Reach Portland exists to seek the renewal of Portland, both spiritually and physically, via the Gospel of Christ. As an organization, we feel our vision can be achieved through the supporting of pastors who have a heart for the city and desire to see the gospel proclaimed in word, as well as deed. Less than 10% of the people in the Portland metropolitan area are affiliated with a church. Within the city limits of Portland, the number drops to 5%. The people of Portland are artistic, brilliant, and passionate about their community. Our hope is that the gospel will take root in this culture and transform the lives of the people in this amazing city.
Reach Portland would like to help churches that are in a season of decline and/or have been overwhelmed by a sequence of unfortunate events that have led to their stagnation. Over time, the end result is that the failing church would become a vibrant, as well as relevant, voice for the gospel in their area of the city. Our desire is to help willing churches in the Portland area find well-equipped pastors, strategically help them transition into a re-launch scenario, train their current leadership, and support them through other tangible means.
The most effective church growth model is the starting of new churches. Reach Portland hopes to be a catalyst for pastors who desire to start new works within the Portland area. By creating a network of planters, our intention is to see new works established that are birthed from existing churches and/or individual planters who are called to plant in the city. Through support, training, networking, and partnering with planters, we hope to see a massive movement of healthy churches that spread across the region.
Through the planting and replanting of churches, Reach Portland dreams of a city renewed with the message and hope of the gospel. In addition to these efforts we plan on organizing city-wide prayer and outreach events, as well as other projects and processes to support Portland churches. We envision a city renewed with spiritual vibrance for Jesus and his Kingdom.
Partner with us as we seek to establish the spiritual renewal of Portland through new church starts, replanted and revitalized churches, and other means. Reach Portland is a 501(c)(3) organization and all donations are considered tax deductible. For questions or more information, contact us.
“The best church growth strategy is to plant new churches.”
I believe in the profound truth this statement possesses today, just as I did when I first heard it as young, naive planter sitting in a church-planting workshop in Houston, Texas. Reproducing healthy, gospel-centered, mission-minded churches is not only a powerful strategy, but biblical. Christ commissions us to go and “make disciples” and I can not think of few better means of doing so than church planting.
I have often thought that the popularity of church planting would eventually waiver, but it seems to still be the call of several young pastors and there is no indication this trend will cease in the near future. Godly men continue to answer the call to put themselves and their families at the forefront of unreached cities in order to start new works. It is encouraging and I pray that the enthusiasm of church planting never falls into remission. However, I have found that coupled with this movement is a lack of conversations concerning another area of church growth. Replanting or revitalization is a fantastic expression of the gospel, but one that seems to not have the momentum among young pastors that church planting possesses.
I was asked recently what is re-planting? I have little authority in the subject since I am literally only 6 weeks into my current re-plant in Portland, Oregon. However, I gave the analogy of a house that needs to be remodeled and/or refurbished. One must first inspect the foundation of the home before you decide to take on the project. If the foundation is faulty or unsalvageable, it is best to knock down the house and start over. However, if the foundation is sturdy (even if it contains a few cracks) there still may be enough life left where one can architect an amazing apparatus on top of the existing substructure. Re-planting/revitalization is accepting the faults of a church, seeking renewal of the people, and building upon a foundation that was once rooted in the gospel. The task is to revive the focus of the foundation towards the gospel in order to rebuild the structure that sits upon it.
I had coffee a few years ago with a young planter while pastoring in Fort Worth. I had only been church planting myself for about 2 months, but this young man had reached out to me when he heard I was in the area. He had served as a youth pastor at a local church and was incredibly frustrated with every aspect of his previous employer. He made an interesting statement that I think on often when speaking with men wrestling with the call of planting. He remarked, “We need new churches, because our existing ones are dead and have very little desire to change.” At the time I dismissed the comment because honestly…I somewhat agreed with him. A few years have passed since that conversation and I would like to think that my own heart has evolved somewhat on this issue. Although there may be truth to his comment, I think often we as pastors will thrust unwarranted assumptions onto situations that are familiar with our past experiences.
I spoke to the leaders of my current church before accepting the position and, with as much love as I could muster, was honest with them over what I saw as the state of their congregation. For hours, like a practiced surgeon, I dissected every aspect of their church and tried to point them to where poor leadership, lack of gospel-focus, and a dismissal of missions had brought them to a volatile place. I did not make any promises of revival and did not present any pragmatic plans for renewal.The only solution I presented, was a re-focus on the gospel of Christ and from there we could spring board in addressing other issues. I told them this would take years and would be very difficult, but with the help of the Spirit, it was possible.
I half expected them to be angry and dismiss this arrogant young pastor who is as old as their grandchildren. Instead, I received tears. Not tears of anger, but joy, conviction, and hope that a new day was coming. From the outside looking in, you would probably never come to the conclusion that the church was willing to do what it takes to see Christ’s name proclaimed in their city. However, from the outside you also can not see that their foundation was good, it just had not been cared for in quite sometime.
Planting churches is one of the most sound, as well as biblical, methods to seeing church growth and I hope one day my current church sends many equipped men to start new works in the Northwest and beyond. However, I urge young pastors to also consider the route of replanting/revitalizing. I know several dormant congregations will never accept change and truth be told, they need to close their doors. However, I truly believe there are desperate congregations strung all across the US that are aching for a new direction, desires strong leadership, and wants to be a relevant expression of the gospel to their community. They are just waiting for a young, passionate, caring, and patient pastor to love them through the transition.
Replanting is a reflection of the gospel because the Spirit is bringing life to a people that were once dead in their tradition, past trials, and lack of gospel proclamation. Israel once was just “going through the motions” of worshiping and serving God. However, God was patient with them and desired their affections for Him to be restored. Notice how the Lord speaks of His promise of renewal to His people in Isaiah 58:10-12 states, “if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.”
We need starters. There is not one city in the US that could not use an influx of new churches. But the need for restorers is great as well. There are several churches within minutes of where I preach every Sunday that are seeking a new day where they are once again a force for the gospel. They have their faults, their structure is weak in some areas, but many have a viable foundation. My prayer is that young and old pastors alike continue to start new churches. I also pray that these same men consider also the God-glorifying story of helping a willing congregation become missionaries to their city, aid them in rebuilding their ancient ruins, and assists these precious people in strengthening a beautiful foundation.
Portland is cold, grey, and the rain never stops during the winter. You rarely need to look at a forecast from December to April because the weather rarely varies. What does vary here in Portland is the climate of the culture.
We have been here for almost 2 weeks and have come across every kind of person from every walk of life you can imagine. I love that our city is a melting pot and everyone walks to a different tune. One can feel overwhelmed at times trying to keep up with the various cultural nuances that arise from the city and you can only pray you are not violating some local taboo that you are oblivious to.
The most interesting fact that I have discovered during my short time in the least churched city in America is that regardless of who I interact with, seeing them as Christ does always brings a welcomed response. As Jesus loved people from all walks of life, I find myself trying to duplicate His actions. Whether it is the family of 7 we just met last week, the two retired military vets across the street, or the barista at the local coffee shop that has more facial piercing that I thought humanly possible; the love of Christ is always the best approach.
There are many great resources on the market on how to reach people, make friends, and build community. Many of these approaches I have adopted over the years and find that they yield great results. However, regardless whom I find myself in contact with, seeing people beyond their exterior seems to give a more complete picture to their needs. They may not look like you, vote like you, or adhere to your moral compass, but they all need (as do all of us) the unyielding love of Christ.
Time and time again we see Christ’s disciples stepping out of their cultural comfort zone and engaging those who were a far cry from the familiar. They did this because they saw people not as just bodies passing by for their amusement, but saw people as souls that were in need redemption. They eventually did not allow cultural road blacks, outwardly appearance, or varying philosophy detour them from their mission to reach people with the gospel. What was this mysterious source for their zeal to engage these various sectors of humanity? They had been with Christ. When we are in an intimate relationship with Jesus, we are overwhelmed by His love that which, destroys our preconceived ideas of others.
Although this is a diverse place, the people’s need for something greater than themselves is a uniting factor. The cultural climate may change, but the reality is that in whatever cultural borough I find myself in, the love of Christ seems to breakdown all barriers.
“I loved the fact that it wasn’t my responsibility to change somebody, that it was God’s, that my part was just to communicate love and approval.” – Don Miller, Blue Like Jazz
Don Miller’s book, “Blue Like Jazz,” was one of the first books I picked up my Senior year of college after a tumultuous journey of the past 3 years finding my way back to presence of God. College was nothing short of an emotional roller coaster that led to deep wounds that harden into depleting scars. I had so many questions about what had happened the past 3 years since I left the comfortable confines of my Christian bubble in Houston, Texas. I eventually accepted that some questions will not be answered and that God was setting into motion an auspicious journey.
I remember skimming through the pages of Miller’s book quickly and grew an instant attachment to his experiences. The abrupt connection was intensified due to the fact that Donald (as I remembered him from my childhood) had in fact grown up in my hometown, hung out with my older cousins, and was an occasional wallflower at my family functions. I could chalk this up to coincidence or circumstance, but now I can not deny the simple truth of God setting His plan into motion.
Miller describes within the book his own spiritual renewal while residing in the beautiful city of Portland. Miller also depicts the enchanting, a-religious land of Reed College where he spent most of his time. Reed is tucked in the midst of Southeast Portland and surrounded by eclectic neighborhoods that serve as a buffer for this beautiful institution of higher learning. Miller described Reed College as this bastion of open-minded thinkers who never gave religion a second thought. I recall reading about Reed College and picturing what it must have been like to be in such a progressive culture where Christianity was not a family tradition passed down from one generation to another. What a fantastic place to live near in order to really feel what it means to be a missionary in a sea of contemplation, ideologies, and philosophical sophisticates.
It has been nearly 10 years since I picked up Miller’s book. However, this fall, I found myself driving through the beautiful landscape of Southeast Portland and seeing for my own eyes the infamous Reed College. The reason for my visit, I was praying about accepting a pastorate at a church in need of revitalization just 2 miles down the road. The church had been without a pastor for 2 years and was fighting to stay relevant in one of Portland’s most progressive districts. The area was stunning, but I found myself distracted by Miller’s account of this community.
My wife and I sat in a coffee shop just a block away from Reed. It was hard to believe that this place really existed and the scenes that Miller had penned in his book were right before us. We sat in silence for a long while and instead of excitement, I felt incredibly intimidated. I mean, who did I think I was? This is Reed College and a far cry from the universities I had taught at during my time in Texas that produced a more conservative culture. How would I ever connect with these people?
During our visits to Portland we ran across the complete spectrum of people and truly experienced the proverbial “melting pot” this city presents. No matter who my wife and I encountered, there was a sense of familiarity with each interaction. People need community, love, and hope. Miller was correct, it was not up to me to change anyone, but to just, “love and accept people.” Regardless if my family resided in Southeast Portland or somewhere in the “deep south,” there was one absolute truth that accurately described both cultures… they maintained residents who need Jesus.
My family is moving to Southeast Portland in December and I expect that I will spend many hours walking the campus of Reed College. I am thankful for this opportunity that God has afforded us and grateful for Don Miller who the Lord used to set my affections so long ago for a community that I will soon be grafted into. The challenges will be numerous, the hurdles will be endless, and roadblocks will come often. Yet, the hearts will be many, the seeking will be overwhelming, and the people to love will never cease. Reed College and Southeast Portland is an amazing field, that is ripe for harvest. We are not afraid, for we are not the one’s that will change anyone, we are simply God’s instrument for the gospel which we so proudly proclaim. May this extraordinary and auspicious journey begin!