Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Church Family Update

This post is mainly directed towards our friends up in Seattle, many of whom we haven't seen for almost a year since moving to Portland.

We are loving Portland and we have joined a church called Imago Dei Community. We are in the process of becoming members, since we truly love the people here and their mission for Jesus. Coming from Mars Hill Church's Ballard Campus, there are many similarities as well as differences. Overall, Christ has been easing our transition into a new community here and we are thankful for His changes now and into the future.

There are many connections between Imago Dei and Mars Hill. Most notably, Pastor Rick McKinley at Imago Dei is friends with Pastor Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill. Additionally, we have met people who know people here and there and it's just good to see the two communities overlapping. The Imago Dei atmosphere is very much like Mars Hill in that it is relatively artsy, earthy, and authentic. By authentic, I mean the people that I have talked with and have gotten to know well personally. And I certainly am not inferring that other churches lack authenticity, but just by contrasting the two churches, I find a striking harmony.

On the other hand, I have noticed many differences between the two churches. Before I continue, I just want to state that I don't think there's anything wrong with churches being different from one another. Each church is made up of its own individuals, therefore being affected and directed by the hearts of those individuals working as a group. As long as the church is pleasing Jesus by staying on mission, then the different churches can learn from each other in order to bring growth and maturity. I have found that Imago Dei and Mars Hill differ in their hearts for people, their presentation style, and their tone of attitude.

Imago Dei clearly has a heart for social justice. It is very easy to get involved with some type of volunteer group that provides help for the needy. Examples include Advent Conspiracy, p:ear, and a group I have become involved with through our home community, Operation Nightwatch. Mars Hill, on the flipside, I believe to have more of a heart for disunity in families. Pastor Mark tries hard to be counter-cultural in Seattle and talk about how the church loves kids, has strong marriages, and boasts healthy families because of Jesus' work transforming lives.

Their presentation style is vastly different. To complement Imago Dei's heart for social justice, the church rents out a high school auditorium on Sundays and, for the most part, only spends money on what it needs to get by week to week. To complement Seattle's Microsoft and Amazon.com, Mars Hill goes all-out with their state-of-the-art stereo system, lighting, and technology.

The tones of the attitudes of the two churches are interestingly different as well. Going along with Imago Dei's heart for justice and low-end presentation style, and Rick McKinley preaching, you'd expect a down-to-earth, humble, empathetic group of people. That's just what I see. Likewise, going along with Mars Hill's heart to be for families with a high-end presentation style, and Mark Driscoll preaching, you'd expect a large group of people who love humor, theology, and technology/musicianship. It's wonderful for drawing people to know Jesus.

Jen and I love the community in this body of believers in Portland. Our new home community group has welcomed us warmly as we are developing relationships there and growing with the group. On Sunday mornings, we began to volunteer with the kids in their services, much like how we helped in Seattle. After realizing our experience with kids, they immediately promoted us to start teaching and leading our own class. This has been a great experience. Jen is working with preschool ages and I am working with elementary ages. So, with this as well as our weekday jobs, the only days that Jen and I are without kids are Saturdays. But that's okay, because we love 'em! We learn so much from them all the time (especially patience!) and it's great to be so involved in helping to mold their lives.

Although Jen and I both miss Seattle very much, we feel very comfortable and at peace here. We know that we followed God's lead to bring us here. We identify so much with the heart of our church--for social justice. There is so much work that Christians need to do in the city of Portland that God can use us for. He has certainly placed us here in this place for a reason. Not only to be closer to the extended Riedl family and old friends, but to be of good use to God and the mission He has for us.