I first met BD about 3 years ago. He lived 2 houses down from me with a bunch of other guys and they called their house the Anchorage House. It was a group of men living missionaly together to impact the neighborhood we lived in for the glory of God. They had a barbecue and invited all the neighbors and it turned out to be a great way for us to connect. It was also at this event I discovered he and I share a love for the game Settlers of Catan. As it turned out we have a friend named Mark in common who was part of BD’s community group and Mark also loved to play Settlers. It was at this time I was inviting guys over every weekend to play Settlers of Catan at my house and both Mark and BD started coming. Let me just say that both Mark and BD are excellent players, they both have mad skillz when it comes to the game. It’s hard to say who it the better player, get them at a table together and you never know what will happen. BD has moved out of the neighborhood but we have managed to stay connected.
Bryan Dormaier, or B.D. as he’s also known, is a leader with Sacred Roots, a missional community in SE Portland. Bryan writes reflections on scripture, theology and life. You can find BD on Twitter @_b_d He also has a blog you can read called They Call Me Pastor Bryan – http://theycallmepastorbryan.com/
The barista, who I’d just met said “Oh you’re a pastor huh? Did you study church history while you were in pastor school?”
“Actually, yes I did.” I replied.
“Huh… That stuff is really [expletive]ed up.” She responded.
I’ve been a pastor and church planter in Portland for almost 5 years now, and this sort of conversation seems to happen to me fairly often. Many of my friends in Portland are skeptical towards Christianity.
At this point, it would seem easy to write about how Portland is a hard place to start churches, or cite statistics about how it’s one of the least churched cities in the US. But I can’t. It’s too cliché, too easy, too untrue.
That’s not to say it’s totally untrue, Portland is a city that’s been relatively resistant to church and Christianity. But it’s something that I’m thankful for.
It’s easy to come here from another city, with big dreams about the hip church that’s engaging people in Portland and how it will take off. And if that’s the dream we have for Christianity in Portland, the church resistant, too open, too hard to start churches cliché is totally true. It’s easy to get caught up in how liberal the politics are, how the issues people seem to care about are totally different, how people are willing to seek truth anywhere but the church. To lament on how our traditional approaches to church planting just don’t seem to work well. To begin to say things like “cynicism has been ruining the city of Portland for years.”(Yes, I actually have heard those words come out of the mouth of a fellow church planter)
But I’m thankful for our city, obsessed about beers and beards and bicycles coffee and any possible way it can be weird. I’m thankful for the ways that it’s resistance to church manifests. Because in the midst of all these things, I’ve discovered that my faith has been being refined. I learn over and over that my cliché answers about life won’t work for others and won’t work for me. And I’ve found myself more closely following Jesus because of it.
I’m hopeful for the future of the church because of places like Portland, and because of that, I’m hopeful for Portland, because when the sort of organic, green, local, recycling friendly, totally contextualized version of faith finishes emerging in this city, it could be the sort of faith movement to call a lot of Christians out of their sleepiness. Thank God for Portland and its weirdness. It’s helped me truly discover my faith!