All Christians are called to care for and to watch over one another. Yet the Scripture also teaches that in each local church elders, also called pastors or overseers, should be appointed to serve and shepherd the church (Acts 20:28; Titus1:5; 1 Peter 5:1-5). Elders are responsible to serve by actively leading, praying for the church, feeding the church from God’s Word, and by overseeing areas such as worship, teaching, and finances. First and foremost elders are to lead by example. Some of our elders are employed by The Gathering Church to serve as full-time pastors, however other elders serve in other lines of work throughout the Portland area. Every elder is carefully selected, recognized and appointed by the congregation and meets the qualifications given in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The elders at The Gathering joyfully and seriously take the responsibility to shepherd and love the church. In polity, The Gathering Church is elder-led and congregationally ruled. This means that the elders lead the congregation in providing vision, strategy, and leadership, but the final rule is in the lap of the congregation.
A Southern California Native, Matthew Cunningham was raised in Big Bear Lake, California for the first 18 years of his life. He first understood his need for Christ while serving a a six-month jail sentence for embezzlement. During his time in jail, men visited and told him about Jesus in a way he had never heard before. When Matt was released from jail, he began attending a local church, and was baptized shortly after.
Matthew holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology and Greek from Multnomah University, and Master of Divinity (M.Div.) Degree from Multnomah Biblical Seminary. He currently serves as a vocational pastor here at The Gathering Church.
Matthew and his wife, Vanessa, are high school sweethearts. He considers her to be his saving grace, and the most faithful, steadfast, committed person he has ever met. Matthew and Vanessa were married in the summer of 2004, in Pacific Grove, California. They are blessed with five children, who are the joys of their lives: Annelissa, Alatheia, Benjamin, Nathan, and Noelle. As a family, the Cunninghams enjoy camping, road-tripping, eating out, and dancing in the living room. Matthew’s passion is to be part of The Gathering, and he delights to be part of the community. He loves teaching the Bible, serving with the elders, and seeing the gospel grip someone’s heart so that they “get it.”
Chris was born in Portland, Oregon in 1956. Raised in a Catholic family, at seventeen he came under conviction of his own sin when a street preacher shared the gospel with him in downtown Portland. But Chris’ life did not change until the summer of his junior year in high school. During a hitchhiking trip around the country, in Daytona Beach Florida, and high on LSD, Chris was confronted by a demonized man to accept that he belonged to the devil and to give his life to Satan. Chris, for the first time, stood up and confessed that he “belonged to Jesus”. Jesus Christ accepted that statement of faith and the next morning Chris woke up to a new life, was transformed and has followed Christ ever since. Not a recommended way to get saved, but it worked.
In 1975, shortly after graduating from high school he joined a discipleship and communal movement called Gospel Outreach – these were common at the time – and joined a team to plant a church in Chicago, Illinois. Subsequently, he was involved in church planting for almost two decades (planting churches in Chicago, IL, Eugene, OR, and Vancouver, WA).
Chris and Donna married in the fall of 1980. God has blessed them with eight wonderful children, and seven wonderful grandchildren.
Dan Garfield first sensed the call of God on his life as a college student in 1971, while attending Colorado State University, where he first heard the gospel and surrendered his life to the Lord. Dan attended a small Bible school in Fort Collins, and it was there that he acquired a heart for missions. Although his desire to go to China as a full-time missionary never materialized, he has gone to China twice on short-term missions as well as Cambodia and the Dominican Republic. The Lord impressed on Dan that his mission field was wherever God had him.
Along with his family he has actively pursued a missional lifestyle, as a business owner, builder and craftsman. For the past 20 years Dan has served his congregations in some capacity of leadership as a small group leader, lay pastor, elder, and along with his wife as pre-marital counselor.
He and his wife Gay have been happily married for 37 years, have three grown children, (two who are married), and currently two grandchildren.
Daniel Fender grew up in Arizona’s Phoenix Valley. He first put his faith in Christ at the age of 16, when he found himself alone in his bedroom with only his guilt and a sudden urge to open the Bible. Every passage that Daniel read that day clearly showed him his need for Christ to save him from his sin. It was then that he repented and believed in Jesus Christ, and he has found great joy in Christ ever since.
Daniel holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology and Hebrew from Multnomah University, and a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) Degree from Multnomah Biblical Seminary. He is currently pursuing a Master of Theology (Th.M.) Degree from Western Seminary, and serves as a vocational pastor at The Gathering Church.
In 2003, Daniel met his wife, Janine, on a whitewater kayaking trip on the Clackamas River. Separated by a distance of some 2000 miles, they began to correspond via hand-written letters. Daniel proposed in December of that year, and the two were married in the summer of 2005. The Lord has blessed Daniel and Janine with four children: Caleb, Adaiah, Naomi, and Micah. As a family, the Fenders enjoy camping, backpacking, hiking, astronomy, gardening, biking, reading together, and battling with foam swords. Daniel himself loves communicating God’s word and seeing lives impacted by deep and meaningful discipleship relationships. These relationships, he holds, lead people to be on mission to our neighbors and to the world around us. As an extension of passion for communicating the Word of God, Daniel and Janine also enjoy engaging couples in premarital counseling.
Although Matt Zrust has traveled and lived all over the world, he spent most of his teenage years in Costa Rica, where he first encountered Christ at a Christian youth campout. During the final message of the campout, Matt was overwhelmed with guilt for his sin; not just his actions, but for the desire to do things worse than he had already done. After the message, of which he heard little, Matt sat down on a fallen tree and wept. That day he repented of his sinful ways and told God that he wanted to follow Him as his Lord and Savior.
Matt holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology and Intercultural Studies from Multnomah University, and currently works as a server at Old Spaghetti Factory.
Matt considers himself extremely blessed to married to his wife, Amber Elizabeth, whom he met while attending Multnomah. They were married in the winter of 2004, and are blessed with six children: Judah Immanuel, Caleb Matthew, Samuel Anthony, Ariella Lydia, Nathan Aaron, and David Christopher. As a family, they enjoy biking, singing, hiking, cooking for large groups, rock climbing, laughing around the dinner table, sword fighting, and wrestling. Matt’s heart for ministry is to see the church engage in the community through building relationships and friendships, engaging in ministries of mercy, and by counseling those in need. His greatest desire is to both do these things, and equip the Body of Christ to do them.
Sevrin Hamilton was born in Jackson Tennessee, and raised in Moscow, Idaho to loving, Christian parents, and it was with his father that he first confessed his faith in Christ at the age of seven years old. Baptized at the age of 10, Christ encountered Sevrin mightily while he was backpacking through the Austrian Alps at the age of 18. It was through this experience that Sevrin began to surrender to Christ’s lordship and sense deep affections for God.
Sevrin holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Secondary Education from Boise State University, and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Covenant College. He currently works as a history teacher at Firm Foundation Christian School, in Battle Ground, Washington.
Sevrin met his wife, Megan, while working as a rafting guide in Jackson, Wyoming. The two were married at Diamond Cross Ranch in the summer of 2005, and God has since blessed Sevrin and Megan with two children: Anaya and Deacon. As a family, the Hamiltons enjoy being out in God’s creation, reading books, singing, dancing in the living room, and pillow plantations. In regards to serving the local church, Sevrin is passionate about sharing life in Christ together, Christian education, leading worship, peacemaking, outdoor ministry, and bringing the gospel to all the nations.