Rick McKinley serves as Lead Pastor of Imago Dei Community. He and his wife, Jeanne, and their four kids moved to Portland, Oregon in October of 2000 to plant the church. Since then, Imago Dei has been voted one of the Top 25 Most Innovative Churches in the Country by Outreach Magazine and Portland Monthly Magazine named Rick one of Portland’s 50 Most Influential People. He is the co-creator of Advent Conspiracy and Love Portland. He teaches on topics such as holistic mission, leadership, and spiritual formation and serves as President of The Waterhouse Network. Rick has authored five books including the recently released The Answer to Our Cry: Freedom to Live Fully, Love Boldly, and Fear Nothing.
KW: What do you feel is unique about the message of this book compared to things you’ve written about in the past?
RM: Much of what I’ve written about in the past is about our place in the Kingdom and our invitation to participate in the Kingdom. This book unpacks and uncovers the mystery of the relationship that we are invited into, at the center of the Kingdom, which is relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
KW: In the Answer To Our Cry, you share a very personal story involving your daughter. How have the difficulties of life and the challenges you’ve faced as a father shaped your understanding about how God responds to our cry and the messiness of life?
RM: Yeah, I mean it might be better to ask how it hasn’t. It shapes every aspect of my life. It creates points of frustration and confusion where you’re wondering “why God?”, “why is this the case?”, and “do you care?”, and “are you involved?” It creates a whole other set of places where you become aware of God, and what it means to belong and to be named as son, without the ability to sort of tell God how great I am. He calls me into barren places where I worry and I hurt for her but also places where God says “I’m going to launch this deeper work in you about trust and hope and about what’s real and what matters.” Which actually has nothing to do with writing books and those sorts of things. It’s belonging. Being a part of her and her being a part of me.
KW: You have a D. Min in Homiletics under Haddon Robinson, how has the act of preaching and teaching on Sunday morning shaped your understanding of what Scripture says about God’s response to our cry or vice versa?
RM: I think getting up every week and opening up the bible and saying is this true, what does it say about God, about me, about you, and then striving to honestly bring ourselves before that text, whatever it might be this week. It forces you to not come up with your own ideas or trust in your ideas but it forces you to ask better questions and deeper questions. Then there’s having a congregation that is amazing and kind of sniffs B.S. from a mile a way forces you to be honest with the text. The text is more honest with us than we are with the text. It also forces you to say “yeah you don’t get by on cheap pithy statements.” You have to answer is this true, true to life?
KW: What is the biggest barrier to finding freedom in our lives?
RM: Us. I mean it’s our sense of love for self instead of love for God. It’s our fear of danger of what that deep sacrificial intimate jealous love really is. It’s this lie that we can protect ourselves and keep ourselves safe and secure in our own little narcissistic world that we create for ourselves. For everyone it looks different but it all comes down to I don’t want to risk my heart on that big of an invitation. I’d rather just sell out.
KW: How do you see this manifested in the lives of those you have met and done life with?
RM: I’ve known people who are daring and courageous enough to risk their heart on the love of God and let their personhood and their vision of the world get reoriented by that grace. Letting go of sin and selfishness and tasting a deeper thing.
KW: What are some of the ways we misdiagnose our hunger for true, biblical freedom and how does that feed into the dysfunction many of us feel in life?
RM: I think there is this deep longing and desire for everyone to taste some sense of freedom, but we have these faults whether you call them idols or quick fixes or whatever. It’s much easier to run to some appetite of the flesh whether booze or drugs or sex or whatever to get me free from this stress, from whatever that moment is that I’m in. So culture is really good at creating idols and worshipping them. But there is that deeper freedom we know we are made for and its kind of scary
KW: Most Christians talk about the Gospel but think it’s something that describes the moment of conversion. How should the Gospel shape our everyday life and lead to the fullness of freedom you discuss in the book?
RM: I think evangelicals have misplaced the gospel as this thing they experience at the moment of conversion. Which is true, they believe something about Jesus and that changes their life. But the gospel isn’t something that you walk away from, like now you’re on your own to grow. It’s the place you keep coming back to, you keep repenting, you keep submitting, keep surrendering keep receiving, keep responding to his grace. So the only way I’m going to love like I’m supposed to love is if I go back to the gospel. The only way that I’m going to surrender, and obey, and serve, and be humble is if Christ births that in me. Otherwise it’s just a work of my own processing and my own energy toward being a better person as opposed to the miracle of fruit bearing that is supposed to happen by the spirit.