PORTLAND, OR—In a restored brick building on the edge of town, you’ll find The Leap Church, an upstart congregation that boasts several hundred members and is adding more to their numbers every week. Like many other church plants in Portland, Leap is trying to reach its community by putting aside lots of the traditional church baggage, like church organs, ancient hymns, and stuffy sanctuaries.
Adjacent to the church building is the youth room, Hop Youth. Enter during a midweek Bible study, Sunday morning service, or special youth outreach, and you’ll find the smiling youth pastor, Craig Marten. But you might be shocked by what you see: Marten doesn’t have a single tattoo. He doesn’t sport a trendy fade. You won’t see 3-inch plugs or tunnels in his earlobes.
Instead, the hard-edged rebel prefers polo shirts tucked into dark slacks, occasionally switching things up with khakis when he really wants to raise some eyebrows. He tucks in his shirt in each morning, tightens up his plain leather belt, and happily heads into the church office to prepare for his weekly sermons like it’s the most normal thing in the world. Rumors in the church claim he doesn’t even have a pair of Converse or checkered Vans slip-ons.
Co-workers are often put off by his edgy wardrobe, with the college minister and singles’ pastor reportedly calling him a “freak” behind his back during their vape breaks. “Who does this guy think he is?” one usher said.
“It’s crazy—I walk into the youth room, and I can immediately pick him out of the crowd. I’ve never once mistaken him for a 17-year-old kid wearing a trucker hat,” one youth group parent said while dropping his kids off at Wednesday night Bible study. “This guy’s a real maverick. An absolute madman.”