As Is Church pastor has done jail time and understands your struggles
Pastor Scott Bradley, 38, is a clean-cut married man with two daughters and a relatively new church to shepherd.
He also sports numerous tattoos, as a teenager spent six months in jail for assault and confesses he's been addicted to drugs, drink and sex in the past.
However, it's because he believes Jesus Christ accepted him with love - just as he did the outcasts of biblical times - that Bradley and his wife of 12 years, Gwenna, think the truest way to preach is to accept everyone 'as is.'
Which is the name of their church - As Is - located in the family life center at Mountainview Christian Church, 1890 N.E. Cleveland Ave. Established last November, the nondenominational church has about 70 members and meets for worship Sundays between 5 and 6:30 p.m. The church also offers support groups as well as a children's ministry, and the couple stress their church is more about helping people ask the right questions rather than being force-fed the right answers.
'It's not our job to change people,' Gwenna says. 'That's God's work - to change the heart.'
In his introductory video posted on the church's website, Bradley says, 'It's an equal playing field at the foot of the cross.' However, in general, the pastor shies way from 'Christian-ese' and any other type of language or behavior that could turn people off from learning more about Jesus. That doesn't mean he doesn't believe in the Bible; it just means it's not the first thing he's going to bring up when he meets you.
'We really try to communicate in a way that's not religious,' he says, noting you don't even have to be a Christian to come to his church. 'It's not about religion - it's about relationship.'
A native of Klamath Falls, Bradley says his father was a wounded Vietnam War hero who struggled with flashbacks and post-traumatic stress disorder upon his return. He abused Bradley's mother as well as others, and eventually killed a man. After several prison sentences, failed marriages and substance abuse, he gave his life to Christ, Bradley says, noting the two men have worked together in jail ministry.
The fact that he and his father have exchanged a life of hurting others for a life of helping others is evidence God can soften even the most hardened of hearts, Bradley notes.
'You can experience whatever his plan is for you.'
Indeed, the church's website states that people 'think they need to get their act together before they can approach (God) (or be part of a church). This simply is not true!' The site quotes Romans 5:8: 'While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.'
'That means while we were out getting loaded, drunk, sleeping around, acting prideful, judging others, stealing, lying, living in fear, and even when we thought we had it all together - Christ died for us 'AS IS',' the site says.
Bradley and church members take that message to the streets of Portland through their 'Love Shack,' a mobile unit that provides food, coffee, clothes and toiletries to homeless people on a monthly basis. Bradley says the work is humbling because sometimes giving a homeless person a toothbrush can be enough to make them happy.
'They can get so excited about the little things, not just the big things,' he says.
Gwenna adds that the work can be heartbreaking because she's met a number of people in their 20s addicted to heroin - including young folks originally from middle-class Christian homes - who started out casually trying the prescription painkiller oxycodone at a party, quickly got addicted and then switched to heroin because it was cheaper.
'Most of these kids are good kids,' she says.
Her husband adds that they are as welcome as any well-to-do sober Christian at As Is. Even if people have theological disagreements with one another, that's no reason they can't build community together, he says.
'We believe we don't have to see eye-to-eye to walk hand-in- hand.'
To learn more about Pastor Scott Bradley, visit theforgiveness