I’ve been to Portland many times. I’ve never had a trip that was so emotionally wrenching as the one I returned from last Thursday - Saturday. I was supposed to go with Pastor Jeff Crook, my senior pastor @bpbc. The purpose of the trip was to help him catch the vision. The trip was built around this idea. We were going to spend a little bit of time in some specific areas, and come home quickly.
Early in the week, my pastor had a family emergency, and stepped out of the trip. I am so glad that he did - it’s great to have a model of a great leader who always puts family first. We don’t see that enough in ministry. My church was gracious enough to change the ticket to my wife’s name. She may not be the senior pastor, but she IS super hot.
I had been on two other trips that week. One trip to Pigeon Forge, TN to visit Andrea’s family and one trip to South Carolina to see another church’s youth camp. By the time I got on the plane, I was exhausted. There was a moment in the air when I slowed down long enough to say, “God, what is the purpose of this trip?” I knew that God wasn’t surprised by the change of plans, but I didn’t feel clued in at all to what he was doing. I did what I am now learning to be an essential part of church planting; I just surrendered.
We arrived in Portland on Thursday. We decided that we were quickly going to establish some goals:
- Meet with as many Portland friends as we could
- Meet with Clay our NAMB rep
- Film stuff for our new website
It’s amazing that God would use these goals to shape our lives. On Thursday night, we met with a woman named Bethany, whom Andrea knew from Florida. She’s a dynamic woman of God serving at a church called Bridgetown Church in downtown Portland. She’s the first person, in a long time, who spoke hope into our lives regarding this vision. I’ll never forget that meeting.
On Friday morning, the Supreme Court ruled on Gay Marriage, making it legal in all 50 states. The city was covered in Rainbows and symbols of gay pride. For our video, we went into some of the sketchier parts of the city. We saw lots of broken people. We’ve been to these places before, but for some reason, it seems like we noticed every sad thing. By late afternoon, we were overwhelmed with a sense of evil, discouragement, and darkness. The weight of rejection we were feeling was compounded by exhaustion. I have to admit it - I got scared.
Fear is something we are learning to embrace as a part of this journey. A few months ago, I really began to question the call to Portland, Oregon. There were many days when I felt convinced that while Portland was the place, NOW may not be the time. In very recent days, the Lord finally revealed to me this very simple reality - I was giving in to fear. God in His mercy and kindness told me in my spirit that it’s ok to feel the fear. He affirmed that I might still feel afraid from time to time, but that it didn’t have to stop me. As believers, we have a freedom to walk into scary situations, acknowledge the challenges, and go forward anyway.
I told someone recently that for the past few weeks, everyday I wake up and experience about 30 minutes of terror. At first, these moments were really discouraging. Now, I’ve really learned to appreciate them. I take all of my fear to God, and instead of hiding it from Him, I bring it directly to Him. Everyday, He ministers to me. I give Him everything on my mind. I ask and plead with Him for specific things. After this time each day, I begin to experience a precious peace. Our God is unfathomably good. The fear has created a deeper craving in my heart for God, and it’s resulted in some of the sweetest satisfaction. Every precious moment with my family is a treasure. Every sermon I hear, is an amazing gift. Every scripture I read fills the deepest parts of my heart. Every worship song I hear bring me to the brink of tears. If this is what Jesus is all about, I could be all about some Jesus. ;)