For most of my life I have loved the outdoors. Over the years I have dabbled in a variety of outdoor activities from hiking, kayaking, backpacking, skiing, etc… A few years ago I had the opportunity to work at an outdoor retailer which forged a hobby into a passion. During my time working at The Outdoor Experience I didn’t just learn the difference between Jackets and why one type might be better for one activity over another, I learned what made the outdoor industry different than other goods based industries.
Many of the really great outdoor companies have a certain ethos about them that keeps them focused on why they do what they do. The ethos is birthed out of the love of the activities that these companies now supply. For instance when Yvon Chouinard started Patagonia, it was out of his passion for climbing, fly fishing, and surfing that he began to make equipment that was unparalleled by any other. It was out of his love and experience that he began to create a product that would become the benchmark for all others.
What is the connection to the outdoor industry and the church, or at least this church?
As we have spent the last year developing a new church in Portland I continually come back to the question: “why are we starting this church?” The answer always seemed to have a constant theme, that also sounded more like a canned response, “see people experience community, experience Jesus, experience transformation.” All of these things are true to on degree or another, but they really don’t begin to get at the heart of why try and start a new church.
Over the last several months I have been reading a variety of articles on organizational structure, systems and the like, and reading books about outdoor companies and how they got their start. The constant theme in each of readings is the spark of passion that births vision and organization.
As I have examined the outdoor companies that I admire a few things seem to be pretty consistent. First, conventional rules don’t apply. Most of the companies that I really love not only create great products but they advocate for the something much bigger than their companies. They give thousands of dollars away each year to protect the outdoors and to work toward greater environmental sustainability. Second, they aren’t afraid to take a risk. In Yvon Chouinard book Let my People Go Surfing, he says: “you can’t wait until you have all the answers before you act.” You get a handle on what the basic marching orders are and you go for it. In Chouinard’s case it was creating a great product that is functional, sustainable and durable.
The parallel in my mind is that our systems need to be birthed out of the passion that would lead us to begin something in the first place, and that passion births a philosophy. For the church it means that the philosophy is a brick and the methodology is a spring. philosophy guides and directs the process and methodology is the manifestation for that time and space.
So now when I think about why we are starting this church, it starts with my deep love for Jesus and the desire that others experience Him as I have and in ways that are personal to them. I want people to have an appreciation for the heart of God that extends to all of creation. I want people to know that heaven is real and can be experienced here and now, not just in a reality to come. I want people to know that while life is tough it is going to be okay, because Jesus has over come the world.
As we launch into 2017 the focus is on our passion and our philosophies and how they guide how and what we do. When we begin to feel weary or sad about the work of the kingdom then something is off. What we will not sacrifice in the work of the kingdom is the Joy of the Lord.