I’ve run into various friends this past week. Most of the asked, “How’s The Table?” To which I answer, “I’m stoked. We had our one year anniversary a few weeks back which was sweet.” It was a sweet time together, and a celebration of God’s faithfulness. Below is the message from that day, for those who missed it.
Today we are celebrating God’s faithfulness. He is faithful to His promises. He promised to send a redeemer to rescue the world, and He kept His promise, by sending Jesus to make sure we are in right relationship with God and each other. And, God has been faithful in the development of The Table, too. To celebrate God’s faithfulness in our context, I thought I would tell, again, the story of The Table.
The Table for me started way back, while I was in seminary. I knew I wanted to be a part of missions, but I knew that church and community is the best context to grow in our faith, and began to feel God calling me in that direction. During this time a group of local churches began day dreaming about how they together could help bring a new church to Whatcom County. In September of 2008, we received a call from those churches to start a new church somewhere in the county. God was faithful in His leading me into church planting.
In fall of 2008 K8 and I began to discern where God was calling us to start this community. The group of churches who called us gave us full license to discern, knowing God would be faithful to fulfill His promises. So for the next 6 months we discerned w/ friends where God wanted His new church to serve. We held several prayer gathers. During the first three months we prayed, talked w/ folks and discerned through all the towns in the county, from Ferndale to Deming, from Blaine to Sudden Valley, but we felt a definite pull to Bellingham. Then the task became discerning where in Bellingham we felt called to move and begin forming community. And over the next couple months we again prayed, talked with folks, and discerned all the neighborhoods in Bellingham. And w/ the help of wise counsel, we all felt God opening the door to move and start our work on the Southside of Bellingham. It was a place where I found myself feeling at home and having day dreams about ministry, which wasn’t happening elsewhere. And after sending out a prayer letter to folks, expressing our decision to serve in the Happy Valley neighborhood, I received an email from our friend Larry. He told us about a place opening up where his daughter lived. We saw this as a wide open door. So we moved to Bellingham Cohousing showing again that God is faithful in moving His people where he wants them to be
God was faithful in showing us where we would go, and we knew that He would now show us who would join us and how we would go about forming community. So we began hanging out with folks, and daydreaming about how our community might look. For about year we hung out and developed new friendships. This took place during informal times but also during new Bible studies, prayer gatherings, and pub nights.
Having moved to Bellingham, I wrote this on my blog in March of 2009, “I am again struck by the need for community. Who will join us in the launch phase of the church plant? Who will join us in doing life together in community? My prayer is that God will rise up folks who will love and worship God with us, while we love a serve others and each other” About a year later I began asking certain folks to join us in developing the church and commit to it for a year. It was a challenging season of “DTR’s” or Defining The Relationship, where like asking a girl out on a date, I’d say, “You know I like you, and think our friendship is great, but I was curious if you want to take it to the next level” And by May 2010, we had our first leadership team formed, made up of six households, and to my surprise, after our first social time together as a group, they wanted to start worshipping. God again was faithful. He answered my prayers of having folks to share the joy and burden of leading.
Before this group was officially formed, they were all involved in the daydreaming of how a new church might look. The development of our Rhythms of hospitality, discipleship, and blessing is interesting. I read and studied mission, vision, and values statements that were too long and honesty forgotten by those who signed them. Being influenced by a book called “Simple Church,” my desire was that our church would be simply defined, simply explained, and authentic to who we are and want to be. In March of 2009, I wrote on my blog that, “I like the idea that we would follow His lead and hang out w/ people where they are at, having fun doing the things we commonly share (in playing, watching movies, over a good meal, good coffee, or a good beer). I like the idea of following His lead, coming together to build each other up in His love for Him and each other (through prayer, study of His word, eating together, worship). I like the idea of following His lead as we together express our love for Him, His creation, and His people through serving those around us, with no strings attached (in our neighborhood, w/ our neighbors, as we creatively influence our neighborhood for common good). I like the idea of having those 3 elements (hanging out, growing, and serving) define who we are, how we live, and what we strive for.” I was searching for simple, authentic language to express our desires for community. And I wanted our desires to be rooted in the example of Jesus.
Looking at how Jesus developed His disciples in Luke was interesting. In Luke 5-6 He called them. In Luke 7-8 He built into them. And, in Luke 9 he sent them out. This calling, building, sending pattern was awesome, but it seemed too linear to me. Someone’s entry point might be a service project not a small group, for example. So we began conversing with folks about values and vision that could work together congruently. In May of 2009 I wrote in my blog, “I love the idea of living a life with others where we are: 1) intentionally growing inwards (creating safe, fun places where we grow socially together and others feel the warmth of Christ), 2) intentionally growing upwards (growing in our faith and knowledge of our creator together), and 3) intentionally growing outwards (discovering and experimenting how we can live our faith in Jesus out in our neighborhoods, serving others). I love the idea of living a congruent life with others where these 3 rhythms of life inform each other.” But the language of inward, upward, and outward, although good, was not the language I use. In August I was talking about communal and personal rhythms of being social, deepening our spiritual lives in Him, and living our faith in service. I feel like we were getting closer with the ideas of Social, Spiritual, Service, but they were not quite relational enough. And finally after many conversations and day dreaming sessions, we landed on the rhythms we now have.
Again God was faithful in giving the new church a clear mission, a clear vision and clear values. The mission and vision and values of The Table are all wrapped up in what we call our rhythms. They are simple, rooted in JC, relational, and authentic to who we are. The rhythms of Hospitality, Discipleship and Blessing are what define us. The collective desire of us at is to “To live out the HOSPITALITY we see in Jesus, to grow in our DISCIPLESHIP in Him, and to be a tangible BLESSING to those around us, in His name.” And since our 1st worship gather 1 year ago, these rhythms are what we as a community have lived out and strived for, and today we celebrating God’s faithfulness in allowing us to live these out.
Over the last year I believe God’s allowed us to live out all our rhythms. In the rhythm of hospitality, we’ve thrown several successful parties and events for neighbors, including the Firehouse film series we sponsored, our Halloween party, and several others. But more importantly, we have been hospitable to folks we’ve met, whether at church or around town. This hospitality what Jesus did, and that’s why we do it. In the rhythm of discipleship, we come together on a regular basis for worship, prayer, and bible study. Together, we can grow more than if we go it alone. And I believe God has been faithful in growing us as a community in His likeness over the last year. In the rhythm of Blessing, God has allowed us to build relationships as we bless neighbors in tangible ways. At our monthly blessing events, we’ve partnered with the Whatcom Volunteer Center, in helping folks make their living situations better. We’ve partnered w/ the neighborhood association in planting trees and feeding the neighborhood. And, we’ve made countless meals for those who would appreciate one. This doesn’t count the endless ways we individually have blessed those around us. We do all these rhythms, and live out our lives together not because we want to grow our egos or our church, we do them because that’s what Jesus does, and we together want to be like Him. And today we celebrate the fact that God is faithful in allowing to do this together over the last year.
My hope for the next year, and the years to come, is that we would continue to do what we do. That we would be faith to what He called us to do, to love God as we love others. So thanks for allowing God to move in our midst.