This week 10 of us from Houston attended Movement Day, hosted by Tim Keller, Mac Pier, and the New York City Leadership Center. NYCLC is an organization that is similar to Mission Houston and the meeting brought city teams like Mission Houston from across the country to learn from each other about how to serve a city and seek it’s peace (Jeremiah 29:7).
While there I got an update on what is happening in Portland. I believe it is a city at a tipping point and it is a very hopeful picture of what is possible. In his presentation at Movement Day, Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church said “A movement to seek the peace of the city occurs when your movement impacts how life happens in your city.” Based on what I heard last week, Portland is at a tipping point.
Here are four keys in the Portland experience that I’m reflecting on and wondering about for Houston.
First, the pastors of Portland’s largest churches have in some large measure laid down the agenda of church growth and have taken up collaborative efforts to make Portland a place where everyone experiences the blessings of God. (Don’t mistake “giving up the agenda of church growth” for “giving up a desire for people to have a personal relationship with Jesus.”) It was clear that these pastors know one another well, have some differences of opinion in theology, and love each other deeply. One of the key pastors in this collaboration is Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei Community. Rick will be a key note speaker at Houston’s upcoming ATCO conference.
Second, the leaders of some of Portland’s largest para-church ministries and 501-c-3s have followed the lead of these pastors. As Portland told it’s story in New York, it was clear that local congregations are essential to the movement but they can not do it alone. Leaders of the prayer movement, of key foundations, and of key ministries are playing a vital role – but not as solo players.
Third, these pastors and key leaders have partnered with other city leaders (including the Mayor and the Superintendent of Schools) who don’t share the pastors’ Christian beliefs but who care about many of the things that Jesus, in his declaration of his personal mission, expressed concern for and commitment to (Luke 4:18-19). The Church, represented by a preponderance of the local congregations, foundations, and ministries, has come to the city table to ask how they can serve. The city leaders told identified some key needs in the city, and the church responded in massive numbers of volunteers that have been sustained over time. This is not a project. It is becoming a way of life for the Christians in Portland.
Fourth, the Luis Palau Association – and particularly Kevin Palau, President of LPA - is serving a strategic role as a convener. In city movements, someone must take on the work of convening, and in Portland, Kevin has been instrumental in serving the process.
It was a very encouraging week. The Portland story was a highlight for me. I’m already planning to attend Movement Day 2013 on October 10, and I’m praying that what the Portland team is learning will instruct and inspire our ongoing work in Houston.