Before we dive into part III of the interview with Curtis, I thought you might be wondering why I chose to interview him in the first place. I met Curtis at a place called “The Jesus Table.” Every Tuesday night at Cedar Mill Bible Church, anyone who wants to can come and experience a warm welcome, a hot meal served restaurant style, and a few other services like showers, haircuts, and dental care. A lot of street people like to come. During my time there, it didn’t take long to learn that two of Curtis’s friends were providing the showers to the people at the Jesus Table. Another friend was giving haircuts.
That’s how it’s been ever since I met Curtis. He doesn’t just know Jesus’ words, or share Jesus’ words, but he shows Jesus’ words. He does what Jesus says to do. He actively loves people. But more than that, I’ve noticed those around him actively love people too, oftentimes more than Curtis himself. Whether it’s helping to set up an old homeless guy with an apartment, or sharing the gospel with others, or feeding people in a park, the people around Curtis seem to love like Jesus.
That’s why I thought this interview might be helpful to anyone who wants to follow Jesus more closely and love Jesus more deeply.
Back to the interview:
Kaleigh and Hannah are amazing, and I know some of the people you did ministry with and they’re really remarkable too, so, those are great blessings. Back to the church plant though . . .
Yeah, it’s definitely been difficult. Having the job has made it even more difficult. And then on top of that there’s just been all kinds of issues ranging from my own sin to revelations of sin in some of the other people on our team to things like what happened with you Kurt, and your wife, getting hit by a car. Just a lot of trials, a lot of issues, people getting pulled in different directions, and people having to step away.
It’s kind of been a roller coaster, trying to figure out what God’s doing and why. At this point, just being honest, I feel pretty defeated. The group we did have going has disbanded and we’re starting from square one again. There’s been a lot of wisdom that has been gained over these few years of trying to start a church. And there’s definitely some hope and opportunity on the horizon. But I never would have thought it was going to go like this, like it has been so far.
Have you given up? Or do you think it’s still God’s plan to start a church here?
Yeah, I think it’s God’s plan. In Hawaii the lead pastor at the church that’s affiliated with the Bible college is stepping down and people have been calling to gauge my interest in coming back to fill that role. But, at this point I haven’t shaken the call to plant a church here in Portland, and so I’m still trying to navigate that. And honestly one of the things that’s been difficult is that God hasn’t spoken as clearly since I’ve come here. But that’s also something that I see in Abraham’s life. He had this clear call to come to the promised land, but once he got there, there were a lot of promises that didn’t come to pass very quickly. So there was a point where he kind of gave up on them almost. So I feel like I’m at that stage. It would be real easy for me to give up and turn my focus elsewhere. Or try to manipulate situations to make something happen. Or hop into some easier calling. I think I could get a job as a pastor at an existing church, if I really wanted to. But I don’t think that’s what God’s called me to do. I’m trying to be a little more faithful than Abraham, but he waited a lot longer than I have.
So far this has been interesting. But in a way it’s background because the main point of this interview is to learn about what you do to follow Jesus closely and to love Jesus well. So tell me about that.
I guess I’d start off by saying, I don’t often feel like I’m doing those things. There’s always room for improvement. And there’s always things I wish I was doing better. But a lot of the normal stuff, trying to read your Bible, pray. I think over the years I’ve actually found prayer to be . . . maybe it’s because I have so much scripture in my mind from all the years of studying it and reading it, but I’ve found that prayer is one of the most beneficial things for me spiritually. Partially it may have to do with the way I interact and communicate with God. A lot of times when I’m praying I’m just processing with God. It’s either some scripture I’m looking into or thinking about or teaching on. Or it’s just something going on in my life I’m trying to figure out or trying to gain some clarity or wisdom or guidance. When I have the time and I’m doing well — I’m still trying to learn how to do this with a newborn and a family — but I’ll try to just find a quiet place. I like to pray out loud, it helps me to process a little better. A lot of times I’ll just pace. I’ll walk in circles or walk around the room and kind of just figure things out. And when I make time to do that I definitely sense God’s presence and His peace in my life in a lot stronger way than when I get caught up in the everyday grind of life: trying to balance my job and the needs of my wife and my kid. And we’re trying to move to a new place and I got into a car accident last year. Yeah, it’s just been things like that, that life’s thrown at me, that have made it harder to find that time. But yeah, I think the goal is to keep finding that time regardless of what’s going on in your life, and spending that time with God. Whether that’s reading the Bible, praying, listening to sermons, worshiping God through music, or reading books, whatever time you can find to spend with God and let Him minister to you. I think that’s what’s life giving, that brings joy and hope and peace and contentment and wisdom and clarity and confidence, calling, everything. Everything the Bible talks about I think comes from that time that you spend with God. There’s so many distractions that are hard to work around and there’s others that we bring upon ourselves whether it’s sports or entertainment of any kind or whatever we allow into our lives that can suck us away from that time we could spend with God.
And then fellowship obviously is big, an important thing.
What are your biggest challenges?
Challenges. Definitely I think as a young non-married, I think lust was a challenge. It wasn’t something I necessarily gave into all the time but it was definitely a big source of distraction. Your mind just kind of drifts there fairly often. Since I’ve been married that hasn’t been as big of a deal.
But life is heavy at times. There’s a lot of pressure on you and I’m still learning how to balance that as a husband and as a father. And so for me, I think sometimes I just kind of zone out. The way I can do that is through entertainment. For me, growing up as an athlete, a lot of times it’s sports type stuff, so highlights or articles on different athletes or games. That can be a big source of distraction for me.
I try to stay away from Netflix but every now and then my wife will watch something and I’ll get sucked into that and I’ll waste some time watching a TV series.
Facebook, I’m not a big Facebook person. I don’t post much on there but just the videos or the articles can be pretty entertaining or interesting so I can get sucked into that stuff. And that can take you down a Youtube rabbit hole.
A lot of it is just entertainment. It’s not necessarily sinful things. It’s a desire to escape from the pressures of life.
Have you made any changes lately? Something you’ve mentioned outside of this interview is that you and Kaleigh don’t get out of bed in the morning before praying together. I thought that was pretty cool.
Yeah, we haven’t done that perfectly for sure but we’ve done pretty well for the last few months. When my work schedule is consistent we do that. When it’s not it’s more difficult. And just coming out of the holidays, that’s the busiest time of year for retail. But like I said, I think God has me in this place to know what it’s like to live this life because for so many Americans and people around the world, this is their life. They don’t get to choose their schedule. They’re just fighting to make things work while they’re trying to love their spouse and raise their kids and maybe go to church. And then the pastor or people at church are calling them to something ministry-wise. I get that balancing act that most of us have to perform. And I’m just trying to figure out: how can I keep somewhat of a simple life and a life that’s available to God in the midst of constant change and chaos. That’s where I’m seeking him now, trying to figure that out.
So the prayer thing with Kaleigh, that’s been helpful to get us on the same page because we’re pretty different personality-wise. And that’s another source of distraction and difficulty in trying to stay close to Jesus.
So even though your family’s growing and you have a lot of responsibility, you’re called to the bi-vocational model and you’re committed to it and that’s something about you that interests me. Once you’re called by God to something, that’s it, you’re doing it.
What would you say to someone who wants to love Jesus as well as possible, and wants to follow Jesus as closely as possible?
What God keeps showing me is, you have to keep your eyes focused on Him. And the more complicated your life gets, the more difficult that can be. I’m learning there’s a learning curve. You can’t just continue doing the same pattern of life you had when you were single, or when you were living at your parent’s house, or when you were in Bible college, or even when you had a girlfriend or whatever. Every stage of life requires change. But the ultimate goal is to stay fixed on Jesus, and if you do that, the cares of this life and the desire for sin get put in their place. And you’re able to live that life you know you’re supposed to be living. When you do that, you’re not ashamed or dealing with fear or guilt or shame or anxiety. And you’re not doing what you know you’re not supposed to be doing.
But like I said, there’s a learning curve to figuring out, what does that look like? What does it look like to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus when you have a toddler running around the house all day screaming and going crazy and you don’t have a quiet place to go pray or to go read your Bible for an hour. You don’t have that. And then on top of that you have to get to work on time and you have to take showers and take the trash out and vacuum and clean up and all the tasks that are part of living. There’s just a lot going on.
For me, I’m still learning what that looks like right now as a new husband and a new dad. I know what that looks like for me in the past, but I’ve learned that I can’t rely on the past for continued intimacy with Jesus. There has to be new experience for the intimacy to stay fresh.
So variety keeps the intimacy fresh. But also because life is constant change that requires constant change to the way you approach God. I see.
I have one last question. If you were looking for wisdom and advice and insight into how to love Jesus well and how to follow him closely, who would you be talking to?
In my past I would have found a Francis Chan or John Piper or someone who’s popular. And I think they still have a lot of wisdom and insight and they share that regularly. But the longer I’ve been trying to live this bi-vocational life, the more inclined I am to ask questions of those who have been doing this longer than I have. Living as a husband, and a father, and a full time worker, and still finding time to do ministry. So it’s not necessarily like a big name person, it’s anyone I come across that’s been consistent in their life. So people like Pat and Jay, those guys share their lives with me on Saturday when we get together and pray.
The life of a professional full time pastor is a different life than what most people live. There’s some principals that hold true: seek God, and spend time in the scriptures, and spend time praying, and worshiping, and fellowshipping with believers. All that’s in the Bible and it’s pretty clear how important they can be. But when it comes to the logistics of it, outside of asking God what that looks like, I think you really have to find people in a similar stage of life, or at least people who have gone through a similar stage of life, that have learned how to make those adaptations so that their intimacy with God can remain fresh, despite their circumstances.
We see Paul talk about himself learning how to be content in all circumstances. He faced a lot more persecution than anything we’re facing currently in America, but he was still figuring out how to seek God and stay close to God and be thankful for where he was, at different stages of his life. And different places: prison, or shipwrecked, or stranded on an island, all the different things he went through. He had a pretty crazy life and he was still able to figure out how to spend time with God, and how to love God.
Over time I’ve moved away from thinking: “That celebrity pastor would know how to answer that question,” to, “It’s probably the guy who’s been living it for awhile that would know how to answer it with a little more insight.”
Where Curtis Is At Now:
Currently, Curtis has teamed up with another man who has a similar bi-vocational vision. And they’re in the planning stages of starting a new home church. His son is due to be born in March.
After the interview Curtis sent me this text: “If anyone asks any questions about something in the interview, I’m more than willing to dialogue with them.” So if you’d like to connect with Curtis, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.