What is a “live” neighborhood? Can the Church revitalize our neighborhoods?

Here’s something that maybe Christians could lead the way in, revitalize our towns, our neighborhoods, and bring a sense of community back to our lives. Markets have survived for centuries in other places, and we all love Pike Place, Portland Saturday Market, Fisherman’s Wharf and the neighborhood markets which have begun to find their way back into other communities.

Go, read this article or at least glance at it.


Make sense? Not the entrepreneurial type? Don’t worry, we can all be excited for this!

For this of us here in the Portland area we’ve visited and love the food carts, well this idea is far more than just food carts.  It would require changes in city codes, allowing for businesses to spring up and move around. Little stores where people can buy and sell things, literally niche stores.

Now, imagine these little stores distributed throughout our neighborhoods but backed by the Church, giving people work, and at the same time being an outreach to our communities through real tangible service. This could be a great way to activate our boring spaces and energize our neighborhoods with a neighborly feeling of “local store” again.  It’s a little far-fetched, and definitely out of the box as far as the Church is concerned.

In our travels there are small little shops like this all over European cities and towns over time people come to know each other and create relationships, your local shop keeper becomes in a sense part of your community. It’s in these kinds of linking conduits that we can make connections that eventually become meaningful and thus open the doors to sharing the Gospel. Getting out in our communities is what the Church is always “told” to do – but honestly I don’t see it happening… probably because we have no reason… generally our communities in America are pretty boring (outside some city centers).  If we had actual things to do, places to be, and people to see in our neighborhoods, we might, just might actually connect and begin making some differences.

What heck is sin?


A while back I ran across an article on OregonLive.com regarding some protesters who were demonstrating against Mars Hill Church’s latest Church plant in southeast Portland.  These kinds of demonstrations (from both sides of the fence, read: Westboro Baptist Church and similar groups) seem to only further the divide, certainly these demonstrations don’t encourage a sensible discussion for each side to understand and see the other’s viewpoint (not necessarily agree, but at least get the full picture) and allow for real relationship. It seems most of the time we see “Christians” doing this kind of activity, but it goes to show that every group out there has their extremists.

The world has a hard time understanding how we can call something “sin”, such as homosexuality, because of the long list of connotations “sin” has as a word; and it has become nearly impossible to use the word and not provoke some kind of negative reaction. My definition of sin is simply this: The act of not obeying the Lord either in character as He has asked us through Biblical means, or by direct personal request. It’s also important to note that the Lord sees all sin exactly the same, each one is only one step away, and all He wants is for us to be right near Him – not one step away.

This is why it’s possible for me to see something as “sin” and not have it affect the love, basic human respect, and desire to enter into meaningful friendship with anyone who is willing. We (members of the Church) have to understand and accept the fact that people “outside” can’t possibly understand, and this is why the Good News/Gospel needs to be delivered (evangelism: to deliver the Good News), only the Lord can convict someone of their sin and cause true repentance (change). Our “job” is to live, breathe, speak the Good News as best we can; including recognizing and admitting when we turn away (sin) from God, so we can adjust and move closer to God again, not only as a witness for others, but out of a true relationship with God – as we would for our significant others and friends.

Probably the most important piece to understand is that the process of conviction, forgiveness, and restoration is not dependent on the people in Church telling those outside they are “sinners” – it’s dependent on each individual to accept what they hear from the Lord and be convicted of their position with God (being purposely away by their own choices), ask for forgiveness, and then seeking restoration with Him.

Where we people in the Church tend to mess things up, and it’s a horrible mistake, is taking what’s OK in the Church (holding our brothers and sisters accountable – in a graceful/concerning way, which is another blog post) and applying it to everyone outside of the Church as well.  Nearly every scripture about confronting another person is about brother/sister to brother/sister (meaning another member of the Church) not much is said about confronting people outside the Church, except spreading and proclaiming the Good News (the news of Jesus as our Lord, and free grace to all, change your ways and live a full, never-ending life).

There’s a whole lot more I could attempt to write, but this entry would end up being 20+ pages in size 10 text… let’s just say insert a lot of stuff about Love, changing our ways (repentance), and the reality of human nature (sin), and the big picture that gets painted is that God is far more than the box we put Him in.

Political labels don’t fit me.


So some things I’ve been thinking about. Warning none of the following will have a “why” so hold your comments until I flesh out the points over the weeks to come.


Because of my Bible believing beliefs I have come to the following (maybe surprising) convictions about the following political and societal issues of our day.

Fair and ethical trade – I really can’t justify paying less for something knowing that the work conditions for cheap products are many times near slave standards, the basis of brutal dictatorships, or turn a blind eye towards basic needs. This is a very complicated matter, and it can change. Buying products from verified and/or certified sources is important to making change happen and education.

When possible, I prefer to buy local, this helps in so many ways, local economy, unfair/unethical trade issues, and as a bonus you get to know and support your community (Biblical? I think so).

Sustainability: this one I find very misunderstood in and out of the Church. I think from a Biblical viewpoint the Church should be at the forefront of the sustainability movement (although it shouldn’t be the forefront of the Church’s mission, that’s already clear). Things like Advent Conspiracy can be great tools for making sustainable communities (think hand wells in Africa).

Lastly public services (education, safety, transportation, and healthcare) should be priorities before other items. Each of those items I just listed, when well thought out and protected like our society depends on them, brings everyone’s living standards up, not in an attempt to “equalize” everyone, but rather by proving the “societal infrastructure”.

Like I said this is far from fleshed out, blogging from my phone doesn’t provide me access to the resources to unfold everything as I would like. But what I do want to say is that Jesus does promote many things. However, hear me loud and clear the number one mission for Christ’s followers is still the expansion of the church. I just think that through these venues we can expand the Kingdom and touch our world for Jesus at the same time!

No social club here

DSC_0072.JPGOne thing I have noticed about today’s culture is that so many of us go about our day seeking the next best opportunity, the next best opportunity to fulfill some kind of desire, wound, status, name your “wants”, for our selves. We are seek the highs of life, we go from one experience to the next. Seeking the experiential highs of life, afraid to make commitments just in case “something better comes along”. Even worse, we cancel our commitments when something better does come up, or we cancel because we decide, “uh, no I really won’t have fun with him/her”.

I witness this kind of mind set all to often, and you know what it is exactly the same inside the Church and outside. So it’s not a Church problem, it’s a culture problem. Sure, I believe the Church needs to address it, but it is very hard to address something for which we have bought into, and sometimes we even encourage it. We encourage it with our worship services, with our snazzy programs, etc. I thank God that I’m in a community (aka, my church) which strives very hard to not promote this, however, the pressure is on and it shows it’s nasty little head quite often.

The genesis of this posting wasn’t really the obvious disregard for other people’s needs that I see each day, it actually came when I observed my elders buying into this. When I say elders I don’t mean the “council” or “deacons” or “leaders” or “pastors” at my church, I mean the people I respect in my life who are a generation or more ahead of me. With much disgust (from my perspective) I’ve recently seen the very people I respect, love, and look up to, make decisions on their commitments in the exact same way I see much of our “pop” culture doing. With things such as “well, we didn’t feel we were needed”, and “I just wasn’t experiencing what I wanted”.

Now these are blanket statements, that need more context, and to be fair, “sound bites” and small quotes never paint the full picture. However I hope you’re getting my drift. You see, I think it bothers me more coming from my elders because I (and many more as many of my friends have stated too) desire for them to lead me. I guess it’s a sense of abandonment, a sense that, well if I don’t get what I “want” or if I don’t “feel” what I want to, then I should just go somewhere else. I want to scream and make it known, WE WANT YOU, we CARE, and we NEED you. Obviously there are two sides to this coin. I need to speak up (and my peers), and we all need to pay attention to the generations below us, no matter where we are.

You see, I don’t see the Church as a social club, it’s not optional, and it’s not something we shop around for, it’s community, it’s intentional connection, it’s seeking God, seeking God’s hand through others, and seeking to be used by God. Of course it doesn’t mean sticking around some place trying to live authentically when no one else will, and it certainly doesn’t mean staying some place where you’re being abused (in any way shape or form). What it does mean, is being intentional about meeting the needs of others, and allowing God to be bigger, humbling yourself to serve, and not seeking the experience, but instead, seeking the one who has done it all, so that we can be the light he has called us to be, in serving and proclaiming, with love and truth. Our culture is hard, and I run into the stumbling blocks all the time, I have a hard time thinking outside the culture so that I can reach the culture, it’s not easy, but I strive for it. It’s like the picture, all pretty outside, but stinky inside, yet it meets the need and provides relief.

This little thought brought to you by 1 Peter 5:1-11

1 And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you:2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.3 Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.4 And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.
5 In the same way, you younger men must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, serve each other in humility, for

“God opposes the proud
but favors the humble.”s

6 So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisterss all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.
10 In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.11 All power to him forever! Amen.

Not being paid, but love it.

Emma and mama 032.JPGAlexis and I have been involved with leading ministry since before we were married (we took a year long break just after our wedding, 4 years ago this week!), and during all this time I have worked full time. We are currently in the process of becoming licensed Pastors (yes, both of us) and do not have plans to become “full time staff” anywhere. While there are times where I personally have longed to have 100% of my focus on ministry, I am seeing some things change in our world where I don’t think that’s going to be the norm.

I believe the people of the Church should support the Church through their tithes and extra special offerings, if everyone who had a Church they called “home” would tithe 10% we might see a lot more, not because there would be more money, but because there would be more sacrifice, tithing is not about supporting/paying the Church, it’s about your personal sacrifice, do you trust God in your life with your finances? Tithes are also not a tax, we can’t expect “services” from our tithes.

But with that said, I also believe that bi-vocational ministry (working full time outside the Church, and serving as a pastor, leader, teacher, etc inside the Church) can play a key role in building the Church to a place where we can “prepare God’s people for the works of service, so that the body may be built up” (Eph 4:12). I believe with all my heart that every single person who has a relationship with Jesus Christ has the gifts to minister, both inside and outside the Church. We must be mentoring our young, and we must be wise to listen to our elders, weather or not we are in a full-time paid ministry position, or simply obeying God by walking out our gifts, we are a called people! Ministry is not a job, it is not “work” in the sense of paid-work, it is love in action, it is the Church being who the Church is.

I love doing what I do in the Church, listening, encouraging, speaking life into people, loving on people, simply “being” there, speaking truth (even when it’s hard), and giving grace. I love, love, love it. I so badly wish I didn’t have to work, I wish I could do this full time, sometimes I really hate how tired I am from “work” and I really don’t feel like “pastoring” or “loving” or “ministering”. However, it never fails that as soon as I humble myself, let my flesh burn a little, and I obey God’s voice to do what he has gifted me to do, my energy level rises, my passion grows, and God does amazing things. So, as I read today in Isaiah 6:8 – “Here I am. Send me” – just as I did nearly 5 and a half years ago as I began my first year interning at East Hill. Love is how the world will know us, and our love of the Church (or lack thereof) will determine just how much actual (remember, who is love?) love spreads.

Lunch time thoughts

I can’t wait until certain things are “official” – then I’ll be fairly free to write about all the amazing, cool, great, fantastic things going on… But until then – I’ll just have to wait, and you too.  So right now I’ll just post some random thoughts from my quick lunch “break”.

  • I can’t wait to someday live in the center of a city, I am a urban dweller by heart.
  • I have a huge travel bug in me right now, although we were just on a trip, I want to take a trip to some far away city somewhere.
  • Cars are not what people really think they are – you know how much I get done while riding the bus or train – A LOT.  Sure, slightly slower at times, and not “always” there – but the potential is there for amazing livability without cars.  I know some places “need” cars, maybe we should think about how we live and move around?
  • When thinking about the Church and ministry, and living a Christian life, I’ve got a lot of thoughts on that… just not sure where to start… maybe I shouldn’t care where I start?
  • Emma is growing SOOO fast, and I can’t seem to see her enough!
  • Alexis and I are working on a big idea… can’t wait to reveal it.

Thanks, that’s pretty much it for now – much more after “details” go official.

How I see it

When I look at people, life, the Church,

Through the eyes of how I know & understand Christ, God, the Holy Spirit

Then I see beauty & life

I see things differently

I ‘spose because I’ve seen a lot of terrible things

Many of these things I would rather never see again

In fact I contend with God to only see these things because of Him

Because of these things people are different to me

People, all people, even you, and even the guy trashed from the party

And even, the guy who reeks of alcohol and body odor in the “free rail zone”

They all have a warm spot in my heart, even the people who have caused the deepest hurt

This is all true, not because it’s some warm fuzzy ideal

But because it’s exactly what my God has given me, time and time again

This grace, so amazing, so unchanging, so undeserved, this is what floods my soul

When my soul is flooded, and my heart is filled, I can only be drawn to the souls of all.

He is my king.

Afraid of confrontation?

I do not like confrontation, and even though I have found it to be necessary, and many times the best and most healthy thing to do, I find myself wanting to avoid it at all costs.  Sometimes, I still physically have tremors in a confrontational situation.  However, after resolving the conflict I am always grateful that I got to the bottom of it and found resolve.  I have a fairly strong belief which I live by, and it’s the idea that leaving things unresolved creates holes between people, and causes even the little things to eventually build up into feelings that take a long time to untangle.

In the Church this is even more critical and I believe it is a necessity if we want healthy churches.  I could go on and quote a lot of scripture, and I know it’s there but I’m too tired to go look it all up right now, yet these things are more of a learned idea then a studied one.  We don’t have much of a choice in the Church to avoid confrontation, we should be living together reconciling differences, and sharpening each other.  When we notice something of another person, we should be able to confront them in love. This last sentence though comes with a lot of weight, our culture doesn’t cultivate loving confrontation very well, if at all.

Instead of lovingly correcting, encouraging, or pointing out flaws, our culture likes to put people down, discourage, and give “last chances”.  It isn’t that a “last chance” is wrong, or even that it isn’t necessary at times – it’s that within the context of the Church that people get treated like the rest of the world.  Jesus didn’t say to give people a last chance (that’s his job), he directed us to do the most we can do here on earth to encourage people towards him.

I could write a whole lot more, and I probably will.  My last thought for tonight – without honest, loving, graceful truth-filled confrontation the Church can’t function as a light.  We need people to be built up, lovingly guiding, encouraging, and confronting.  If people are over promising and under delivering in the Church, that isn’t light producing, and it requires adjustment, and many times it will be you who needs to help adjust another part in the body.

Online and under the surface

One of the things that I struggle with each time I attempt to post something on here is the idea of “how deep” do I go with my ideas.  It’s more of an internal struggle, for the most part I get positive feedback on my deepest personal posts, but there’s always the fear in the back of my mind that is waiting for the day I get bit by something I write.  I hate “small talk”, I hate being shallow, and I hate feeling stuck to “surface” talk, both online and in real life – which many times keeps me from even going far with new people I meet, or with people at work.  I always feel awkward writing or talking at the surface level… I want to go under the surface.

Then there’s “what’s appropriate” – I have a lot of different ideas, concerning the church, life, and viewpoints on everything around those two subjects.  Some things I feel are safe to write about, other things can be tricky, especially when it comes to items where I could possibly finger point or accidentally (by means of elimination) gossip or spill the beans about someone that shouldn’t/doesn’t need to be spilled.

No matter what I write I always write with the notion of encouraging, challenging, and/or thought provoking – never to separate, split off, or slander another idea and/or tradition.  While at times I may write something that seems out of line, it is most likely me trying to process something and see what the broader community thinks.  In the end I want to love all people, believers of Jesus, and non-believers of Jesus.  I want to challenge both groups into thinking of God both everything we think we know him as, and everything that we don’t yet know.  I believe in the Bible and that it is the truth, but I also believe we can apply that truth differently than we have in years and generations past.

Just a random thought, hopefully to get my brain going on writing some more.  You can be praying that I step out and not worry about what others might think – I can always clarify if there is a misunderstanding.  I hate being misunderstood and that is another thing that blocks me sometimes – fear of being misunderstood… kinda silly when I think about it – God knows my heart, and that’s what matters.

Titles in the Church

Maybe I’m over sensitive, maybe I’m jaded, but one of my biggest pet peeves in the Church is the usage of titles – “Pastor Joe”, “Sr. Pastor Bob”, etc…  It bugs me because it is such a cultural thing to “elevate” people.  By adding titles to positions in the Church I think we alienate the humanity of the person.  Scripture does not have an extensive use of these titles, most of the time the apostles and other New Testament Church folks used them to point out a gift in a person, not the position.  Today we seem to use these titles on par with Doctor and President.

Paul did make a point to differentiate the different offices of the Church, and he did call himself Apostle, yet within context it wasn’t as a title.  I see Paul’s use as more of a point of the authority Christ gave him, in which some were arguing against at the time.

I do believe it’s important to recognize a gift in a person, and I think it can be done in a less “elevated” way.  So when pastoral (and other) callings need to be communicated on paper and in voice, I think something like “Joe – Men’s pastor” suffices.  I cringe every time I hear someone call out “Hey Pastor John”…  Moreover, when a pastor refers to him/her self, then I really have to control my thoughts and love the Church.   I know that when the time comes and I am a pastor, I just want to just be called Travis, people will know without question who I am, not what I am.