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About The Book

The inspiring story of an unlikely partnership between a band of churches and the openly gay mayor of Portland that led to unprecedented change throughout the city and launched a nationwide movement called CityServe.

Our dream is to help change the mindset of the city about the church, and the mindset of the church about the city.

Portland is among the most unchurched and politically progressive cities in the nation. It’s a European-type city with a unique edge, a television show called Portlandia that emphasizes its weirdness, and the country’s largest naked bike ride. You wouldn’t expect Portland to be home to one of the most successful partnerships between local government and area churches. But it is.

In 2007, Kevin Palau and a few dozen pastors approached Portland’s mayor and asked the question: how can we serve you with no strings attached? City officials identified five initial areas of need—hunger, homelessness, healthcare, the environment, and public schools—and so began a partnership, CityServe, between the city and a band of churches seeking to live out the gospel message. Since then, the CityServe model has spread like wildfire, inspiring communities across the country to take up the cause in their own cities.

Unlikely not only tells the story of the inception of CityServe, but also challenges readers to evaluate their understanding of the gospel. Today’s church finds itself torn between social justice and direct proclamation. Unlikely proposes a both/and scenario, showing how the gospel can truly penetrate a region—through word and deed.

CityServe is proof that when differences can be put aside for a worthy cause, real change can be attained, and unlikely beauty is born.

About The Author

Photo Credit: Tyler Gould, © Luis Palau Association

Kevin Palau is the son of international evangelist Luis Palau. He joined the family business, The Luis Palau Association, in 1985 and began directing the day-to-day operation of the ministry in the late 1990s. Under his leadership, LPA has produced some of the largest Christian events ever staged, created a worldwide network of hundreds of partner evangelists, and developed new models for citywide outreach that integrate major community service initiatives along with open-air evangelistic gatherings. Kevin is also the founding editor of He holds a degree in religious studies from Wheaton College and lives in Beaverton, Oregon, with his wife, Michelle, and their three children.

Product Details

Raves and Reviews

“I’ve known Kevin Palau for a few years now—not only is he one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, but I’ve been amazed by how God has gifted him to really build the body and to bring a sense of unity to the church.”

– Francis Chan

"In Unlikely, Kevin Palau challenges dusty models of evangelism and helps a new generation dream about how the gospel might go forward in our day. You hold in your hands a book of hysterical hope and enormous courage, riddled with stories of transformative grace. I dare you to read it while sitting still.”

– Jonathan Merritt, author of Jesus is Better Than You Imagined; senior columnist for Religion News Service

"I am encouraged by the work of CityServe and the Luis Palau Association to bring churches together. This is a visual demonstration of the movement of the gospel in our city."

– Timothy Keller, bestselling author and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (NYC)

“Kevin Palau is a leader with a gentle spirit and a humble heart. He has a vision for what unites and not divides people and for how sincere followers of Jesus can best contribute to that. He lives what he speaks.”

– John Ortberg, senior pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and author of All The Places To Go

“This book is a timely reminder that engaging culture, loving your neighbor, and serving those in need still resonates. Kevin Palau and the Palau Association have impacted millions around the world for many years while, just as importantly, making a difference and impacting the city of Portland. A great model for pastors, leaders and churches to love those around us. Read this book and you too will be inspired to be a world changer by simply impacting those closest to you in your city.”

– Brad Lomenick, author of The Catalyst Leader and H3 Leadership and the former president of Catalyst

“I have a long list of people who I want to read this book. Kevin shares a mesmerizing, convicting, and empowering story of what can happen when churches unite to serve a city with no strings attached. I want this for my city. I want this for your city. I want this for every city.”

– Kara Powell, PhD, executive director of Fuller Youth Institute, Fuller Theological Seminary

“Kevin has been a great inspiration in my life and work. His posture of humility combined with bold willingness to ask ‘why not?’ has forged unlikely relationships and renewal in some of the least expected places. I couldn't recommend his story highly enough.”

– Gabe Lyons, Q Founder and author of The Next Christians

“As close personal friends with Kevin and the Palau Family, I can assure you, in them, there is only a passion to creatively find ways to deliver the Gospel Message in our ever evolving culture. The city movement is maybe the greatest model of revival at work today. It is bringing us to the heart of Christian faith, to demonstrate the love of Christ in our land.”

– Pat Gelsinger, CEO of VMware

“Instead ofgetting mad about the secularizing changes happening in our culture and thepeople who embody them, Kevin Palau takes a different approach: he engagesthose people, forms friendships and partnerships with them, and join forceswith them to serve others in need. If this is not what you expect from anevangelical Christian—someonein the family business of mass evangelism, no less!—take note. It’s Christ-like, it works, and it’s a majorway forward in our changed ‘post-Christian’ times. Kevin spells it out nicelyin this enjoyable and highly instructive book.”

– Tom Krattenmaker, USA Today contributing columnist and author of The Evangelicals You Don't Know

“I wish everyone could read Kevin’s book. It’s one of the best examples I’ve seen of how to truly engage and interact with those who disagree with us—without compromising our commitment to Scripture. His experience is proof-positive that evangelicals can and should move outside their own circles in the interest of pursuing the common good.”

– Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family

“Kevin shares a compelling message for the Church about what could happen if we set aside our differences and come together with a passion to serve our communities with the purest motive—to love like Jesus. Our neighbors will only be inclined to listen to the message of the Good News when our mission is be more understanding and engaging through an authentic, radical love and commitment to serve without condition or reservation. Unlikely is a must read for the 21st century church.”

– Todd Mullins, lead pastor of Christ Fellowship, Palm Beach Florida

“An essential and challenging message for the Church. The way Kevin Palau and the Luis Palau Association have served the city of Portland is stunning. Unlikely is a beautiful message of how investing in people leads to influence with people. The Gospel still works. The story of CityServe is proof.”

– Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church/Passion Conferences

"Unlikely should be the first book to read for those who want to learn to collectively love their city better. Unlikely is not a roadmap but a narrative of God’s work of common grace and saving grace in a city. Every page is filled with stories of unlikely people forming unlikely partnerships to achieve unlikely results. It is gospel movement at its best.”

– Eric Swanson, Leadership Network, co-author of To Transform a City

“This is a powerful and important book for the church today. A stunning reminder of the long-term impact the church can have when we set aside our differences and serve together in unity. I’m so encouraged by Kevin Palau and the Luis Palau Association. Their heart for the Gospel and humility in service should inspire all of us to spend more time seeking peace and unity. Be careful. This story will challenge you to think differently about your neighborhood and your city.”

– Ray Johnston, pastor at Granite Bay Church and author of The Hope Quotient

“With story after story, biblical principle after biblical principle, Unlikely is a witness to the new way of evangelical engagement in first class cities: integration into the community for the good of the community, love summoning churches into new kinds of ministry, and people digging deep entangling roots into a community to exhibit the love of God for all. What a delightful read Unlikely is!”

– Scot McKnight, professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary, Lombard, Illinois

“Anyone who seeks to be a faithful Christian witness in a pluralistic world needs to read Unlikely. This book is proof positive that we can engage the world and not lose our souls. What An entire generation of Gospel-centered movements of cultural transformation will be challenged and inspired by Unlikely.”

– Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and pastor of Lamb’s Church

“In Unlikely, Kevin Palau tells the story about how churches in Portland came together. Christ’s call to love our neighbors is much more than not harming them, it’s a pro-active love for them that reaches across all of our various ideological lines. This story demonstrates that when the church does that it changes the way Christians—and more importantly, God—are perceived and understood. Palau will inspire you and your church to move from disengagement to engagement with your city in your own unique ways. Unlikely is what it looks like when the message of Christ becomes a movement of Christians.”

– Ken Wytsma, leader of The Justice Conference and author of President of King’s College

Resources and Downloads

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  • Author Photo (jpg): Kevin Palau
    Photo Credit: Tyler Gould, © Luis Palau Association
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