Thursday service is impacting our community — and beyond


Yay, it’s Thursday!

We’ve been sharing that sentiment around Pathway for weeks now. That’s right, we are already in our third month of Thursday night services and it has been a blast! From the moment people arrive, to our “Thirty Before Thursday” service opening, to the energetic singing and more, the whole experience has been awesome.  

Recently, I was with a group of senior pastors from large churches who had learned about our Thursday night service. They had many questions, and it was my pleasure to reflect on our experience thus far.  

Here are some of the highlights I shared:

  • Gratitude for the leadership. From the moment we started talking about this idea more than a year ago, our elders, staff and other leaders began imagining the exciting possibilities this could bring. While churches are sometimes known for resisting change and innovation, our leaders embraced the possibilities.  

  • Gratitude for the congregation. Ending one service (the former Saturday night) and starting another is no small endeavor. It impacted hundreds of people, but the congregation grabbed onto the vision and has shown great flexibility and enthusiasm for the new Thursday experience. 

  • Gratitude for community support. I was so moved by the way area businesses supported the new Thursday service and helped us get the word out to the community.  From handing out flyers, to promo cards in pizza boxes and on serving trays, the word has spread. I’ll never forget standing at the counter in one of those businesses and having the clerk, who did not know me and does not attend Pathway, show me the card and tell me that I should go check it out! I thanked her and told her I had already heard a little about it.  

  • Great food! What awesome dinner options there are before and after the Thursday services! From pulled pork, to pizza, to hot dogs, to Chick-fil-A and more, there is always good eating going on to fuel your evening. 

  • Enthusiastic worshipers. I am loving Thursday nights and the spirit that is evident in the building and throughout the service. It is clear that people have come to encounter God and enter in with heart and soul. Each week I have experienced the joy of the Lord and have been stirred in my own heart as we have worshipped together. God is doing something special!

  • An outside-the-box experience. Thursdays are not like any other service. They provide unusual possibilities. One of those has to do with Easter. Can you celebrate the resurrection on Thursday, before remembering the cross on Good Friday? The answer: ABSOLUTELY! I’m looking forward to doing just that. We celebrate the resurrection all year long, so why would we stop now? We’re going to give it our all for Easter Thursday!  

There’s much more we could say about Thursday and I DID share more with my pastor friends. But instead of telling you more, why not come see it for yourself? Many of you already are Thursday regulars and you should know I’m so thankful for you. Others of you are regular Sunday attenders and I’m very thankful for you, too. But when those occasions come up when you’ll be away for the weekend or have a Sunday conflict, join us on Thursdays and see what it’s all about. I think you’ll walk away saying, “Yay, It’s Thursday!” 

Kenya reflections: A high-five from Pastor Jeff

“What was your favorite part?”  

That’s the question I’ve heard over and over since our team’s return from Orkarkar, Kenya. I’ve greatly appreciated the question and the interest people have taken in the mission trip, but I find it a very difficult one to answer. I know. I tried.  

I actually sat down to list my favorite part of the trip and in the span of about 45 seconds, made a list of a dozen items. And just in case you’re also wondering about my favorite aspect of the trip (and even if you’re not), I thought I’d use this opportunity to let you know. I’ll spare you a list of 12, but I have chosen five highlights. 


1. School

High on my list of favorites is the explosive growth of the school.  To think it didn’t even exist five years ago and now there are 337 students attending is mind-blowing. To see the children opening textbooks and reading where illiteracy formerly ruled the community is exceptionally rewarding. And it’s happened fast! I had high hopes for Orkarkar when we first started to dream about a school there, but what has transpired is beyond imagination. 


2. Church

The church is definitely on my list of favorites as well, but not just because of its own accelerated growth. As encouraging as that has been, what I find even more inspiring is the unity among the people. The church has faced some challenges in its early years such as the lack of a pastor, then the loss of a pastor, and the influence from some on the outside of the community seeking to interrupt the progress. Yet through it all, the church has banded together for the sake of one another and the gospel. Now, Pastor Eric, his wife, Sylvia, and their children have moved to the community and have been warmly embraced as they advance the cause of the gospel in that place. 


3. Culture

One huge advantage of returning to the same location each year is that relationships grow and develop. That is clearly happening. The Maasai people, who are typically known to be reserved and standoffish, are opening themselves up to us more and more  each year. As a result, we have been invited into several homes, they have re-enacted a traditional wedding, demonstrated how their ancestors would carry out blood-letting ceremonies, and they’ve shown us their characteristic jumping dances — even inviting us to join in. The picture here shows the kids dressed in their Maasai garb, performing traditional dances while they sang traditional songs. And in the evenings, we would sit with our friends and hear their stories and talk of their culture and ours.


4. Teaching

Also on my list of favorites is teaching the principles of the Bible to the men and women who would gather independently for our daily studies. Culture is changing among the Maasai, but there is still lots of room for growth when it comes to what a Christian marriage would look like, what it means to be a God-honoring father, and growing in areas in which we all need training like prayer, patience and love. These were all topics we addressed in our time together. I appreciated having other capable people along to share in the teaching. 


5. Adventure

 Along our journey, there were many twists and turns to navigate. There were bad roads to drive on and often NO roads to drive on. But it is all part of the adventure of arriving in a village on the other side of the world to advance the gospel and do the work of the Lord. And when you finally have a moment to reflect on what you’re experiencing, you realize you have been the one whose life has been enriched. As for what to do if the jet lag gets the best of you? Just get up in the middle of the night and peek outside for some star gazing that will take your breath away.  

Yes, I could go on and on with more of my favorites, but I’ll let this suffice for now. In fact, instead of filling you in on the rest of MY list, I’d encourage you to come along and make a list of your own! 

It’s Thursday, it’s different — it’s HERE!


Thursday Night@Pathway is here! We’re even sending you this blog a day ahead of schedule to celebrate the fact that our new Thursday service begins TONIGHT!  

Preparing for the launch of the service has afforded me the opportunity to speak with a lot of people about the change and our hopes for what it will accomplish. The responses I have received and the questions I have been asked have been very interesting and have led me to a few observations about Pathway. 

1. The people of Pathway have a heart for the unchurched. 

From the very start, it has been our desire to see people who are not connected to a church find a connection at Pathway. Perhaps they have never been a part of a church or maybe they have wandered away, but we want to help them find their way into a growing relationship with Jesus. We want to create an environment that is conducive to seeing that happen among people who haven’t been reached by a typical approach to church.  

But here’s the thing: I’m not expecting unchurched people to just start showing up because we opened the doors on a different night. They are going to show up because someone cared enough to invite them to attend. That someone is you. You have an opportunity in your sphere of influence that no one else has. And when they come, we’ll be ready. We know there is typically ONE opportunity to make them feel welcome and as if they belong, and we’re not going to squander that chance.   

2. The people of Pathway are up for a challenge.

Thursday nights are not going to be easy. There isn’t a single person who will serve or attend on a Thursday night who isn’t undergoing a change to their routine. Some of those people used to attend on Saturday, but that service is gone. Some of those people had a previous Thursday commitment, but they’ve rescheduled it. Some of those people have never served before but are stepping up. Some of those people have been nervous about inviting others, but they’re reaching out. The bottom line is that the importance of the mission has led them to lean into the challenge and experience the value of doing so. 

Of course, the change to a Thursday service also is going to provide additional opportunities and convenience. For those who would typically attend on Sunday and would miss the week’s service when away for the weekend, they can now join us on Thursdays and not miss a week. I hope everyone will take advantage of that opportunity.  The Thursday night service is an endeavor for ALL of Pathway, not just those who plan to attend on Thursday. Everyone has a role to play through invitation and participation. 

3. The people of Pathway are willing to get out of the box.

Many of our attenders aren’t used to a service on Thursday. Some ask, “Can you do that?” Pathway answered, “Why not?” We want to see if we can make an impact in places we haven’t before and for that to happen, we have to do things in ways we’ve never done them before. So starting tonight, here we go!  

I’m so thankful for the leaders of Pathway, who have the vision to get out of the box and do whatever is necessary to increase our impact.  I’m also thankful for the people of Pathway, who have stepped up and made a commitment to making Thursday nights all they can be.  There are still opportunities to join in the adventure: You can serve in Children’s, Worship, First Impressions, the Café and more. Or, you can show your support by simply attending.  

Yes, Thursday Night@Pathway is here. I can’t wait to see what the Lord is going to do in our midst as you express your heart for the unchurched, embrace the challenge and live out of the box!

Like new watch, Bible sets pace at just the right time …

As a new year dawns, it probably seems like Christmas is long past at this point, largely because you have mentally moved on. I get that, and honestly, so have I. But, there was one gift I received that will be a daily reminder of the holiday gone by — a GPS runners watch.

This isn’t my first runners watch, but the one I had been using was about as temperamental as a cat that is … well, a cat. There were times my watch would refuse to be charged so it wasn’t ready to go when it was needed. When it would charge, the face would fog up so you couldn’t read the information it gave you anyway. Then it wouldn’t always start tracking, even though you pushed the correct button, so you ended up running miles it didn’t record. That was the final straw, because if I’m going to run mile after mile, I definitely want credit for every one of them!

Seeing my frustration, my wife Carolyn bought me a new GPS watch, and I love it! It’s nothing like a cat. It tells me all the essential information like distance, time and pace, but it also will let me know my heart rate, my estimated VO2 max and much more. And if I start running too slowly, it will let me know that I need to do better! If only it had a whistle and called me names, it would be just like my high school basketball coach.

Seriously, my new watch is exactly what I need for my running, because it tells me exactly what I need to know. I don’t have to wonder if my pace is what it should be; a look at my watch will immediately give me all the essential details. Without it, I might not have an idea of how far I’ve gone, or at what pace, and I could be off significantly without even realizing it. The accurate measurement is essential.

Wouldn’t it be great if we had that same sort of accurate measurement when it comes to how we’re performing in life itself? That would be fantastic and thankfully, we do! The Bible is a sort of spiritual GPS.

The psalmist says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light on my path.” — Psalm 119:105

It guides us in the way to go and gives us some feedback on how we’re doing.

So then, my watch is not a tool to shame me, but to help me. It gives me objective feedback to let me know how I’m doing. On one recent run, I wasn’t feeling great and feared my pace was not what I would like. I was very surprised to discover with a glance at my watch that I was actually ahead of my desired pace. The opposite also has been the case where I thought I was crushing it, only to discover I was not. In both instances, I was glad for the watch because it gave me the real picture of what was happening.

There also have been times in life when the way I was feeling wasn’t an accurate reflection of how things were really going. Feelings are often influenced by factors that fluctuate and change due to all sorts of variables. What is needed is an objective standard we can look to that will inform us of how we’re doing. That’s what the encouragement of the Bible can do for us.

Just like my watch, the Bible isn’t there to shame me or make me feel like a failure, but to help me. You can never improve what you don’t understand. That’s why the psalmist calls out to God, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” — Psalm 25:4-5

The start of a new year often inspires people to make a new commitment to get into God’s Word. That would be awesome. Maybe you’d like to read the Bible all the way through this year or maybe you’d like to try something a little less ambitious, but whatever you do, devote consistent time to the scriptures so you can get a clear picture of where you are and what you need to do to run in such a way to get the prize.

Faithfully serving Christ never gets old …


Our family experienced an unusual fall season, which was highlighted by the birthday celebrations of two brand new octogenarians. And contrary to what some of you might think, I was not one of them! No, we had a huge family gathering to mark this milestone for my father and, a few weeks later, we had another for Carolyn’s mother.  

I’m not sure what your picture of an octogenarian is, but if it’s someone who is frail or failing, you haven’t met my father or mother-in-law. Truth be told, I pray my life will look something like theirs when I cross that same age threshold.  

My father, for his part, is busy as ever. He is active in his church, serving as chairman of the deacon board, teaching Bible study, playing the piano for services, regularly directing the choir, and other things too numerous to mention. He is an involved grandpa, great-grandpa and neighbor, mowing the lawns of the elderly people in the neighborhood. Unless, of course, it’s snowing. That’s when he clears their driveways!  And a few months ago he decided to take a little trip to visit family and friends where he ended up driving through 15 states covering several thousand miles — in his convertible! 

My mother-in-law also is constantly on the move. Not long before her birthday celebration, she spent 10 days traveling with a purpose to learn more about the Bible and grow in her Christian walk. She wants to keep growing, which will undoubtedly assist her with the new small group she just formed and hosts at her house! And a couple months from now, she will travel to south Texas to continue her annual practice of volunteering for several weeks with a mission agency.

I wrote earlier that I pray my life will be like my father and mother-in-law’s when I get to that same stage, but after sharing all they’re doing, I think I’ll need more rest!  

You would think a good verse to reflect on when considering the example of a couple octogenarians would be something about fighting the good fight and finishing the race like Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 9. However, I don’t think there’s any “finish” in these two. I’m picking a different verse. The one I like is Hebrews 12:1-2 that says, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.”  

In each of the birthday celebrations, we heard reflections of eight decades gone by. While there were many blessings and happy memories to share, they each have stories of hardship and struggle when days were difficult and circumstances were heavy.  They each lost a lifetime spouse in the past couple years and there are health issues to battle.  But none of those trials have buried them. They have just shined a light on their perseverance in the race marked out for them.  

I am learning from their example and that of so many like them at Pathway Church. You don’t have to hit a big birthday to be inspirational. I look at the lives of people dealing with a terminal illness or unthinkable struggles and see the resolve to press on to greater heights, and it gives me strength and courage as well.  

As you face the challenges of your own life, don’t let them bury you either. Take the advice from Hebrews and “fix your eyes on Jesus.” That is the essential starting point, because He is the One who ran His own race with perseverance. As Hebrews 12:2 continues, it was, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame.”  

Jesus has gone before us and has made a way, setting an example that we can follow. Our races are not all the same, but we’ve all been called to run, so let us do it with perseverance, fixing our eyes on Jesus.  

Like a tree planted near the Living Water …


(Our guest blogger this month is Tim Kolodziej, Director of Communications at Pathway Church.)

So I’m consistently returning to one of my favorite passages in the Bible. It’s in the very first chapter of Psalms.

“They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” — Psalm 1:3

The psalmist is describing what life looks like for someone who walks closely with the Lord. It’s such a vivid and beautiful illustration of the abundant life Jesus refers to in John 10:10. And it always makes me pause to imagine some other ways to describe a tree near the water.

Now you try it. Read verse 3 again then close your eyes and let your mind take you to the river. What words, and images, capture your imagination?

Here are some of mine:







•Satisfied and ...


Yes, that’s what an abundant life, rooted in Christ, can look like. Though the world is constantly pleading with me to “do,” “be” and “become” to find my worth, this brief passage has given me a new desire for my future self.

I want to be just like a tree.

But only if I’m planted near the river.

The one with the true Living Water.

Ryder Cup golf illustrates biblical fellowship to a tee …

If you are a regular reader of my monthly installments to this newsletter, you may know I have been drawn to sports-related topics lately.

In August, I wrote about Chris Archer, who couldn’t wait to get into a Pirates uniform. In September, it was Le’Veon Bell, who may never again put on a Steelers uniform. And with the start of the Penguins season just days away, you might logically guess that this month would have something to do with Sid or Geno. Yes, that would be logical, but it’s also … wrong.

What has captured my attention recently is the 42nd Ryder Cup. In case you don’t know (or care) what the Ryder Cup is, it occurs every two years and pits the best golfers of Europe against the best golfers of the United States. So I thought I’d take a swing at writing about it.

The event is hosted alternately in Europe and in the U.S. This year’s contest is at Le Golf National in Paris, and by the time this blog is posted, the competition should have just concluded. The Americans haven’t won on foreign soil for 25 years, which means they’ve been losing nearly as long as the last time a movie was shown at Spotlight 88!

If you watched any of the coverage, you almost certainly were struck with how seriously the players, coaches and fans take the competition. There are huge crowds, raucous chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!,” fist pumping and more. There is a lot of pride in winning the cup and a lot of intensity, too. Several players will tell you it’s the competition they most look forward to during the year, and some say it’s their highest goal to make the Ryder Cup team. You would think that the pinnacle for any player would be to win a major or the season-long championship.

When asked about what makes the Ryder Cup so special, player after player will give you the same answer — team. Every other week of the year, a player is competing as an individual against every other individual. Yes, they all have caddies who offer assistance and some camaraderie, but it’s still a competition among individuals. However, for one week of the year, they are a team. They play together and root for each other and win or lose as a group. And they LOVE IT! And I love it, too, in part because it is fun to see the way the team comes together, but also because it gives us a little glimpse of how God intends for us to operate in the body of Christ.

Most of us have the orientation of the professional golfer — we go it alone. We might have a few people around us who we interact with on a pretty regular basis, but we rise and fall on our singular merits and talents. Of course, some of that is to be expected since we are individuals. But the scriptures call us to pursue team activities. There are wins that come to us by being with others and sharing life together. Many of us find that challenging because we’re taught we should be able to do it ourselves, but the scriptures tell us there are different principles to live by if we want to thrive.

This truth can be found in many verses, but some that I find particularly compelling are the “one another” passages. You’ve probably heard some of them: “love one another,” “be devoted to one another,” “everybody get together, try to love one another right now.” Oh wait, that last one might be something else, but I needed to see if you were still paying attention.

There are about 100 “one another” verses in the New Testament. Some of those that jump off the page are exhortations to “bear one another’s burdens,” “encourage one another,” “pray for one another,” and “comfort one another.” There is much that could be said about each of these, but here is the central truth: You can’t fulfill any of these if you’re not spending regular time with others. And that’s going to require intentionality.

None of us stumbles into genuine, biblical fellowship and oneness with others. We’re too busy. We’re too individualistic. We need to break that down, which means we’re going to have to live in a way that doesn’t come naturally. We’re going to have to choose engagement.

At Pathway, there are loads of opportunities to engage in “one another” activities. You can find it, in part, through serving in a ministry or being faithful in worship. But the best place of all to find it is through an environment where you can get to know others well and where you can be known. It’s hard to bear one another’s burdens if you’re not close enough to share them. It’s hard to be devoted to someone with whom you’re not spending regular and quality time. The most natural place to invest in relationships is in a small group.

I know many of us have a natural reluctance when it comes to getting close to others, but it’s important to realize that we’re not told to love one another only if we feel like it. This is to be standard operating procedure. That should give us the inclination to get over whatever barriers are otherwise holding us back. Besides, the testimony of most reluctant people, once they give it a try, is that the depth of friendships they have achieved makes it well worth overcoming any initial hesitation.

I’d encourage you to take some steps today to pursue “one another” relationships. Simply expressing your desire to get connected to a small group will make that happen. Just keep in mind that for a believer in Jesus, connection and community with others are not extremes for just a few, they are par for the course.

The example of Steelers’ Bell rings true for all of us, too

The Steelers are just days away from playing their season opener against the Browns. Based on their recent success against Cleveland, some are suggesting there’s no reason to play the game — just give Pittsburgh the victory and move on to week two.  In fact, people are ready to give the Steelers a lot of victories this year, believing they’ll win a record seventh Super Bowl. 


There are some good reasons for optimism: Many consider Big Ben to be a top five quarterback, Antonio Brown to be the top wide receiver in the league, and Le’Veon Bell to be the best running back. However, with the season about to open, Bell has yet to show up and he is not under contract.  

Virtually everyone agrees he’s holding out for more money, though that’s not the part of the story that interests me. What captured my attention were Coach Mike Tomlin’s remarks about what is being lost as Bell holds out. It wasn’t that he wouldn’t know the plays, or that he would lack the physical conditioning for playing 60 minutes at game speed. In fact, the concern he expressed didn’t have anything to do with Le’Veon at all — it was about the rest of the team. Specifically, the younger players.  


Tomlin spoke of the undeniable benefit of role models. He said the team was going to miss the positive contribution that could be made during training camp and the preseason when it comes to demonstrating attitude, work ethic and being a team player. Even though many might say Bell’s decision “is just business,” those contributions are absent.  


Mike Tomlin isn’t the only one who knows something about role models and the influence one person can have on another. My guess is that you have a few people you can point to who have shaped your life through their influence. It might have been a coach, parent, youth pastor, boss or someone else. And whether you acknowledge it or not, there are people’s lives you are shaping. Whether you are doing so with intentionality or by default, others’ lives are different because of yours.  


This is something we should take very seriously. The scriptures agree. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Our lives are examples and we need to be cognizant of what sort of example we are setting. We can’t object and say we never asked for or aspired to be an example of anything. We already are and apparently it’s pretty far ranging from speech, to conduct, to love, to faith, to purity.  


When we read in Proverbs 13:20 that, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm,” we tend to take it as a call to follow wise people, not fools. And that would be a reasonable conclusion. But who is to say we’re just to see ourselves as the follower in that verse? We also are the leader of others. In the realm of our own lives, we also are leading others wisely or foolishly. You can’t be neutral and you can’t just sit on the sidelines. Even while Le’Veon is sitting out, he’s still an example to those who are on the field.  


These realities beg two simple questions: “Who are you influencing?” and “How are you influencing?” 


Are people’s lives being enriched by what they see and hear from you? Are your kids, neighbors and work associates aspiring to something greater because of your example? Or are you influencing them in a direction they will eventually need to overcome? 


I pray that my life would set a good example in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. That’s my prayer for you, too.


Like the Bucs, we might need to make a bold move ...

As I sit down to write this post today, the Pittsburgh Pirates are the hottest team in baseball. They have won 16 of their last 20 games, including 11 in a row! So, when I had the opportunity to go to PNC Park and see them in person during the streak, of course I wanted to go. Wouldn’t you know it, they lost that game. And not only did they lose, they lost ugly, giving up 12 runs, striking out a record number of times and committing three errors. Thankfully, their imitation of the Bad News Bears was short-lived. They soon got back to their winning ways, which had everyone wondering what they would do at the looming trade deadline.  

Without going baseball geek on you, a moment comes at the end of July when every team has to decide if they are going to be a buyer or a seller. If they believe their team is good enough to make the post-season, they will typically buy, or add quality players to their roster, to help them through the remainder of the season. If they believe they are out of contention, then they typically sell, or trade players from their team, in return for future prospects. The Pirates have been widely criticized in the past for not being willing to add when they were in the running. Not this year! They made a couple of bold moves that are being lauded throughout the baseball community.  


We’ll see throughout August and September if the Pirates’ trades pay off. But what I find so compelling is that every team needs to take a cold, hard look at itself and decide if has what it takes or if it doesn’t. For some teams, like the Red Sox, who are 40+ games over .500, or the Orioles, who are 40+ games under .500, that’s pretty easy. It’s a little more complicated for a team like the Pirates, who have only recently climbed their way into a winning record. But regardless of how easy or hard the assessment might be, it has to be done. 

Even though you might not be a baseball executive who has the responsibility to make that assessment for your team, you are in a position requiring you to make other assessments. Those have to do with how well you’re playing in the present season of life.  Unfortunately, there is a temptation to push off making those assessments, which keep us from improving our position in the short-term and for the future. Just as it is for a baseball team, that will leave you in a place where you’re sacrificing responsibility and opportunity.  

The scriptures call us to assess ourselves. The Apostle Paul writes, “If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions.” (Galatians 6:3-4). That sounds well and good, but the truth is that self-examination can be very hard. It can be painful to open up our lives to honest scrutiny, because we all have areas where we can improve. But to do so, we first have to acknowledge that everything isn’t as it should be. That should be something we’re ready and willing to do, because it is the fast-track to blessing, but the temptation is to become defensive and resist what the examination would reveal. The result is that we hamstring our own potential progress.  

The good news is that when we are willing to open our lives to scrutiny and acknowledge areas where we’re weak, there are other resources we can bring onto the team, if you will, that make us better, shore up weaknesses and prepare us for a more successful future. James tells us that whoever looks into the perfect law that brings freedom and patterns their life accordingly, they will be blessed in what they do.  

Refusing the mid-season honest assessment may make life more comfortable temporarily because you have put off the difficult reality check. However, that comfort will be very short-lived as reality will eventually crash in, requiring action. The problem is that the delay only takes us farther and farther away from the goal. You’re going to have to face the truth eventually and the sooner you do it, the more quickly you will turn yourself toward winning ways. 

So, what trades do you need to make in your life today?  


Pray that students accept Challenge to grow in faith

As you read this blog, many of our youth are away at a conference called Challenge, where they are indeed being challenged to walk closely with Jesus and align their lives with the will of God. This is a national student ministry gathering put on every other year by the Evangelical Free Church. It has been going on for decades. As evidence, I participated in the event when I was a kid!  

Every time our students head for Challenge, I am reminded of my own experience. In those days, it took place every year and included a talent competition where a panel of judges would select a winner. Well, growing up a drummer/percussionist, I considered my options: tympani solo (try getting those into the back of the youth group van), or a triangle solo (much easier to transport, but a little boring after the required five minutes). In the end, I decided to do a marimba solo.  

If you don’t know what a marimba is, don’t worry about it — my judges didn’t either. In fact, one of them wrote in his comments, “I don’t know the first thing about the marimba, but I liked the way your hands moved fast.” Another wrote, “I don’t know if that was good or not, but it sounded wonderful to me.” At the end of the competition, I was recognized for performing the BEST marimba solo that year — as well as the ONLY marimba solo!

I have many other memories from those conferences, including the youth choir from one church that usually won all the awards. No one liked them. More significantly, I remember the theme verse my final year was Hebrews 10:24: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  

Even more important, at that same event I received my call into ministry. Being a pastor was not on my mind before that time, but the Lord opened my heart in a unique way and I felt a prompting like I had never experienced before. It would take a while to figure out what all that meant, but I have a distinct memory of being alone in a drab dorm room during an afternoon break, and being convinced of the Lord’s leading.  

My own experiences at Challenge always move me to pray extra hard for Pathway youth as they engage in the worship, teaching and other features of the event. I am mindful that what happened for me could also happen for one of our students. I’d encourage you to join me in prayer that whatever our youth encounter, that they would be challenged, indeed. 

It’s time to shine like the Pittsburgh skyline

Pastor Jeff recently toured the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, which is known for its stunning interior. He learned it wasn’t always that way.

Pastor Jeff recently toured the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, which is known for its stunning interior. He learned it wasn’t always that way.

Pittsburgh is a great city and I love to visit its unique spots — from the strip district to the stadiums to Mount Washington to the Milkshake Factory! I am amazed at the revitalization that has happened from the days of the soot-filled air and streets to today’s gleaming skyline. That’s what made it fun to take a walking tour of the city recently.  

The Cultural District also was featured, including the historic Stanley Theater, which is better known today as the Benedum Center. The Benedum has a stunning interior that features 90 crystal chandeliers, and 18-foot tall mirrors reminiscent of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles (France, not western Pennsylvania). Our guide informed us that in 1977, it was transformed into a rock concert venue and the ornate wall-coverings were painted black, hiding its beauty and history. In 1984, with the rise of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, it was restored to its former glory. Interestingly enough, it cost $3 million to build in 1927 and $43 million to restore. 

A few days after our tour, the Benedum came back to mind. Someone was talking about their sin and its darkness and how it had kept them from allowing God’s work to be done or seen in them. What a perfect parallel. Sin is a darkness that covers up what God would desire to do in us. In Proverbs we find the lament for sinful people whom we are told, “… have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways.” (Prov. 2:13). 

We know all too well the path of the dark ways. We all have allowed something beautiful to be covered up in our lives. Some people claim their life doesn’t have much to offer. Others live in such a way that degrades the value that can be found in them. But because God’s image is stamped on us, we all have value and something to offer. To deny that, or to refuse to let it rise in us, is painting over the ornate details of God’s design with doubt and denial. 

It is true that we’re not all we will be one day. The Bible itself points that out. In 1 John we read, “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2). We are not all we will be one day — do I hear an “Amen?” But nonetheless, the basis of what we will be is already in us. John says we are God’s children NOW.

The spiritual life is a lot like restoring the Benedum. When it was created, it was beautiful and ornate and designed as its builder intended. We, too, have been created as beautiful and ornate and exactly as the builder intended. And as we conform ourselves more and more to the image of our creator, we are being restored, remade, and renewed. Every choice for obedience and righteousness rubs off a little of the blackness and reveals the beauty underneath. 

What a shame it would have been if the beauty of the Benedum was lost because it was allowed to be covered and hidden. And what a shame it would be if the beauty of what has been created in you is lost because you don’t make the decisions or do the work necessary to let it shine through. What can you do today to rub off a sin or behavior that will reveal God’s design in you more fully? 

A mural depicting ‘The Two Andys’ — Warhol and Carnegie — was part of Pastor Jeff’s walking tour of Pittsburgh.

A mural depicting ‘The Two Andys’ — Warhol and Carnegie — was part of Pastor Jeff’s walking tour of Pittsburgh.

A High Five for our Moon Campus …

(Click on the image to begin slideshow.)


Happy anniversary!

Those are always fun words to hear because they celebrate milestones. Anniversaries are almost always about good news. No one ever wishes you a happy anniversary to observe the day you lost your job or the day your favorite pet died. Of course, weddings are among the most familiar anniversaries we recognize. Carolyn and I will celebrate our 34th later this year. 

There is a different anniversary on my mind right now. It is not the anniversary of the Penguins’ last Stanley Cup — that isn’t even a year old yet. It’s not the kick-off of the All In initiative — that will be three years in the fall. The one on my mind is the five-year anniversary of the launch of our Moon Campus.  

It hardly seems possible that it has been five years already, but it has been, which is a testament to the faithfulness of the leaders and volunteers who make it happen week in and week out. It was a delight to be with the people of the Moon Campus to celebrate this achievement during a special luncheon. While there, I had the opportunity to thank the whole campus for their service and dedication.  

As I looked across the room I saw people who show up every week long before the Sunday morning service begins to transform a banquet room into a worship space, and then tear it down again right after. I saw people who made a nine-month commitment to help get Moon started in 2013 who are still connected, some of them driving from Chippewa every weekend. I saw people who lead the Sunday morning adult class, and serve in the nursery, and teach the children, and guide the youth, and facilitate home Bible studies and much more. Virtually everyone at the Moon Campus has a place where they serve and contribute to the ministry. The spirit of teamwork is palpable.  

The glue for all these years has been Pastor Chad Agnew. He has guided the campus from the first day until now and has done a great job. It hasn’t always been easy with the church meeting in three different locations over those five years — with another move on the way — but he has led with distinction. I am truly grateful. 

When you pray, thank God for what He has done through the Moon Campus and ask for His blessing on the next five years and beyond. Ask for God’s favor in locating the next place He has for the congregation to meet. You may also remember we are still searching for a full-time campus pastor, so pray that God’s direction would be clear.  

We have so much to be thankful for at Pathway and one of those highlights is our Moon Campus. To all at that campus, I say “thank you” … and “happy anniversary!”

As scam proves, bearing good fruit starts at the root …

Fraud Alert! 

That was the ominous heading of the email I had received. No one wants to be greeted with that notice when they access their inbox — especially when you’re expecting friendly correspondence or an ad from a sock company I bought one pair from in 2003. However, to be honest, I wasn’t very alarmed. “Annoyed” would be a better descriptor. That’s because my first thought was it must be spam.  

I considered ignoring it altogether, but being a prolific spam receiver, I could tell there was something a little more plausible about this warning. Yet, I’ve learned not to click on any links, so since this regarded a credit card, I decided to initiate the contact by calling the company directly.  

After navigating several touch-tone menus, a helpful woman came on the phone. “Sir, did you attempt a transaction at Wal-Mart in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in the amount of $45.52?” I answered, “No, I did not.”  It really was fraud! I was stunned, and not just by the fact that the email alert was legit, but also that the transaction was flagged as suspect in the first place. Understand, in the last six weeks this card has been to Africa and California and various airports in-between, and every purchase was approved. Yet the sole fraudulent transaction was caught in the very state where the card was registered. Amazing.

The whole experience made me ponder what tipped off the system that it wasn’t me attempting to make the purchase. I wondered if the person attempting to use the bogus card was trying to buy kale or Brussels sprouts and the company knew that Jeff would never try to buy those items! Or maybe it was Kitty Litter?  

I’m sure the actual reason for the alert had nothing to do with the specific items the perpetrator was trying to purchase. However, that could be a useful tactic if someone wanted to develop the software.  That’s because we are creatures of habit and our actions are virtually always consistent with who we are. That’s true when it comes to what brand of peanut butter you buy, but it’s more than an observation about brand loyalty.  

Jesus also tells us that behavior is predictable. He says that who we are on the inside is going to show itself on the outside. On one occasion, He was talking about some false prophets and He said, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:16-17).  

I don’t know about you, but I find that to be very convicting. Those little slip-ups that happen in my life don’t just appear out of nowhere. They are the predictable and expected fruit that have grown from the soil of my heart. Ouch!  

I have a couple responses I can make to such a revelation. One is deflection. I can insist that attitude or action wasn’t really me. It was an aberration. And when I take that position, what I’m saying is that I’m not responsible. I don’t need to own it because it happened in spite of who I am, not because of who I am. Of course, that is the opposite of what Jesus taught. In Jesus’ example, we’d effectively be saying that we believe grapes do indeed grow from thornbushes.  

The other response is to own the things we say and do. It can be difficult and embarrassing because we must admit that change is required in us. However, it is the only way to spiritual health. As long as we deny our heart needs to grow, we won’t do anything about it. That’s because we either don’t think it is required or to do so would be an admission to everyone that there is something actually wrong.  So we keep up the front, hoping to never be discovered, becoming a slave to our issues in the process.  

Regardless of the difficulty, the only way to develop a good heart that grows good fruit is to root out the harmful influences. It is to admit them and seek the help that will give you the needed victory. Challenging, yes, but it is worth the effort because by your fruit you will be known.  

Orkarkar reflections: Experiencing hope in a village that once had none

It started on an early morning walk around the village. It has become my practice, while in Orkarkar, Pathway’s global partnership community, to walk the fence line as the brilliant, starry night sky surrenders to the glow of the approaching sunrise. Normally, as the sun is preparing to peek over the horizon, my gaze would be in that direction. On this day, however, I uncharacteristically turned my back on the sun and was overwhelmed by what was in front of me.  

I saw buildings — lots of buildings. There was a beautiful church.  There were eight classrooms of a school. There were three multi-dwelling structures for teachers and more. It was a pretty remarkable sight to be sure, but what grabbed my attention was what I saw that wasn’t actually there. Now, before you lock me up in a padded room, let me explain.  

Perhaps I’ve seen one too many HGTV shows with the predictable before and after photos, but what I could see that morning was the “before” image of an empty field. That is what our Orkarkar center was just four years ago when I stood there for the first time. There were no buildings and no fence; just dry grass, dusty dirt patches and rocks. But then, as if on cue, the image I saw in my mind’s eye morphed into what was actually present on the site before me and it prompted me to reflect. 

The ensuing flood of reflection began with the school. I was told that 267 students enrolled a short three weeks prior to our 2018 mission team’s arrival. Yet now, I was told that the number was actually 278 students. I guessed that someone made a clerical error on the numbers, but that wasn’t it at all. Both numbers were correct. It’s just that due to the tremendous need in the area and the dearth of schools, a growth spurt of eleven students, virtually overnight, can happen — and it did.  

For me, it wasn’t about the actual numbers of students, it was about the fact that Pathway has brought educational hope into a region that was languishing without it. The students, whose faces we’ve come to know, would be arriving for school soon. Four years earlier that wasn’t the case. Instead of coming to school to learn and study and play, the children of the region would stay home, or wander the nearby hills. Younger girls might be married off before they even reached their teen years.  

But on this particular morning I was reflecting and rejoicing that life is different in Orkarkar today. Children are receiving an education that will allow them to break out of generations-long cycles of poverty.  Some will be able to progress to advanced classes and even college, possibly returning to this village, or another, as teachers to help educate the students yet to come. I couldn’t help but reflect that Pathway is impacting precious lives in the present, but also families for generations. That is immensely rewarding.  

My reflection didn’t stop there. It also went to Orkarkar’s vibrant and growing church that was essentially invisible four years earlier. It went to the eternal impact the gospel is having on individuals, marriages and families. It went to growing relationships between the Maasai and our teams.  

Eventually, the sun crested the horizon and started streaming light over my shoulder and I needed to get busy with the work of the day, but that didn’t stop my reflection or celebration of all that is happening in Orkarkar. It continues today. 

There are dramatic things happening in that remote location that are making an enormous difference in that place. And in me. 


When it comes to spiritual fervor, let your voices be heard ...


Do you sing in the car? If you don’t, you’re in the minority of Americans. According to researchers, 56 percent of people sing in their cars. I thought the number might even be higher. And what are people singing in their cars? A different study revealed that the most popular song to sing behind the wheel is “Achy Breaky Heart.” OK, that’s not actually true. That one is painful enough to listen to, let alone sing. No, occupying the top spot is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Whatever your favorite jam, why not use some of the time at those stoplights to raise your voice? Nobody’s going to care if you can be heard, right? Well, that’s what one Canadian man thought when he was rocking out to the ’90s dance tune, “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).” The 38-year-old man was grooving to the beat when police suddenly pulled him over. Four, yes four, officers approached his car to ask him what he was doing. After a short exchange, they charged him with “Screaming in Public.” Is that really a crime? Hadn’t those officers ever gone to a sporting event? ANYWHERE? And just how bad was his singing?

The man’s fine was $117. He says he’s going to fight the ticket in court, though his wife might not be his best witness. She said that if it were his singing he was being fined for, it should have been $300!

The whole story just makes me smile, because here is a guy who is fully engaged. I certainly have done my share of singing with gusto while at the wheel, and still do, but typically if someone is coming up beside me, I bring it down a few notches. But not this guy. Apparently, the police were within earshot and he was still going after it.

Let that be a lesson for our church. Full engagement is a perfect description of what a Christ follower should look like. We should be giving it our all, at the top of our lungs, as it were. Our concern shouldn’t be for who is watching and our participation should not change based on what other people might think. Paul gives us our marching orders when he writes, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11). 

So, how’s your spiritual fervor?

There are many reasons we need to be attentive to the level of our spiritual engagement. For one, it is a measuring stick of the depth of our relationship with Christ. No one who is partially engaged is thriving in godliness. No one who is sort of committed is defeating sin with consistency. Spiritual health goes hand-in-hand with the level of our engagement.

Another reason engagement is so vital is because Pathway is a church that relies on the active participation of its people to do the work of the ministry. There are simply too many classes and groups to be taught, too much worship to be led, too many needs to be addressed with only a skeletal crew of volunteers. We need you to be engaged.

In a recent passage we’ve studied in “The Real Thing” sermon series through the letter of 1 John, we saw that the people of the church are at different places in their spiritual walk and that we have a unique contribution to make depending on what that stage is. Not everyone can accomplish the same thing as everyone else because we’re at different levels of maturity, age, energy, and more. You can’t look around at the sea of people and conclude that there are many other people who could do the job you might otherwise do and just as effectively. You have been uniquely gifted and have a unique contribution to make.

I wonder, if someone pulled up next to you in life, what would they observe? Would it be excessive engagement? If being fully committed to Christ was against the law, would you be fined? Let’s go after it, whatever is required, for the sake of our own growth, for the church and for Christ.

We've got plenty to celebrate — and lots more in store ...

As I write this first blog of the new year, I do so having recently read about the most memorable events in the U.S. in 2017. There have been many, from a new president, to an unusually active hurricane season, to the total solar eclipse. At Pathway, we could compile our own list of memorable events, from the opening of the new children’s wing, to dynamic worship experiences, to the many acts of outreach that have taken place. I am so thankful for Pathway Church and the impact it is making in many, many lives, including my own.

It is certainly enjoyable to look back, but what I like even more is looking ahead. I’m fascinated by what’s coming in many different realms. Did you know that you could soon own an air selfie camera? It is essentially a flying camera that you control to get your photos from whatever vantage point you desire. No longer will your solo picture-taking be limited by the reach of your arm. And how cool is the idea of surgery performed by robots or crashless cars? None of that is fantasy. As someone pointed out, “Fantasy is more like suggesting the Pirates will win the World Series.”

There are all sorts of exciting things we can watch for in our world, and the same thing is true in our church. As the year stretches before us, there is one that is clearly on our minds. It is the next phase of the building project. We have achieved a huge milestone with the opening of the new children’s wing, but if you’ve been on the Chippewa Campus, it is pretty obvious that there is more to come.

A trip from the children’s wing to the main lobby travels through the cavernous former administration area that presently features bare stud walls, cement floors and absent ceilings. Someone asked me the other day if that’s how it’s going to stay. I’m pleased to tell you that there is more in store. You also may have noticed some missing walls near the café and missing wing walls and ceiling tiles in the worship lobby. These also are signs of progress. They are the demolition and preparation phase of what will be a renovated lobby and café that will stretch seamlessly from the children’s entrance past the worship entrance and through the café area.

While some of the renovations will be completed in visible areas, others will take place behind closed doors. Examples include the former children’s area that is now being transformed into office spaces and a youth wing. Additional adult classrooms are being constructed as well. The remainder of the project is expected to be completed in the late summer or early fall of this year. We are excited for the enhanced ministry opportunities that will come along with it.

Of course, there are many things to anticipate beyond the building. I am very much looking forward to seeing how the Lord leads in the filling of some important staff positions. He has already blessed us with some new key leadership and, no doubt, He will continue to guide us.

I am also looking forward to launching a brand new sermon series the first weekend of January. I have been feeling pulled in the direction of preaching through 1 John and the timing has lined up perfectly. We’re calling the study “The Real Thing” because it makes it clear how our lives can be just that. It’s easy to get sidetracked or drift off course, but 1 John helps us get centered. I am praying that this series of studies will propel our church forward in ways that will deepen our faith and help us give it away.

For all we know about the future, there are other things we don’t. However, that is far from saying it is uncertain. We know that God has it in His hands and that He will lead us into it as we are faithful in seeking His direction and will for us. Please pray with me as this year begins that we would know the mind of Christ and apply it in all we say and do.


Would you like that super-sized?

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, Carolyn and I traveled to North Carolina to be with family. It was there I discovered a new restaurant called Cook Out. I’m sure many of you are familiar with this chain of restaurants that are found in abundance in the Southeast, but it was new to me. Now, since it was Thanksgiving and the turkey wasn’t the only thing that was stuffed, we didn’t actually eat at Cook Out (other than a delicious malt), but it afforded me the opportunity to learn something about the menu.  

What I discovered is that a single Cook Out tray (yours for only $4.99) is enough to feed a family of four. Or two Steelers’ linemen. Or one college student. For instance, you can order the big double burger, which you might think would come with a side of fries or some coleslaw. And yes, that would be an option, but why be so predictable? You actually get two sides with your burger and the sides are more like meals themselves. So, you could get the big double burger with sides of a chicken wrap and a quesadilla, or two bacon wraps, or a corn dog and chicken nuggets. And, of course, you’ll need a drink to wash all that down so you can choose from their two beverage sizes — large and huge. 

Now, the reason I bring up Cook Out is because it reminds me of the Christmas season at Pathway. You see, at Pathway, it is easy to find an entrée-sized outreach endeavor to participate in to show the love of Jesus. Maybe you’d select the recently completed Thanksgiving Kit outreach where Pathway volunteers provided all the food for 74 complete meal kits that served over 400 people. I have heard a number of stories of deeply grateful families who were blessed by your generosity. It would seem that with a little side of some other gift giving, your season could be complete. But if you consider the other choices this season, you will see that instead of little sides, the options are other entrée outreaches.  

There is Operation Christmas Child. The people of Pathway recently packed 525 boxes that are headed around the world to brighten the Christmas of needy children. A couple dozen volunteers also turned Pathway into a relay center, managing shoebox collections from another 38 churches and groups. In all, nearly 3,000 boxes passed through the Pathway lobby. 

Another entrée for your consideration is Project Angel Tree. You can select an angel from the tree in the lobby that will give you gift ideas or the clothing size of a particular child of a prison inmate. You can then purchase an item that will be delivered to them for Christmas. We anticipate that hundreds of gifts will be given by the Pathway family for Angel Tree children. 

Then there is Give Joy to the World. Through this project we hope to provide clean water to those in desperate need in Liberia. A single well can provide disease free water, as well as the living water of Jesus Christ for about 1,000 people. A small portion of the Give Joy proceeds also will go to advance our partnership in Orkarkar, Kenya. You can find more information about Give Joy at the table in the Chippewa lobby or at 

In this Christmas season, I encourage you to feast on the outreach opportunities that are right before you. Gluttony is usually a problem, but in this case feel free to fill your plate for the sake of those in need close to home and around the world.  


Merry Christmas and Happy Eating!

Pastor Jeff

Remember to ‘Fall Back’ — and go ALL IN, too …

Daylight Saving Time. There are few events in life that evoke as much joy on one occasion and angst the very next time it rolls around. You probably have mixed feelings about it yourself. Why? Because one time it grants you an extra hour of sleep, such as this November 5, and the very next time it steals that hour back from you and makes the early service at church that day the lowest attendance of the year!

Benjamin Franklin is credited with the idea of daylight saving time in 1784, though it was never enacted in his lifetime. The US didn’t give it a try until 1918. It’s puzzling that we call non-saving time “standard” time, despite the fact that standard time is only four months of the year. I ask you, “Is that really standard?”

Daylight saving time was instituted to save energy, especially in times of hardship such as WWI and energy crises. But there have been other interesting effects as well. In September of 1999, West Bank terrorists created time bombs they handed off to their Israeli counterparts. But because Israel had just switched back to standard time, the terrorists misunderstood the timing and the bombs exploded while they were being put in place, killing three terrorists instead of the dozens of people at their intended target.

There are also several instances of twins being born on “Fall Back Sunday” where the older was born just prior to 2 a.m. (the official time to change the clocks) and the younger was born after, but the birth certificate says the younger was actually born first. Or, if you choose to ride Amtrak overnight on Fall Back Sunday, you will come to a dead stop at 2 a.m. and sit for an hour so their trains arrive at the same time as other nights.

I’m sure we could debate the pros and cons of daylight saving time. Personally, I am for it every fall and against it every spring. There is no shortage of lawmakers who are proposing that we “Lock the Clock” and stop observing the annual adjustment. There are an equal number who want it left like it is.

Truthfully, the decision to leave it or change it doesn’t capture all that much of my attention, but what does is the boldness to make the change in the first place. It seems like it’s not all that big of a deal to borrow an hour that is given back before the year is through, but it is actually a huge change. It requires everyone to make a coordinated change at a precise moment. It was hard enough getting my two daughters to leave  for school at the right moment, let alone syncing up with the rest of the country!

Well actually, that’s part of the problem, too. The whole country doesn’t go on daylight saving time, let alone the whole world. So, the time difference between people changes. Then we’re told that the time change has an impact on people’s health and increases the number of fatal car accidents and more. That one little hour has a huge impact. Yet for the sake of other benefits, we make the change.

It seems to me that’s a great lesson when it comes to the church. How easy is it to look at a needed change and say, “That would be too much work,” or, “We’ve never done it that way before.” Whenever there is a hill to climb, it is far too easy to find an excuse for why we shouldn’t even attempt it.

It may be you have fallen prey to such a mindset in your life, or work, or ministry. It can be attractive because it seems easier and doesn’t require much of anyone. But what I would submit to you is that the easiest choice is rarely the best choice. As I think of the things we have attempted at Pathway, the ones with the biggest payoff have been the hardest ones. Just think of the effort and energy required to start the church 42 years ago. Certainly there had to be easier options, but a few handfuls of people said they didn’t want what was easy, they wanted to follow the Lord’s leading despite the cost. We could highlight so many other choices through the years that haven’t been easy, but taking them on resulted in advanced ministry.

Fast-forward to today. We recently opened a brand new children’s wing. It was not easy. There were significant costs of time, resources and finances. The same is true regarding the work left to do with the building remodel, the development of the Orkarkar project and providing new wells. But despite the required work, I can’t even imagine not going forward. The work is definitely worth the effort because of all that is required.

Sure we could have refused to go after these priorities, but the temporary ease would have left us outside of God’s will. Instead, we are at a place where we are making a difference in people’s lives literally around the world and where we have an exciting new ministry facility that will help us impact lives with the gospel and the Word. It is all possible because people have gone, and continue to go, ALL IN. It hasn’t been easy and it has required sacrifice, but it is totally worth it!

So, as you consider the Lord’s call on your life, understand that the way there probably isn’t the path of least resistance. But if you’ll make the effort and be willing to do the hard thing that might even seem undoable, you may just find the power to get it done and the favor of the Lord along the way. And that’s a path worth following. And should it require more time of you, you can get started well with your extra hour when we fall back!


Getting an early start on giving thanks …

Thank you.


That’s really all I want to say in this month’s installment of our Pathway newsletter. 


Thank you. 


Now, at this point some of you are thinking, “It’s not November. THAT’S Thanksgiving month. Poor Pastor Jeff has his dates mixed up.” I’m certainly not above getting my dates mixed up, but in this case I am aware that it is October. I just thought “Thank you” sounded better than “Trick-or-Treat.”  


Truth be told, I couldn’t wait until next month to express my appreciation for you. It has been bubbling up inside and I just wanted to let it out. As the Apostle Paul signs off his letter to the Romans he writes, “I rejoice because of you.” (Romans 16:19). I understand that sentiment.  


One of the reasons for my thanksgiving is your continued participation in the outreach bag ministry. Every month those familiar blue bags are placed on tables at the exits and every month they disappear only to return one week later filled with items to bless others in need. The most recent effort focused on providing school supplies to area elementary classrooms. The result was 41 large boxes packed with pencils, paper, erasers — and much more — delivered to some delighted teachers. And those teachers have been expressing their thanks as well. Incidentally, it was my privilege to be invited to pray at a recent school board meeting where I heard even more words of thanks for Pathway Church and your heart for blessing our community. 


Another reason I rejoice because of you, to use Paul’s words, was your response to the Hurricane Harvey relief effort. In one somewhat spontaneous offering, you gave nearly $11,000. On top of that, a team is traveling to the Houston area at the end of October to be a part of the restoration effort. Thank you.  


I also recently received a report from Living Water International on the wells funded by your ongoing gifts to Give Joy to the World. There have been approximately 70 such wells you have provided and we’ll be renewing that effort again through the upcoming Christmas season.  


Then there’s the 93 percent from our church family who jumped on board with the ALL IN initiative to provide a building to reach children in our community who need to learn about Jesus and help others grow more fully in Him. Then there are the efforts to advance the gospel partnership in Orkarkar, Kenya, spurring a community to come to life and thrive far beyond expectations. Then there are other endeavors to reach out through mission trips to Canada and Italy and the Dominican Republic. I could go on. 


There are lots of great things you’re engaged in that make me thankful, but none of those above is the biggest reason. The biggest reason I am thankful is because there is a compelling urgency in the heart of the people of Pathway to make a difference for good and for the gospel. The areas of service, such as those identified above, will likely change in the months and years to come. However, it is my deep and abiding prayer that our hearts will always be committed to following the lead of Jesus, looking beyond ourselves, meeting needs and advancing the good news of the gospel.  


I believe that is your desire and passion as well. And for that I say …


Thank you.

Children's Wing nearly ready - with much more to come ...

It looks like the exciting day is just around the corner! What day, you ask? Well, I’m not talking about the Steelers’ season opener, though that is definitely exciting. I’m not talking about the day the Pirates are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, though sadly, that might be soon, too. The day I’m talking about is the opening of the new children’s wing!


If all goes according to plan, we should be in the new building THIS MONTH! It has been fun to watch the progress being made since the day we broke ground a little over a year ago. We have come a long way. But truthfully, what has been even more exciting has been anticipating what is going to take place within the walls as we seek to see children come to faith in Jesus and grow deeply in their relationship with Him. One of the last times I was in the building, I had the opportunity to do a personal prayer walk and ask for the Lord’s blessing over all that will take place in each classroom, large-group space, special needs room and even the play area.


Occupying the children’s space will be a great blessing, no doubt. However, even without the first scripture being recited or song sung in the new area, we have already been blessed. The blessing began when a congregation of faithful, generous people chose to go All In to make this project a reality. That was no small undertaking.


The people of Pathway Church decided they weren’t just going to fund a project to build a building, advance a global partnership and provide clean water (the All In initiatives), but they were going to make a choice to follow the Lord more fully as individuals. As a result, nearly 93 percent of our congregation engaged financially. When the nationwide average among churches is closer to 65 percent, that is noteworthy, to say the least. As a result, it’s not just the shape of our facility that is changing, it is our very hearts. I rarely consider any aspect of the project without thinking of the sacrifice being made by so many to minister to the families of our community and the needy around the world. And for it all, I’m grateful to God for the opportunity to serve among you.


While we celebrate the completion of the children’s wing, it takes only one pass through the church lobby to realize there’s more to do. The plan from the start has been to complete the children’s area and then launch the remodeling aspects of the project. Those will start soon. They include renovating the lobby and café, as well as the existing children’s ministry area and the A-wing. If you don’t know where all those spaces are that’s OK, just know that when we are finished, we will have provided for adult classes, youth ministry areas and administration offices. The renovations will take about one more year to complete.


These are indeed exciting days at Pathway Church. We are grateful for where the Lord has brought us and where He is taking us as we continue to go All In.