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Rockwood Churches Unite for Gospel Transformation

November 20, 2019
Josue Gonzalez and his team lead worship at Rockwood United Worship.

Josue Gonzalez and his team lead worship at Rockwood United Worship.

Shelli Thompson

Churches in the Rockwood neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, are coming together with a vision to see their community transformed by the gospel.

“We want to show that as churches, we’re united and we serve the community,” said Pete Armstrong, a local mission leader with Resonate Global Mission and pastor of Parklane CRC in Rockwood.

Rockwood Needs the Gospel

“Rockwood as a community is kind of rough,” said Bond Tyler, a resident of Rockwood and member of Parklane CRC. “You kind of desensitize yourself to seeing five or seven cop cars. It’s kind of like, ‘OK. That’s Rockwood. Just another day in Rockwood.’”

You’ll come across plenty of crime, drug use, homelessness, hunger, and hurt. You’ll also come across plenty of churches of varying denominations and nationalities. With 44 churches within a four-square-mile radius, there’s one for nearly every street corner.

But the churches in Rockwood rarely interact, let alone work together to serve the community. “I think a lot of people have the stigma of the church as: they come to our communities, but they never do anything in our communities,” said Tyler.

Then, four years ago, a group of people from the neighboring churches came together with a vision to change that stigma. They wanted to unite the churches in order to better serve the community.

They started with a worship service: Rockwood United Worship (RUW).

Differences United in Faith

“The participation of the churches and the people in the neighborhood [in RUW] is part of the plan to make sure people know each other and Jesus … together we can do more,” said Shelli Thompson, a resident of Rockwood who served as a co-director of RUW for the first three years.

This year, Armstrong led the committee of people from different churches organizing RUW. Every year, more churches participate in RUW. The first year, eight churches participated. This year, the fourth worship service, nearly 20 churches participated.

RUW kicks off with a week of prayer gatherings hosted by churches throughout the neighborhood and then ends with the worship service. Because of RUW, people from different denominations and nationalities come together. People may have different views on theology or different traditions. They may worship in different languages or read from different translations of Scripture, but at RUW, they come together to worship God, who unites everyone in one faith.

“People of all walks of life and different nationalities all [speak] the same language of honor and glory to our Heavenly Father,” said Thompson.

The worship service of RUW isn’t the end-goal, however. It exists to inspire action in believers who participate.

Building Relationships for the Gospel

This year, Leroy Barber, an author and co-founder of The Voices Project, preached on the topic of unity and how important it is for Christians to be unified in Christ.

“It really encouraged me to get outside of myself and actively build relationships with people who are different from me—people who talk differently from me, look differently from me, live different lifestyles from me,” said Tyler. “Build relationships for the sake of the gospel of Christ to be glorified in Rockwood.”

Resonate wants to see more people living in relationship with Christ, and more communities transformed by the gospel. Individual and community transformation can take a long time, but RUW is uniting churches and believers with a vision for God’s mission.

“In a place like Rockwood, where it’s not part of the culture to be a follower of Jesus … we need to be linking arms with other bodies of believers to serve the city,” said Armstrong.

Tyler asks you to pray for Rockwood and the neighborhood’s churches as they work to spread the gospel.

“I see a lot of kids going around with a lot of hurt in their heart, a lot of teenagers going around with a lot of hurt in their heart, a lot of adults going around with a lot of hurt in their heart,” said Tyler. “Pray for the churches in the Rockwood area that we would live the life of Jesus. Live a life that reflects Christ. I know that if we do that and stay true to that, our communities will change.”