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“Live Your Story” Series- Tim Osborn

May 10, 2011

Portland is a very attractive city to me.  It is one of the greenest cities in America, it has boatloads of micro-breweries, a population that doesn’t believe global warming is a hoax (Sorry, Texas) and the majestic Mt. Hood as a backdrop.  The IFC show Portlandia said it best, “Portland is the city where young people go to retire.”  A lot of people are falling in love with the city and it’s not just because Don Miller.

Tim Osborn loves Portland too.  He calls the city home and its in that place where his passion for God, serving others and planting churches is obvious.  Take a glimpse into his journey and intentionality.

Tim Osborn               Lead Pastor, Mosaic             Portland, OR


1. Name a person, book and moment that served as a catalyst for the pursuit of your passion?

 Person: My best friend in high school – John.  He grew up in a painfully broken home.  He also grew up going to church.  However, before we finished high school he had ditched his faith and gotten very well acquainted with acid and alcohol.  My friendship with him has been a catalyst for my passion to see Jesus, the Gospel, Scripture, and the local church be accessible, relevant and meaningful to people who are far from God.  The good news is that after over 15 years of running away from Jesus with differing degrees of determination, John has turned around to find Jesus right there with him still – and is walking with him again.

Book: Missional Church by Darrell Guder.  I’ve answered this question (in some form) hundreds of times and it’s always the same.  I’m a book addict and read as much as I can.  This book was the first one I read after finishing seminary and in a completely unexpected way was a crystallizing experience for me.  The subtitle for the book is ‘A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America.’  That one simple line captured what I felt called to, why I had even bothered to go to seminary, and why I wanted to lead in a local church…all of it…and in words I hadn’t yet used myself.  (oh, and this book was published in 1998…I read it in 1999…and ‘missional’ became a Christian buzzword about 4 years later.  The book was titled before ‘missional’ was a word on any conference postcard and before any form of the word ‘emerge’ started with a capital letter.  All that to say, those who lead in ministry today owe much to Darrell Guder and his partners in the Gospel and our Culture Network, as well as to missionary and author Lesslie Newbigin)

 Moment: Two quick ones.

1.  The first time I can remember serving others when it really took a lot out of me.  I was in Mexico as a 16 year-old, spending a week pouring a cement slab for a small hospital two hours south of Ensenada.  It was extremely hot and we only got two showers the whole week because of water supply.  What shocked me was how much I enjoyed serving even though I was exhausted and uncomfortable.

2.  Four years later I was asked to lead the trip.  It was now two weeks long with over 150 people from our church in L.A. traveling to Mexico.  It was the first time I had lead something on this scale or done any kind of large group teaching.

God used these experiences to birth and later confirm my passion for serving, leading, and teaching in the local church.

2. What risks did you have to take along the way and how did they interact with your fears?

The biggest risk has been developing friendships with those I serve and lead.  I had a friend tell me one time that a pastor he was serving with said: “I learned a long time ago not to be friends with my staff or congregation.”  I just simply (maybe naively?) determined to do the opposite.  I’m convinced life is too short to spend it serving and teaming with people I don’t want to share my life, joy, pain and fun.  Now, with that said, it has cost my family and I dearly at times.  I’ve served and teamed with some folks that are far from perfect.  I’ve also recently learned that I am far from perfect (partly because I’m sarcastic).  This has caused for some strained, broken, and lost relationships at times…which have been deeply painful. Also, leadership decisions, theology, preference, and ministry philosophy have all placed strain on friendships.  Now leading a church that is regularly planting churches, and sending some of our best leaders and friends to do so is a completely new kind of risk of friendship.  It is heart-wrenchingly difficult at times, but so far we’ve found that the time shared together has blessed us and sending them out is the vision to which God is calling us.

3. What was the biggest and most unexpected pain (a blind side Moment) in your journey?  How has it changed you and your process?

I’ve tried really hard to think of another one, but I can’t…so I have to say getting fired from a mega-church (and yes, I do say that with a bit of pride now, which is why I was trying to think of another blind side moment).  God has used it to change me significantly.  Actually, I would have to say he used it to break me in some really wonderful ways.  For a long time I had avoided many of the risks God was calling me to in an effort to remain safe and secure (in a large church with a regular paycheck).  I had convinced myself it was enough of a sacrifice to serve in a church that had no vision, tragic lack of leadership, and an inept board so that I could lead my one area of ministry.  God ejected me out of that situation and placed me in a completely different context where I’ve been stretched, challenged, and able to heal.  I’m serving as a lead pastor (yes, they knew I got fired) of a church that is called to develop leaders and plant churches in Portland, Oregon.  I get to regularly mentor and invest in younger, developing leaders and now, because of my experience, can tell them with conviction that the safer, apparently more secure path isn’t necessarily best for their soul, most enjoyable, or even most beneficial for the kingdom.

4.  What has been the most joyful part of your journey that needs to be celebrated?

That my three sons love Jesus and enjoy his church!  My oldest is almost a teenager, so I realize we’ve got some unpredictable years ahead, but I’m so thankful for where we are now.  My wife and I have worked very hard to make sure our boys know they are our first ministry and are more valuable than the folks dad leads.  We’ve also been blessed by the significant contributions our community has made to our son’s lives as well.

Also, if you’re up for it, can I ask you to pray for my sons and all children of local church pastors?  I’ve heard too many stories of pastor’s kids arriving in adulthood with no affection for Jesus and hope that it’s a story that is told less and less in the future.

5. What is a question that you don’t get asked but wish you would?  Please answer that desired question.

I wish more people asked me what my relationship with Jesus was like.  I can’t think of anything more important, but I’ve got no shortage for questions I get asked that don’t matter near as much.  In fact, I ask friends, pastors, and strangers all sorts of questions, and wish I would ask them about Jesus much more than I do.  I want people to know Jesus and I want them to know what my experience with Jesus has been like.  Because I’m a pastor, many people assume many things about me, and I really want to be asked, genuinely known, and lovingly held accountable for my own journey with Jesus.  I realize that might sound strange or unrealistic.  I don’t think it should be.  This year I’m learning to trust that Jesus is the same in good and difficult times.  I’ve had to confess that I like Jesus much more when my life is easy and smooth than when all my plans have failed and I’m angry or discouraged.  He has taught me this year that its possible to have a very similar level of joy in the midst of pain and celebration (one of those lessons I would never have signed up for!).  I’m also trying new ways of evaluating whether I trust him and his grace, or if I’ve slowly shifted to earning his approval.  It’s a discipline that has helped me rest in him in ways I’m not naturally wired.  I hope that helps answer what my relationship with Jesus is like right now.

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