Saturday, January 31

Catalyst & Culture

Earlier this week our family hosted L.V., a great guy from Catalyst, an organization which focuses on developing the next generation of church leaders. L.V. has been traveling around the country, spreading the Catalyst vision (and for those of you vanagon lovers, you must check out his sweet ride!) These are some observations he has developed about Portland, based on his time with many of our city's great church leaders, including Rick McKinley of Imago Dei.

* Individualistic Spirituality - the people that settled in Oregon made it to the END of the Oregon Trail - they traveled the furthest, beat the odds, and did it themselves. They settled as far away from the east coast as possible. The real spirituality of the great northwest is found in it's beauty - nature, wilderness, all that is before the eyes. "I don't have to conform to what everyone else is doing...I don't WANT to conform."

* "There's no verse for this one..." - no formulas or standard answers for people here. Some crazy stories and questions from people that would shock the "southern baptist culture."

* Time Tested - not interested in the fad or pop culture of church. If it doesn't stand the test of time and lead to real spiritual transformation then it's rejected. Must be real, and real is identified by long term impact. Are you willing to to share your life along with your message?

* Patient - a culture that is not anxious or reactive to getting caught up in "what's next."

* Church planters beware - your "model" created in a strategy room will NOT work here. Success is organic and often looks very different than what is initially planned.

* Rick, is the northwest a spiritually dark place? "Well, I don't know what 'dark' is. I mean, if you think about silicone enhancements, fake tans, fancy cars, and empty commitments to discipleship, well, then, that's dark to me. These people know where they are and that they don't like church or Jesus. The greatest hindrance to the church is the unconverted converted."

What do you think? Are his observations on track for Portland?


Update: Here is the rest of LV's article highlighting his Portland visit.


KMiV said...

I think he has some good points. From our perspective I disagree with a couple points. I think the Oregon Trail thing is overdone--those folks have been dead over a century. Portland has a lot of Midwest transplants and is very global. I feel that Portland's attitudes are very similar to Seattle, San Francisco, NY, and a few others.

Actually this has been the best ministry and fastest growth we have experienced in 20+ years. It has actually been some of the easiest work for God and the most fun. I think Portland is much more open and willing to embrace Jesus than people suggest.

However, I agree about the strategy lab. We had to conform much of the material through Portland eyes but we are using most everything we learned in strategy lab. I think our 8 years in Portland helped with this. Portland can be unique in these ways.

I like Rick's comments. Darkness is everywhere--Portland has it's space for Jesus he just looks different than he did when we were in the south.

Good post!

Kristi said...

As someone who comes from the midwest, I can see how you'd recognize the addition of transplants, Ron. I see very much, though, of which he speaks regarding the pioneer spirit. It is alive and passed down throughout the generations. It can be seen and felt in many minute ways, including the practices and personalities of the churches.

Jessica Bolt said...

I won't speak for Portland, but many of the things you mentioned are things that I think a lot of people my age feel. I don't know that they are necessarily characteristic of the North West but rather a trait of my generation (not that I can speak for college students across the States either). More and more, I talk with people who find God in nature and through relationships rather than in a church. It seems we are all looking for a group of people to be real with instead of just playing church as we were raised to.

lindsey said...

Chuck Palahniuk described Portland as a city of "fugitives and refugees" (in his book of the same name). It's the cheapest metropolitan area on the West Coast, and alllll kinds of people gravitate here. The individualism passed on to us by settler ancestors (not a myth, if my own family is any evidence) affects attitudes toward newcomers, which in turn affects how they adapt: we couldn't all be the same if we tried, so why try?

This is not to say that Portlanders are the paragons of open-mindedness they like to think they are. While shocking to the "Southern Baptist Culture," Pacific Northwesterners are also shocked by that same culture. Tales of life in the Bible Belt meet with horrified incredulity: Can such an America really still exist? And if so, why would anyone choose to be part of that? In order to relate to the Portland mainstream, you have to be able to put yourself in that mindset, or at least imagine what it's like to have it.