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Evan Earwicker: Our Place In The Story, Matthew 16:13-18

October 10, 2022

Audio Recording

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Evan Earwicker: Our Place In The Story, Matthew 16:13-18
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:08 Have a cook three. The prophet says this, I have heard about you, Lord, and I'm filled with awe by the amazing things you have done in this time of our deep need. Begin again to help us as you did in years gone by. Show us your power to save us. And in your anger, remember your mercy. I see God, the holy one moving His brilliant slender fills the heavens and the earth is filled with his praise. What a wonderful God he is. Even as we have this morning, sung those words, I've seen you move, I've, I've seen you move the mountains, and I believe you'll do it again. We draw our confidence today when we remember what God has done. It gives us the confidence that he might do it again. That the, the obstacles and struggles and troubles we faced in the past where the grace of God and the hand of God was with us, and he sustained us and he provided a way where there was no way. That's what we draw strength from today as we looked towards the future and said, God, what might you do in our day, in our time, in our moment?

01:18 And the answer is, He will be with us now as he was then, and he will be with us tomorrow as he is today. His faithfulness endures to generations. And that gives me hope for you. Not just, not just for our community, not just for our church, but for you, for your families, for your lives, for your struggles, for, for your temptations, for your moments when you suffer, the, the hand of God is with you, because I've seen He's been with others. I've seen generations. I've heard the stories of how God has been faithful and I bring good news. He's gonna be faithful to you. Put your trust in him. Put your confidence in him today, Jesus, we, remember and these moments. So, and maybe just take a moment. Just, just think back through your lives, those moments. well, you didn't know if you were gonna make it. You didn't know if you'd come through. You didn't see a way forward, but God was there. He was sustaining you, He was guiding you. He was present. And so we have confidence today, Jesus, as we look towards our future, the presence of God would go before us and be with us. And that today we would sense your grace on your church and on us.

02:31 We're grateful for you, Jesus, and what you're doing, how you're moving, how wonderful you are. I pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen. Amen. You can have a seat today. Thank you so much for being with us both here in person and online. We always wanna greet you. you know, as we, we are, we're talking about legacy. by the way, my name is Evan. I'm one of your senior pastors. We we're talking about legacy over the next couple weeks, not just, to reminisce about the past, but, but as we step into what we believe is a new chapter in West Side Church, we don't wanna forget what brought us here. You know, there's an old saying that if you see a turtle on a fence post, he didn't get there by himself, which makes sense. If you, if you see a turtle on a fence post, you'll know why he did not get there by himself.

03:22 Somebody put him there. And, and so we stand in this moment realizing that we are the church, we are the community. We are because of the generations of those who have gone before us for the last 67 years in the history of our church, Those who have gone before us and paved away, and given sacrificially and built even with their own hands. If you look in those displays out there in the atrium, and we'll, we'll post these online as well for those watching from afar. but the, the one of the newspaper articles from back in 1955, the original church, was led by Pastor Isaacs and he rallied a team of volunteers from Ben Foursquare Church now Westside Church. And they built with their hands the first church building that our congregation worshiped in 67 years ago. No mega donor descending from on high to, to grant some big, beautiful stone building.

04:17 No, it was volunteers with what they could scrap together, all coming as a community into one place on the corner of 14th and Jacksonville streets, just a little ways from our current location today. And together, they built something. And in that place, there was, there was a community that gathered and welcomed the city in. Over the years, we have seen the faithfulness of God again and again to this church because of those who raised their hand and said, God has been faithful. He will be faithful, and I wanna be a part of it. And, I wanna pivot a little bit. I was thinking as we were singing that song, and this is in my notes, but I was thinking about the story of the, the Israelites as they leave Egypt in the Book of Exodus, and, and they've been through so much and they've, they've been enslaved to Pharaoh and, and they've, they've, they've just struggled and struggled and struggled for generations.

05:09 They've struggled. And the Israelites get a, somewhat of a pass to leave. But then Pharaoh decides he doesn't want them to leave. And so he backs them up against a wall. That wall is called the Red Sea. There's no way forward. There's no path for them to take. They are back to the wall. And it's in that moment that yawe, the Lord speaks to Moses and he says, Raise your staff. And, if you remember the story, maybe from, from Sunday school, as Moses raises his staff over the Red Sea, the waters part and the children of Israel walk across the sea on dry ground. And, and here's the less glamorous part of that story is they head into the wilderness in search of, of the promised land, the promised place that God was going to give them. And a whole generation dies in the desert because of their disobedience.

05:59 The whole generation is gone by the time they get to the edge of the promised land and are ready to enter it. No one from the original generation of Israelites is alive. None of the adults are alive. But you know what they had, they had a story about how God provided a way where there was no way through the sea. And so they stand at the edge of the Promised Land and they're looking at another river called the River Jordan. And they don't know how they're gonna cross this one either. But you know what gave them confidence, I believe, is they had the story. They had the story about how their parents and their grandparents stood up against an impassable, you know, stretch of water before and God made away. And it was the story that propelled them into the promise. And I want to tell you that we don't stand here because we're so brilliant.

06:50 And your, your leaders today just came up with all this. And we're the most strategic mind. No, we stand here because we carry with us the story of those who have gone before and given of themselves in ways that seemed just absurd. The amount of, of, commitment that people had, not only to the congregation that gathered here, but to the city where God had planted them, believing this, that the people outside the walls of the church mattered just as much as Jesus as those on the inside. And as those stories we carry, as we look to a new chapter of West Side Church, and we're gonna share a little bit about what that looks like in the ways that we are in this community and for our city and minister Jesus to the world around us, we carry with us the stories that give us confidence that what God has done before, in making ways where there were no ways he's gonna do it again, He's gonna do it again.

07:42 And so, like those Israelites, we don't always know how the, the next, pages of the story are gonna go, but we're confident that God goes with us. as Pastor Steve mentioned, we want to, talk about this idea of the garden. you know, when we talk about the church, a lot of images come to mind. like I I've, I've said today, we are in a legacy of those who have given sacrificially to make our church what it is. And like all churches, when we talk about the church, only positive images come to mind. Of course not right? The church has not been perfect in her journey since the day when Jesus sat with the apostle Peter and said, Peter, I'm gonna, make you a rock. And on this rock, I'm gonna build my church in Matthew chapter 16. Ever since that day, the line to where we sit today has not been straight.

08:40 It's not been honorable always. We've made a lot of mistakes. There's been a lot of corruption. There's been a lot of pain and wounding that have happened throughout the pages of the history of the church. And so when we say the church, especially to those out on the outside, you might get a look that that reveals just how negative that impression is. I have the pleasure of, being asked what I do for work, as probably a lot of us do. And my answer is, well, I pastor a large evangelical church, Steve, laugh cuz he has to say the same thing out in the public. And he knows what kind of response you get when you share that information is not a positive thing always, okay? Ever .

09:27 And even in a room like this, I mean, we're in church, you've, you've agreed, I hope you've agreed to be here today and yet maybe you have a mixed impression, a mixed image. Maybe the metaphor isn't a great one when you think about what the church means and what it is. And so we are on the hunt really for a better metaphor that would capture this moment, what we want to be as a church, what we want the community to know us as. if all they know us, the city around us, if, if they only know us as another religious organization, I think we've missed the heart of Jesus for our community. in the beginning of the Bible, we, we get a picture of the Garden of Eden. And I think sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the story of, of the creation.

10:13 and, and we, we get caught up on some of the details like, Well, that's not how you know, the atmosphere and, and the water tables work. And, and if you can look past some of the ancient understandings of how the environment works, what you'll get to is a picture of who God is and his intention towards humanity and who we are. And that's the beautiful part of the creation story. And in the very beginning it says that the spirit of God was hovering over these chaotic primorial waters. It was a picture for the ancients of chaos. And it's into this chaos that the spirit of God comes and he begins to breathe and speak and create until he has created an environment where life can take root and thrive. And what is the church, if not a place that comes into situations and environments where there is no life, where there's death and darkness and coldness and chaos.

11:13 What is the church, if not that organization, those people that begin to create environments where life can thrive? my mom is a really good gardener. if you appreciate beautiful, you know, flower beds and fruit trees and vegetables and, you would really like what my mom does in her yard, if you appreciate water conservation, you might not feel the same way. but there is something about the job of humanity that we are wired somewhere deep inside to go into places where there's chaos and that are inhospitable to life and create environments where things can grow, where we can cultivate things together. I love what John Mark Comer writes in Garden City. He says, When you think of Eden, don't think of a public park with a lawn, a play set and a flower bed or two where God hands Adam and lawnmower and says, Keep it tidy, Will ya?

12:17 Think of a violent, untamed wilderness teaming with beauty but no infrastructure, no roads, no bridges, no cities, no civilization. And God says, go make a world. Adam wasn't a landscape maintenance employee, he was an explorer, a cartographer, a gardener, a designer, an architect, a builder, an urban planner, and a city maker. And so what should the church be? I believe we should be those that make environments for life that we should be known, not by our stances, but the ground that we cultivate until so that life can take root and grow for the beauty of our city. You know, there's something about a garden that's beautiful. if you're growing an ugly garden, you're bad at it. . and I would say this, if you have an ugly church, you're bad at it.

13:11 If people see your community as the church that you're growing is something, that is not bringing life and beauty to the city around you, you've missed the heart of Jesus. Cuz everywhere he goes, there's life and beauty and mercy. And so what is the church? The church is like a community garden where we stand shoulder to shoulder, We till the soil where there's no life and we water it and we tend to it and we care for it. Not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of the neighborhood in which we've been planted. And everybody benefits from a community garden. Maybe today, I I need some cucumbers and you need some corn. Hey, we got it all, baby, let's go. A community garden is a place where side by side, we work together for the benefit of the city around us. Because like I said, the people outside these doors are just as important to Jesus as those of us on the inside.

14:08 And so, we want to invite you in these next few weeks, to understand that a garden is no fun if you're alone . We need a community for this. in Genesis chapter two, after God has created all these things, he creates light. And then it says, and God saw it was good, and he creates land and sea and God saw it was good and then creates, you know, the fish of this, the animals. Well, God saw it was good. God saw it was good. God saw it was good. He gets all the way through. And then there's one thing that he says. And God saw it was not good. In Genesis chapter two, verse 18, The Lord God said, it is not good for the man to be alone. The crowning moment of God's creation, the finishing touch, the thing that brought it all together, the great completion of God in his creative act is to end the solidarity or the, the solitude of the man by creating the woman and placing them together in community, in the garden.

15:06 We need each other. If we're gonna grow something beautiful together, we can't do it alone. This is not a paid professional thing. This is all of us raising our hands and saying a big yes to what God would do in a community. There's a moment when we have to decide, is this the church I attend or is this the community to which I belong? And I know many we've talked to you. you, you've been checking West side out, maybe you're here today for the first time. You're really checking it out and you're not sure a jury's still out. But here, listen to me. there is a moment for all of us if we're gonna get to where God is leading us as a community, where those who decide, Yeah, this is where I'm gonna stay. You're not just attending, but this is a community to which you belong to where we belong to each other.

15:53 And there's vulnerability and there's risk and there's, relationship that happens in that. And that all can be very scary. But there is beauty in the community when it comes together to cultivate something beautiful in the soil in which God has planted us. Our story matters. And, lemme tell you a little bit about our story. We were founded in 1955. in those 67 years we've had about 10 or so senior pastors. Westside has impacted thousands of people over those years. we might be called by some, a lighthouse church, a church of resource for the community around us who rely on us. And I think of all the, the dozens of community organizations with which we partner, I think about the, the 800 or so kids and families that, that receive from our giving tree. I think about our, our food markets that we do each free food markets each month. I think about all the meaningful ways that people, inside and outside the church have found West Side to be a place of refuge and restoration for them and their families. but this is the legacy that we stand on and it's a gift that has been given by previous generations to us that we now hold. And the question is, what will we do for the generations that follow us? Steve, why don't you come on up and share some more with us.

17:19 Seven. yeah, this is really exciting times. You know, I was thinking, as Evan was talking, I was thinking about my own story with West Side. Many of you may not know this, but my wife and I came back from the mission field in 2007 and landed back here at Bend at the church and began to partner with, a couple, Ken and Linda Johnson who pastored this church for 27 years. And, and it was, probably the largest church in town and all of that and, and had a lot of influence. But I didn't really realize the impact of West Side until I, became the lead pastor in 2013. And then all of a sudden, I began to hear story after story after story, both of people inside the church, people who were inside the church and were now not part of our church, but maybe another church in town.

18:11 And from pastors and leaders in this community of the way that West Side had and continued to impact their lives and ministries. I was, I was shocked. I was overwhelmed by the reality. I was like, I was kind of like, what have I got myself into? This is a legacy of real influence that has had a positive impact by and large. Obviously we're not perfect, you hang out here for any like the time you get that, but, but we've had a real positive impact in this community and, and I'm so excited for the future of what that will look like and the changes that God is beginning to do even now. You know, Evan talked about kind of a page turning, a chapter closing, and you might be wondering, well, what does that mean? when in 2013 when I became the lead pastor we had, and then by the way, in 2020 or 2021, I can forget, that, Covid, you know, c missed everything up.

19:08 When, when was, when was I born again? I don't remember . we appointed Evan and Ben as co-pastors. And so now we serve as a three, three senior pastors along with our leadership team to finish that story. but in 2013 when I became the lead pastor, we had just under $3 million of debt as a church, which the church our size. That was very manageable. but God had spoken something whispered something to me that I never shared with anybody. There's times where God gives you a word and it's just for you. I mean, it was for our community, but I didn't feel released by God to share it. and that was that we would become a debt free church at some point in our history as part of the leadership of, of me and my wife, that we would become a debt free church.

19:54 And so over the years since I became lead pastor, we would just slowly pay down our debt. We would put extra money that you gave generously to our loan mortgage, our mortgage payment. And then about a week or so ago, we had just under $250,000 left in our mortgage. And through, the generous donation of a few people, Evan and I, because Ben's on vacation, he wasn't with us, walked down. Well, we didn't walk down, we drove to US Bank downtown and we handed, our mortgage lender a $242,000 check. And today we are debt free as a church Speaker 3

20:35 .

20:41 how many of you have mortgages? You don't need to raise your hand, right? I mean, it's like, it's unheard of. I mean, I've, it's like, like unheard of to be debt free, truly, truly debt free, where we owe no person, no organization anything except for God alone to use this space in the way he wants us to use it. And I'll tell you this, just the idea of becoming debt free over this last year's we've been talking about it with leaders and staff is awaken something in people to dream about. What could this facility, this space on Chevlin Park Road actually be used for in the coming decade? And I, I'll tell you what, I it's, I feel like being debt free is significant financially. Yes. I mean, we, we, you know, we we're gonna have, what we've been paying on our mortgages is about $73,000 a year now, be able to go towards ministry and helping people like we do already, right? We're going be able to do that more. But I also think there's something about the permanence that what, that the paying off our loan says that West Side, we're gonna be here serving and loving our city and one another for the long haul. We're not going anywhere. We're gonna sell off this building and, you know, we're gonna keep loving our community and serving them the best that we can. And I, and I tell you what, I'm so excited about the possibilities of what, that means for us as a community. Yeah.

22:03 Yeah. And you know, it can be easy when you hit a milestone like the, the payoff of a building to kind of feel like there's a sense of finality in that or we're done. This is great mission accomplished. And yet we really see this moment as the start of a new chapter, that this is the beginning of something really beautiful. a couple years ago we, we launched this idea that we were a church for the city. And a lot of the focus of that, initiative really was what we would do outside these walls. We also want to be a city, a church for the city by how we use this facility that God has given us. And now that is debt free. And so, part of the vision as we move forward is how can we use this space not just on Sundays, not just for church programming, but every day of the week to make it a loud and clear statement to the community around us about how Jesus is towards them arms wide open, space and life and, access to resources and people and relationship and community.

23:09 And so, with the payoff of this debt, we have decided as a leadership team, that with this will come a renaming of our facility, from just Westside Church to this, West Side Church and West Side Community Center, which is, we're really excited about. Yeah,

23:31 Our mission stays the same. We have a mission as a church to extend the life and love of Jesus to our community. but what a beautiful thing. When that community comes through these doors for a dozen different reasons each week and they can see, see up close firsthand just what people who are following after Jesus and giving their lives in service of, of becoming disciples of Jesus, what they look like in everyday life and, and the kind of generosity that they operated in. I, I think it would be a beautiful thing if someone who has a really low opinion of who Jesus is, has that opinion changed because they met you because of the interaction they had with you, because they bump shoulders with you in these hallways on a Tuesday afternoon. What might God do as we open our doors more and more to the community around us, even as we've already been doing?

24:23 And so today, the imitation, that I would, I would hope you would consider is that for those who have come to think of West Side as the church you attend, would you consider prayerfully making the big crazy leap and to this becoming the community to which you belong? This is the place where you'll put down roots. This is the place where you will, like a community garden, come and, and kneel shoulder to shoulder in the soil of what God is doing and allow life to be cultivated here, not by other people, but by you in the community with us. That's a huge ask. That's a huge thing to say. This is my church. These are my people. This is where I will spend my life to make something beautiful for the community around us. And so Jesus, we invite, your Holy Spirit, even in this moment, in this holy moment, to speak to us. And for those that are, maybe at a point of decision is, is is this community, our community? God, we pray that they'd make the right decision. That for those that you have guided here and and planted here, that we would join you with hands raised with a big yes to what you're doing. And that from this place, life would grow. God, we welcome your presence even into this, this new chapter and this new season, this, this fresh vision, that people would come to know you, Jesus in droves because of the good thing you're doing through us and with us. We love you Jesus. And your name we pray. Amen.