Eric Bahme, senior pastor
Eastside Foursquare Church
While many pastors shy away from anything to do with business lest it distract them from their ministry focus, Eric Bahme is passionate about the fact that business and ministry can mix—and well.
Eastside Foursquare Church in Portland, Ore., a congregation Eric started in 2002, is proof positive that a “mission-based entrepreneurial movement,” as he dubs his ministry, can work wonders both in community transformation and in the kingdom of God.
“In other words,” he told Foursquare.org, “we find ways to fund the kingdom through sustainable business models that put us in touch with the public, so that we might have a chance to share the good news of who Jesus is with the public and, at the same time, fund ministry.”
So what does an arrangement such as this look like? In the case of Eastside, it means the church owns a coffeehouse, called Sacred Grounds, and two hotels—a Quality Inn & Suites and a Rodeway Inn—near Portland International Airport. In purchasing and renovating the properties, the church has transformed what once had been a seedy area, where rooms were rented by the hour, into a place where lives are changed.
Besides being a positive witness for Christ by exhibiting warm professionalism and excellent business ethics to hotel and coffeehouse patrons, the church operates a residential drug treatment center on location, and is one of the major supporters of a homeless shelter for families in another facility. The church itself meets in a meeting room above the coffeehouse.
“My greatest joy has been seeing the more than 1,250 first-time commitments to Jesus Christ,” says the 46-year-old pastor. “We continue to add ministries, with a major emphasis in church planting.”
The ministry has launched three additional Eastside campus locations—one in El Faro, Nicaragua; one in northeast Portland, called Revolution; and an Ethiopian congregation, also in the northeast section of the city. Eastside also has a Spanish congregation, called LaRoca.
The endeavors comprise Eric’s personal mission: “To be fully devoted to God so that He might use me to lead my family, church, city and nation in works of service that result in reformation.”
And he gives his family—wife Rita and daughter Alyssa—a lot of credit for the ministry’s success.
“Unconditional love,” he says, is the biggest gift they have given him. “The support of my family has been what has made this project a reality. Without them, this would not be here.”