The Common Good

Connecting with Friends Without Homes: An Interview with Ken Loyd

While researching my book Jesus Died for This?: A Satirist's Search for the Risen Christ, I met Ken Loyd of HomePDX, a church where about 90 percent of their members live outdoors. During my recent visit to Portland in October 2010, I chatted with Ken over coffee.

When you take the spiritual temperature of America, what kind of a reading are you getting?

When we first started HomePDX in Portland in 2007, people used to say three things to us: "you listen," "you care" and "you're authentic." My story is that as of today (October 21, 2010), I'm two years and 11 day sober and I'm struggling to stay sober. I've failed more than I've succeeded. Currently, I'm failing in many areas of my life. My connection is not on what I have but on my commonality with others in my broken humanity. If you go to the evangelical church, it's all about how God will make you a success. I got saved and then this happened. That's a testi-phony. God's not going to make you a success. You're going to be a loved failure. You're going to succeed in some areas in your life, and you're going to fail in some areas of your life. Most of us are going to be brokenhearted, clumsy, and missing the evangelical goal of perfection. There are millions upon millions of people who have quietly put their head down and walked away from the church because they couldn't live up to the standard they thought everybody else had attained.

How do you gauge the "success" of HomePDX?

People ask me how many salvations do you have to date? The answer is, "I have no idea." My goal is to love people face-to-face. As soon as I start assigning a purpose like, "how many people do I need to get indoors?" I become strident with them or I become like most ministries in that I cherry-pick folks. I will raise the bar so that the people I'm getting are the ones who are compliant already. Then I'll pour my energy into them and go "look at all the salvations that I have." But I get the ones that are left over that the non-profits and other Christian organizations don't want because they aren't going to go along with a program. I need to go to them and say, "I want to listen to your every word," and hear the hurt behind those words, so I can match that with a love that never stops.

It's amazing how many Christians, myself included, find it extremely difficult to put the Great Commandment into practice.

Wouldn't it awesome if I could say, "I'm mean spirited," "I'm small minded," "I hold grudges" and a myriad of other things but I'm also a Jesus follower and I'm doing the best I can? Even though I am all these things that doesn't invalidate my love toward you and Jesus. It just means I'm a broken human being like everybody else. The Kingdom of God isn't made up of well people but just run of the mill humanity. I think we've lost sight of that because we've made people prove they were worthy of God's love. It's frustrating to me as I view the Christian and secular community that they view my friends as cute little idiots because they don't recognize their own broken humanity. This is not about getting better. It's about embracing our common brokenness because none of us is better than the other.

Follow Becky Garrison's travels on twitter @JesusDied4This.

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