Beaverton church of Christ in Beaverton, Oregon


This blog was begun during our last months with that congregation we loved and served with all our hearts. It had been 28 years since we and our three kids moved into our little 1500-square-foot house, ten minutes west of the church building, and we deeply appreciated our years there. In some ways, we still felt like we were in our honeymoon period with this church family, and knew how good we had it. When we announced our leaving, a member upon hearing our news said that he’d attempt to talk Mark out of his decision to leave the congregation if he could, and was hoping he was going to stay the rest of his life, and when he added that Mark had represented everything that the congregation is, those kind words touched my husband’s tender heart deeply. Everyone expressing their love before we left was so moving that it had been a little like attending one’s own funeral. 

Mark has been repeatedly asked, “What’s the secret to longevity with a congregation?”  So before we jump into more travel stories, I thought it advantageous to share some things that enriched our relationship with this congregation and what had made the 5th Street church of Christ in Beaverton, Oregon forever dear in our hearts. Perhaps sharing the following perspectives may inspire some peace, unity, and joy in the relationships between other preacher’s families and the congregations they serve.

What I have appreciated more than anything else is this congregation’s willingness to suffer alongside me. I’ve often felt like I'm on the battleground panting for breath from "the tares" God warned us all about in Matthew 13:24-30 that exist among us, though they are not “of” us.  The kinds of betrayals we have experienced these 40 years would make your hair stand on end, but the many faithful ones that still surrounded us experienced these losses and hurt as much as we did. They are the heroes whose faithfulness has helped me keep going after each and every heart trampling, or devastating loss those 28 years.  They know, like I do, that those who broke our hearts by shipwrecking their own lives were ultimately betraying Christ, not us. This faithful congregation was willing to place themselves "in the line of fire", so to speak, and together risk our own hearts being broken because of our love for them.  Jesus Himself explains that this is actually a privilege― this suffering alongside Him (1 Peter 4:13). Everyone in this world suffers, and I praise God that much of my suffering has been for the most worthy cause on the planet. The willingness to suffer together was what I appreciated most about my church family, and though we’ve been through a lot, the truth is, when you consider the big picture, we're not victims. In fact, we’re exceptionally blessed. 

I also adore this congregation for their humbleness. This modesty expresses itself in that it’s a safe place to be vulnerable, acknowledge weaknesses, and show emotion. We confess our sins to each other. There is no competition. There exists no contests to rank who has dominance. Despite the fact that it is composed of members with varying levels of education, with perhaps an above-average number of members with high degrees of education, everyone from every socioeconomic level is treasured and interacts with everyone else. Also, not having a pride problem means no one has a pet doctrine they are pushing to try to look more intelligent or learned. No one is harping on a “special campaign” that repetitively finds its way into their comments in Bible class. When the congregation as a whole was unjustly accused of not being humble, they never stood up and defended themselves. One time, a “tare” even stood up in front of the assembly and spewed an ugly cloud of accusations on and on until he ran out of “material”, and when he left, without retaliation, we had our closing announcements and prayer and humbly moved on doing God’s will, letting the truth of who we really are and how well we love each other speak for itself. Years later, when I met up with this man unexpectedly, I went up to his face, smiled, and quietly and warmly let him know that we are always open to reconciliatory conversations. He appeared perhaps embarrassed and barely responded, but a few years later he publicly humbled himself by expressing his appreciation for that. Love won. 

There was no pedestal to stand on at the 5th Street church of Christ. I was no “Queenie McBear”, if you know what I mean, and Mark held no “free passes” and certainly was not the ultimate authority on any decision. Since we were not in charge, no one waited around to find out from us “what’s our next move?”, but instead were generally self-motivated and self-starters with great ideas and enlisted each other’s talents to carry them out. Everyone loved when anyone else had a great idea and they supported it.  I would write and teach a ladies’ class one year, or someone else might. One person would start a Meetup group through or plan a workshop. On a social level, another would organize a fundraiser, a baby shower, or a wedding shower. Still another would plan a game night or host an annual social event. This egoless equality was a great source of joy for one and all. 

Kindness ran thick in these parts.  We never once asked for a raise, but the leadership gifted them anyway. They never micromanaged where or how long Mark had to study, or even tracked his hours, but could tell by the quality of the massive amounts of material he put out, and the many classes that he taught, that he had a good work ethic.

I’ll also never forget how they helped me through the emotional process of burying my mother, were supportive when our children, like theirs, struggled with sin, when they sent us appreciative cards and letters, and how one sister who was a nurse even came over and cleaned my wounds after we crashed our motorcycle. 

They never forbade Mark from teaching on a Bible topic just because it was controversial — but felt our congregational loyalty to God and each other could bear the weight of figuring out God’s will together even on the hardest questions. Because they never prioritized an increased number of members over a unity that was based on truth, the eldership kindly met with potential members to let them know where we stood on the more controversial Bible topics and what would be expected of them as members, so that there would be no surprises that could later lead to church drama. 

They also never asked anything of me as the preacher’s wife beyond what was expected of any other member.  There were never petty, junior high school-level dramas like “You didn’t say ‘Hi’ to me today!” If anyone wanted to talk to me, they’d come stand near me, but otherwise understood I’d most likely invest post-worship time in visitors, outlier members, or members who were going through difficult circumstances. They knew that after the closing "Amen", we’d all do best to lift our eyes to the room full of wonderful people, introduce ourselves first to those we don't yet know, engage in conversation, then move person to person from those we know less, to those we know best.

Morally neutral differences were generally well-tolerated. Misunderstandings were talked through. Perceived slights, forgiven. Grace abounded.  If someone thought we could benefit from some advice, we got it. 

In addition to our laboring in God’s vineyard together, they were also fun. We went camping, had dinner clubs and retreats, the ladies took annual shopping trips, and we all enjoyed annual 4th of July and Valentine’s dinners together. We took hikes, played volleyball, celebrated special birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations together. We helped each other with moves, volunteered for work parties, cleaned or gardened for other members, took the elderly out for breakfast, and in the process of all this, created a vast and ongoing repertoire of inside jokes. 

For what it’s worth, I’ll mention a few things that I think Mark and I brought that contributed to our peace-filled 28-year-long relationships with this congregation. We were deeply grateful for the privilege of doing such meaningful work. We loved working hard and being productive and came into the work with a healthy level of confidence and self-worth, free from any social dependence or need for a lot of validation. When we heard of a group going off to do things without us, we knew their tightness was exactly what we’d worked for, and would happily go find something else to do. We had friends outside the congregation we’d met through our Harley Motorcycle group, families also hosting Japanese exchange students, my volunteer work at two police departments, and friends we met through upcycling furniture and selling it on Craigslist. All of these additional relationships opened up for us opportunities to share God’s wisdom with those outside our congregation.

My forty years as the wife of a full-time preacher had not been easy, but it could not have been more worthwhile. This decision in my youth to live in a “glass house” was my own, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. 

Fifth Street church of Christ

11775 SW Fifth Street

Beaverton, Oregon 97005