letter to the portlanders

When John Mark read this letter this past Sunday, it made me so happy I could have cried. For the first time in a long time, I am part of a church I truly, deeply love. I am grateful for a team of leaders who ignite a pure passion and fire for the Lord in me in a way I've never fully experienced before.

And I am blessed and humbled to know that these people feel the same way about me.

Here is what was said...

To all God's people in Portland...

To the rough and rowdy crew that is Solid Rock...

To the young and the old, the urban and the suburban, the hipsters, the hippies, the stay at home moms, the doctors, the lawyers, the people in SE who turn backyards into farms...

To all those listening online. The college students gathering in dorms with friends, the girl from Germany who sends me that spicy mustard you can’t get in the states (I don’t have the heart to tell her I became a vegetarian and don’t eat Bratwurst anymore), whoever it is that puts Spanish subtitles under the video podcast and posts it on YouTube, gracias mis amigos...

To the hundreds of you who have been baptized over the last eight years, and those of you who have been walking with Jesus longer than I have been alive, and to every last one of you who make up my family in this city and around the world...

Grace and peace.

By grace, I don’t just mean “unearned favor.” I mean the empowering presence of God, like oxygen in your lungs, filling you up with joy, and spilling out into the world.

And by peace, I don’t just mean the absence of conflict. I mean so much more. A deep sense that God is with you. That it’s going to be okay. That King Jesus is going to put it all back together again.

Now, to start things off, I want you to know that every time I think about you, I thank God for you. I can’t believe that I get to be a part of this church. I know we have issues—every church has issues—but you guys are the real deal. I’ve never seen a more Jesus-loving, passionate, generous, up-for-it church than you. I love you.
I’m with Paul when he said, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel.”

That’s what we are. Partners. We’re in this together.

I know it’s been a long, hard year, but we’ve seen so much happen. We’ve seen well over 150 missional communities started. Well done. From that we’ve seen a brand new church planted in the Sunset area. And from that we’ve seen over 200 baptisms in the last ten months alone! We’ve grown from one church in one location to a family of churches all over the city.

And this is just the beginning.

My favorite line in Paul’s letter to the Philippians is in 1v6: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of King Jesus.”

Like Paul, I’m confident that the exact same Creator God who spoke the universe into existence is at work in this church, and in this city. And he’s not done. There is so much work to do. A recent study said that we live in the least Christian city in America. We’re going to see that change. We’re going to see hundreds of you get into Missional Communities and live out the gospel in your neighborhood, your workplace, your school, your gym, your coffee shop—because it’s not about the guy up on the stage on the weekend. It’s about the Spirit of Jesus in you, on the streets of this city. The Spirit of God—the active, dynamic presence of God is in every last one of you. You have what it takes. You have the Spirit of God! You have the power to see your neighborhood wake up to the gospel of Jesus.

Do you believe that?

It’s true. And I believe that in the coming months and years we’re going to see a move of God in our city. We’ve been praying for it for years with Seven, and we’re starting to see the first wave. Scores of baptisms. Unprecedented unity in the churches. But, my friends the best is yet to come, because with Jesus, the best is always yet to come!

But we have to stay humble. That’s the only way we’re going to stay unified, on the same page, and a force to be reckoned with. Don’t forget Paul’s words, “Let nothing be done out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking out to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”

We can’t let this become about personalities or preferences.

We can’t be consumers. This is not about you or me! This is about Jesus at work through his people.

We have to become givers. A self-giving community, just like what we see in God, giving himself in and through Jesus. And when I say, “givers”, I don’t just mean giving our money. Yes, that’s true for sure. We need to grow as a church in the area of generosity in order for this thing to keep growing. And it’s happening. The last two weeks’ offerings were amazing. Thank you! Don’t stop. Don’t forget that it’s all God’s—every penny. And giving is an act of worship. But we need to give more than our money. We need to give our time, to our neighbors and coworkers and family and friends who don’t know the living God. To share our lives—all that we are—with those far from the life found in Jesus.

And it’s not going to be easy. Jesus said that up front. But it is going to be good. My plan is to spend my life in this city, shoulder-to-shoulder with you, working for the kingdom come.

Are you in?

To close, here’s the most important thing. We have to stay focused on Jesus.
What we think about matters. Paul made that crystal clear. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure”—you know the list. Our minds should be filled up with all that is good and beautiful in the world. Paul is calling you and me to look out on the world and celebrate the goodness of God in all creation. We should be a people who celebrate! I want to become a guy like Paul. He’s in prison, and not only is he content, but he’s filled with joy. Because contentment and joy aren’t found in more money, or more stuff or a new living situation or a new spouse—it’s found in the King.

What could be more good or more beautiful than King Jesus? He is true. He is noble. He is right.

He is life. In flesh and blood.

Anything else—no matter how good—is skubalon. It’s a word-I-can’t-say-in-church. It’s nothing compared to knowing Jesus.

We need to stay focused, borderline obsessed with Jesus. Because He is what this church is all about.

Which is why I’m going to rip off Paul for my ending.

“May the grace—the empowering presence—of the Lord Jesus, the King of the world, be with your spirit. Amen.”