happening.

God is taking a group of common men and women stretching and pull them, beating them up, applying pressure and strain on them in ways most would run from. But none of these leaders are running away. Because of the strength of the team we are being built up in ways many people may never allow to happen in their lives. We are in the trenches right now and its scary. But that is exactly where God wants us. He is doing his work in us, recreating each of us and setting a firm foundation for the months and years to come.  The outcome will be bright and beautiful and quite miraculously amazing.

Thank you God for counting us worthy to be stressed in this way, to be forced to depend on you, and to be strengthened.  This is the stuff from which heroes are born, from which great leaders are created and from where humble confidence becomes natural.

Thank you Father for counting us worthy.

Nathan and I have been in Texas since we touched down on friday night after one delayed flight skirting a storm over Houston.  We came for two reasons…First to meet with the Hyde Parke Baptist Church youth choir who will be traveling to Seattle in June to work with us and second to raise funds by finding partner churches who will see the importance of church planting and want to financially partner with us.

Saturday God gave us an incredible day on the lake at Fred Mcnab’s lake home, we got to ski and tube and ride around on his boat on Lake LBJ. It was beautiful! A great day of relaxation. We are sunburned.

Sunday morning took us on world wind tour of Hyde Parke…I was introduced in the first two services and prayed just before the senior pastor spoke, in-between services Nate and I spoke in three highschool sunday school classes, after which I got to call my Epic Life family on the cell phone after walking six blocks to find reception, it was so great to give them a shout out, then lunch with a bunch of people, a nap for one hour at Bonnie’s, where we will be staying the next few days, then it was off to the church and choir practice where we were introduced by thunderous cheers, we spoke briefly and then the 57 students gathered around us, layed their hands on us and prayed for us and then sang over us – how can I explain that except by comparing it to what the angels in heaven must sound like! It was amazing! 57 voices gathered tightly around us at full volume. Thank you Father!

Next up we headed to the night service where Nathan testified beautifully and I got to preach. What an honor it was for us to be on that stage, the pastor and Fred were so gracious and the audience of 600 + were so in tune.  It was such a sweet service. After the service and much hand shaking and hugging, we headed upstairs to speak with the parents of the students and then a dinner with the “sponsors,” the adults who will be traveling with the choir. That was a wonderful meal while they talked about the change in their church and how they can feel the spirit again. We answered a lot of questions about Seattle and got to encourage them.

We finally made it back to Bonnie’s home. Bonnie is a beautiful grandmother, who lost her husband five years ago and now lives in a house alone. It was so nice speaking with her last night.

I closed my eyes after chatting with my beloved in Seattle and wandered off into slumber land at 11:00 pm.

It was a good day in Texas.   

Please pray as we go out today to raise funds and awareness in other churches for Epic Life and the movement God is starting in Seattle.

75 + 25 = 100

One thing people always ask when wanting to know how the new church Epic Life is doing is this question, “How many people do you have?”

I never quite know how to answer this question, mainly because I don’t know quite what is being asked. Do they want to know how many adults show up on a Sunday morning? How many families? How many people attend our house church communities? How many people we get to serve on a weekly basis? How many business owners we are establishing relationships with? How many people we have given resources to? How many kids and families attend our school?

And each of these questions have deeper questions to frame the answer by. I think often people will judge the “success” of a church by the attendance on a Sunday morning, but that doesn’t quite cut it for Epic Life. Don’t get me wrong I love to count people who are attending, because I believe every person who attends is one life that God cherishes and desires to transform. In this respect numbers are very important. But at Epic Life there are so many other places to count people. There are so many other “Front Doors” and “Living Rooms” for people to check things out and to gather.

We want to be a church that is in the community; a church that constantly shares the Good News of Life with everyone we come into contact with. Some times that is in the form of building a relationship with a shop owner, sometimes it takes the form of buying coffee for the officers of the North Precinct at Starbucks, sometimes its sharing a story with a homeless alcoholic on the curb, sometimes its sitting and teaching the Word to a student at North Seattle Community College, sometimes its gathering at the local pool club with our House Church, sometimes it takes the form of eating lunch with the local Rotary club, sometimes it looks like picking up garbage or planting flowers or cleaning bus stops, sometimes it is a worship night, or a baptism at the beach or a celebration at the OaktreeCinema, and the list goes on and on and on.

So where do we count? Well for the most part people just want to know how many people on the average are showing up at Sunday morning’s worship service and to that I will always average on the low side – I never want to be accused of being one of those pastors who stretch attendance numbers to look good or feel good. I have been answering the question with, “Oh about 70ish.”

But this past Sunday it was 75 in the main theater and 25 in the children’s theater. that rounds off to a nice clean 100.

“How many?”

“Oh around 100.”

Well that may be a pretty bold statement about Easter, but I have to stick to it.  Just three days ago I experienced such an amazing day of worship.

I don’t consider Easter to be a one hour slot on a Sunday morning when the calendar tells us to celebrate. I consider an Easter celebration to be a full day celebration starting just after Friday night. And this weekend was just that.

Sunday though was so sweet!  We arrived at the Oaktree Cinema at our usually bright and early time of 7:00 am to set up. That in itself was total worship! Everyone works so well and with great attitudes, “as unto the Lord.”  We gathered to testify, pray and encourage at 9 am as we always do and hear how God has been working throughout the week. It is so encouraging to hear of his greatness.

The sun came out and then people started showing up, early.  Like, …what?  Twenty minutes early! Crazy, I know.  In the lobby we had the “Cross Project” (crosses in art form from the Epic Life family) this was a beautiful display attracting much thought and attention.

David kicked the music off with a worship choir of eight adults and six kids, that really rocked the house! The music was spot on and the house was filling up…140 people, twice our regular attendance.  And people who aren’t just visitors but will come back.

I got up to deliver God’s word and realized that I had misplaced my notes and Bible, so with a borrowed Word and the Spirit’s leading, God cranked out a great talk that hit home and celebrated the Hope of Easter morning. We got to celebrate with more music and close the morning out.

But the conversations that ensued were the best!  A dad who was in tears because his entire family was a church for the first time, a mom who is struggling as a parent and whose marriage is falling apart, a young woman who has been addicted to crack for too long, a dad watching his son go from death to life, a leader desiring to live in the Hope of the Resurrection, an owner of a local business with her whole family, families of brand new Christians, and more.  There was so much joy and hope and love. It was beautiful!

Afterwards my family joined three other families, not necessarily Epic families for an Easter lunch, our first time for a holiday meal in a Seattle home. God allowed us to encourage and build into our hosts.  The night ended with other leaders joining us at our home testifying what God had done that morning and what he is and will be doing here in Seattle.

Epic Life Church is Epic because we live in the Hope of the Resurrection!

Roughly three years ago God started assembling the cast for the greatest journey of my life time. He began bringing specific young men and women together to become the foundational pieces of a remarkable church that would desire and pursue Transformation in North Seattle by offering people an Epic Life in Christ Jesus. This team was part of a college leadership team along with a couple of others. They have had no formal ministry training. They all moved away from their families and friends to work together to start Epic Life Church.

Three days ago I got to witness this same team in a remarkable meeting as once again changes were happening.  I was privileged to sit around a room with this team and watch them speak about God’s vision for their ministries. They shared victories and problems, dreams and visions with many emotionally laden words. Each person spoke eloquently about their ministry with a beautiful understanding of the Epic Life vision and mission. It was awe-inspiring to listen to, even though I already knew what they were about to say.

They were speaking this night because of a new team that we have created called the Development Team. This new team will be a group who help the ministry leaders succeed, by encouraging ministry growth and supporting deliberate balance between the ministries of Epic Life. Its a wonderful idea and will be a fantastic team that will help Epic Life build a firm foundation. The beautiful thing is that this team is made up of Seattleites and myself. In other words, God has raised up men and women from Seattle to lead.

As I sat in this meeting listening and watching these leaders from Minnesota speak and encourage each other and interact with this new team, I sat in awe.  They were so mature and gracious and wise as they encouraged the Development Team about what they were doing and how good it was going to be. There was NO defensiveness or pride or protecting of territory. None.

I have been in few meetings where this happens. But at every Epic Life meeting this is the norm. Our meeting are all but boring meetings, they are always Epic! God has truly developed an amazing team and is now adding to it.  This speaks so strongly of the massive ministry God is establishing here in North Seattle.

Way to go; David, Jeff, Kari, Shelli, Averi, Casey, and Sam!