January 6, 2019, will mark two years that we have been gathering regularly as Church For Neighbors in Portland, Oregon. So much has happened over the last two years that it would be impossible for me to fit it into this update. However, I’d like to share a little bit about our church planting journey.
A multiplication movement
The dream was to create a network of neighborhood-based communities who share life together with a common mission. There are 95 neighborhoods in Portland, and we’ve been asking if it is possible to see a community of people living as a faithful presence in each of those neighborhoods. As we turn the corner on two years, we are ready to see a new community formed in another neighborhood with a third well on its way. It is very possible that one year from now we will be celebrating a “faithful presence” in three of Portland’s 95 neighborhoods. Praise God for that!
This all started in Rapid City, South Dakota, when three families and a few others from Fountain Springs Church began talking about starting a church in one of the most unchurched cities in America. We knew there would be a considerable cost but had no idea what it would be. To get to this city, we sold houses, quit jobs and left friends, parents, grandparents and home churches to follow Jesus here. When we arrived, we were faced with a significant cost of living increase, a competitive job market and a city where every church planting tactic in the book had failed. So, we did what Jesus taught us to do. We banded together. We shared houses, meals, prayers, laughter, tears and, in everything, prayed God would awaken us to what he was doing in us, through us and around us. For a year and a half, we struggled hard to find a way to exist here. It has only been the faithful presence of Immanuel (“God with us”) that has brought us to the precipice of multiplication.
Jesus told this story. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).
At times in this journey, we’ve felt like branches. There have been and continue to be individuals who are finding a home in our community — many of them, for one reason or another, with no other faith family available to them. Other times in this journey we feel like birds with nowhere to land. Church planting is really hard. It often feels isolating. Presently, our original team is tired, our community is growing and God is opening doors for multiplication. I am reminded that for the mustard tree to grow, there is always a sacrificial seed. I am so thankful and proud of the people who have followed in the footsteps of Jesus in laying down their lives for those whom we now call our friends. This is what we must multiply. Not a model, but a crucified community.