At the end of the summer of 2003, I flew across the United States and landed just across the Cascade Mountains in Portland, Oregon, a city I had never visited on a coast 3,000 miles further west than I had ever been. I was there to attend a tiny Bible school (about 300 students) about which I knew little other than that, as my Dad would put it, they “swam in the same streams” we did with regard to theology and experience of the Holy Spirit. So I arrived in Portland to study the Bible and, though I didn’t know it at the time, begin training for a life as a church leader.
PBC helped to cement several values into me, and I will be eternally grateful for the time I spent there learning them. To name just a few:
1. The importance of the local church. Professors were fond of reminding us that “the church is the only thing Jesus ever said he was building.” I bought into the importance of the local church at PBC, seeing the difference in made in creating a genuinely countercultural community brimming over with love and Holy Spirit vitality. I decided during my time in Portland that no matter what my calling ended up being, I would always sow my time, money, and talents to building up a local church body.
2. The importance of the Holy Spirit. The “forgotten member” of the Trinity was worshiped and welcomed at PBC. Spiritual gifts like prophecy were put into practice in dorm meetings and chapel services. I can remember a summer house party turning into a time of worship around a piano with people speaking in tongues and prophesying over one another. The baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues was encouraged. To this day, memories of the “atmosphere” in Friday chapel services when God’s manifest presence was encountered are a powerful antidote in my life to doubt and a reminder that Jesus’ promise to create “wells of living water that will flow out from within you” is true.
3. The importance of friendships. Some of my most loyal, longstanding friendships were forged at PBC. C.S. Lewis once wrote that the essence of friendship is sharing the same interests, seeing the same truth, and heading in the same direction. My friends and I shared a hunger and thirst for the truth revealed in Jesus, we drank from the same well, and we saw the same beauty during our time in college. To this day, we are still laboring toward the same end — strong churches spiritual revival, and ultimately, the glory of God — in different sections of God’s vineyard. As a result, we are still in sync no matter how much time we spend apart.
It has been nearly six years since I graduated and nearly five since I left Portland. As I prepare to enter a new phase of my life, however, I can still see God’s hand on that period of my life in retrospect. While the school wasn’t perfect (no school is), the people there sowed a tremendous amount of good seed into my life, seed that is just beginning to come into fruition. Next month, when I attend a conference in Virginia at a church affiliated with PBC, I will be seeking the manifest presence of God and thanking Him that in His providence, He gave me five sweet years in Portland. Looking back, I would never trade them for time spent anywhere else.