by Joe Chambers

God walks “slowly” because he is love. If he is not love he would move much faster. Love has its speed. It is an inner speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It is “slow” and yet it is lord over all the other speeds since it is the speed of love. It goes on in the depths of our life whether we notice it or not. 

- Kosuke Koyama, “Three Mile an Hour God”

The world is tired. We are suffering from perpetual motion sickness. I sit with people either in person or over a video call on a weekly basis that have a vacant look in their eyes and a heaviness to their countenance. They are weary. That weariness is revealed in a full schedule and the ubiquitous electronic umbilical cord we carry around with us - our smartphones.

We wrestle with resting. Why do we find it so hard to slow down? It’s countercultural to go slow. Regular stopping was once embedded into our weekly, monthly, and yearly calendars. I can remember when walking out of the office marked the end of the day’s work, when Sundays equaled rest days, and Christmas holidays stretched on for weeks - even months. That’s rare these days.

In our culture for someone to be busy is a sign that they are in demand. And if you are in demand, you are important. I know pastors who wear their busyness like a badge of honor. Feelings of importance can seduce us. And often it comes from professional insecurity. Medical professionals are always busy. Lawyers are busy. CEO’s are busy. Engineers are busy. Accountants are busy. Highly respected and successful professionals are busy.

To slow down, to take rest seriously, to open up blank space in my daily schedule for doing nothing feels inefficient. To feel inefficient is not too far away from ineffective. To be ineffective is not very far away from being incompetent. We can’t live with that. Inefficient, ineffective, incompetent - not very aspirational. Our culture would reject us if that were to describe us. So we stay busy to mask whatever weakness we might have.


I have had people come to me and say, “I know you are a busy pastor, but…” I have to assure them that I am not a busy pastor. I am a pastor who has time on his hands. Time for prayer. Time for study. Time for silence. Time for stillness. Time for people. Time for God.

If we want to walk with God, 

we are going to have to slow down to let God catch up.

 --  N.T. Wright

Many people do what they do at the pace they do it because they enjoy the adrenaline high that comes from always being busy. Not only that, but there is also an identity crisis that busyness masks. If I am always busy, then I don’t have to come to terms with the truth that if my identity is wrapped up in my schedule or success my very existence is almost always threatened. I live as if failure is lurking around the corner just waiting for me to stop or slow down and then it will pounce on me like a cat on an unsuspecting mouse.

Doing always equals being. That’s the axiom of our culture.

Back in the 1960s the popular folk group, Simon and Garfunkel, had a hit song that is about as countercultural as it gets for our day:

Slow down, you move too fast

You’ve got to make the morning last

Just kickin’ down the cobble stones

Looking for fun and feeling groovy

Hello lamppost, what’cha knowin’?

I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’

Ain’tcha got no rhymes for me?

Do-in do do, feelin’ groovy

I got no deeds to do, no promises to keep

I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep

Let the morning-time drop all its petals on me

Life I love you, all is groovy

Here are some practices that have helped me to slow down and cultivate that spiritual fruit of feeling groovy.

For My Exterior Life

  • Every morning I spend an hour in my woodshed (weather permitting) reading God’s word and listening to the day awaken. If not in my woodshed, then in my favorite chair next to a window so that I can watch the night give way to the day.
  • There are times during my day that I get up from my desk and take a walk outside around the perimeter of my Church building. This change of pace opens my senses to the sights, smells, and sounds of the outside world. It takes seven minutes to walk around my building.
  • I block out time on my daily calendar to do...nothing.
  • I go for long wandering walks in the woods bordering my mountain home. On these walks I sometimes pray, sometimes lament, and sometimes I sit on the ground, lean against the rough trunk of a tree and listen to sounds of the forest.
  • Every week I practice Sabbath.

For My Interior Life

  • I listen to soft instrumental music that soothes my soul. I have favorite Pandora and Spotify stations that I use. Often film scores like Out of Africa or The Mission.
  • I read the Psalms every day. I have a reading plan that takes me through the Psalms in two months. I read them out loud and slowly. Painfully slow.
  • I read poetry aloud. I have discovered this practice in recent years, and I can sense my interior clock slowing down. Poets like Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, William Stafford, Robert Seigel, Judy Brown, and John O’Donohue.
  • I read fiction by great authors like Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, and Marilynne Robinson.
  • I am working my way through hand-copying the New Testament into a journal. I call this Scriptio Divina (Sacred Writing). I write ten cursive verses every morning. This practice slows me down to see words, word pairings, and phrases that I have often missed as I hurry to get my Bible reading in before wolfing down my breakfast and rushing off to work.

I offer these as suggestions. They all may not work for you. But it is important to find ways to slow down in a world that is spinning out of control. My grandfather used to say to me, “Joe, don’t just sit there, do something!” I’ve come to say to myself these days, “Joe, don’t just do something, sit there.”

There is a difference between being tired and being weary. I am tired after I preach my sermon each Sunday. I am tired after I split a cord of wood. I am often tired after a day’s work of studying, listening, and caring for people. But weary is different. The Apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:9, let us not be weary in well doing. Weariness is a soul-sickness. This comes to us when we live out of rhythm from God’s design of Sabbath-keeping and building into our day white space in our schedule for interactions with Jesus. Weariness comes to us when we don’t attend to the One who said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  

Matthew 11:28-30

I think it worthy to note that Jesus was never in a hurry, and he was never late. Can you keep pace with Jesus? You can if you follow him. After all, he walks at the speed of love.


Joe Chambers is Pastor of Mountain Heights Baptist Church in Buena Vista, CO, the founder of Sacred Journey Retreats, and author of Field Notes on the Jesus Way. He spends available time with ministry leaders by combining discipleship, counseling, spiritual direction, and storytelling to guide them on the sacred journey of living a simple and soul-flourishing life. Read more of Joe's articles on his blog.


NWBC is offering scholarships for pastors for up to 6 soul care sessions (by zoom or phone) with Joe.  To schedule sessions or find out more about a sacred retreat, contact Joe

NWBC also has copies of Joe's book available for free for pastors. Email us to request a copy.

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by Natalie Hammond

Church Planting in the Northwest is not easy, simple, and rarely fast. Urban Northwesterners are typically hard to get close to, cost of living is high, opinions lean liberal, and while much of the US is post-Christian, the NW culture is predominantly pre-Christian. Take all that and add moving here from another country with completely different language and culture. Now, you have just a tiny idea of what it is like to plant an ethnic church in our region. 

Chinese work in general is incredibly challenging. Currently, most Chinese nationals who are immigrating to the Northwest are from mainland China -- Mandarin-speaking, upwardly mobile, upper middle class to uber-rich. A substantial number move here for technology jobs, and their wealth can be a barrier to them seeing their need for a Savior. Developing relationships is culturally important but challenging - in part because their past experiences cause them to struggle with trusting. Covid has added another HUGE barrier to overcome, as Chinese people are one of the most sensitive groups when it comes to Covid. Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival, is being celebrated this month, and usually provides a prime opportunity for connecting and outreach. However, most Chinese are still not comfortable gathering, so churches will need to find more creative ways to reach out to their neighbors.

“Most Chinese immigrants come here for better job opportunities and better education for their kids. So, they work hard and keep their kids busy. Faith is not really on their radar. Going to church is a foreign concept, and even an annoying thing to talk about.” says Pastor Tom Tang of New Creation Fellowship in Beaverton, Oregon. Pastor Tang began planting the church in 2016, and it has been a slow process. However, he joyfully reports that more .families are growing in their faith and  becoming increasingly passionate about serving the church. New Creation had the privilege of baptizing a few people at the end of 2021. 

Pastor Tang celebrates that his members are maturing to the point of serving. The majority of Chinese people in the Northwest are unbelievers, so mature believers are scarce. Pastor Tang notes, “The Chinese population in Portland is estimated to be more than 50,000, with only about 1000 attending church. There is definitely a great need for more Chinese churches to be planted in the Northwest.” 

Pastor Steven Sun, who started Living Water Chinese Baptist Church in Federal Way, Washington in 2016, sees the bright side of having so many unreached people. “The percentage of believers is small, so you have more opportunities to share the Gospel,” he explains. Pastor Sun is excited that Living Water has recently seen some people accept Christ. He is leading their church through discipleship training to spur spiritual growth. 

Planting a Chinese church in the Northwest is not a quick endeavor. As a result, finances are an ongoing challenge for our planters and potential planters. Raising support is a challenge, because typically they do not have the support from back home, nor the personal connection with churches in the US that could help support them. Advocates like Gary Irby, NWBC Church Planting Director, encourage churches to partner cross-culturally with our ethnic plants. “Partnering with an ethnic work in our area is like foreign missions without a passport.” 

New Creation Fellowship and Living Water Chinese Baptist Church are currently the only two Southern Baptist Mandarin-speaking Chinese churches in the Northwest. We have had multiple attempts to plant a church in Bellevue, but they have stalled when the planter unexpectedly left the area. Planters Jonah and Katherine Easley served in China for a few years and speak Mandarin. Awakening Church, led by Jonah, has provided a home for many from China, but the need for more Chinese and multi-cultural planters and churches is great. 

“Most Chinese in our area speak/understand English fairly well,” says Britton Carnes, a stateside partnership strategist with the International Mission Board, “and their ties back to family in China mean that when a person becomes a believer here, there is the added benefit to greatly influence the Gospel reaching back into China.” Based in Bellevue, Britton is here as a resource to help answer the question, “How do we partner with Chinese churches to help equip them to fulfill the Great Commission here and around the world?” If you would like to connect with Britton to see how your church can be involved, you can email him.  

Click on a link to explore planting or partnering with Chinese work in the Northwest, or contact us.

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by Stephanie Englehart

I don’t know all of you, but as I sit here and think about the people that make up the NWBC, I am encouraged by those of you who come to mind. I am encouraged by the fruit I see in your life and church. I am encouraged by the heart you have for the lost, and the ways you pray so earnestly for your community. I am encouraged by the joy you cling to, despite hardship. But most of all, I feel for you, as serving here requires a great deal of perseverance.

In the last couple years, I have watched church after church shut their doors. I have felt the weight of half our congregation moving physically away, either further east or south towards family or a different political climate. I’ve felt the intense spiritual warfare as seeds of division and deceit have been sewn in the lives of believers around me. Not to mention, the personal seasons of suffering I’ve experienced, watched loved ones experience, or personally seen some of you go through. To say the least, the last couple years in the Pacific Northwest have been hard—across the board churches have lost 1/3 or 1/2 of their congregation.

However, I don’t believe that our seasons of difficulty or heartache are meant to leave us in a state of continued discouragement. The Apostle Paul doesn’t tell us to gain our strength from the circumstances or people around us. He tells us “to be strengthened with power through his [Holy] Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16). As Paul wrote this, he was imprisoned for preaching the gospel to the Gentiles (3:1). The church of Ephesus was saddened by the sufferings of Paul, and yet, Paul bows his knees before God and prays that their faith would have the strength to understand “what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

Our ability to carry on the work of the gospel will not come from us working later, trying harder, or apathetically numbing the pain we’ve experienced. Our ability to persevere in our calling and engage in the challenges ahead of us, will come from the depth of our understanding of the love of Christ. As believers we have the personal presence and power of God living within us. But discouragement often comes because we doubt that that power is at work within us. As unintentional as it may be, we naturally doubt God’s ability to do far more than we ask or think. The Holy Spirit that dwells within us is not just a tiny helper that may nudge us one way or another, but He is the very power that raised Christ from the dead, defeating our sin, removing our shame, casting out our fear, and calling us to greater purpose and identity.

Paul’s main petition in Ephesians 3:14-20 is for power and strength. He prays that we may know the love of Christ, and God’s power at work within us. This is what will carry on the church of Ephesus during their seasons of dismay, and this is what will lead us to persevere in our own calling in the Pacific Northwest. When we seek understanding of Christ’s love for us, we start to identify ourselves as His beloved. As we start to comprehend the grace and mercy with which Christ has had on us, we will begin treating those around us, and those that have left our church with more grace and mercy. Our understanding of all that Jesus gave in order to make the Kingdom open to us will affect all that we are willing to persevere in order to advance the very Kingdom He came to establish through us.

So when we trust, when we put our faith in the fact that God CAN do abundantly more than we could ever ask for or imagine, our self-sufficiency fades away. When we trust in the power of God to build His church, we work heartily for the Lord, and then practice sabbath as we trust Him to move. When we trust that He strengthens our inner being, that He grounds us in His love, that His care and attention to us is greater than we can ever fully comprehend, we move towards Him, not away. We are released from a callousness in relationship to Him and others. We don’t run towards food or media to cope with our pain, we move towards Christ, and the riches of His love that He gives so generously. Paul may have been suffering for the gospel, but He called the Ephesians towards perseverance in the faith—because the glory of the gospel is far weightier, far more satisfying, far exceeding any joy or pain we experience this side of eternity. 

So take heart, brothers and sisters. And let us pray these words over our hearts, over our congregations, and over our unbelieving friends—trusting that the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us (1 Peter 5:10).

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. 

~ Ephesians 3:14-20 ~

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and shaving put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I gam an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

~ Ephesians 6:10-20 ~

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by Joe Chambers

Two of the top prescribed medications in America are Valium and Tagamet. The former is a muscle relaxant to help people deal with stress. The latter stops the flow of hydrochloric acid to ease a churning stomach plagued with ulcers. If pharmaceuticals are any barometer to where our culture is emotionally, we are the most uptight, stressed-out, anxiety-ridden culture on the face of the earth.


Because we have never understood what it really means to rest. We tend to equate rest with sleeping in on a rainy morning...with basking on the beach, while pouring on the sunscreen and reading the latest best-seller...with an afternoon snooze on the couch to the soothing T.V. background music of marching bands and half-time activities.

The American devotional writer Lettie Cowman wrote about a traveler visiting Africa and engaging a group of carriers and guides. Hoping to make her journey a swift one, she was pleased with the progress of the many miles they covered that first day. On the second day, though, all the carriers she had hired remained seated and refused to move. She was greatly frustrated and asked the leader of her hired hands why they would not continue the journey. He told her that on the first day they had traveled too far too fast, and now they were waiting for their souls to catch up to their bodies.

God wants us to live in the rhythm of the way He has made the world. Because rest recovers our humanity. When we rest, we keep time with God.

In the summer of 2013, I met with a young church planting pastor at a Mexican restaurant in the Seattle area. I had been meeting with him regularly for a couple of years. We got our basket of chips and salsa, diet drinks, and began to small talk.

I love this guy. He is handsome, intelligent, and fearless. He has a lovely wife and three delightful young girls. He was trying to plant a church in the heart of downtown Seattle, possibly the single most secular city in the country. Rent for a modest apartment is somewhere around $4,000 per month.

We talked about his family, his calling, and his soul. At one point, I invited him to join me on my trip to hike the Pacific Crest Trail through Oregon. He said he couldn't do it. Didn't have time. I said, "How about you just come for a week and not the entire 34 days?" He said he didn't have time. Couldn't justify it.

I asked him if it were a leadership conference to help him grow his church would he go?

He said yes.

"But," I said, 'Spending that time in silence and solitude will grow and strengthen your soul."

"Joe, I can’t justify it to my partnership churches who are funding me, and I can’t justify it to my planting team,” he said.

"It's an open invitation," I said.

The next morning, I got an email from him thanking me for loving him and inviting him to go on the trip with me. Then he said, "Joe, I've decided to go with you. Not for a week, but for the entire 460 miles." I was delighted. We had the time of our lives.

About day fifteen of our trip, we took a break and sat on a gray log, and he asked me, what was the most important driving value of my life.

I told him, I wanted to live a life so compelling that people who know me would want to walk closer with God.

He stared at me. I could see that he was thinking about something, but I could not tell if the thoughts swirling in his head had anything to do with my statement. He looked down and his chin began to quiver. He stood up and walked a few feet and began to cry.

At first just a few tears came, then a few more. No sound; then heavy sighs and inaudible moans, and soon with a full-on lament worthy of Jeremiah. I have witnessed a man weep like that about three times in my life. This went on for about five minutes—wailing.

Instantly, my pastor’s heart was aroused to offer some comfort.

I opened my mouth wanting to say: What’s going on inside you? What are you feeling? Do you want to talk about the pain? How can I help you? Do you want to pray? I opened my mouth, but nothing came out.

“Shut up,” God said.

So, I kept my mouth shut. In time, he wiped his eyes on the sleeve of his brown shirt, blew his nose, cleared his throat, and apologized to me for his emotions.

I said nothing.

To this day, I have no idea what was going on in that moment. What I do know is that I was to give him space—sacred space—to let that moment happen between him and God.

This summer on the four-year anniversary of our meeting at the Mexican Restaurant he sent me a message that said:

"This was a pivotal moment for me. Joe, thank you for being there for me and for inviting me to go along on the journey for my soul. Bless you, my friend."

You and I need to do whatever it takes to position ourselves to rest in the presence of God.

When I was in high school, I worked on a cattle ranch every summer, and we cooked on a wood burning stove. My girlfriend and I exchanged letters and in one letter she said, “I love the smell of your letters. They smell like wood smoke.” When we enter into a rhythm of practicing Sabbath, we take that aroma into our world so that others might say, “I love your life. It smells like rest.” 

And so, dear friend, may you slow down so your souls can catch up with Jesus.


Read more of Joe's articles on his blog:

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by Joe Chambers

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:30)

I took them up in my arms;

but they did not know that I healed them. ~ God (Hosea 11:3)

We had bruised hips, blistered feet, and various scrapes and cuts, battle wounds with the mountain. Our destination is a remote alpine lake. It is a talisman for me, a place of reverence. Some of the glory bestowed upon the lake is due to its rugged beauty and some is because it is the headwater for many myths that have shaped my life.

To say it is elemental and formative to my life as a human being on this earth would be accurate. At age thirteen on my first trip to the lake, I moved from being a boy into the awareness of what it meant to be a man. Over the next many decades, I took many friends and family into this sacred place.

The lake is cupped in an alpine cirque as if treasured by the right hand of God. Surrounded by thousand-foot cliffs that crumble into talus and scree right into the cobalt blue water; and at other places, the slope is gentle enough for shallow topsoil to find purchase. The dark loam, however thin, is rich enough to grow lush mountain grass, skunk cabbage, cinquefoil, and giant dandelions. Colorado blue spruce lace one end of the lake like giant fingers holding the water in place.

Our group believed in “leaving no trace” while in the wilderness. I was struck at how little had changed in the two-decade since we had tried to clean up the careless mess of others. The lakeshore was pock-marked with dark charcoal fire-rings. Rusty tin cans, plastic, and other trash littered old campsites & even hung in the trees. So, we decided to leave one clearly visible and accessible campsite with a fire-ring and clean up the others.

Carefully, we cut the sod and laid it to one side. Digging down beneath the topsoil to the gravel base, we then buried charred pieces of wood and any organic items we could find.

The bottles, cans, and plastics we packed out. We replaced the sod and watered the area making many trips to the lake with our single liter bottles. We offered a prayer of dedication asking our Creator-God to bless the efforts to right the environmental wrongs of others.

We wanted to honor the Creator we felt so close to in this remote wilderness, but we also did it because we wanted the place to look better for our own enjoyment. Maybe we even wanted to teach a lesson of what it means to honor the land to others who would come to the lake.

So why was it so easy for me to find the restored area two decades after our efforts at environmental restoration? Did we do it wrong? What struck me as I stood at that place beside the lake was this: in spite of our best efforts, some ecosystems are extraordinarily fragile, and healing takes a long time.

Sadly, I could still see the outline of the trench. The sod stood like clumps of green braille on brown ground. Honestly, the area where we buried the refuse looked more like a grave than a place of restoration. I said a prayer, shook my head, and walked away.

It has occurred to me that our souls are much like the fragile ecosystem above the tree line: remote, strikingly beautiful, and fragile to the carelessness of man. Whether that harm is self-inflicted, neglect, or from others; we scar easily. Restoration takes a long time.

What then? Do we fail to cooperate with God in restoring His world? Do we quit because it takes longer than we want? Do we busy ourselves with some task or project that has a more immediate return on our investment? No. We must not be so shallow. Time is tender and tough above tree line. Tender in that it only takes one moment to do generational damage to the land. Tough because it is stubbornly relentless in its process of restoration. It is the same with the restoration of a soul. I must remember that God does not get in a hurry about anything.

Scanning the souls in my relational landscape, I see a charred fire-ring of betrayal here, a pock-marked heart there, and I cannot help myself. I pick up the shards of broken souls, the crumpled cans of discarded dreams, and the burnt wood of moral failures, and start the process of cooperating with our God to restore His world, one life at a time. It may take a long time for these marred souls to blend into the lush land of the Kingdom of Heaven, but what else can I do? Some things are even more precious than water cupped in the hand of God.


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