When Kip Jacob says that one of the best things in life is seeing the church being a force for good in the community, he’s not mouthing empty words. As reported this summer in The Oregonian, Kip, senior pastor of SouthLake Foursquare Church in West Linn, Ore., puts those words into action—and it’s making a difference in ways both practical and spiritual.
“Impacting our world by becoming known for what we’re for, not what we’re against,” says Kip, 56, is the mission of his congregation, which he has pastored with his wife, Pam, for 24 years. “My greatest joy is seeing lives rescued and changed through the power of Christ.”
So what is SouthLake known for? The list of community service is extensive, especially in regard to the church’s outreach to Roosevelt High School, a diverse but impoverished school in Portland, notes The Oregonian, 24 miles away from the more upscale West Linn neighborhood.
“Our involvement in Roosevelt started a year ago when … we organized a large-scale work day,” Kristine Sommer, 43, SouthLake’s director of missions and outreach, told Foursquare.org. “A thousand of our people showed up to paint, garden and clean. A relationship with Roosevelt’s administration grew out of the planning for that day, and we felt that God was in the middle of that, and that it was His plan for us to continue to explore ways that we could serve there.”
And those ways are many. Since that first outreach, SouthLake has conducted follow-up workdays; recruited people to serve as tutors; launched a donation clothes closet for students (which the church runs); assembled people to be trained as grant writers for the school and its feeder schools; managed ongoing facility improvements; and provided volunteer support for athletic programs and other activities. Soon, notes Kristine, the church will help launch a pilot mentoring program and a clothes closet for the surrounding community.
The church’s impact has been spiritual, too, even though volunteers don’t use overt evangelism tactics. They serve and fill needs with no agenda, garnering respect from those outside the church and resulting in people opening up to the message of Christ organically.
Kristine relates the story of one staff member of the school, who told her that prior to SouthLake’s service, he viewed Christianity as nothing but political manipulation. Now, he said, he’s going to take a second look at Christ.
“Many people have asked me to explain why we’re doing what we’re doing,” says Kristine, “and when I tell them that it’s simply because we are followers of Jesus Christ, and that we believe that He calls us to love in this way, they are visibly surprised and touched.”
The scenario illustrates what Pastor Kip describes as one of the biggest lessons he’s learned this year.
“Faith is a four-letter word spelled R-I-S-K,” he explains. “If you step out in faith, and God is truly leading you, you will discover He has prepared the way before you, beyond your dreams and expectations.”