Q Portland: Day Two
Why would Portland's openly gay mayor want to speak with Christian leaders at Q?

"What was the highlight of the conference?" I asked another attendee. I wondered if it was Kevin Kelly, "senior maverick" at Wired Magazine, talking about technology and theology. Or maybe actor/director Mark Ruffalo talking about faith in Hollywood.

"I know it sounds strange," he replied, "but it was seeing the relationship the churches in Portland have with the city government." He went on to explain that he was from Atlanta–a city where nearly every city official is a church-going Christian. And yet the church in Atlanta doesn't have nearly as good a relationship with the city as in Portland. "It was very convicting," he confessed.

He was referring to the interview between Kevin Palau, president of the Luis Palau Association, and Portland Mayor Sam Adams–the first openly gay mayor of a major US city.

The interview highlighted the years of labor the churches of Portland have undertaken to establish a relationship of trust and mutual respect with the city government. Mayor Adams admitted being confused by the pastors' repeated offers to help the city with needs–from homelessness to struggling schools. But eventually it began to work.

Portland, as many know, is a very progressive (a.k.a. liberal) city. And given the national reputation of Christians as hypocrites and homophobes (as uncovered by David Kinnamann and Gabe Lyons in their book UnChristian), you can understand why it has taken a decade for the city to shift it's perceptions of their evangelical neighbors.

But the churches didn't give up. Coordinated in part by Kevin Palau, the Christian leaders of Portland discovered what can happen when they engage from a posture of love and humility. Rather than seeking political power or a platform from which to judge and condemn the ethics of their city, instead the sought to serve.

Today Mayor Adams considers many of he church leaders his friend, and when rocked by a significant scandal he turned to them for help. Mobilized Christians throughout the city are also transforming schools, fighting sex-trafficking, and cleaning up neighborhoods. There is no doubt that if all the Christians left Portland they would be missed.

Of course shifting a reputation isn't the whole game. Ultimately, as Kevin Palau said, they'd like to see more residents of Portland come to faith in Christ. While in the past the evangelistic crusades of his father were "rapid fire" events, Kevin says they are now taking a longer view of that process by incorporating a "season of service" and ongoing cooperation with the city and local communities.

While Portland is a unique city, as anyone who has spent time there can testify, Kevin Palau hopes to see the same spirit of cooperation, humility, and love take root in the church in other parts of the country.

April 29, 2011

Displaying 1–10 of 14 comments

Texas Treatment Centers

August 11, 2011  1:54pm

It is scary to think were we maybe in 10 yrs from now.

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Roger McKinney

May 06, 2011  3:25pm

What in my post made me think I was judging the mayor? The article said he is a homosexual. If so, he needs to repent of it. What a shame it would be to allow him to spend eternity in hell without ever hearing that he has offended a loving God with his homosexuality. I advocate love without an agenda, as well. But would true love allow someone you love to spend eternity in hell because you were afraid to offend them and tell them about Jesus? Besides, you have no clue as to how non-Christians interpret what you intend as good works. I have rarely found that non-Christians interpret our good works as good. They usually see an alternative motive. Christians who think they can read the minds of anyone else, let alone non-Christians, are deluding themselves.

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Geoff

May 04, 2011  4:12pm

Are you judging the mayor of Portland's actions in your response? Maybe he does repent as a result of his interactions with believers. Repentence in some doesn't always happen over night I'm advocating love without an agenda. Loving unbelievers because Christ loves us. Loving them through action because our faith is dead without action. To me, this is the gospel. Speaking/preaching has value but actions are more valuable as they prove your faith to the lost world. Your experiences and view of history greatly differ from mine. My experiences point directly towards my actions towards others and less about my preaching. We'll have to agree to disagree. Blessings brother.

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Roger McKinney

May 04, 2011  12:40pm

I'm not saying don't do any social work. Yes, social work is part of the gospel, but only part. The mayor of Portland will love you as long as you preach only part of the gospel and ignore the other part. Aren't half-truths as bad as outright lies? After the social work, try telling the mayor that he will suffer the wrath of God if he doesn't repent. It will be interesting to see what happens then. I realize that many Christians are confident in their belief that people will not respond unless you first do good works and show your love. However, I have not found that to be true in the decades I have been a Christian and I can't find any historical examples in which it proved true. And if you read the history of modern missions, you'll find that many missionaries were murdered by the very people they performed great social work for and showed Christ-like love for them. Also, Jesus proved it wrong. Jesus was as loving and socially active as anyone can be. There was no flaw whatsoever in his ministry. But he failed to win over all but a small handful of believers. The leadership killed him because of his good works, not in spite of them. They attributed his good works to the devil. I doubt any of the Apostles lacked good works, yet all of them were murdered, except John. We should do social work because that's what Christians do. But don't call it evangelism and don't expect it to make evangelism easier.

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lars

May 04, 2011  10:42am

IF you're going to bother to criticize at all, at least get your basic facts straight. The city is Portland, not Seattle.

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steven w.

May 04, 2011  10:02am

Preach and work. Work and preach. Barbara is right. Geoff is right.

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Geoff

May 03, 2011  5:44pm

Roger. I have never thought anyone could earn their way to heaven. Furthermore, I'm not advocating being silent. There is a time to speak and a time to listen. Showing love is a form of preaching. In fact it's the most powerful form of preaching. Jesus met the needs of the masses. He loved them more than words can express. If he had not met their needs, there's a good chance they would not have listened to what he said. Jesus is the very expression of love and he lives in you and I and we are called to love. Jesus said, "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples" 1 John says, "Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." Peter Says Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace I'm not changing the word of God as you suggest however I do my best to live the word as the Spirit leads. That requires me to love my neighbor and my enemies. Love requires an action and sometimes that action is not speaking words

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Barbara

May 03, 2011  5:10pm

Paul said how the Gospel is spread in Romans 10. "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." Social work is dead before God, as are all works. We are told to spread the Gospel, which is that Christ died for our sins. They did not say go feed them and be silent, stop changing the Word of God, you won't earn your way to heaven.

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Geoff

May 03, 2011  3:16pm

Roger, I'm sorry but I believe you're misguided. What do you think it means to preach the gospel? Your comment "if all you do is social work, Seattle will think well of you as it goes to hell. But if you preach the gospel, Seattle will hate you regardless of how much social work you do" confuses me. Social work such as feeding the hungry, taking care of orphans and widows and loving people IS indeed preaching the gospel. Evidence of the preaching is all throughout the gospels and Paul's writings. Words have value but often no power. A person can preach but if they don't demonstrate it with loving actions, their words are meaningless. Christ commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He also said let our light shine before men so the can see our good deeds and praise our father in heaven. Our cities may in fact need more love in action than words. Well done Seattle brother and sisters

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Roger McKinney

May 03, 2011  12:33pm

The attitude of the Seattle churches is that evangelism is a beauty contest: if they can only make themselves beautiful enough, the lost in Seattle will flock to join them. Let me ask, was Jesus not beautiful enough to the Israelis? If so, why did they reject him? If not, why not? Am I contradicting myself by criticizing the Seattle attitude? I think not and here's why. The Atlanta pastor criticized the works of the Atlanta churches; he criticized how well the Atlanta Christians were serving their master and judged the Seattle Christians to be superior. That's the type of judgmentalism the NT rejects. The only person who has the right to criticize the service of a servant is the master. My criticism is of the Seattle churches is not about how well they serve Christ; I'm sure they're as good a servants as Atlanta. My criticism is of their theology of evangelism, which the NT calls discernment.

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