Wild-Eyed Enthusiasm About My Wants & Needs

Observations from vacation, Day 6:

My hosts Ma Deb & Steve attend The Imago Dei Community (a growing church currently with 1,500 or so in Sunday worship and a healthy small group ministry commitment that fuels their mid-week discipleship). It’s a church that started about 10 years ago in Portland and I’ve been listening to their pastor, Rick McKinley, via podcast, consistently for the last 5 years or so…and I was very much looking forward to it.

The church has a very young demographic…mid to late 20’s would be my guess. And, Steve, who is highly involved in the church’s I.T. department, filled me in on a lot of their history and philosophy from a first-hand perspective. He mentioned some security measures the church put in place as they have an inner-city campus and I asked a few questions. At one point, Steve said, “Well, at Imago, sometimes you can’t distinguish between a Ph.D student, a homeless guy or a starving artist.” He wasn’t far off.

There were dreadlocks, kilts, piercings and tattoos were easily the norm, knit caps, beards…and the vibe coming in felt exciting and expectant, even with the drizzle. Maybe it was just me. To be sure, there were a few more mature believers scattered about, but you had to look for them.

I wasn’t officially “greeted” at the door. Long-time readers know of my disdain for a group of trained greeters so I felt right at home. Then again, I wasn’t a young couple trying to find the place to put my kids, either. But I liked being just a visitor at the church, getting coffee and just having the people you ran across just say “hello” or “good morning.” Seemed more natural that way.

Went into the service and they did a lot of things we tried to implement during our church’s 5 O’Clock Worship service: the band was deep on the stage, with no “main” person leading in the center. The “bulletin” was simply a half-sheet of paper. The volume wasn’t too loud or too soft (you could hear the music as well as the other people singing around you). The video announcements were appropriately clever and funny but got the point across. The lighting was dim but not too dark. Candles. Communion set up front. The song choices (none of which I’d heard) were played by volunteers who weren’t polished all the time–which I like. It seemed more natural than slick.

The three things that stood out to me were first, their program “Change for a Dollar.” We do something similar in our student ministry as an offering…we simply take up loose change each week, and make a donation to the Somaly Mam Foundation every time we get to $500 to aid in getting young people out of the sex-slave trade. They have a person each week who tells a story (this week’s was about a woman on a train who’d come from Somolia, her husband left her in poverty with 2 kids. The Imago woman who’d met her took her groceries, but noticed they didn’t have anything at all for furnishings or basic American necessities). So, at the end of the service people can put loose change or a dollar in the buckets and all that will go to that Somali family. There was a blog link given so folks could keep up with that ministry…very nice idea that highlights helping folks one at a time.

Secondly, this church lead The Advent Conspiracy idea. A few years back, they taught a series on scaling back your Christmas spending and the church as a community using that money by giving to a cause. The big kick-off will take place next week…but they were making announcements about a DIY kind of fair the next weekend that would teach people how to make jewelry or woodworking stuff or whatever so the “gifts would cost less and mean more.” There’s a reason other churches across the country have jumped on this bandwagon.

Lastly, the sermon, given by Heather Thomas, was well taught…she was faithful to the text (as part of a series) in context as well as exegetical. She’s a director of one of their ministries and was teaching under the authority of their elder board so I personally think this seems like a healthy compromise in the sometimes heated Bible-belt discussions on women as teachers (in or out of the pulpit). It’s a discussion I wouldn’t mind having over coffee with their elders to find their thinking on the matter, but I felt comfortable with the idea as well as the teaching. As a side note, Imago does not have women elders or female pastors. Hence, my thinking this might be a healthy and scriptural compromise.

A very enjoyable Sunday of worship.

We had lunch at the Horsebrass Pub…and authentic English-style pub. Very dark hardwood decor, pints of beer with a five page list of offerings, etc. Loved the atmosphere and the food was good, too.

Headed home for a drizzly afternoon of napping, reading & football.

Around dinner time, Mark and Kristy, Katie and Michael and Danny showed up for a night of laughing so much about old times that my sides hurt by 10:30pm. You don’t realize as it’s happening the strong memories students are getting in their time of life-together as a Christian community at that age. Years and years of common experiences came out, and it was so nice to think that all those former students and all those great memories, well, I was not only a part of, but a minor contributor to, their spiritual growth. At that time, anyway. Sure, the nature of the beast in youth ministry is that you’re framing a foundation that parent’s build…which will have other electricians and plumbers and roofers and sheetrock and decorators and landscapers will finish up. So, now I’m looking at “houses” much further along than when my part of the job was complete…which was nice to see God’s work in their lives. But I’m glad they had fond recollections of the early part of the process.

What I really regret is that we were so engrossed in the stories and laughs that I forgot to get a photo with all of them together. Dangit.