A Tale of Sir Lancelot of Camelot
It was encouraging on Sunday to see 7 young people walk in the door of Coyote’s to attend our service. Any way you slice it, it was a real ‘win’ for Your Church. You see when you start a church, what defines the ‘win’ begins with just getting the first service off of the ground – especially if it’s in the middle of a massive blizzard. The win then becomes getting somebody, anybody walking through the doors to be part of the service! If both of those wins can happen on the first service – then pull out the fudge and ice cream – it’s a party! However as each Sunday passes, you are able to begin putting a little more definition to the win. So with almost 2 months ‘under the belt’ of holding weekly services, our win for Your Church has now evolved into us having a first time visitor willing to come and check us out one more time. Add to that, another win for us is when the de-churched take the plunge and visit us. Now put those two together for a really great win - when the de-churched who visited us come back! Which is what happened Sunday night!
Shortly after we arrived here in Hillsboro last fall, Garrett and I met with a pastor in downtown Portland – and I wrote a blog about that encounter, seeing as how it rattled us to the core. That day, the pastor brought a notebook and asked us a lot of questions… too many for my liking. Picture your worst job interview imaginable and that’s pretty much how we felt after that meeting. I didn’t feel like we were connecting at all, but looking back I would relate it more to what Nicodemus must have felt like when he talked to Jesus, and out of the blue Jesus tells Nick that he has to become born again. Nicodemus never even heard that phrase before, much less it causing a major conversational shift for him. Well, so it was for Garrett and I on that sunny Portland day. Our conversation with the pastor came to an abrupt end when the guy broke down and started crying. In the midst of Garrett and I trying to figure out how to manage this moment of total coffee shop awkwardness, the pastor then explodes into raw passion telling us to lose our ‘shtick’; to let Portland change us; to weep for the people we are called to reach; and to find a homosexual friend. He then takes a deep breath, dries his tears, apologizes for getting emotional, tells us thanks for meeting with him…and off he goes. To be honest the slogan, “Keep Portland Weird” was running through my mind as I was trying to figure out what just happened. As for Garrett and I, we ended up talking together for another 5 hours and realized we had been impacted with something far greater than we could have imagined. We were about to ‘do’ church like we had never done church before; done with grit, done raw and organic. No big names, lights, fanfare and no ‘church bubble’ mentality. Even the dream of having 300 people at our opening service began to fade. We were shaken to the core. It was the beginning of a spiritual upheaval in our lives – I think it was more like the lava of God finally broke through our hardened ground.
I have to admit that when I look back, I did have a shtick. (For whatever reason I keep hearing Sean Connery’s voice when I say that word.) I sort of saw myself as the one bringing change to the greater Portland area because I knew God Himself called me here – kind of like I was the official keeper of the Holy Grail to Portland! It’s whacky I know, but the thinking was there and God wanted it out. What began that day was Portland started changing me. No, I’m not talking about my convictions changing I’m talking about how I began to allow the people of Portland to touch the heart of who I am. What started that day was an attraction to the de-churched; the people who hate church, got hurt in or by the church, or simply felt like church was not for them. It’s the people who made a conscious decision to never go back to church – thus the people I now weep for.
Ironic isn’t it? That we would be called ‘Your Church’ for people who don’t like church. I may not have made friends with homosexuals yet, but two of our repeat visitors would be classified as transgender. We don’t call them that. We call them friends. They came with Bibles too.