In this moment, we need contemplative leaders, not combative leaders. It is from a place of rest and connection with Christ that we move into a world that desperately needs Jesus with His life and love.
Under the theme “All Things New,” we will focus 21 days of January on praying for the new things God wants to do in the coming year. Evan Roberts, a key figure in the Welsh Revival, prayed, “Lord, bend us.” When we think of prayer, it’s often in the context of our plans. As one year winds down, we look forward to the next with its promise, and we pray. As important as it is to go before God and ask His blessing on our work, it is so much more important to simply go before Him and pray a prayer like that of Evan Roberts. Prayer that invites God to have His way must always precede the work of the Spirit. An invitation into the same humility and trust that marked Evan Roberts. Let’s pray with a common heart and a unified vision for 21 Days of Prayer + Fasting, beginning Jan. 3, 2021.
Recently the Oregon Governor declared the limitation on church gathering sizes a public health recommendation and not an enforceable law. This has led some to wonder if Westside will open up our church building to larger Sunday gatherings immediately. As most of our congregation knows, our decision regarding reopening the building considered several factors, only one of which was legality. The other factors included, “Is it loving and wise to begin meeting en masse at this time?” (ethics), “How can we be the faithful and prophetic witness to our community God has asked of us?” (missional), and “What will it require for us to meet again safely?” (practical). These questions guide our decision-making around our gatherings and the size of our gatherings.
When faced with the decisions regarding reopening, we take Paul’s admonitions from 1 Corinthians 10:23 to heart: “ ‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive’”. Paul had in mind to limit his rights for the sake of love. Our first filter for any decision must always be love. If there is a high likelihood that a reopening at full capacity would put people’s health and lives at risk, the loving decision is to continue delaying the full-scale reopening of our building until we can provide a reasonable assurance of safety to our congregation.
What we do in these days, as the people of God, communicates volumes regarding our stance toward our community. It’s an amazing opportunity for Westside to help change the face of faith for tens of thousands of people regarding what the priorities of Jesus’ church will be. Therefore, we say to our community: we are for you – body, mind, and spirit. We want to stand with you in solidarity and show, with our actions, how much we love you.
On a practical note, we serve over 4,000 people as part of our church body, and gathering everyone together on a Sunday would not be practical at this time. Even if just a third of those came back to a service, we would not have space to provide a basic level of distancing and health precautions for the congregation.
Before COVID-19 became part of our reality, I encouraged our church to ask one question when it comes to decisions regarding how we live in community with people inside and outside the church: “What does love require?” It was more prophetic than we realized at the time. So, what does love require of us right now? What does love require of you right now? The way you and I answer that question through our actions in this moment will either reconfirm what people believe about Christians or could change the face of faith for someone seeking a relationship with God.
We love you, we miss the gathering of all the believers, but we know God will sustain us through this moment as he always has done in the past.
Years ago, Westside Church had a vision statement that guided what we did as a church and how we did it. It was, “changing the face of faith one conversation and one act of kindness at a time.” The idea was how our actions could redefine, for people in our community, what it means to be a Christ-follower. You know, for decades, one of the top five responses of how non-church people view Christians is the word hypocrisy. Right or wrong, the face of faith for thousands of people was not a positive one. More recently, we started asking a question that leads to the same idea, “what does love require?”
Whenever we are uncertain about what to do or what to say in any given situation, this question leads the way, “what does love require?” You know thousands of Westsiders are leading the way and changing the face of faith for their world. Every week I hear story after story of what Westside Church is doing corporately to answer that question. I want to run through several ways that your church is loving our world.
Over the past several months, we have given tens of thousands of dollars from our For The City fund and from our general funds to help people in these dire times. Just the past three months alone, we have spent $75,000.00 directly toward helping others. Together we recently donated our box truck to the non-profit Furnishing Hope that helps provide hope to lower-income and struggling families by providing beds and new furnishings for their homes. We continue to support Shepherd’s House Ministries every month, and we provided Christmas gifts for the men and women in that program. We continue to partner with Every Child in our shared efforts to surround vulnerable children with family and to surround families with community. Recently we helped find the funding for a needed playground to be built in Warm Springs in 2021.
Together through our iheart365, we partnered with J Bar J, a youth program here in Central Oregon. We organized 12 individual boxes of needed resources for specific students graduating into adulthood on two specific projects, and we collected warm winter jackets and layers for 30 youth. Through our Hope and Helpline, we saw a massive increase in families in need calling us. We were so grateful to assist over 30 families every month with utility, rent, and grocery card help. Our hope and helpline is one of the ways we’re providing COVID-19 relief for families in need. Through our Community Care line, we give a helping hand to any individual in our community who reaches out. Thanks to the Stop And Go Shell Market on the east side, we’re able to give out ten gasoline vouchers every single week to those in need. This is such a beautiful partnership and standing in solidarity with our community.
We continue to support and partner with the Bethlehem Inn. We love Teen Challenge and their heart for Jesus and discipleship. We resourced them and also provided Christmas gifts for their local house. We have continued to resource and partner with Rock Bottom Hope, which is a local grassroots non-profit that has volunteer coaches who talk with people about their addictions, their mental health, feelings of isolation, and they walk with them through it. We continue to offer our Free Food Market every month, and we’ve met huge needs in October and November. We were able to feed over 600 people every month, thanks to our volunteers’ efforts and your faithful giving. Through our annual Giving Tree, we will be providing Christmas gifts to 813 people. We partnered with 19 community organizations this year to choose children and families in need. We were able to extend the Life and Love of Jesus through the generosity of God’s people. We also invested $5,000.00 into Christmas gifts for Warm Springs school students. We invested $5,000.00 into the Madras High School Food project, which is a program that keeps students cared for and fed over the Christmas break.
Globally we’ve given gifts through Compassion First and Foursquare Missions International to support churches that are struggling globally and resource street ministries that serve those affected by human trafficking. We provided Christmas gifts to our missionaries serving faithfully in Africa, Asia, Mexico, Australia, and Spain.
Well, this isn’t everything, but I think you get the idea. I don’t share all of this as a way of self-promoting our church or anything like that, but to celebrate with you what God is doing through us, through your giving and mine, and through our serving together. This is changing the face of faith. It is one way that we’re answering the question, “what does love require?” I love you all and keep being the extension of the life and love of Jesus to our world.
Hi Westside Church family. As I thought about the most recent covid-restrictions, several ideas were rumbling around in my mind and spirit to share with you.
First, there are people genuinely worried about their and their loved ones well being. Second, there are people genuinely concerned about the limitations on our freedoms as American citizens and the impact of our economy’s restrictions. Third, we must continue to seek God’s voice and obey his leading.
From the very beginning, we have felt that God was asking us to stand in solidarity with our community. To even lay aside our rights as citizens of America if needed to love our region well. We have sought to follow Jesus and his way of love. The vast majority of our church has appreciated the careful and wise steps we have taken in returning to services, caring for our Faith community, and reaching out to the hurting all around us. We can do this. We can change how people see the church and respond to the gospel simply by responding with love and kindness to our community at this moment. How we serve them and lay our lives down for them matters.
In light of this, I wanted to let you know our plans at Westside. We will be moving back to an online-only Sunday service for the next few weeks. We encourage our home churches and small groups to continue meeting if they are able and comfortable but limiting their in-person numbers to 25. For groups that are not comfortable meeting, let us know. We can provide you with digital resources and support to help you continue meeting and connecting via Zoom.
I want to emphasize the importance of connecting during this season. Many are isolated and feeling the weight of that isolation emotionally. If that describes you, then please let us help you find a home church. We also have pastors who are willing to connect with you. Don’t walk alone. Please reach out if you need any type of assistance: physical, emotional, or spiritual.
During this unique season, God is faithful. He is building his church. We continue to hear amazing stories of how Westsiders are finding new and creative ways to connect, care for one another, and minister more effectively in our community.
How should each of us respond to this moment? I’m convinced the call to every Westsider is to extravagantly love those in your sphere and look for opportunities to love outside your sphere. Start with the people around you. Make sure they are ok. Encourage them. Share with them your faith and confidence in the Lord. Pray with them. And look for opportunities to help those outside of your sphere. We’ve all learned how to smile with our eyes. Do that. Everywhere. When I was a kid, I would pray to have the eyes of Jesus. I don’t know why I prayed that, but I wanted my eyes to exude the love of Jesus. This is a great time to ask for that and to practice it. Food drives. Not hoarding. Giving away anything extra you have—coats for the homeless, our giving tree launches online next week where you can digitally choose families in need and buy Christmas gifts for them. Asking everyone you meet, is there anything I can do for you, can go a long way.
1 Corinthians 13 says that perfect love drives out fear. The road forward for each of us is to not drive out fear with fear but with love. Anxiety is often crouching at the door of our hearts, but we don’t have to let it control us or rule over us. Let’s encourage one another, pray for one another (including our government officials, those working on therapies and vaccines, local businesses and those out of work or struggling financially, and for first responders who are bearing the brunt of the current rise of COVID cases).
The leadership team at Westside love you and pray for you often. Be strong in the Lord, steadfast, placing our hope in his enduring love.
Pastor Steve and Westside’s Leadership Team
As our nation waits anxiously for the results of the election, pastor Steve encourages us to find hope and peace in God’s promises.
At the time of this post, the election is still still not over, and it is hard to know when it actually will be completed.
I just wanted to do a quick post here to encourage the church, to encourage Westside church, to encourage my friends. There’s just a lot of anxiety right now. I’ve found my stress level has increased significantly over these last couple of days. I’m going back and forth between CNN and Fox News all day long, just always in the background. And and it’s probably a little too much. And so I’m ready to kind of tap out for a bit. But I want to come back to a message that I’ve been kind of sharing over these last several months leading up to the election. It would be so easy to get caught up in all of this. And so a couple of Psalms have come to my mind over these last couple of days that I want to share with you. One is Psalm 75. It’s a song by Asaph. And Asaph was a worship leader during the time of King David. And when he when he wrote this song, Israel was tearing apart, it was divided. There was division among David and his children. There are questions about David’s leadership and an Asaph reminds us who God is. And so when you have a chance, I want you to just take a minute today and read Psalm 75.
He talks about how God is near. He is just and fair that he’s our healer. He’s our provider. He is. Nobody else can claim the kind of power, the authority and and desire or intent that he has to heal our world. Only God can heal our nation. Only God can provide for our every need. Only God can fulfill our hopes. And and I’ve been astonished how easy it is for me and for others to put our hope in a political figure or in a political system to do only what God can do.
Another song that I draw strength from is found in Psalm 46. I think this one is super important for us to meditate on in this moment. So I’m going to actually read this one.
It says that God is our shelter and our strength when troubles seem near, God is near and he’s ready to help. So why run and hide? No fear, no pacing, no biting fingernails when the earth spins out of control, we are sure and fearless. Even when mountains crumble and the waters run wild. We are sure and fearless even in heavy winds and huge waves. Or as mountains shake, we are sure and fearless. A pure stream flows never to be cut off, bringing joy to the city where God makes his home the sacred site where the most high chooses to live. The true God never sleeps and always resides in the city of joy. He makes it unstoppable, unshakable when he awakens at dawn. The true God has already been at work. Trouble is on the horizon for the outside nations. Not long until kingdoms will fall. But God’s voice thunders and the earth shakes. You know, the eternal, the commander of heavenly harmony surrounds us and protects us. The true God of Jacob is our shelter close to our heart. Come gaze, fix your eyes on what the eternal can do. Be still, be calm, see and understand that I am the true God. I am honored among all the nations. I am honored over all the Earth.
So it’s just a quick reminder today as you start your day, as you may take a break throughout the day to refocus our hearts toward Christ, to put our hope again today on Jesus, to turn our eyes upon him. So what I want you to do right now, I just want you to take a deep breath, let it out slowly.
Take another one. I we need we need a couple of these deep breath, let it out slow.
Think about Jesus. He’s with us. He’s for us. He hasn’t abandoned us.
He hasn’t left us to our own devices. He’s near to those who cry out to him, call out to him who put their hope in him.
There’s this old old song, it’s called “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus”. And every time I sing it or Lindsay leads it at our church, it’s like almost like nostalgia where I contemplate again that as I turn my eyes upon him, as we look intently on his wonderful face, the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
Love you all. Keep your eyes on Jesus today, this rest of this week, the rest of this month, all the way through the end of the year. He is our source of hope and our source of strength. Love you guys. Can’t wait to see you again and hope you guys have a great day.
Pastor Steve sits down with Redmond City Council Member Ginny McPherson on Election Day.