When was the last time you went out on a limb for God and if He didn’t come through, you were through? The Bible calls it a life of faith – it’s not a sure thing – filled with uncertainty and hope – but there’s nothing grander, more worthwhile and important than living out the way of Jesus in a broken world.
The Bible tells the story of the highs and lows of humanity, but also of God’s unwavering love for us. His purpose from Genesis to Revelation and from Bethlehem to Bend, can be summed up in three words: Create, restore, redeem. Inside this epic narrative, we also find the story of us – our longings and failings, yes, but also our potential to partner with Him in this grand mission to love our world back to life.
When we have a personal encounter with the Life and Love of Jesus, we are forever changed, set free, and eternally hopeful. As followers of Jesus, God calls us into a mission and vision like no other. Each individual, each faith community carefully fashioned with a specific strategy and calling.
Our church, Westside Church, exists to equip men, women, and children to extend the life and love of Jesus in their world by helping them know Jesus and become more like Him. It’s so simple, in fact, that it might look easy on the surface. However, knowing Jesus and becoming like Him is one of the biggest and audacious challenges we face as humans in this broken world. Because Becoming like Jesus means loving like Jesus.
Our strategy as a church is birthed from this foundation. Everything we do comes from a desire to help us love more courageously and live more like Jesus.
Why do we study the Bible and attend church and learn how to pray? It’s to find out how Jesus loved our world – to connect with His heart for us and for others – we learn to love through the words we read and His way that we see.
Why do we give our money away? Because we embrace the heart of Jesus which gave generously all He had.
Why do we worship and sing songs to God? Because our love for God is so real and big, we run out of ways to express it – so it pushes out of our hearts through music and poetry.
Why do we build healthy relationships and serve those around us? Because our love for Him is expressed most beautifully through our love for those He made. We love what He loves and we love like He loves. Even if we don’t feel loved in return; still we love. That’s His way.
The Way of Jesusmotivates and fuels our mission and inspires us to invest into ways to bring hope and healing to this tiny spot on our planet.
That’s our mission – and you’re invited to join in on this wild adventure of loving the world with the scandalous grace of a beautiful God. I’ve always believed that who we are precedes what we do. That’s why we focus on helping people know Jesus and become like Him in the way we are loved and in the way we love.
In light of all this, we’ve chosen four areas of engagement we believe will help our community become like Jesus. These areas of engagement will not produce more love in our people, that’s up to them, but they are catalysts to help position us in a place where God can work in and through our lives.
At the end of the day, people grow in relationship to God as they have encounters with God, engage in learning environments of God’s grace, have relationships with others who are also growing, and who practice the way of Jesus in the world.
At Westside, we have developed Four Mileposts that steer our Spiritual Engagement. These are not consecutive or linear as they happen at different stages in each person’s life. They may happen all at once or one is emphasized more in one season over another.
Here are the four:
- Environments that lead to life
- Community that welcome connection
- Generosity that brings hope
- Mission that mobilizes for impact
- Environments that lead to life.
We participate in and invite others into environments where the gospel is accessible, clear, and compelling to all. We intentionally remove barriers to experiencing the grace of Jesus so that all might know the love of God. We do this in age and stage appropriate ways. It’s really important to us.
It was important to Jesus and it was important to the early church. There’s a great story in Acts 15 which reveals a commitment by the early church to remove barriers. The first Christians were Jewish and as Paul began reaching non-Jewish people with the gospel, the Jewish Christians thought everyone should hold to their traditions. But it was making it difficult to reach everyone with the gospel. So they had this big meeting in Jerusalem and James, the brother of Jesus, gets up and says these words which have reverberated throughout history and help inform us of how we do church:
We’re not going to unnecessarily burden non-Jewish people who turn to the Master. Acts 15:19
In other words, we’re not going to make it easy, because the way of Jesus is anything but easy, but we will make sure that any unnecessary barriers to knowing Jesus and becoming like Him are removed.
- Community that welcomes connection.
We know, and surveys have shown, it’s in relationships where we experience a growing faith in God and friendships with others. Of all the mileposts, this is the one we need the most help. In a growing church our size we have to be committed to creating community. This can’t be through just centralized ministries of the church – it has to be done organically, through leaders and members of this congregation committed to opening their lives to others.
This can look like, Hosting a blue group; starting a men’s group or a women’s group; hosting a neighborhood barbecue; stepping into greater leadership roles or serving opportunities in the church. Being in community does not guarantee you will become more like Jesus, but I can tell you not being in community will definitely prevent it.
- Generosity that brings hope.
Our generosity links the hope of God with the needs of our world. Jesus clearly stated He came for those who were broken, poor, and in need.
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40 NIV
This is why an increasing number of people in our church give regularly in the weekly offerings to support the ministries our church offers. Why we gave almost $80,000 to Project Nourish last year. This is why we give to Benevolence, community care, and global outreach.
- Mission that mobilizes for impact.
Your life matters. Who you are matters. As you discover your place in God’s story, your experience, gifts, and values begin to make sense and your passions begin to align with His dreams for your life.
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10 NLT
God wants to do more this year in and through us all – there’s more for us than just sorrow; hardship; frustration; and anxieties. We are entering an adventurous season as a church and you are here for such a time as this – your story matters. How can you move toward being more fully engaged in your church – inviting, connecting, giving, volunteering?